In the first part of our interview with local, Exeter-based James Monkman and Jamie Howard from RCGD.DEV, we looked in depth at their flagship title r0x (Extended Play). In part 2, we discuss their other games either playable now or in development, as well as the current state of games development and how you can break into the industry:
Exeposé Games and Tech: Besides r0x, what are your other top titles that we can play right now?
RGCD.DEV: Before r0x EP, the last PC game RGCD.DEV released was Robotz DX — an enhanced remake of an Atari ST game originally by some guys from Audiogenic — and that was way back in 2010. At the time, it was well-received and ended up on some top 2010 freeware lists, but it seems pretty crude today. Other than that, I’ve started migrating some of our Commodore 64 stuff over to our itch.io account, out of which I totally recommend everyone should play (and buy!) Super Bread Box — our official C64 conversion of Vlambeer’s Super Crate Box.
EGT: Do you have anything else currently in development?
RGCD: Yes! We’ve got two games in development at the moment; Blastard Squad and Pan-Dimensional Conga-Combat. Blastard Squad started life back in 2010 as a sequel to Robotz DX, but then went on hold until the end of last year when Jamie and I decided that we should resurrect the project as a commercial game. We’ve been posting images of an early build of the engine on Twitter showing off some of the amazing artwork and mesh-distortion effects we’re using, and the response has been unprecedented, so we’ve got huge hopes for that one.
It’s a single/multiplayer competitive, cooperative tactical shoot-em-up. The players act as a clean-up squad of mercs, taking out a sentient robot infestation by first destroying a number of shield generators on each level before killing all of the marauding droids. Despite the engine being near complete, we’ve got a long road ahead of us — the cost of assets for the six different worlds will inevitably mean that it is unlikely to be released until late 2015 (or even later if PS4 becomes an option).
PaDiCoCo will most likely be our next game off the assembly line, a mash-up of Snake and Geometry Wars, again supporting both single and multiplayer modes. We’ve been working with Folmer Kelly on this one, and the game is pretty much feature-complete — it just needs all the boring stuff like wave design, structure, a front-end and additional tilesets to finish it off. It’s a pretty unique game in terms of mechanics and visual style. Also, it’s the first project where we experimented with mesh-distortion together with bitmap graphics.
Instead of your typical arena shooter, in PaDiCoCo you control a snake whose tail is made of bullets (although you also have a short-burst ‘lazor’ that can be charged up by grinding indestructible enemies), and it’s got this neat thing where you can close enemy portals by circling around them. There’s loads of different ways to score points in the game, and the simple controls mean that it would be trivial to create a single-player version on tablets using relative swipes. We’re pretty excited about this one, and realistically I guess it should be out by the summer.
Oh, and there’s a ton of new Commodore 64 stuff in the pipeline that we will continue to release via itch.io and on physical game cartridges (because we love that stuff).
EGT: What would be your top tips for a budding games developer looking to break into the industry?
RGCD: Always work out a design on paper first, and get an accountant as soon as you start making sales. Having a design document might seem unnecessary using today’s high level development tools, but knowing exactly how each part of your game will work makes it a lot easier to develop a working engine, and more importantly, helps to avoid the pitfalls of broken game design. Keep it simple though, you can always add to it when you have something up and running!
As for accountants, recent changes in digital distribution tax laws make this an absolute must. They’re not as expensive as you’d imagine, and you do NOT want to deal with EU VAT on your own.
Most importantly though, I’d recommend that you get out there and go to game jams, launch parties and expos. Networking is super important; people are far more likely to help you if they know you in real life rather than just over a keyboard. Bristol has a great gamedev scene, and I see no reason why we can’t build up our own here in Exeter, so please get in touch if you’re working on something — we’d love to meet up with other local indies 🙂
EGT: What makes Bristols game dev scene so good? How do you think we could improve that here in Exeter?
RGCD: Probably because Bristol has a far bigger art scene? Because it’s just a bigger, more diverse city with two universities? I don’t know really, and I guess I am slightly biased because I used to live there. I recently went to a game launch party on Park Street organised by Force Of Habit and there must have been at least two dozen local teams and individuals all showing off the games they were working on. Whilst getting drunk in a cellar bar, with Aphex Twin blasting out of the sound system. There’s just nothing like that here, although there’s no reason why it couldn’t happen.
EGT: Are you looking to expand your team?
RGCD: Well it’s a bit early for that — we can’t even afford to pay ourselves yet! If we do ever expand, it’ll probably be someone we already work with, but who knows?
EGT: You’re a two-man core team over at RGCD.DEV. Can you tell us more about you as a developer and how you work? What’s in store for you in the future as a developer?
RGCD: We’re currently a ‘hobby business’: Jamie and I both have full time jobs that are effectively funding our game development. Jamie is a lead programmer at a small company here in Exeter, and I’m actually a railway engineer (don’t ask me how the hell that happened — I’m still trying to figure it out). We met through the C64 scene and have been friends for a few years now, and we’d love to be in the situation where we could do this full time. However, having a mortgage and kids means that (for me at least) this isn’t going to happen unless we achieve some real success. We’re kind of hoping that Blastard Squad will make this possible, but time will tell.
In the meantime, I have an attic office/studio where Jamie and I work odd evenings and weekends. We both live here in Exeter so we try to meet up a couple of times a week. In fact, the bulk of r0x EP was developed in my attic over a fortnight, with us both taking time off from our real life jobs. Creating games is something we’re both passionate about, and we’d do it even if there was no money involved, but ultimately we want to work on larger scale projects that are probably too big for us to fund from our day jobs. Blastard Squad already looks set to cost us a couple of grand in assets at least, so for now we’re keeping our projects as small and tightly funded as possible.
EGT: You’re developing games on top of full-time jobs and taking care of your kids? When do you get time to sleep!?
RGCD: Sleep? 😉 Seriously, it’s OK, we look after our health and maintain a good work-life balance. We just don’t watch much TV and having kids means I rarely get to go out in the evenings anyway!
EGT: If you had to choose and a big games publisher came knocking after Blastard Squad, would you take the opportunity? Or would you persist with RGCD.DEV and continue to make your own company great?
RCGD: We have discussed it, but it would really depend on the deal that was offered. One of the other ‘larger’ game designs that’s been sat waiting is based in the same universe as Blastard Squad and uses a lot of the same codebase, so we wouldn’t want to lose the rights to that potential franchise or IP. However, having a publisher does have it’s benefits: getting on Steam and consoles is easier, free exposure at expos and events, dedicated marketing etc.
EGT: What are your opinions on the state of the industry at the moment? Is it a good time to be making games?
RGCD: It’s the best time to be making games! The development tools are awesome, accessible and affordable and there’s this huge active community. Anyone who wants to make a game can make a game.
On the less positive side, there are more developers and games than ever before, so getting noticed is harder than it was even just a few years ago. This combined with the fact that people expect to pay very little for games (thanks to the freemium/IAP explosion on mobile and bundles on PC) has resulted in everyone being in this mad struggle to get onto consoles. Things have a way of balancing out and settling over time though, so I’m not overly concerned for the future of games (indie vs AAA).
EGT: What larger games developers do you admire most? What lessons have you learnt from other developers and applied to your own games?
RGCD: GameMaker legends Vlambeer have of course been a huge inspiration to us, and I was lucky enough to spend a few days with Rami at GameCity a couple of years ago when we released Super Bread Box together at the festival.
Otherwise, with the indie scene being like it is, most of the people we admire are people we’ve been friends with, worked with or sat and had a beer with. Studio Evil, Force Of Habit, MegaDev, MixedBag, Tikipod, Locomalito, Terry Cavanagh, Adam Atomic and loads of others.
In terms of lessons learnt, it’s hard to say at this stage because we’re only just starting, but we do watch a lot of conference talks and presentations, and I’m sure a lot of that has influenced decisions we’ve made.
EGT: Finally, your all time favourite games and your most anticipated titles for 2015. Go!
As for all time favourites, it’s too hard to choose, but I think the last time I answered this question I said Uridium 2 by Graftgold/Renegade and The Chaos Engine by The Bitmap Brothers, both on the Amiga, so I’ll stick to that for consistency.
Harry Shepherd, Online Games and Tech Editor
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