Independent games superstar Jonathan Söderström, better known as Cactus, is famous for his outstanding quick, experimental and interesting games. I’ll bet, that you all already met some of his games. If not, read this interview. Else start here. It will get interesting – we have some very interesting questions and answers at hand.
What was your initial mind when you started the game Clean Asia?
I had played a game called “Nvaders” by a guy with the nickname “TehSilentOne“. It was basically a Space Invaders meets Warning Forever game. The small Space Invaders sprites had been blown up and each pixel had turned into a separate piece of the enemy. Some pieces where cannons others were just static. When you destroyed a piece, it left of a little energy power-up that you could absorb and then launch back as a charged shot. I really liked the idea as it allowed you to destroy the enemy rather fast as your power grew the more destruction you dealt. However, the game felt slightly rushed and a bit incomplete, so I decided to steal a bit from it and make my own thing centered around a similar mechanic.
I immediately decided to go for the outlined retro look, since I thought that it was a nice looking style, and knew that it’d relieve me of a lot of pressure when designing the graphics.
The reason that I had the game take place in Asia was because I had just finished my first course in Japanese and was eager to use it a bit in a game. Thailand, China and Korea were just about the only countries I knew how to write in Japanese, so it wasn’t hard to select what countries the game was to take place in.
I can’t remember exactly how the title came to me. The game was originally titled “Evil Eyes” and had a completely different style for the character portraits. I quickly changed it, though. Before I thought of the storyline, the “Clean” in the title was supposed to refer to the graphics having a clean look. But then I changed my mind and added the exclamation mark to make it an imperative.
What is yourselves favorite game when it comes to the basic idea of the gameplay?
Of my own or games in general? My favorite game is Half-Life, it left a huge impact on me as I was so unprepared for it back when I played it. I felt like I was in a movie from start until the Xen World.
Out of my own games I like the adventure mood in Psychosomnium, Mondo Medicals/Mondo Agency and Illegal Communication the best. I like adventure puzzlers better than shmup games in general, but it’s hard to come up with puzzles that feel relevant to the worlds they take place in and it’s near impossible to give adventure games replay value without investing a lot of time in them. And I don’t like sticking to games for long periods, so I somehow end up finishing small experimental games with arcadish gameplay instead.
Is designing your games more like been meditating or and when to you get to the point when you call the game “finished”?
I usually design games in a inspired frenzy, when I come up with something that seems like a fun idea I can sit for 12-16 hours straight three days in a row with a game and have fun while making it. After about two days, I often start losing interest in the game and unless it’s close to completion I usually give it up. If the game idea is great, I can keep my interest for a week or two, but not working around the clock with it.
I try to finish my games off when I start losing my motivation. Letting a project become a chore feels counter productive for me. The only time I ever really finish longer games is when I’ve signed up for a competition. A little competitive spirit can do wonders for your motivation.
Have you ever thought of opening up a game and make it open-source, so for the public to play?
I used to have no problem with making my game open source, and normally I wouldn’t mind sharing my resources, but the GM scene doesn’t seem to have any interest in open source games, and I can’t see much good coming out of it. I’m also slightly embarrassed about how sloppy my editables look. Since I’m more prone to speed programming rather than being a perfectionist, they’re usually so messy that I myself can’t understand exactly how they work when I open up an old project.
Where do you see the future of “live-playing”, well compare it to music-bands or games as tools.
“Live-playing”? That’s a new term for me. I’ve heard of get togethers where developers face off in development competitions held during gaming events, where they develop games during a set period of time while being physically in the same room. That sounds like a ton of fun to me. That’s about as close to a concert as a game development has ever come from what I’ve heard.
For the fellow people who managed till the end of this interview.
Thanks for your words. It was – at least for me – a pure pleasure.
Text and Interview: Martin Wisniowski, January 2008