Interview with Andrew Perry from OMGWTFGAMES!!1!

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Andrew Perry Interview - OMGWTFGAMES!!1!

Welcome back to our series where we interview OUYA game developers. This time we have a really cool and funky looking game called Def and its creator “Andrew Perry” who tells us a little bit about how he came to be a games developer (spoiler: The Wii had something to do with it!) and a few things about the AI he’s developed and much, much more. Btw his studio is called OMGWTFGAMES!!1! … brilliant name 🙂

Introducing: Andrew!

Day of the OUYA: Thanks for the interview and congrats on your launch of Def on the OUYA. Before we get into the game would you give us an introduction of who you are and a little bit about how you became a games developer.

Andrew: How did I become a games developer ? Well, like many programmers of my generation, I started writing code as a kid (QBASIC on MS-DOS in my case) – probably around the age of 10. I played lots of early PC games, but was never really all that successful at making my own games despite a few attempts.

It really wasn’t until I was an adult that I picked up game development as a hobby. This may surprise some people, but it was really the Nintendo Wii that gave me the initial push to focus on making games as hobby about 6 years ago – I feel like it was the circuit breaker that reminded everyone that video games should be about compelling or fun experiences for everyone, rather than being solely the domain of 14 year old boys shooting stuff.

So I started making small games for the 48 hour Ludum Dare game jam, since it’s a great way to get a prototype game made in a weekend when you are committed to work on other things during the week. In my case, my full time job during the week (and often weekends) was as a research scientist working in structural and molecular biology. A little less than 12 months ago, I decided it would be a good time to try making games full time instead – being a professional scientist can be fun and rewarding, but I didn’t want to die not having tried something else I loved. This also coincided with having a new baby on the way (1 month old now !), meaning I’m able to work from home and help out occasionally.

People quite like the use of pheromones by the enemy AI, and seem to respond to the glowy visual style

DotO: Def has just been released this week. Tell us what it’s about and how the reception of it was so far.

Andrew: In Def, you take on the role of a reporter who has travelled through a spacial anomaly, known as ‘The Rift’, in order to write a story about a race of aliens we humans don’t know much about. There has been a past conflict, and diplomacy hasn’t been going well. Then something happens, and it turns out you don’t get much reporting done, but have to take on another role … and that’s where the ‘tower defense’ part comes in. The game cycles between short story chapters where you converse with your host, and the ‘open field’ tower defense style levels.

As for the the reception so far … I pressed ‘Publish’ about 24 hours ago, and it has 14 thumbs up in the Discover Marketplace so far – I think that’s an encouraging start. Keep those thumbs-ups coming 🙂 I actually got the most feedback on the original prototype many months ago. People quite like the use of pheromones by the enemy AI, and seem to respond to the glowy visual style (of which full credit goes to the game engine behind it, Unity3d :)).

DotO: Tower Defense games are probably as old as the internet and I’m a big fan of these games. How did you come up with this unique twist for such an old game type?

Andrew: The short answer would be – time pressure. The prototype for Def, which really defined the core gameplay, was made for a 48 hour Ludum Dare gamejam with the theme ‘Minimalism’. Once you’ve done a few gamejams you learn that the best way to finish something fun in such a short time is to keep the scope small – take one simple idea, get some gameplay working and milk it. The other thing is, level design is time consuming, so it’s great if you can come up with a quick way to procedurally generate interesting levels (easier said than done).

So initially, the question I asked was – can I make a simple tower defense game with procedurally generated ‘paths’ ? This lead to the idea of the enemies making their own paths adaptively, in response to the location of defenses – which lead to using ‘pheromones’. I expect some element of naivety also comes into it – I wouldn’t profess to be an expert on tower defense games so I didn’t have many preconceived ideas, and it could well be that some RTS games use this technique quietly under the hood and I’m just unaware of it 🙂

The ‘pheromone’ trail part of the enemy AI is actually quite simple

DotO: What would you say was the most challenging feature/game mechanism in Def as compared to your other games? I imagine the Enemy AI that was influenced by Ant behavior was quite tricky or was it?

Andrew: The ‘pheromone’ trail part of the enemy AI is actually quite simple – each square has a pheromone level which increases when an enemy is there, and slowly decays when it’s unoccupied or more rapidly if an enemy is killed there. When enemies move, they mostly favor moving to high pheromone squares over a low ones – and that’s about it. On a simple square grid with enemies spawning on one side, simple ‘diffusion’ pushes the enemies away from the spawn giving them a general direction.

It works reasonably well, although it turns out ‘paths’ don’t really form, since when the player is there disrupting things it usually turns into more of an adaptive ‘battlefront’ – if you play the Practise Grid mode well, you’ll see this. Once I started designing more complex levels where the enemies need to travel around corners, pheromones and simple diffusion wasn’t enough to get enemies moving efficiently toward the capture points so I needed to also use traditional A* pathfinding.

This allows enemies to navigate from A to B using basically the shortest path, taking into account terrain (aka pheromone level). So in the main Story levels, the typical enemy type switches between traditional pathfinding and ‘pheromone biased diffusion’ … and to ultimately answer your question … balancing this behaviour so that the gameplay was interesting and challenging was certainly the hardest part.

DotO: You made a deliberate choice to first release Def on the OUYA. What was the reason behind that?

Andrew: Primarily, I chose to release Def on OUYA first because I like what the platform is trying to achieve, both for players and developers.

I guess I wanted to show OUYA a little love after a tough year 🙂 Also, I was sort of surprised at how *cool* it felt to play Def with a gamepad once I’d refined the controls, and this pushed me toward polishing the OUYA version first. I follow developments and news surrounding OUYA fairly closely, and I haven’t been shy in throwing in my own two cents when I think the OUYA team have stuffed up or are taking the wrong approach.

That said, I’m kind of weary of all the inevitable negativity that crops up online – in the bigger picture I think it’s important to acknowledge all the things OUYA is doing right as a platform, and one small way I can do that as an indie developer is too prioritize releasing on the platform when it makes sense for the game.

def_omgwtfgames
DotO: The gamer that would love playing Def is somebody….

Andrew: .. who likes a challenge and isn’t afraid to read just a little.

DotO: Final question, what’s your personal favorite game on the OUYA?

Andrew: This is always so hard – you pick one favorite and then .. but .. but .. what about that other awesome game !?! So I’ll name several.
The first game that always comes to mind is The Amazing Frog. A lot of people don’t get it, but it amuses me on so many levels.

Bombsquad – some of the best multiplayer fun I’ve had in ages.

And my recent favorite, which I’m honored to share a spot with in the Play Like Bawb list, is X S.E.E.D.

DotO: Andrew thank you very much for this interview and for this awesome game!

Andrew: Thanks !

If you haven’t already try out Def by OMGWTFGAMES!!1! and Andrew Perry. It’s a very cool game and highly recommended.

Here’s a video if you STILL haven’t made up your mind 😉

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About Tim von Janssen

Tim has started playing PC Games at the tender age of 8 (ca.1990-1991) on monochrome screens and hasn’t stopped ever since. Due to that love for video games that has developed very early Tim also knows why older games very successful despite mediocre graphics. One simple reason: gameplay. Tim feels that with the development of the OUYA and the stronger focus on indie game studios is the right step towards better gaming experiences that rely more heavily on unique game concepts and better gameplay in general. Tim at Google+

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