Conducted By Adam Ames
TPG got the opportunity to conduct an e-mail interview with Francisco Téllez de Menese about his indie title, Unepic. You will read about how Unepic was created, his thoughts on the PC gaming industry and his struggles as an indie developer.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Unepic.
Hi Adam, my name is Francisco Téllez de Meneses, and I’m a Spanish half-human game programmer.
I am the only person in the main team of Unepic. I created the game engine, programed the whole game, invented the story, wrote all dialogs, created all in-game graphics, composed all musics (the jazz intro one still to be replaced) and created the web.
Besides, i have collaborators who created graphics for the intro, bosses and portaits of dialogs, and also people who gently offered themselves to translate the game to their languages.
How did you get started in developing PC games?
Developing videogames was my hobby since I had my first computer.
I come from MSX, so I started doing first steps with Basic, then pased to Pascal and finally C++.
Where did the idea for Unepic come from?
The idea comes from 15 years ago, when I started with some friends a game of castles similar to “The Maze Of Galious”. We really liked that game so always wanted to do something like this, but never finished it.
2.5 years ago, I was a bit down because I could not do the game I wanted at work, so my girlfriend suggested me to do it in my free time… and I started to work in that project I left behind 15 years ago, but this time with openGL and much more experience in programming.
What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing Unepic?
The biggest failure was to create the game for multiplayer, emulating a network. That complicated the whole project quite a lot, and lost too much time debugging.
On the other side, one of the best success of the game I learnt is that the story and dialogs are very important, and people can love a game because they feel connected to the dialogs. Something else was the lighting engine I created. It took a lot of time, but the result is quite impressive (comparing it with the same scene without lightning).
In its current form, how close is Unepic to your initial vision?
Light years away. The whole project changed during the development!
The first year I created the game, and the second one I changed it all ;c)
Some devs admitted their games were too hard upon release because they became experts as they developed the game. Talk about setting the difficulty levels for Unepic and if you faced a similar challenge.
I totally agree with you. As the game was itself too hard, I had to redistribute the castle dividing it in sectors (initial version you could go wherever in the castle), create the “Normal” and “Easy” levels of difficulty (the current hard one was the default one), give lot’s of clues for quests, ect. As the second year some friends played the game, I paid attention to all their comments and problems, and I took them as reference.
There are still a couple of difficult parts in the game, but I will keep them because this make people talk in the forum and comment the game. In fact, the first person who finished the game thanked me for letting the game not be easy.
Were there any challenges you faced in ensuring Unepic would run on the various PC system configurations
Not at all. Just used a standard config: 1024×768, then used full screen, windowed or centered screen. The game engine I created was made to adapt itself to any screenmode. OpenGL is very flexible at this.
Please talk about developing the art style, level design and music for Unepic.
Art style was a pain in the ass… I spent thousands of hours pixelating characters, items, weapons, scenarios… also took some graphics from internet and adapted them to the game.
Level design was much more fun. As the editor I created let me change any room in real-time, I could “change and test” easily.
And finally, music was a total nightmare, as I never composed music before! I had to learn how to compose using Cubase, listen to thousands of instruments, and guessing “why this song sounds so good and I can’t make mine sound the same!” ;c)
Lot’s of days, when I was walking to work or getting back home, I was imagining musics so I could compose with Cubase… I had to remember them as I could not write them down. There are a couple of zones with no specific music, as I am not happy with some pieces I created. If the game has success and I get money, I’d like a nice composer to remake the musics.
Outside of creating the game itself, what are the best aspects of being an indie developer?
The best of being an indie developer are:
1.- The direct contact with players. In a forum, you have their opinions and suggestions that are very useful to improve the game. And you can also have their comments of how much they love the game. This is a shocking experience, specially after working hard in a game.
2.- Nobody tells you what to do. You’re completely free to do what you want, with no deadlines, with no specifications from Marketing, and with no pressures of responsibility from a huge money investment.
I think that the happiness of working like this is reflected in the game itself.
How did you create funding for the development of Unepic and did you receive emotional support from your family and friends during this time?
There was no funding. Unepic is a game done in free time with no investment.
Concerning support, I felt quite alone along this project. It’s been very hard to work during years with little emotional support. Apart from my girlfriend, Just Carol (the artist who designed bosses and intro) gave me energies to go on as she believed in the project from the beginning. When I released the demo everything changed. People who played it loved it and all criticism were very positive, much more that I could imagine! And receiving emails or reading posts in the forum saying that they love the game not only moves me, but also makes all this effort worth.
Tell us about the process of submitting Unepic to the various digital distribution platforms and if you encountered resistance in doing so.
I tried to contact Steam and Humble Bundle. They all replied me in a short time and sent me a form to fill in with data from the game. Unfortunately something needed is the Trailer of the game, that I still have to do… but apart from this (that is totally understandable), I had no resistance at all.
How much pull do you have when setting sale and regular pricing through digital distribution channels? Did you research similar titles when trying to come up with the launch price?
To set the price I asked for people’s opinion in the Spanish forum. The vast majority agreed something between 5€ and 10€ is a very nice price that should avoid people search the pirate version of the game. So finally I gave the option to pay from 6,5€ to 19,5€, depending on the player’s budget and what the game deserves in their opinion.
As I still have not negotiated with digital distribution channels out of my web, I still don’t know how much pull do I have, but they look very flexible.
For the most part, big budget studios no longer release PC demos while almost every indie developer does. Why do you think this trend is occurring? Tell us why released a demo for Unepic and the difficulties in doing so.
Well, big companies have several ways to make you see that the game is awesome. They spend lot’s of money in marketing, magazines make extensive reviews of their games, and titles are very well known. Indie developers have to proof that their game is nice, and with no advertising and no fame, a demo is maybe the best solution. Releasing a demo was quite easy. Found no difficulty at all.
How important is it to get instant feedback about Unepic from users through online message boards and other social networking sites?
Very important. Demos are fantastic because players let give feedback before the final game is launched. In Unepic’s forum I collected very nice ideas and some demands, like customizing the keyboard and let the player move in the air. (Yes, I finally did it )
Also having nice feedback from people makes you feel sure about you’re going in the right direction.
How much value do you place on the opinions of those who review Unepic professionally?
The most I can. Professionals have experience that I have not, and if they share it with me… I should be a fool if I don’t get it!
How do you feel about the various indie bundle promotions and the “Pay What You Want” pricing methodology? Would you be interested in contributing to a project like that in the future?
I liked the idea and I did something similar in the web: open price from 6,5 to 19,5.
In the future I’d like to be part of Humble Bundle, just to share space with Machinarium! ( for me the best game I played in years, and that I admire over all games )
What are your thoughts on how the PC gaming industry as a whole are dealing with the problem of intrusive DRM and piracy?
Oof… this is a very complicated matter. Gaming industry needs everyday more a more investment and therefore they need to recuperate it by selling the games, so they need to fight piracy and create more a more security procedures.
I think that this is an endless battle, a deadlock.
In my case, I included some “homemade” security procedures, but as I am just a game programmer (not an expert in this field) and had no time, Unepic could be easily pirated.
Bill S.978 was introduced to the Untied States Senate earlier this year which could make it illegal to post unauthorized copyrighted content on YouTube and other video sharing sites. How do you feel about individuals posting videos of Unepic?
I like the idea. I already saw a couple of them in YouTube, and I hope to see more. Professionally is great because it is free advertising of your game.
Personally is very nice because I can laugh seeing how people plays the game, step over traps, are killed by enemies, …
How do you feel about DLC and its current implementation in the PC gaming industry?
DLC is a nice idea (if you don’t have to pay extra), as keeps a game alive.
For Unepic my plan is to give free items to people. For instance, for “the Trekkie weekend” give items related to StarTrek, or “the StarWars weekend” give items realted to Star Wars.
Recently, there has been a lot of talk about modding of PC games and the relationship developers have with modders. How do you feel about the online modding community in general and specifically if mods were created for Unepic?
I am not very familiar with modders, but I love the idea of releasing an editor where people can create levels and stories from when Starcraft released its fantastic editor.
Concerning Unepic, there is an editor I used to create the game, but the usage of this editor should show up the “real” graphics with no lighting and all tricks. I fear this should remove the feeling the game has right now.
What advice would you give up-and-coming indie PC developers who are trying to break into the business?
Create a mockup and test if people likes the game. You will have to make several changes until you get the final product. – End
We would like to thank Francisco for taking time out of his support schedule to chat with us. You can pick up Unepic or download the demo from the official site.
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