Christopher Hughes takes TPG on a tour of their indie title, Rotation Fixation. Learn how old school games were taken as inspiration for the graphical and audio presentation, thoughts on DRM and piracy, difficulties being an indie and much more.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Rotation Fixation.
My name is Christopher Hughes- I’m one of the designers that worked on Rotation Fixation with a small team of people studying at Games and Interactive Media at QUT. While working on Rotation Fixation I acted as the Lead Designer/Producer.
How did you get started in developing PC games?
It’s something that I have always wanted to do, but never got around to doing until after I finished high school, so I would have to say I only started developing PC games until about 2 years ago when I started University. That being said, I wish I had started a little earlier.
Where did the idea for Rotation Fixation come from?
I came up with the idea for Rotation Fixation during one of my lectures in my first year of university. I pretty much spent the whole lecture randomly brainstorming ideas for interesting game mechanics. Making a list from A-Z and just writing down any words that I think of that could possibly relate to a mechanic/gameplay and then combining/building on specific ones. In this case, the focus was primarily on rotation.
What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing Rotation Fixation?
I think the main things that I have taken away from developing Rotation Fixation is to always have a backup plan and to design the game around your strengths as a team. During development, there were quite a number of hiccups, members sick for long periods, a team member leaving the unit, content that was promised not being delivered, ect. and being able to learn to adapt to problems that appear is really helpful, especially with a backup plan. Strengths wise, our team lacked a proper artist and so we decided to go with 8-bit art (because it’s a lot friendlier to the drawing impaired). Had we had a proper artist, I believe the aesthetics of the game would have been significantly different.
In its current form, how close is Rotation Fixation to your initial vision?
I feel as though in its current form, Rotation fixation is more of a compressed version of my initial vision. Originally it was designed to be a race to the finish game similar to that of Raskulls or Sonic but with the integration of mechanics that would interact with the rotation mechanic to created obstacles for the player to slow them down.
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 Rotation Fixation and if you faced a similar challenge.
So um… yeh… our entire intention behind the game was for the players to find the game difficult and for them to try to challenge themselves to play better than they did the previous time they played. Even as the developers, we will be lucky to reach the halfway point in the game. It’s kind of like Tetris in terms of difficulty if you were increasing the speed exponentially. Needless to say, our aim wasn’t to target the type of player that has their hand held by the game (no offense to any of those players out there). We actually found that a lot of players enjoyed the blinding difficulty that the game offered and made them want to play more.
Were there any challenges you faced in ensuring Rotation Fixation would run on the various PC system configurations?
I think the only challenge that we had was having to get the installer working properly as our game was made using XNA and this caused some issues.
Please talk about developing the art style, level design and music for Rotation Fixation.
The art style was primarily chosen do to our lack of artistic merit and our love of oldschool games, there’s just something amazing about 8-bit graphics and chiptunes. I would have liked to have more levels added, we will probably work on adding more levels in the future, but our primary focus was on the mechanics within the level. That being said, I originally planned for gameplay to be a lot like playing solitaire, you can play hundreds of games and each time will be different. As for music, who couldn’t love chiptunes, it adds to the feel of the game and really gives it that retro feel. Half of the time when I’m done playing Rotation Fixation I’ll have the music stuck in my head for a good hour or more.
Outside of creating the game itself, what is the toughest aspect of being an indie developer?
I think the toughest aspect of being an indie developer is finding time to work on your project and when you do find time, not procrastinating. Fortunately for myself, I get to do this while studying, but for most indie developers, you’re also going to probably have another job to pay the bills while you’re working on your games. But in my case, I have a lot of free time on my hands, which leads to the fickle beast known as procrastination getting the jump on me.
How did you go about funding Rotation Fixation and did you receive financial or emotional support from friends and family?
It was part of a project for university so I guess you could say it was self funded, anything we had to pay for was split between the team. As for emotional support, the help and encouragement received from friends was invaluable. They were always around to help whenever we needed anything and their enjoyment while playing our game is something that pushed us to continue.
Tell us about the process of submitting Rotation Fixation to the various digital distribution platforms and if you encountered resistance in doing so.
We mainly only distribute from our website, but we’re looking to branch out at the moment to various distribution platforms to get the game out there for people.
How important is it to get instant feedback about Rotation Fixation from users through online message boards and other social networking sites?
It’s extremely important. Anything users post about our game feedback wise is always read by one of us and the feedback they provide is always taken into consideration when we’re making changes to the game.
How much value do you place on the opinions of those who review Rotation Fixation professionally?
Well everyone has their own opinion about everything, some will be positive and some will be negative. However, I can only assume that people reviewing Rotation Fixation professionally have reviewed countless games and so there is merit in what they say that can indeed be helpful to us in improving our game.
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’m actually a really big fan of the Pay What You Want pricing system. It makes users more inclined to play your games and if they like it enough, they will pay the respective amount that they think your game is worth. I will definitely be using this kind of pricing method for some of the games I develop in the future.
What are your thoughts on how the PC gaming industry as a whole are dealing with the problem of intrusive DRM and piracy?
Well I understand why they would want to deal with the problem, they want to be profiting off the work that they have done. However, I feel as though they are going about it the wrong way. This is probably myself just being idealistic, but I feel as though piracy in a way, can actually help in a games success. There are a lot of people who want to play games, but are unable to afford them and instead pirate them. However, this same person then tells 10 other people who may not have been planning to buy the game how much they enjoyed it and those 10 people go out and buy the game. Once again, probably just me being idealistic.
How do you feel about individuals posting videos of Rotation Fixation?
I would love people to post videos of Rotation Fixation. One of the things we enjoy most as developers is watching other people play our games, seeing how they react to certain situations, seeing how far they get and overall getting to watch their experience of playing our game.
How do you feel about DLC and its current implementation in the PC gaming industry?
I feel okay about DLC as long as it isn’t being overpriced or released at the same time as the game is being released. Whenever I see something like this, all I think is why couldn’t you have just included this into the game before you released.
How do you feel about the online modding community in general and specifically if mods were created for Rotation Fixation?
I have always been a big fan of the modding community. The idea of taking a game and adding your own elements to it/improving it is a fantastic thing to happen to a game. I would be thrilled if people started making mods for Rotation Fixation.
What advice would you give up-and-coming indie PC developers who are trying to break into the business?
The best advice I could give to up-and-coming indie PC developers is to try and find people you can work well with and people who share the same interest in what you’re trying to do. I don’t think I would have enjoyed doing this as much if I wasn’t working with these kinds of people.
We would like to thank Christopher for taking time to participate in this interview. You can learn more about Rotation Fixation and download the game from the official site.