Categorized | Indie Interview

Indie Interview: Edge

Posted on 14 May 2010 by Todd

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Today we bring you an indie interview with David Papazian, the creator of Edge!

Company: Mobigame
App Store: Edge $0.99

How long have you been developing for the iPhone/iPod touch? What did you do before you started developing for the iPhone/iPod touch?
We develop for the iPhone OS since September 2008. Before that we were working for other mobile handsets. Me (David) and my associate Matthieu Malot met at Gameloft in 2002.

How long did it take you to develop Edge and how many people were involved?
At first, Edge was made for J2ME handsets. We started it at the beginning of 2007. One year later it was working for around 100 different handsets (Sony Ericsson, Samsung, Nokia, etc.) and we signed a distribution deal with an English company: Connect2Media. It took again 6 months to make it work with all J2ME handsets, and 3 more month only for the iPhone version, which was really improved from the J2ME version and we publish this version on our own. So it took 2 years to develop Edge for Matthieu (as Game Designer and Graphist) and me (as Developer). 4 musicians helped us to make the music, and Ninomojo (Romain Gauthier) made the sound design and some amazing tunes (http://ninomojo.blogspot.com/)

How did you come up with the idea for Edge?
Matthieu had the idea a long time ago. He was looking for something very simple, something intuitive, and one of the core idea is that everyone played with a cube when he/she was a kid.

What inspired you for Edge from initial concept to formalized game?
The initial concept was a cube moving on its edge with a kind of analogic control. We thought a lot about the level design, the atmosphere, the graphics, the difficulty curve. Matthieu wanted something very pure, very polish. Some ideas like the mini cube come from the game Kid Dynamite, and one name came very often in our discussions: Tron. I guess you know this movie, if you don’t you must watch it!

What inspires you? And is it different for each game?
We make the games we want to play. For now, Matthieu and I made 2 games: Edge and Cross Fingers. Both ideas come from Matthieu, and for the next games I am more involved in the game design. We share our ideas and we try to keep only the best ones. Matthieu is a Sega fan, and I am a Nintendo boy.

What have you found most difficult about being an indie developer?
You are dependent on the distribution channel, and you don’t have anything to say. For example, we had a legal issue with our game Edge last year. This year EA had exactly the same issue, but Apple did not react the same way with them. Indies are very dependent to the big companies, we have to follow and take opportunities. In a way it is great, but we have no security. Big companies do not share their secret about the future of the industry with us.

Can you describe your development process?
It is very simple. When we have an idea we make a prototype. If we like it we push it further, we add news ideas, we keep only the best ones. We can call this iterative game design. It is pretty long, and you don’t have the full game design at the beginning, but at the end you may have a great game.

What does the creative process look like during the initial stages?
Our team is very small. We were only 2 on Edge, and today we are 5. I mean, with a small team everyone give his ideas. When everyone is enthusiastic we try it. Sometimes we play old games which could answer to some questions more quickly, but in the general case we try all ideas. The initial stage is very exciting, everything is still possible. But for us the most important is the gameplay. Everything in the creation process must help to improve the initial gameplay.

Did you do any pre-marketing before Edge was released?
Not really. We released a video on YouTube one week before the release, and I sent an email to some journalists when the game was released.

What are you working on now?
We have just finished a new game. It is a very fun old school racing game for the iPhone. Now we are finishing another game, a very ambitious one. it is 3D game with lighting effects and physics and a very innovative gameplay, still for the iPhone. We are also porting Edge for the PSP and we are working with another company to bring Edge on the Ds, Wii and PC.

Any plans for updates to Edge?
There are many options, we want to do more levels, but we also want to add new gameplay elements. We also want to improve the graphics. Should we do a HD version for the iPad with more levels? or should we do a sequel with a lot of new stuffs? Anyway, we have a lot of idea and we will continue to work on Edge.

What was your most frustrating task while developing Edge?
We worked with iterative game design. But at some point, you cannot add new ideas easily, because it will need too many changes in the engine, or because you have to release it soon. At this point you start to think “ok let keep this for Edge 2”, and you hope there will be an Edge 2. The final stage was the most frustrating.

What have you found to be the most successful way to market Edge?
The awards, or the video. I mean, the game won some awards before its release, it was announced as a triple IGF finalist when it was released so I am sure that helped. Also the video, Ninomojo made an amazing soundtrack for the video (Kakkoi) and the trailer has been seen more than 100,000 times in the first 2 weeks, that’s pretty good, but this video is unique, the game is innovative and the music is great, it is not something easy to reproduce, and Apple promoted the game on the store.

How much does user feedback affect your planning of updates and also future projects?
A lot! We answer to all our customers’ emails, we do our best to make our games better. For example, we add 2 controls types to Edge because our customers asked for them, and we add 20 levels since the initial release! I think it was a good move, some companies prefer to make a sequel, but making a free update create a special link with our fans. For future projects we are looking at where the market goes, what people want, and what we want to do, and we try to fit everything together. But we also want to surprise our customers, one of our next game is something never seen before on the iPhone, we don’t know how people will react, but we have a lot of fun with it. We try to have a good mix between artistic and commercial games.

Do you write games for yourself or for others? And why?
It is a hard one. We write games that we want to play, but we write them for others, because we want to share what we like. I will give an example, When Matthieu makes a new level for Edge, I am the first tester. And Matthieu look at me when I play it, sometimes I laugh when I die in a trap, or sometimes I feel it’s too hard. It was the same with the sound design. Each one of us make his partition to share it with the team, and the team make the game to share it with the world. I hope it makes sense.

What process do you go through to overcome creative block?
We have no secret for that, we take our time, we stay away from the game and we wait until the solution find its way through our minds.

Since its release what you do differently looking back?
We would do everything the same way.

What was the development atmosphere like? What kind of music did you listen to?
The atmosphere was pretty cool. Sometimes we were really excited about what we were doing, and sometimes we were afraid of what the people would think about the game. We listened to very different musics, I like to code with Ennio Morricone, Pink Floyd, Archive, Led Zeppelin, Placebo, etc. One track that Matthieu and I listened to a lot is Planisphere by Justice, this track is amazing, if you want to give it a try you can download it here: http://www.zmemusic.com/other-genres/electronic-music/download-justice-planisphere/

What was a must have during the development process of Edge?
Rubik’s Cube, and not only one! You need a minimum of two of them to simulate all mechanics. And you can also use it to relax, yes solving a Rubik’s Cube when you know the algorithms is very relaxing, for me at least.

What games influenced you in your decision to make Edge?
None. And that’s probably why Edge is unique. During the creation process we thought to some games, we also find out some other games featuring cubes, like Cube on PSP which was released after we started working on Edge. But no game influenced our decision to make Edge.

How close was the end product to your initial conceptualization?
The end product is really really better. The gameplay goes really further, especially with the “Edge Time” which was not present in the initial concept (it is when you hang on the Edge of a moving block to cross a gap). We are also very happy with the esthetic, the shade of grey of the levels with the colorful cube. At the beginning the cube was only blue, the levels were made of white and grey blocks, and the background was white. But one thing did not change, the cube and the way it moves.

Before the release of Edge were there any huge last minute changes?
Not really, we took 2 years to make it, and we released it only when we were happy with it. We polished it until the last minute. There was no deadline, so no hurry at the end.

How did you keep yourself motivated?
We trust in our potential, we believe we are doing good games and that’s enough to keep motivated. It is easier when you are not alone. When Matthieu make a great design, or when the musician make a great tune, or when I add a great feature in the game, everyone else is more motivated than ever.

How much did the art drive the game? The vision of what it was to look like how much of that was the driving force?
It was really important. Some people does not understand it, they said we should have added a blue sky, grass on the ground and this kind of stuff to make it more casual like a Popcap game. But Edge is a piece of art, it has his own esthetic, and I can say that because I am not the designer. Matthieu had a vision and it is exactly what you can see and listen to in the game, there was no compromise.

What tools of the trade are a must have for you when it comes to programming, art and music?
The code was made with Emacs (a free and powerfull text editor) and Xcode. The art were made with Promotion 6 (I highly recommend it for pixel graphics). The music were made with different tools, Cubase, Fruity loop, etc. For the levels and other tools we made our own software with Visual Studio.

If you were stuck on an island with a laptop and no internet access what apps would you have loaded?
If I could take a game, I would play Heroes of Might & Magic 3, it is one of my favorite game of all time. And if you give me a C++ compiler and Promotion, I will probably code a lot of strange games or effects, that’s my demomaker side.

Is there anything else that you would like to say?
Our industry is changing. Indies are becoming more important, and we need some people who will help to connect developers, together we are still indies, but we have a voice that our industry’s leaders will listen to. When we add all our legal trouble last year, The Chaos Engine and IndieVision helped us a lot, and we discovered that developers were a kind of family. That’s important to me, and that’s why I really thank you for what you are doing here at IndieAppolis.

We want to thank David for his time and the great work that he and his team are doing!

1 Comments For This Post

  1. Tre Residences @ Geylang East Says:

    This is a good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.
    Short but very precise information… Many thanks
    for sharing this one. A must read article!

1 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Cross Fingers | Indie Appolis Says:

    […] creators of Edge have created a very interesting and unique puzzle game that is very well polished. Cross Fingers is […]

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