Interview: John Baez Feature - The Next Level

Interview: John Baez

Our readers take the stage and chat it up with producer of The Behemoth, creators of Alien Hominid.

Article by (Email)
January 14th 2005, 02:17AM

1. With the success of Alien Hominid, do you believe publishers will pay more attention to homebrew games for new IPs and introduce them to the commercial gaming market?

It would be great if the success of AH encouraged publishers to have more faith in homegrown IP. While we may be breaking newground in the video game industry, it is unlikely to change much. This is because for the most part people who are the real decision makers at large publishers are business people who believe that a licensed property or a sequel is a better bet than new IP. New IP is risky, but for smaller indie developers it is a great way to get started because we have nothing to lose.

2. What difficulties did you encounter during the development of Alien Hominid for consoles? And what are some examples of things you’d like to change if you had the opportunity to recreate the project?

LOL....I think the question would really be what difficulties DIDN’T we encounter. We dodged so many bullets to get this game on the shelves it is truly amazing that we were able to pull it off. I guess number one on the list of difficulties was money...we had to fund the entire development of the game since no one believed in us enough to fund the game. In the end this was an advantage because we wouldn’t have been an indie game if someone else had paid the bills. Plus we get to keep the IP.

3. Do you have any advice for aspiring homebrew developers looking to make a breakthrough into the commercial gaming world?

I think the most important thing is experience if you want to make indie console games. We were ultimately successful because we had the experience of making games before we started our own company. We weren’t the movers and shakers at the companies we had worked for previously. We were the in-the-trenches production guys, the guys without the fancy titles. Another big plus for working in the industry first is that you find other people who really want to do what you are doing. Without other motivated people, it’s tough to get a game on the shelf. Of course, breaking into the industry is tough in itself, but there are some great resources out there such as the IGDA (International Game Developers Association) and Gamasutra. And many of the bigger companies like Blizzard have nice FAQ’s on getting into the industry. Everyone on our team started at the very bottom of the food chain, so we are proof that persistence pays.

"We want to keep the company moving in the
direction we are going – make solid, hand drawn
games that gamers will want to collect."

4. Which developer(s), if any, have influenced The Behemoth’s direction and integrity?

Most of our influences and role models came from outside the game industry. We wanted to do things differently since most of the business models from within our industry seemed broken. For example, our company is modeled more on the Swatch business model than anything in the game industry. What inspired us about Swatch was a number of things: They rely more on the style and presentation of their products than the technology behind the product. So the collectible artist watch in a traditional form is more important than being the latest digital marvel. They were also able to take a simple idea and completely turn around the Swiss watch industry because they simply began making objects people desired and were willing to pay for. Finally, their retail cost was right in line with what consumers wanted to pay – their watches could be an impulse buy since they weren’t expensive but they were cool.

Another inspirational company has been Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites. What he and his small team have accomplished is nothing short of remarkable. His words just after being the first private company in space say it all- “Our success proves without question that manned space flight does not require mammoth government expenditures. It can be done by a small company operating with limited resources and a few dozen dedicated employees.”

We are a small independent developer, companies like Scaled are very inspirational to us since they are also small but competing against very large competitors. And they have done things that even very big companies have been unable to achieve.

5. Sony is well known (and oft maligned) for their sometimes overbearing approval process, and history shows that they've specifically been rather tough on 2D games. Did you run into any troubles with them, and if so, how were these troubles resolved to their satisfaction?

We didn’t have any problems what so ever with any of the hardware manufactures’ approval processes. They were all very professional and very enthusiastic about our game. I think you have to look at it from their viewpoint- they see a LOT of games, so it only makes sense that they approve the ones that are unique.

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