An Interview with Kris Steele of Fun Infused Games
Fun Infused Games just released their remake of Abduction Action on the Ouya and Xbox 360. They were listed as one of the 10 reliable XBLIG developers you should know here on Twinfinite a few years back and I thought we’d catch up with him to see how things have been going.
For a full list of his games, head on over to the Xbox Marketplace.
Who makes up Fun Infused Games besides yourself?
I’m the only official employee. I contract out to various people for artwork and music. Some of the people that I’ve worked with recently include Alex Hanson-White for artwork, Paul Boutros for box art, and Zack Parrish for music. Also Jesse Chounard has done the vast majority of programming on our iOS ports.
As somebody that works by day and programs by night, what is your schedule like and how hard is it to keep motivated?
I work a normal 8-4:30 schedule for my day job. Most of my game development is done late nights, 9 pm and on. I only sleep five or six hours most weekdays which gives me plenty of game dev time. It’s not really hard to motivate myself to do this, I love the game dev stuff. I wish I had more time for it.
You have been developing Xbox Live Indie Games since 2009. What steps have you taken as a developer now that XNA is no longer supported at Microsoft?
Two things. First I’ve been working with MonoGame porting existing titles to Ouya and eventually PC. I’d like to also do some iOS and Android ports, which would be possible using MonoGame as well. Second I’ve been spending some time learning Unity3D. I feel like that is what most of my future games will end up using since it is supported by so many platforms and makes multiplatform releases so much simpler than other technologies out there.
I’ve also spent time researching the various platforms out there for releasing games. I hope at some point to get some of my games on the next gen (current gen now I suppose) consoles.
What was it like having to make that switch to Monogame?
It’s not majorly different than XNA. Most of the XNA stuff worked but there were some goofy things to work through. For example one of the versions of MonoGame has one of the gamepad axis reversed. I fixed that in my code (basically coded so up meant down, down meant up). Then I got a later version of MonoGame that didn’t have that bug but since I’d coded it into my game, it was backwards again and I had to un-fix it. There were a fair amount of weird things like that I ran into.
How much longer do you see publishing to Xbox Live Indie Games as a viable market?
Abduction Action!+ was probably my last game on XBLIG, my XBLIG membership expired recently and I don’t have plans to renew it. My Trivia or Die games still sell well but none of my other stuff does. It’s no longer viable to me as a place to release new games.
Have you signed up for an ID@Xbox membership?
Yes, although I’m in a waiting pattern right now like many others. I’m not one of the lucky few that got dev kits. I’m also in the Nintendo developers program (Wii U and 3DS) and considering a new game for one of those platforms. The only next gen program I’m not in is Sony because they have an archaic policy that requires developers to have static IP addresses for security purposes. I’m not inflating my already high Internet bill to appease a silly requirement like that. If they ever drop that, I’ll talk with Sony too.
How has the indie games market as you’ve seen it grown and change over the last 5 years?
Lots! For me personally XBLIG was once a great place to release games with a bright future and now it seems to be more in a sunset period. Mobile got huge but so did the amount of competition. A Steam release is a lot more possible these days than it once was but a Steam release is no longer a guarantee that you’ll sell a ton of games. Microconsoles like Ouya (which I’ve released two games on) didn’t even exist five years ago. On top of all that indie games have gotten a lot more mainstream than they’ve ever been. While I haven’t found great success, it’s still a great time to be an indie game developer.
Taking a look at some of your games, you seem to be very aware of the market trends of the biggest sellers on Xbox while turning them into something your own. What was the response like to Trivia or Die! or 2D Voxel Madness?
I made the Trivia or Die games largely because I like trivia games and I knew I could finish them quickly. The concept worked well with Xbox Avatars too, which was a big selling point on XBLIG. Those have been (and continue to be) my best sellers on XBLIG which is kinda odd since they’re also the two games I spent the least time developing.
2D Voxel Madness was more of a joke concept that turned into a full game. A few people seemed to really like it but I expected a bigger response to it. That was disappointing. The game took a lot longer to make than I planned and didn’t really pan out as I thought it would.
You have now ported over 2 titles to Ouya in Abduction Action!+ and Volchaos with Bad Caterpillar coming at some point. What has it been like working with the Ouya?
Abduction Action+ was a lot harder than Volchaos as I had to work through things like purchasing and some strange bugs (like some graphics failing to load the first time I tried but working fine the second time). Game performance wasn’t quite as good as it was on the Xbox 360 so I had to do some cleanup on my engines above just normal porting duties but nothing major.
The community supporting MonoGame games on the Ouya isn’t as big as the XBLIG community was when I was actively making my games there so when I ran into problems, it was often harder to find solutions. A lot of that was the newness of the Ouya, hopefully a few years down the road that won’t be an issue for anyone.
Will you be dipping back into the well and porting 2D Voxel Madness or Nasty?
2D Voxel Madness yes. I’m not sure about Nasty. Being my first game and written in an older version of the XNA framework, porting probably won’t be as straightforward as my newer releases were. After I finish my other ports, it will be something I consider at least.
Part of the reason I’m doing Ouya ports is because it’s a logical step before a PC port. I like Nasty as a party style game with two or more players on the same console and less as a solo experience. That’s really not how PC gaming works. If I ever do a port of Nasty or finish Nastier, I’d rather it be for a console with four player same console capabilities.
Your ports to Ouya have mainly been straight controller based versions. Are there any plans to add some touch support for Android phones?
I would like to get Abduction Action!+ on Android phones and tablets and Hypership Out of Control and Bad Caterpillar as well. I don’t plan to port my platform games like VolChaos to mobile platforms, using an on-screen keyboard simply doesn’t provide the quality of control that I want those games to have.
Why did you decide to go with updating the graphics on Abduction Action?
The original Abduction Action! was one of the few games that I did all the artwork myself. I always felt gamers would embrace it more if it looked better. If there was one thing holding Abduction Action! back from being more popular, I thought that was the artwork.
Is this a one time thing or can we expect some prettier versions of some of your older games?
I did this for Hypership Out of Control as well when we ported it to iOS. The rest of my games are at a point graphically that I’m happy with so I think it’s unlikely I will be making many changes to the existing look of any other old games.
Besides the updated graphics, what new additions can we expect from Hypership Out of Control 2, your first sequel?
I’ve got a giant list of cool ideas that I want to put in the game that I’ve been making for years now. My next big task is figuring out just how many of those ideas really work and getting those into the game. What I know for sure is the game will have more varied levels (instead of just blue block level, green block level, etc, you will see stuff like space station level, minefield level, supernova flame level, etc), branching level paths, laser upgrades tied to coins collected, and new items (such as a freeze item that causes all moving blocks to freeze while the power up is in effect).
You have expressed that you want to bring Hypership Out of Control 2 to Kickstarter. Do you still have plans for this?
Yes I do. I got a little more wrapped up in Ouya ports than I had planned too and get behind on this but it is something I hope to get going later this month or next. The varied levels require a lot of artwork to be created and I want to redo all the chiptune sound effects with real sound effects, so I will need more money to finance all that.
I’ve always been curious, but how did the Bad Caterpillar cabinet come about in Arcadecraft?
When Arcadecraft was early in development, the developer of the game, Firebase Industries, was looking to get some retro style games they could use as cabinets in the game as a sort of cross promotion effort that could help both developers. We talked at that time but they wanted a game that would be releasing right around the same time Arcadecraft was. I didn’t have anything but old games to offer at that time. When they did a later update to Arcadecraft, it matched up with the release of Bad Caterpillar. I sent them my art assets and they put together a cabinet for use in the game.
It was a pretty cool feature, I’m not sure how much it helped promote my game, but I’m glad we did it. I always buy the Bad Caterpillar cabinet when I play Arcadecraft.
Any advice for people that want to develop games, but don’t have an idea of where to start?
Do a little research, ask around, and get started. Indie devs are a friendly bunch and if you spend a little time talking about what you want to do on indie game forums or Twitter, I’m sure someone will help guide you in the right direction. There are lots of tools like Unity3D and GameMaker that allow someone without prior game development experience to get going quickly, you just need to find which tool is right for what you’re looking to do.
Finally, I have to know, what ever happened to World of Chalk?
That was a project I was collaborating with an artist on. It was more his vision than mine and I was supplying the engine and developing tools and less involved in game design. I just couldn’t get into working on that game as much as I did when working on my own ideas. He wanted things to move along faster and I just didn’t want to devote more of my time on it. He was supposed to be working with someone else on it after we parted ways but I’ve never seen it materialize. It’s too bad because it was a really cool looking project.