Friday, August 22, 2008
Interview with Nick Tipping of Moonpod
Here's the last of the semi-formal interviews I had with mainstream game developers who had "gone rogue" to become full-time indie game developers. This time, it's with Nick Tipping of Moonpod. Nick is another indie who is both a driven game developer and a great supporter of the indie game development community. If you have played Moonpod's games, in particular their latest RPG-esque Mr. Robot, you already know that they quality sets the bar pretty high for indie games. Darn them.
Rampant Coyote: So where did you work and what did you work on prior to going indie?
Nick Tipping: Mark and I were both at Gremlin Interactive, Infogrammes and Rage Games Ltd. We worked on a number of PC and Playstation projects: N2O and the Actua sports series mainly. The last mainstream game we worked on was Gun Metal for the Xbox.
Rampant Coyote: What propelled you out of the door of that cushy mainstream game development job to join the ranks of the self-employed?
Nick Tipping: We'd toyed with the idea for some months but when almost every major studio in Sheffield closed at the same time we decided it was time to give it a go. Severance pay and racking up huge debt on multiple credit cards saw us to the end of out first project at Moonpod. :)
Rampant Coyote: Were there any aspects of indie game development took you by surprise when you worked on your first game(s)? Any lessons you had to learn quickly?
Nick Tipping: Only really having to learn open source libraries because we couldn't afford any of the middleware we'd been using in mainstream development. With our first game we made a lot of design mistakes because we'd been developing console-centric titles for so long. Starscape didn't even have mouse support for the menus when we first released it although we added that in an update.
Rampant Coyote: What have been your your biggest struggles / challenges / disappointments as an indie?
Nick Tipping: Marketing and running our company was something we had to jump in at the deep end with. We're still learning things now, after 5 years of being in business. Things we thought would be invaluable turned out to be useless; Mr. Robot and Starscape got incredible reviews in magazines, but even the smallest website review has a much bigger impact than a magazine.
Rampant Coyote: Do you still prefer being an indie over your mainstream game job?If so, why? If not, why haven't you returned to mainstream, big-budget, big-studio development? At the end of the day, why are you an indie?
Nick Tipping: At Moonpod it was more about artistic expression than money but sadly there's always a base level of income you need to maintain to support that ideal. We essentially love making games so if we had to return to mainstream development we'd be fine with that. Ideally we'll keep Moonpod going though and maybe even get to the point where we can hire some staff. We'd love to respond to some of the ideas our customers have sent our way. Essentially we want to keep doing what we've been doing but always reaching to create a better, more fulfilling experience for those who play our games.
Rampant Coyote: What other differences between mainstream and indie game development have you noticed?
Nick Tipping: There's a surprising amount of freedom available to you as an indie developer but time is still your greatest asset and with indie dev there's little time available and more tasks biting into it. Like maintaining a website and running a business. Not to mention customer support.
Rampant Coyote: Okay, that's about all I had. Is there anything else you want to add?
Nick Tipping: Only to add that indies live and die by word of mouth so if you find an indie game you like then tell everyone you know!!!