A Developer in Plain Sight – Interview with Adam Spragg
VVGtv:Hey Adam thanks for taking the time to answer some very important questions that our readers want to know about.
Adam: It’s my pleasure! I love talking games and game development, and flattered that anyone would want to hear my opinions.
VVGtv: Alright, let’s get on with our first question. What is your history of gaming and developing?
Adam: I just turned 37 years old. On one hand, that is seriously pushing “old fart” territory, but it also means that I was alive to experience the birth and golden age of console and PC gaming. We got our first computer, an Apple ][+, when I was a young boy. I remember it came with two games: Castle Wolfenstein and RobotWar. The former got me excited about video games in general, and the latter eventually opened my eyes to the basics of programming.
I remained a PC gamer through my childhood, moving from the Apple ][ to DOS and Windows-based PCs. I was raised on a steady stream of Sierra On-Line “Quest” games, Bards Tales, Ultimas, and anything by iD Software. When I was in high school, I started teaching myself programming in C, and had a major “ah HA” moment when I downloaded the source code to Nethack. I distinctly remember realizing that there was nothing magic about the games; players and monsters were just bags of numbers that interacted with each other. When I hit a monster with my sword, all I was doing was subtracting the swords damage value from the monsters hit points, and checking if (mon_hitpoints <= 0) to see if it died. That was a huge moment for me (angelic chorus, light from the sky, etc).
VVGtv: Seems you have quite the experience there. When you’re not gaming or developing, what do you do in your free time?
Adam: That’s a funny question, because I spend most of my free time gaming (Skyrim has me completely sucked in) or developing. I’m happily married to a very patient wife and have a child I adore, and we do lots of weekend adventures. I play Fantasy Football and (real) basketball with friends, and watch the Chargers break my heart more often than not these days.
VVGtv: I am not much into sport, but I do spend time with my daughter as well doing, we go to the park a lot. I saw the fan email on your site, what was the emotion you felt when had received it?
Adam: Honestly, I was smiling all day. It made me really, really irrationally happy. Just one email from one random guy.
VVGtv: It is always good to hear from a fan to boost your confidence in making a game. This question comes from Ryan Banks in our community. When creating your games what fuels you to create and continue making that game?
Adam: That’s a really tough question. First of all, I love the challenges and puzzles presented by software development in general. I love game design (video, board, etc), and really thinking about what makes games challenging and fun. I’ve started a million projects, but it wasn’t until I learned how easy it was to publish on the Xbox Live indie platform that I actually followed through and finished a game.
So it’s two parts: the act of creating, and the reward of knowing people are playing and enjoying that creation.
VVGtv: It’s great that you found your Feng Shei in game development. Do you have any advice for the novice developers?
Adam: Yes, and this certainly isn’t original: start small. Like, REALLY small. Learn how to draw an image to the screen. Learn how to move that image around. Learn how to accept user input. There are a lot of fun games you can make with those basics. If you can’t make Breakout, you certainly can’t make that MMO you’re dreaming of.
Or, don’t believe me. Start big. Pack all your awesome ideas into one huge game. Try to make that game, and watch how quickly you flame out and fail.
Adam: Bad Golf was inspired by an iPad game I was playing called StickGolf, which is itself a version of any number of artillery games (gorilla.bas, anyone?). I was going to add my own addition to this, though, by having actual golfer avatars that would be able to fight with each other between golf shots. So, it would kind of be a race to see who could finish the hole first, and you could fight with other golfers to slow them down while you were each running to your next shot. This is where the name “Bad Golf” comes from. However, heeding my “start small” advice, I dropped the golfer characters and fighting, and just left a real-time multiplayer golf game. It’s a decent little game.
Battle for Venga Islands was an experiment as much as anything else. I knew about games that shared high scores behind the scenes, and I wondered if I could make a game that shared actual game data behind the scenes. So I came up with this idea about a world that players could interact in and have an effect on, and that effect would be propagated around as players connected with each other online. This created a neat kind of asynchronous persistent world, and it worked really, really well. I eventually pulled it from the market when it became clear that new players weren’t getting the rich online experience because there weren’t enough peers to connect to.
Hidden in Plain Sight was inspired by a game called Spy Party, an indie game in development by Chris Hecker. It was my first glimpse into a new genre of games where the player is trying to act like an NPC and blend in, but still accomplish tasks and running the risk of being eliminated. Another inspiration was a web Flash game called Puji. I took the main thrust of both those games, distilled it down to what I thought were the fun bits, and added my own twists and concepts. It’s also been compared to Assassins Creed: Brotherhood a lot, but I’ve never played that.
VVGtv: It’s good to see the games on the right path. If you were to go back and change anything about the develop of those titles, what would it be?
Adam: Adding an online scoreboard to Bad Golf.
Making a more fun single-player campaign mode for Hidden in Plain Sight.
No changes to Hidden in Plain Sight. In spite of being local multiplayer only, I think it’s a fantastic game.
VVGtv: Do you have any projects that you are working on now, and can you explain them?
Adam: I don’t have a real focus, but I’m building a basic 2D platformer engine for future use. I think I’d like to challenge myself by making a 2D platformer that centers more around exploration and learning through experience rather than physical jumping/dodging mechanics and collecting coins and dying in lava. There’s nothing wrong with collecting coins and dying in lava, I guess, but there’s not much fresh or exciting about it, either.
VVGtv: Thanks for your time Adam and it was a pleasure asking you all these questions!
Adam: No problem. If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them. You can read more details on my game dev blog: Adam Spragg Games. Thanks!