I recently had the opportunity to ask a few questions with the founder of Red Crest Studio, Michael Ventnor. The studio has recently released two Xbox indie titles, and its most recent release is the JRPG adventure, Bonded Realities, which I reviewed last week.
If you weren’t making games you would be….
Programming something else! Programming is all I’m good for. I’d most likely be working for Mozilla or a similar Californian company. But since videogames were the reason I became passionate about computers as a child, I really wanted to give game development a go, just to see how far I could take it.
Where would you like to see your studio or games in the next 3-5 years?
At least self-sustaining. Hopefully with its own office, and more employees, making more profitable and famous games.
I know that it’s difficult starting out, and developers commonly say that the first step is the hardest of all. What advice would you offer new developers?
By all means, dream big, but keep those dreams in the very long term. You’re not going to make an MMO as your first project, if ever. Make sure you keep your scope small otherwise you’ll go broke making a game that you’ll lose interest in before you finish. There’s nothing wrong with small titles, so cut out those features and make efficient design decisions, while you build up a reputation.
The tools that the XNA platform offers are great for those who are starting out, but are not quite perfected. What changes would you like to see made to the Xbox Live Platform or XNA?
Aside from the prominence of the platform, the only issues are small ones such as lack of features (leaderboards, achievements) or requiring an internet connection to play. Otherwise, something needs to be done to make it easier to find recent good titles, similar to how something makes the front page of Digg or Reddit. Some of the restrictions placed on content is also inconsistent and needlessly overdone, such as use of non English words.
With all of the available tool sets out there, I’ve got to ask: Why did you choose to develop for XNA as opposed to another platform?
XNA has a low barrier of entry, but you aren’t sharing space with big publishers unlike the iPhone. The whole platform is completely centered around a community, helping each other and reviewing each other’s titles, and while you have a gamer market size comparable to some smartphones, there are less titles to compete for attention with you.
There’s only a handful of XNA developers for the Xbox, and they are a tight-knit group. Is that how you learned to use XNA, through the community?
Tutorials on the web. The best one would have to be Riemer’s tutorials which taught me everything I needed to know to make Bonded Realities among my other games.
I’m sure that your prior experience with coding and working on other projects must have helped as well. Do you have any past projects that you would like to share?
In terms of games, not really since I’m a relative newcomer. My only titles available to you right now are Hyper Button and Bonded Realities, but I hope to make many more in the future!
About how much did it cost to get you off the ground and using XNA to create games (A high end PC, XNA license, additional software, etc.)?
It cost a few thousand to get going; costs included the high-end PC, and Xbox 360 and an XNA license. I also bought a second-hand tablet to draw the sprites. I tried saving costs wherever I could. The only external expenses during development was buying the music, which on average costs a little over one hundred dollars per game.
What is your favorite console or platform of all time, along with your favorite game (or three if you can’t make up your mind)?
Probably the Nintendo 64, followed by the SNES. I was a big fan of large 3D platformers. Mario 64, obviously. Rayman 2, which I never finished because I never had a controller pak. My favourite of the bunch, though, and perhaps my favourite game of all time, would be Banjo-Tooie. The staggering amount of content in that game with the immense worlds, its fantastic music, along with its very enjoyable style of humour, made it just the kind of game for me.
The Game Boy Colour would be right up there too, if only for Pokemon Gold. It, too, had an immense amount of content (content was important to me as a child, because I never ever got games other than birthday or Christmas presents unless they were rented from the video shop), along with, in my opinion, the best starter Pokemon ever designed. No Pokemon game since has beaten Pokemon Gold for me, with the possible exception for Crystal because it was more of the same with a bit more content! One of my favourite moments was using a Gameshark to teach my Totodile Metronome. Ah, youth.
Visit Red Crest Studios development blog to follow their upcoming projects.