Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of 10 Second Ninja.
I’m Dan, I’m an independent game developer and I recently released a game called 10 Second Ninja. I was the designer, coder, and artist on the project.
How did you get started in developing PC games?
Good question, I guess my first experience with any kind of abstract game programming was RPGMaker 2003. I used to bunch off school for a week or so at a time and just build worlds in it. From there I moved to Game Maker (which 10 Second Ninja was developed in) to Unity.
Where did the idea for 10 Second Ninja come from?
The whole “finish in 10 seconds” thing came from playing games like Stardash and League of Evil 2, in which finishing levels in about 15 seconds was a bonus objective. I never thought levels could be completed that quickly, but I thought was interesting, so I attempted to design around that being the main focus instead.
What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing 10 Second Ninja?
1) Don’t announce too early.
2) Build a whole game and iterate after, don’t spend ages polishing one area before moving on to the next.
3) Have a small closed beta period before launch if you can.
In its current form, how close is 10 Second Ninja to your initial vision?
Visually and “game feel”-wise, it’s pretty different, but the core concept and tone is very similar. Initially it was pixel art, and the movement was a bit snappier. Now, it’s a bit sleeker and the ninja has a bit more weightiness.
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 10 Second Ninja and if you faced a similar challenge.
Luckily, I’m very bad at twitchy platformers, so it didn’t take long to find players who were better than me. We actually ended up having the opposite problem and discovered that reviewers were finding the game too easy, so we adjusted the difficulty curve again before release to make it more difficult.
Were there any challenges you faced in ensuring 10 Second Ninja would run on the various PC system configurations?
Not too many. Game Maker is designed to export to a lot of different formats, so it runs pretty okay on most things. The main issue has been dealing with third party gamepads and stuff, as we’re finding those pretty difficult to predict.
Please talk about developing the art style, level design and music for 10 Second Ninja.
Sure, so I think stylistically, the game’s the result of this transition to a more retro-styled platformer to something a bit cleaner and modern. There are still elements of this more old school platformer in the soundtrack, but it’s also a bit sharper than that, less chirpy. This reflects the art to an extent, too, which began as a pixel art, and then took that kind of clarity, and those bright colours, and then went for something a bit bolder. Everything had to stand out.
Outside of creating the game itself, what is the toughest aspect of being an indie developer?
For me, it’s generally managing my own well being. Being in a position where you love what you do and could do it all day can often lead to situations when you’ll be doing your eighth 16 hour work day in a row. This can lead to all sorts of not-too-great medical stuff, affect your eating habits, and general cleanliness. Willfully pulling myself away from my work and then psyching myself up to go back in was really tough to learn.
How did you go about funding 10 Second Ninja and did you receive financial or emotional support from friends and family?
I’m pretty young, and I’m still living with my parents, so thankfully my food, heat, and roof over my head are all paid for. I don’t have much advice about being an indie for people who have to pay to live.
Tell us about the process of submitting 10 Second Ninja to the various digital distribution platforms and if you encountered resistance in doing so.
It wasn’t too difficult once Mastertronic got on board. The main challenge for most indies launching on PC and Mac tends to be “how do we get Valve to look at our game?”. After the game was in the hands of a publisher who Valve recognised, that whole process became a lot easier.
Did you research similar titles when trying to come up with the launch price?
Not research per se, but I do buy games on Steam myself, and I am familiar with the prices I’m comfortable paying for certain titles. The price we chose felt like the right fit.
How important is it to get instant feedback about 10 Second Ninja from users through online message boards and other social networking sites?
Pretty important, especially for things like updates. I try to keep integrated into the game’s Steam forum as much as I can. If there’s a problem with the game or something that people particularly like, it’s good for me to know about it and engage with them.
How much value do you place on the opinions of those who review 10 Second Ninja professionally?
It varies. I’m much more concerned with the opinions of the players who’ve bought the game. I think the way most people play games on Steam is different from how a reviewer might, at least in some cases. Generally, the game has reviewed pretty well, and we’re extremely thankful for that. I do think it’s a different way of playing the game, though.
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 would. I really like the work that the Humble people do, and I’d be interested to collaborate on a bundle like that in the future. Definitely.
What are your thoughts on how the PC gaming industry as a whole are dealing with the problem of intrusive DRM and piracy?
As a whole? Eh, it’s a little hit and miss. I know a lot of people don’t support platforms like Steam because they don’t like to engage with any platform that features DRM. For me personally, I think Steam has a good balance, I think Origin is mostly okay, and I think the less I say about UPlay the better. It’ll sort itself out in time, though. I’m not 100% sure that kind of intrusive DRM actually helps the companies enforcing it, but I don’t have nearly enough information to back that speculation up.
How do you feel about individuals posting videos and receiving monetization of 10 Second Ninja?
I feel great about it, I think it’s awesome. It’s amazing that people would take the time to produce content about my game, and from a cynical marketing perspective, it’s really useful. I’m thankful for all the people making videos about the game, and I’m totally cool with them making some money from doing so.
How do you feel about DLC and its current implementation in the PC gaming industry?
Again, it’s a hit or miss thing. I like how DLC is getting closer and closer to being the main method of distributing games, and I think that frees up a lot of companies creatively. Like anything, some people do a worse job if it than others, but it’s generally a good direction for the industry to be heading in, I think.
How do you feel about the online modding community in general and specifically if mods were created for 10 Second Ninja?
I quite like modding communities, and the idea of taking someone else’s work and reinterpreting it is something really special. Unfortunately, I’m not sure 10 Second Ninja could support that how I’d like due to the way it’s constructed. It’s something I’d like to do, and I’m not going to say it won’t happen, but it’d take a lot of figuring out.
What advice would you give up-and-coming indie PC developers who are trying to break into the business?
Accept feedback gracefully, try to get as many people to play your game in front of you as you can, and when you’re asking for help or feedback or promotion, don’t treat people like they’re a means to an end. Be friendly, be humble, let people tell you where you’re going wrong.