GAMES — PROFESSIONAL GEEKDOM

Indie game developer Ian Campbell on Steam Greenlight, and taking it one step at a time…

BY KELLIE SHERIDAN

From comics to video games, it takes all kinds to make geek culture happen. Some among us have been lucky enough to take their passion for all things geek and turn it into a career. So, how do they get there? Does working in the industry take away any of the appeal? And, is it all as awesome as it sounds?

Short answer: Yes!

As the gaming industry continues on its quest towards total world domination, game development is becoming a viable career option for those who prefer to spend their time in imagined worlds. Whether your games of choice are the big-budget blockbusters or smaller scale titles, the opportunities are there, though usually hard to find. But las in many other creative fields, it’s when people begin making their own opportunities that things get really interesting. Indie games are on not only on the rise, but are also becoming increasingly complex and diverse.

Game developer Ian Campell has been kind enough to answer a few questions for us about his debut title Bleed, his experiences with Steam’s Greenlight program, and the challenges that he has faced along the way.

GS: Hi Ian! To start, can you tell us a little about yourself and what it is you do?

IC: Sure! I’m Ian Campbell, a 27-year-old independent game developer. I get to dabble in a variety of disciplines like music, art, programming and design in the pursuit of releasing video games for the PC and Xbox 360!

GS: How long have you been designing games?

IC: I’ve been designing games for as long as I can remember! I wasn’t allowed video game consoles as a kid but I found them incredibly inspiring, so I’d draw levels and puzzles on pieces of paper and make my brother “play” through them. It was four years ago when I learned that Microsoft was allowing independent developers to self-publish on the Xbox 360 – that’s when I decided to learn to program and take an honest shot at it.

GS: What exactly is Bleed?

IC: Bleed is my attempt to realize the kind of game I’ve always wanted to play. The goal is to take an action-sidescroller and give the player insane amounts of freedom and control, so that it seems like almost anything is possible and their success or failure depends on nothing but their skill and instinct.

GS: From concept to the finished product, what was involved in creating Bleed?

IC: Oh man. I’ll try to keep this succinct, but there was an awful lot involved! The first thing was nailing down what I wanted to accomplish with the game – the kind of experience I wanted to give the player, the style it would have, how it would control, etc. I then implemented those ideas in a very basic environment to test and refine them. Once I was happy with how it felt to play the game, I began planning and creating environments and enemies that would be fun to battle and make good use of the game mechanics. After doing that for long enough, I finally had a game I could add music and menus to. I got people to play through it so I could watch for places that were confusing, or too easy, or contained other problems, and made changes based on that. Finally, I created the promotional materials like screen shots and a trailer to launch with the game and submitted it to be reviewed and published on Xbox Live Indie Games!

GS: What was your favorite part of the process?

IC: It’s hard to pick just one, since the whole process is like a game in itself where you solve problems and are rewarded by watching your ideas coming to life. I do remember specifically being very affected when I completed and added my first music track to the game – the experience was suddenly tangible and infinitely exciting. It was a wonderful moment.

GS: What is the most challenging thing about being an independent game developer?

IC: I think the greatest challenge – at least, if you insist on tackling large projects like I have been – is staying motivated. Making games is an amazing process with a lot to be excited about but at some point, it’s eventually going to feel like you’ve been hammering away for ages with not much to show for it and you run the risk of becoming burnt out on your own ideas.

GS: Tell us about your Steam Greenlight campaign, and how that worked out for you. What has the reaction to the game been like so far?

IC: I put the game up on Valve’s Greenlight service mid-summer of 2012, hoping the game would get voted on to Steam for Bleed‘s launch at the end of the year. In reality, the process was more of a long, determined process over the next 12 months, doing what I could to get people to notice the game and vote for it. I sent out a lot of emails and review copies, managed to get in to a promotion or two, that kind of thing. Eventually, after about a year, I had enough favorable votes to be accepted to Steam! Reactions so far have been pretty positive. Obviously, the game can’t appeal to everyone, but I’m really delighted to see how many people enjoyed what I was trying to accomplish.

GS: What’s next for you?

IC: Well, right now I’m finishing up a silly little game about a horde of brave-but-stupid treasure-hunting animals. After that, who knows?

GS: Any advice for those looking to get involved in game design?

IC: The best advice I could give is – please!! – start small! There are so many facets to game design that you’re going to get overwhelmed if you try to create some magnum opus right out of the gate. Start with something incredibly simple and work your way up so you can learn the fundamentals and experience the joy of completing a game without getting too frustrated or burned out!

UPDATE! Since this interview was conducted, Bleed has been greenlit and is now available for purchase on Steam.

THE FINAL FIVE WITH IAN CAMPBELL

Trek or Wars? Wars
Marvel or DC? Marvel
Vampires or Werewolves? Werewolves
Dragons or Unicorns? Dragons (am I missing something? I feel like unicorns are just horses with a horn)
Time Travel: Pro or Con? Time travel for sure!

— Kellie Sheridan

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Geek Speak Magazine's crack staff, speaking fluent geek since 2010...