Developer Interview: 10 Questions for Pierce Zaifman / ShankemGames

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Pierce Zaifman from ShankemGames is the indie developer, who developed “Monster Tactis”, a funny round based strategy multiplayer game for Android.  In addition to that, Pierce is the first Canadian Android developer, who we’ve interviewed so far. So fetch your maple sirup, catch your ice hockey sticks and get excited about this interview!

Interview by Frederik Schrader.

10 Questions for Pierce Zaifman / ShankemGames

1. Please introduce yourself.

Hello! I’m Pierce Zaifman, a 22 year old Canadian university student taking computer science. I’m currently spending 16 months doing an internship (unrelated to game development) before I head back to school for my final year.

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

I used to spend many hours in Warcraft III’s map editor, typically never finishing anything, but I enjoyed it. Being able to show off something I made to my friends was a lot of fun, and when they liked it too, it made it that much better. Making games was the next level of that to me, and it gives you much more freedom.

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

So far I have only developed on Android, but I am looking to try to go cross platform (hopefully web and iOS) for my next game. I’ve only used Android so far because I already knew Java, and I wanted to be able to focus on the game instead of having to learn a new language. It’s also nice to be able to drag and drop the UI, cutting out some of the work that I’m not interested in, to let me focus on the core game.

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

I haven’t tried porting a game yet, I don’t think it’s worth it to try to port after the fact, unless it’s a very popular game. If you plan out from the beginning to develop for multiple platforms, I believe that would be a more reasonable approach. To port my game to iOS for example, I would essentially have to re-write all my code, which is not too appealing.

5. How do you get inspiration for a game?

My inspiration typically comes from other games that I’ve played, thinking of them as a jumping off point. I start with that, and then think of some ideas that I haven’t seen before in that genre that would make it more fun. Mixing mechanics from different games can also be interesting, it could even lead to basing the entire game around that.

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

While I did not keep strict track of the time that I spent, since I’ve been working full time I typically spend weekends working on the game. It probably took about 6-7 months of weekends, perhaps between 200 and 300 hours. It really depends on the type of game and how much I need to learn to accomplish what I want. Being my first android project, I had to spend extra time learning Android, next time I will already know all the basics.

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

While it would differ depending on the type of game, when you make an online multiplayer game, having to deal with asynchronous interaction is quite difficult. You need to be prepared for players interacting at any time, instead of guiding a single person through a set of choices.

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

I think cross platform gaming will grow, to the point where you can find a game on iOS, Android, PC, and console. It will take longer for consoles to be included in the group, however with the generation of consoles after the next generation (two generations from now), I suspect this will be more common. Making it easier for developers to make games is really the key, and creating tools and frameworks to allow developers to create games for multiple platforms is the future, it’s already here to some exent.

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

SSX is currently my favourite, I used to spend many hours playing SSX Tricky on my gamecube. The newer iteration has a different feel to it, but it’s still tons of fun. I suspect Diablo III will take its place in a few months, but for now I’ll enjoy riding the slopes.

10. What is your advice for new developers?

It’s not as scary as you think, and it’s not as hard as you think. It can’t hurt to try, so just go for it. I’m not saying it’s easy, but if you’re willing to put in the effort, you will definitely be rewarded.

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