Shock FM Interview


~ December 2000 ~
My public debut as a game designer coincided with me starting university and stirred up
a lot of interest on campus! This is what transpired when James Huxley interviewed me
for the local Shock FM radio station. It's the first interview I ever gave about my work...

So how did you get into making games? Where did it all begin?
Right from the start, as kids, my brother and i were extremely creative. We made our own board games, card games, dice games - we even devised our own outdoor games and sports. I remember we made a game of golf in the backyard that was played with French loaves, whilst riding a bike - crazy shit! Whatever we made was always more fun than professional efforts. Like the games i'm making now, the people who were going to play were part of the creative process.

How did that lead you to making games?
The next logical step was to make videogames, one of the best forms of entertainment. I got hold of a decent PC, gradually tracked down a whole range of creative software and (most arduously) taught myself how to use them as best i could. I was successful in this because i realized my limitations. Most people go into game development wanting to make something great - and end up "waiting" until they have the skills to do that, which invariably never happens. The day i learnt the "if" statement i made 5 simple text games, whilst other students sulked at not being able to do graphics. Instead of waiting for stronger skills, i pushed weak skills to their very limit. That's the line between success and failure - making the most of things.

So now that you've progressed to making better programs, how long does it take?
Because i do everything - the sound, the graphics, and the programming - i can make a simple game in a single afternoon. However, to make a game that i'm proud of takes at least a week, but usually no more than 2-3 weeks. Again, that's because i am a one-man show. "Normal" game developers would literally take months to produce the same game, because they have to rely on others to account for all the skills they're missing. I can think of something then put it into a game - no questions asked. It's not an accident that i can do that. I taught myself absolutely everything, knowing that it would give me creative freedom.

How often do you make these games then? I imagine it takes too much out of your time to do it constantly.
I have to do it at every opportunity, simply for the sake of learning. I've only got 3 years to teach myself as much about this industry as possible before i hit the mainstream, so every game i make (good or bad) is an asset. That said, it's like the film-making process - while you're doing it it's all you can think about, then when it's done you'll take a short break before starting on a new project. But i've reached the point where i'm doing something creative every single day, either updating my website or making stuff for games.

You mentioned your course there. So how does this course benefit you? Would you maybe be successful anyway?
The "Computer & Video Games" course that i'm on (at Salford University in England) is quite simply the difference between me doing this as a hobby and doing it professionally. Yes, i could quit and continue making games for as long as i wanted - but they would always be of this "16-bit" standard, limiting me to doing it as a hobby. The game development process has become so sophisticated now that you need to "study" it to be in the hunt. At the end of the day, as good as it is being in a position where my games have an audience, the main goal is to take it to the mainstream - where i can achieve worldwide recognition with the best games i'm capable of. That would not be possible without the right tuition. Hell, it'll still be a struggle when i'm qualified. Applying for a job at a professional studio now just because i can make simple games would be like applying for a job at NASA because i can do long division! It's not in the same league.

We first saw your games on a wrestling site called Tha Warzone. How did that come about, and how has it helped you?
Tha Warzone is a wrestling site that i visit frequently, and one thing i noticed was that it had EVERYTHING. From video clips to up-to-date info, it's a neat package for wrestling fans. The one thing it (and practically every other site) didn't have was games about the world of wrestling. Being the rare combination of a wrestling fan who can also make games, i could offer the site and it's visitors such games. So i made a game about the Hardy Boyz and gave it to Dean Nair (the webmaster) inviting him to post it somewhere on the site. He did it immediately and made it reach the audience it was made for - a few thousand wrestling fans. That got people's attention and gradually from there i made more games, and eventually made a site that was worthwhile. A lot of independent game developers make their own little site to convince themselves that people are interested in what they're doing. I waited until people WERE interested in my games, and i needed Tha Warzone to do that.

Now that you've got your own site, i understand you've adopted a more open approach to your games - letting people help with the games, etc. How has that turned out?
Making games by request is something i am very happy to do. I remember when i used to play games, i had millions of "what if's" and "imagine if's" running through my head - and game programming was such a rare skill that there was never anywhere for my ideas to go. It was my intention with the site to provide a playground for game ideas - somewhere people could take their own game ideas or wishes and let me try to make something of them. From graphics to the actual game concepts, i let you be part of the creative process. And it benefits all concerned - i get a great source of ideas and inspiration, and the visitors get to play the games they want and to have an influence. Anyone who plays games wants to make games to some degree, and for many of them i'm the best alternative...

Copyright MDickie 2000 - 2010