Interview with Lennard Feddersen of Rusty Axe Games
We're always interested here at Bytten to hear from developers. So when the opportunity came up, we were happy to fire some questions at Lennard about his latest projects and whether he had some advice for any budding developers out there.
1) How did you get into game development?
The older brother of a friend had been buying and building Spectrum ZX80 and ZX81 machines. I bought an old ZX81 from him and starting programming in basic. Our high school had an Apple II lab and very liberal policies regarding kids hanging out and using the things. The place was pretty lively with everybody playing games and learning how to program. It seemed like the most fascinating thing in the world. In those days it never even occurred to me that I might be able to make a living from doing it. We also had a couple of great teachers in our small town and I was able to take a summer course in 1983 on 6502 assembly programming. This was very helpful in enabling me to learn to program the chip that powered the Apple II, C64 and 8-bit NES, all of which I later went on to have games published on. 28 years later, I'm still fascinated by making games on computers.
2) What can you tell us about your latest release?
Dungeon Demon came out last August and is a bit of a departure for me in that it's a tool for making games. You can use it for making computer game maps and also for pencil and paper RPG's. I've been adding features to it lately that I need for my current project - Dungeon Brawl. Once that project wraps up I'll go back and polish up Dungeon Demon's new features and put out version 1.1.
3) Do you have any new projects underway?
As mentioned above, Dungeon Brawl! It's my first free to play game that runs in a browser so I've been busy learning Flash and the ins and outs of making a game that works well in a browser. It's still in development but people can give the current version a spin on our website [see link below].
As the name suggests, it's an old-school arcade dungeon game. The closest game I can think of would be Atari's Gauntlet or maybe Diablo. Weighing in at only 9 levels, it's a fun "snack" for gamers for an hour or three. It's been an immensely fun project for me with a quicker development cycle and I love the fact that, if there's a bug or I want to tweak something, I can just upload a new version and the game will have the new fixes in it the next time people log in. I've no idea if I will make any money by giving away games like this! I sure hope so because it will enable me to do more of these old-school arcade type games that I really enjoy developing.
4) What do you find the most difficult part of game development?
Finishing them! Having a cool idea and starting out is always the most fun. I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I also worry about releasing downloadable titles that might have bugs, so the tail end of projects tends to drag on a bit. Working in the browser market might help with that somewhat in that a bug isn't great but is quicker to fix and the development cycles are shorter.
5) Have you considered selling games for the iPhone market, and what challenges do you/would you see in that area?
I'm warming up to the iPhone market, although 99 cent games have been a tough pill to swallow. Making ends meet at $19.99 was hard enough! I know all of the arguments about how people will just sell more games but not typically twenty times as many and there are still support issues. It's going to be interesting to see how it all turns out but maybe it won't matter for Rusty Axe anymore as I transition into "freemium". I hope so - all of my new ideas fit that business model best and, even after all this time, I have more ideas than time to implement them.
6) What advice would you give to anyone thinking about selling their own games?
Don't quit your day job until you have a solid plan for paying the bills that doesn't include games yet to be released. The entertainment business can be a real roller coaster ride. For some people, myself included, there really isn't much option - I can't imagine not doing what I do. If you're in that camp, you will find a way to make it happen. It's a tough business - if it's not a passion for you, keep it as a hobby until it's really obvious that you have the ability to turn your ideas into cash. In any case, start with a project that you know you can finish, don't bet the house on expensive assets on your first project and watch other people playing your game as soon as you can so you can figure out if it's really fun or not.