Awesome Tank Developer Interview

Here’s what UberGeekGames had to say:

You currently have two games on the marketplace, A Game of Tennis and Awesome Tank. For anyone who hasn’t played them could you please give us a brief description of each.

A Game of Tennis is a remake of the classic black and white paddle game. It features human-like AI that adapts to your skill, and local and online multiplayer for human opponents. It also has a special Advanced mode where your goal is to score as many points as you can against the AI – your top scores in this mode are shared with other users on the Global Scoreboard if you have a Gold account.

Awesome Tank is an arcady tank warfare game. You control a single tank, driving around on a grid of destructible blocks, trying to destroy the 8 opposing tanks or collect all of the orbs to advance to the next level. You can pick up powerups to boost your speed, gain extra bullets, or fire faster shells. You earn bonuses for only shooting tanks or only collecting orbs, and your highest score is shared with other players on a Global Scoreboard (again, for Gold members). You can also team up and play local or online co-op with a friend, and earn Awardments for completing difficult feats.

Having just recently played Awesome Tank, and having really enjoyed it, it would be interesting to know how successful it has been. Without actually going into actual figures how successful would you say it is?

Not nearly as successful as I would have liked. I will say that A Game of Tennis has done approximately 5 times as well. From a developer’s standpoint it makes no sense, given that I spent much more time on Awesome Tank and I think it is a much better game, but, as always, the customers and the marketplace have the final say.

Any particular inspiration behind Awesome Tank?

I had a shareware PC game a long time ago that was similar to it – it must have been about 10 years ago on Windows 95. It was in 2D, had terrible graphics and was buggy, but it was amazingly addictive. When I started coding as a hobby, I always wanted to make a 3D version with better graphics and multiplayer. I originally did one in Blitz3D several years ago – it’s laughably bad compared to the Awesome Tank that’s out there now. When I found out about XNA, I knew I had to do a better one!

You are a very active poster in the Creators Club website and seem to contribute a lot towards the community – have you found that this has helped you in getting your games playtested or peer reviewed?

Yes and no. On one hand, the system only works with reciprocation. I help out where I can and enjoy testing other’s games, and most of them return the favor. The problem is that there are only a handful of people actually using Peer Review and Playtest. Unfortunately, most developers contribute next to nothing to the community, especially Review and Playtest, where they are most needed. Hopefully the Reputation system that was recently added will help with this.

Though the creators club premium members are aware that you have a third game currently in playtest, would you like to say anything about it so that others out there know?

Certainly. My next project is GameFinder, an app designed to help users easily find the best games on XBLIG, right from their Xbox. It features three easy to use interfaces; a virtual store where you can walk around and pick up games, a list of games you can quickly scroll through, and a Dashboard-esque view. You can give each game a 1-5 star rating, and if you are a Gold member these are shared with other users. There is a powerful search engine to sort games by feature, price, keyword, and popularity. It’s almost finished, and will be going into Review this week. (you can check its progress on my website: here)

What is your opinion on the whole idea of XBLIG?

I think it is a great idea! It gives independents an unprecedented chance to get their games into the living rooms of 19 million gamers. Nothing like that has ever been done before; it’s a huge opportunity to get noticed and even make some spending money. The community, for the most part, is one of the best online communities I’ve ever been a part of, and working with C# and XNA to actually write my games is much, much easier than, say, Objective-C for the iPhone.

What is your opinion of the actual XBLIG community members?

Mostly positive. This is by far the best online community I’ve ever been a part of. By and large, the people on the site are helpful and cheerful. As with any community there are a couple of bad apples, but the moderators are very fair and usually stay on top of things.

How do you think that XBLIG could be improved?

You shouldn’t have asked that – I could go on for pages and pages about this topic! Microsoft has done an admirable job so far, but there are a few very easy ways to make it almost perfect. I’ve discussed most of them (especially the first point) extensively on the forums, so I’ll try to very briefly describe them again here:

1) Separate games and apps on the marketplace.
If you do a search on the forums you can see several threads about this. Simply put, it would increase exposure for each genre and get the mainstream gamers interested in the channel.

2) Allow developers to set any price they want, with a minimum of $2.50. Reducing the minimum price, and taking away the higher prices, is only perpetuating the “AppStore Effect” race to the bottom mentality, and making it even more difficult for niche games to make any money. I don’t see any reason to limit how much you could charge for your game; why shouldn’t I be able to release a 10,000 point game if I wanted to? (hey, it got exposure for the App Store when there was a $1,000 game).

3) Fix Playtest and the Peer Review process.
Playtest is being largely ignored by most people. There simply aren’t enough people giving feedback, but especially good feedback. Check out feedback The ZMan has given; he is the model everyone should follow for good feedback! He gives about 30 bullet points of things he liked, didn’t like, and any bugs found, and then 2-4 detailed paragraphs of how he thinks the developer could improve the game. We need lots more people like him for the system to work, but almost no one is doing it! Sadly, there are a lot of, as ZMan calls it, “eBay style ‘great game A+++++++ developer’ comments” in both Playtest and Peer Review. Peer Reviewers aren’t doing their job as well as they could be, either.

How did you get into writing games?

Ever since I was little and got my first Nintendo, I always knew I wanted to make games. As evidenced by my company name, I’ve also been a geek all my life, and proud of it. I’ve built my own computers, put Best Buy to shame wiring my home theater, and have used a computer ever since I could sit up. A few years ago, knowing next to nothing about how games are actually made, I decided to put a concentrated effort into learning it in my spare time and bought some books. I bounced around from many game engines and languages before landing in XNA last year. I haven’t looked back since – this is by far the best language and tools I’ve used, it has a great community, and even allows me to make some money off of what I love doing!

What size of team is UberGeekGames?

I’ve gotten this question before on the forums since I do post a lot. It’s just one person, me, doing this in my free time. I make up for the lack of manpower with being an extremely fast typist! ;-)

Any advice for people out there who may be thinking of getting into games development?

First, you need to be read the FAQs. I’m serious! They contain a ton of useful information for the beginner, and will help start your journey into game development.

Start small and don’t go rushing into your dream game, since you have to walk before you can run with this. Read a lot of tutorials, and spend a lot of time trying things out and making progressively more complicated games. And there is no shame in asking for help on the forums when you need it – we were all new once!

Don’t set unrealistic expectations. You won’t be able to go from Joe Gamer to John Carmack overnight, and you can’t expect to make WoW 2. You can, however, very easily make some fun games using the XNA framework with one person working in their spare time.

Most importantly, have fun with it. That’s why we’re here, to create fun games others can enjoy. I won’t sugarcoat it – in the last stages of development, it will get very, very hard to stay motivated as you fight to find those last, tiny little bugs. It’s important to retain a positive attitude at that point.

Anything else you may care to mention?

XBLIG is a great opportunity for the aspiring developer, but the service could use a few tweaks to get it running at maximum speed. There are also a lot of great games on the service already, but they’re buried due to the NXE interface and the skewed Most Popular list. So, if you want a good game, go check out Awesome Tank. If you want to find more good games, check out GameFinder when it’s released.