Exclusive – ClickShake Games talks A Small Favor on Kickstarter
I’ve been conducting a slew of exclusive interviews recently as part of our Kickstarter Spotlight. Our newest project creators to give us some time are ClickShake Games. Clickshake’s a couple guys that have been in the games business a while. They’re best known for creating many games you’d find in online gaming portals. That is, until they released The Ballads of Reemus based on one of their most popular browser games. That success got the duo thinking, ‘Why not adapt another great game in our portfolio?’ Not long after the pair of developers (Steve and Jay) at ClickShake Games decided to pitch their project A Small Favor on Kickstarter. As of now A Small Favor is about a third of the way home with a little less than two weeks to go. The guys were nice enough to take a few minutes and answer some questions for the iGR readers.
1. ClickShake Games is literally a dynamic duo of developers, or a DDD for lack of a better acronym. How did the two of you meet up, and start creating the browser based games your best known for?
Steve: I had been making games, such as Rooftop Skater, since 2000. In 2009 I emailed Jay because I liked his games and was looking for an artist I could work with full-time. He was busy at the time but a few months later Newgrounds ran the Power of Three collaboration event, and Tom Fulp sent Jay a list of programmers looking for artists, and I was one of them. We made the puzzle platformer Paradox Embrace and then decided to team up full-time.
Jay: Before Steve I was working with some amazingly talented programmers, but it was on a part time basis because they all had other gigs and I was looking for someone to take a run at going full time. When Steve and I connected on Paradox Embrace the timing was just right. We both discovered how well we worked together and decided to make it official by starting ClickShake Games.
2. It’s looking like most of the teams games are Flash compatible, how tough was the initial transition to other development languages like C, C#, Objective C,and C++?
Steve: I studied different programming languages in college and on my own, so I feel confident applying the basic patterns to different languages. It helps that ActionScript’s syntax is similar to C++, as Objective C is different enough that that would have been quite a bit harder. We definitely wanted to expand our horizons into the mobile gaming beyond Flash, and in 2012 we got the opportunity to make an iPhone game with a publisher, so it was a great chance to bring in some money while expanding our skillset. The iPhone game should be announced and released later this year.
3. What language was The Ballads of Reemus developed with? Will you use the same for A Small Favor?
Steve: Ballads was built with ActionScript with Flash, but after working with the power and control of C++ compared to the quirks and performance issues with Flash, we’re not really looking back. We’re still using Flash for some art and for prototyping, but we plan to use Marmalade or Unity for A Small Favor.
4. What gravitated ClickShake to Kickstarter crowd funding with A Small Favor?
Steve: We crowdfunded before on our own site to some success with Ballads of Reemus, raising $5,000 in pre-orders over a 2 year period, but it wasn’t enough to cover full development so we had to take on side game projects to pay the bills from time to time. We see Kickstarter as a way to raise enough funds to not have to take side projects, to be transparent with our fans about how much money we really need, and to market the game more than we can do on our site alone.
5. I’m an enormous fan of the point and click adventure genre. What do you find so fascinating about experiencing a game in that fashion?
Steve: I like how you can interact with objects in the world in unique ways, compared to action games that give you a finite number of ways to interact, which gets old more quickly.
Jay: I love the pacing and immersion. When done right an adventure game can make you feel like you’re living inside a storybook. The laid back pace allows you to stop and smell the roses a bit, really giving you the chance to appreciate the locations and characters you meet along the way. They first captured my imagination as a kid playing Maniac Mansion and the various Sierra Quests and they never really let go.
6. In A Small Favor your nameless assassin is employed by a gangster named Sirius Frost. You seem to have found the perfect balance of grotesque and guido. What we’re your main inspirations when creating the intergalactic gangster?
Jay: I love the “Sopranos” and mob films in general. So Sirius Frost is an amalgamation of Tony Soprano and Don Corleone. I decided to mix their look with a lizard to truly represent the limbic “fight or flight” survival feelings that the player will experience when dealing with him.
7. Explain the “Blindzone” a bit more. Is it named so due to overpowering UV rays, dust storms, or some other, more figurative reason?
Jay: The eyes of the Galactic Ministry of Regulation are everywhere and watching your every move. Each citizen is fitted with a color coded security clearance that tells them where they can and can’t go. If you follow the rules you may be eligible for an upgrade to a higher security level, if you break the rules then you get downgraded. If you get downgraded enough, you lose your security clearance altogether and are banished to the blindzone. A wild and dangerous area beyond the watch of the Galactic Ministry and outside of regulated society. An area where they turn a blind eye, so if you want something really illegal you have to travel to the blindzone but odds are you’ll never return.
8. Within the fiction of A Small Favor there’s no formal currency to speak of, and It seems like a great deal of lore is behind the “Favor” trade aspect. What other changes has The Galactic Ministry Of Regulation made in the future?
Jay: In their quest to regulate everything and reduce society to a well oiled machine, the Ministry has retro fitted each citizen with a color coded security clearance that tells them their place in the world. They’ve also installed eyes in every home and giant floating eyeball “watchers” patrol the darkest corners making sure everything meets regulation. Of course as the pressure to keep everything in order mounts, the lowest levels start to buckle and a new currency in the form of “Favors” has emerged as a way for the citizens of the slums to get the things they desire.
9. Historically what fictitious gangster inspired you the most when asking for “A Favor”?
Jay: The favor idea is heavily influenced by the opening wedding scene in “The Godfather”. The whole idea of waiting in line to ask a favor of the Don but knowing it will ultimately cost you in the end is definitely the inspiration behind “favor collecting”. As for the nameless assassin, I see him as Carlito Brigante from “Carlito’s Way”. A hardened thug who really just wants out but the harder he tries to escape, the deeper he ends up getting.
10. You obviously have a solid concept and story foundation to work with here. What kinds of features are you going to be adding to A Small Favors PC and MAC release?
Steve: Exploration is central to the game, and in your travels you’ll be able to discover interesting ways that people try to survive in such a controlled state. For instance, you can climb trees to find houses precariously dangling from branches because they don’t have clearance to build on any land. You’ll also be infiltrating the high society areas of the world which will sharply contrast with how most people live.
11. Anything inspirational to say to aspiring developers?
Steve: Keep learning, start making small games ASAP, and put it all in an online portfolio. As your skills and work improve, you may find opportunities coming to you. “Rooftop Skater” was a project I did for fun in college that was picked up by Sports Illustrated for Kids and lead to another contract to make “Sik Trix BMX”.
Jay: Just do it! It’s really empowering to finish a game and you never know what might happen once you let it loose online. A page from my own book, my first game ever was “The Visitor”. I did it for fun just to work on my coding. It ended up becoming a viral hit that eventually Comedy Central discovered. They ended up hiring me to do four games for them, including a game for the premiere of their show Ugly Americans, which launched my career in gaming.
The duo at ClickShake reminds us of ourselves (except they’re a bit more successful). They’re self made developers that had great concepts and the ambition to make a go of it. I think just about anyone can appreciate that kind of mentality. ClickShake has sharpened their skills over the years, all the while conceptualizing their future. They’ve created a deep fictional universe and possess the knowledge to bring it to life for many to enjoy. They just need A Small Favor from us to get it off the ground. Do yourselves a favor and check out Steve and Jay on Kickstarter.
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