Developer Interview: 10 Questions for Steven Craft / Paw Print Games
It’s review time! Oh no, it’s Saturday. So it’s interview time! Yay! Today, I will present Steven Craft to you, the co-founder of “Paw Print Games”, the development studio, that created “KamiCrazy”.
Let’s take a look at the Android Market game description of “KamiCrazy” to get to know a bit more about this game: “KamiCrazy is a combination of a traditional platforming game with classic puzzle elements, and combines smooth animation and stylised graphics with great fast-paced-game-play. The full version has forty rich, colourful and puzzling levels and two distinct themes making”. Want to know more about this game? Then check out our KamiCrazy Review.
.. and listen what the KamiCrazy master has got to say!
10 Questions for Steven Craft / Paw Print Games
My name is Steven Craft (@StevenJohnCraft) and I am the co-founder along with Antony White (@Antony_White) of an independent games studio in Chester, Cheshire, UK called Paw Print Games. Prior to forming Paw Print Games I worked for Sony Liverpool and Traveller’s Tales (where I worked on AAA console games such as Formula One 2005, LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Batman, LEGO Harry Potter, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, Transformers, Narnia Prince Caspian).
2. What made you want to be a game developer?
From a young age I split my time between music and computers, to start with I was interested in playing games but that quickly turned into a desire to be able to create them myself. When it came to picking what to do at university I reasoned that while I am passionate about music I’d rather keep that as a past time, something I can enjoy, so I took a Computer Games Technology course at Liverpool John Moores University and took a career in the games sector.
3. What platforms do you develop games for and why?
I’ve developed for one or two (well okay several) platforms, including: GBA, GP32, Zodiac, Pandora, PSP, PS2, PS3, Xbox, Xbox 360, PC, GameCube, Wii, iPhone, iPad, Android, WebOS, BlackBerry BB10, Samsung Bada – and have been credited in many titles across the board. Right now I am quite a big fan of the BlackBerry PlayBook, it’s a nice piece of hardware and relatively straight forward to develop for.
4. What are your experiences in porting games between two platforms?
Where possible we avoid porting. Instead we have constructed a platform agnostic engine that can run on all platforms. This means we can write a game once (and only once) yet release it on various platforms. It also means as new platforms become available, we can add support to the engine and then bring our back catalog of games to the new platform. That said, I have worked on a few porting projects (porting third party software) in general it starts quite badly („Oh, I’m never going to understand all this foreign code!“) but over time things start to fall into place. I always find you learn something new when going through someone elses code, so there is a reward there in the end!
5. How do you get inspiration for a game?
There are various factors including: taking inspiration from games I enjoyed as a child; seeing what currently works on todays market; looking at what todays hardware offers and trying to find something that fits.
6. How long does it take for you to write a game from start to finish?
This is a bit of an open ended question, but I will say six months. Obviously projects can be larger or smaller, but six months is a reasonable turn around time. Of course this means the project needs to end up making enough money to pay six months worth of salaries for all staff working on that project! I’ve never worked on a project that spans multiple years, Sony’s F1 line had a one year turn around, and most of Traveller’s Tales games had a similar time line.
7. What are the biggest technical challenges when you develop a game?
Normally performance. We try to target a lot of platforms and not just the latest and greatest, we try to keep support for older platforms/devices. Because of this performance can be quite a problem, so we are forever attempting to squeeze a bit more speed from all parts of our code base and tool chain.
Another challenge we have is download size, where possible we like to get our iOS titles out under 20MB (as this means they can be downloaded over the air and not just with WiFi). For KAMI RETRO, we got to the end of the project and the build was about 40MB, we made a bunch of ‘obvious’ savings to get it down to 35MB and almost gave up at the thought of having to reduce 15MB more. But we kept going at it for a few days and eventually got it under the 20MB limit!
A more seamless experience. Both in terms of between real life and games, but also with regards to being able to play a game at home, or on the bus, or while walking down the street. We have already seen this starting to happen with services like OnLive. Games used to be something that was enjoyed by a small subset of society, but now most people play games of some form. I would say right now we are redefining what a game is – I just hope there will always be some people that enjoy a good arcade style game and don’t just want the next real life simulation game!
I enjoyed the retro experience of playing Dizzy Prince of the Yolkfolk again on iOS/Android. I remembered loving the Dizzy games as a child and it is great to see him back once again on modern devices.
10. What is your advice for new developers?
Anything is possible. It’s a cliché and may sound silly, but it is true. There is a lot of hard work required but if you work away at it you can develop whatever game you like. I’d suggest new developers start out by working on the smallest project they can, like make a Pong clone. Try to work at a project until it is complete, a lot of people say it takes 10% of the time to complete 90% of the project, and 90% of the time to complete the final 10%. While I’m not sure about the exact percentages, I do subscribe to this philosophy and actually getting projects to 100% is a hard but rewarding experience.
Also, the nice thing about making a clone of another game is you can work to some set guidelines – you know what the game needs to end up looking like, this makes code/art design much easier. One challenge of being a developer, working on new ideas, is ideas are always changing, so the code/art/design has to be flexible to change with it and it is actually very hard to write systems that are flexible enough to cope with changes, especially when those changes are things that you never anticipated!
The biggest step for me to actually become a full time games programmer was securing my job at Sony Liverpool. It was incredibly competitive, but once you have your foot in the door you can learn huge amounts very quickly, as you are surrounded by talented developers (a lot of which may have been in the games industry 25 years).