10 Questions for GunPile Games

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GunPile Games just released “aliEnd“, their first game, that you can buy for $0,99/1,20€ on Google Play or try it out for free. As the Playandroid Magazine is always eager to get fresh input by new Android developers, we’re looking forward to hear what John and Geoff have got to say.

Interview by Frederik Schrader.

10 Questions for GunPile Games

1. Please introduce yourself.

Hi.  I am John Pile, engineer for aliEnd and half of the indie development team “GunPile Games” (Geoff Gunning is the artist and other half).  Dev Jana provided the audio and music tracks for aliEnd.  I should also mention that our team is spread over a couple continents.  I spend my time in Alaska and Vermont, Geoff lives in Scotland, and Dev is now based in Florida.

2. What made you want to be a game developer?

When I was a kid, my friend introduced me to Richard Garriott’s “Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar”.  Not only did I love the game, but it made me realize that I want to make games also!  As I got older I took a few programming courses, and despite the rather mundane assignments my eye was always on, “how could I use the technology I was learning to make games”.

3. What platforms do you develop games for and why?

We’ve currently released our game for Android, but we have it running on PC, Xbox 360, Windows Phone, and iOS.  We plan to release to as many platforms as possible, because in the words of comedian Steve Martin, “The more people you appeal to… the more… well, money.”  Seriously though, we know our game isn’t for everyone so we want to be sure our game is where our players are.

4. What are your experiences in porting games between two platforms?

Porting a game as an afterthought can be very difficult.  We’re using a C#/XNA base for aliEnd, which means we were able to hit the variety of platforms fairly easy with an open source project called MonoGame.  However, if we were to do it again from scratch, I’d probably suggest we go with Unity3D or the Corona SDK for a game like ours.  The idea that someone else would handle the platform specific stuff for you is rather appealing (although you do give up some control).

5. How do you get inspiration for a game?

As I’ve mentioned previously, aliEnd was inspired by a drawing by Geoff’s son.  Geoff did a quick concept drawing of the game mechanics and within a couple days we had the prototype working.  From there, we’re always coming up with new ideas.  The hardest part was saying “no”.  Scope creep is dangerous, even now that the game is out and we still want to go back and add features, power-ups, mechanics, levels… but since we’re doing this in our free time, it’d take another few years to put in everything that we want … and even then we’d probably still be coming up with new ideas.

6. How long does it take for you to write a game from start to finish?

aliEnd took a little over two years, but that’s a bit deceiving because we all have fulltime jobs.  Actual coding time was probably equivalent to a few months.  We’d take breaks for months at a time as we had to focus on our families or jobs.  I think that actually helped, because it allowed the game ideas to simmer in our heads.  It can be easy to lose perspective when you’re developing a game without a break.

7. What are the biggest technical challenges when you develop a game?

Since we’re using managed code, I was really worried about performance.  Also, since we’re focusing on mobile devices, there are some fairly significant graphics issues when you realize the range of devices (low memory restrictions on small screens, high resolution expectations on large screens).  The other issue I’m always trying to balance is coding it “correctly” versus coding it fast.  You can waste a lot of time trying to write optimal code too soon, but if you get sloppy you’ll pay for it down the road.

8. What do you think the future of gaming will look like?

I think it is wide open.  Games like “Zombies, Run” are really exciting to me.  Just think what adding Google’s glasses could do for a game like that.  I’m sure there will still be PC games, mobile games, and console games… but we now have more developers in more countries making more games on more platforms in more creative ways.  I’m fairly certain the future of gaming is going to be pretty awesome.

9. What is your favourite game at the moment and why?

I actually play way too much of Civilization Revolutions on my mobile.  I got hooked on Draw Something for a while and dove into Skyrim and Diablo III earlier this year, but I keep coming back to Civ Revolutions even though the game play is pretty much the same as the original Civ back in 1991 … it has a replayability that I love.  Every time you start a new game it’s a new story.

10. What is your advice for new developers?

Find friends that share your passion for game development, work hard, and be humble and open-minded.  The most talented people I’ve ever met make games, and two heads are always better than one.  When dealing with others, don’t forget that making games is a creative endeavor and so there is no ‘right way’.

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