Leeds based Indie developer, Ben Bennet has never been nominated for a BAFTA. Since finishing his BA in Game Design at the University of Central Lancashire he has been working on a number of projects from his evil lair beneath his sister’s home. He can often be found in Costa working from his decaying laptop. Like every other developer out there he makes games because that is what he loves doing. His latest game is Core Control.
Hi Ben, can you tell us a little more about your latest development, Core control?
Core control is a 2-player local multi-player, full contact ball and paddle game where you fight it out to take over the majority of nodes in a network to secure control of the core and score a big cache of data. So just grab the nearest person to you and play.
What is the inspiration behind Core Control?
The original inspiration was a mix of Pong and Breakout.
And the tech style, was that something you knew you wanted from the beginning?
It evolved during development as I tried to find something that fit with and subsequently added to the gameplay I had. I put a lot of effort in to trying to theme it in a way that I was happy with as I wanted to keep it somewhat abstract but give meaning to what the player was doing. Plus, I personally like that style anyway, so I suppose you could say that pushed me in that direction.
It is too easy to mess about with things that don’t make a big impact on the game.
Your graphics are smooth and succinct. Do the final aesthetics compare to what you had envisioned from the beginning?
Thanks! Not really, it changed a lot through development. Though I did slowly start to have a much more clear vision of what it should be like as things moved on and I had a stronger theme in mind to base it around. Elements of it came from a lot of places, some were very much inspired from a few other games and other bits just evolved from my original prototype.
Was the journey from start to completion a difficult one?
It was very hard, much harder than I thought it would be and I will honestly say that it is not complete enough for me yet. I wanted to push myself further than I had before and I learned a lot. Mostly ways of how not to do things. It is out there now and I am happy about that but I do plan on updating it and to continuing to refine it.
Did you face any particular difficulties?
One of the biggest hurdles was focusing my time effectively. It is easy to mess around with things that don’t make that big an impact on the game. I was trying to wear far too many hats at the same time. Also remembering it is not just about making it but also trying to get the game out there and let people know about it. The time involved with doing that and the ways I could do it is something I didn’t really think about at the start.
Don’t be afraid to fail.
Why did you choose to work with Unity?
I used the Unity engine because I knew I could do what I wanted with it and it is easy to build on a lot of different platforms. The community support is also great when it comes to problem solving and finding solutions.
What was it that first inspired you to want to be a developer?
I suppose what started it all off was when I first saw friends making levels for games. I started to mess around with level creation tools and seeing what I could do with them and that’s something I carried on doing for many years. I didn’t really get anything finished ever but I spent many hours just learning what I could. It was not until much later that it just suddenly clicked that I could make games as a career.
So then, was their a certain game that gave you the developer buzz?
I suppose in some ways the time I spent playing Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory was the biggest catalyst – in that is where I first started messing around – but I don’t think I can really narrow it down to just one. There is a lot of games out there that have made me want to make games.
The Indie dev community?
On a whole? Really good. There is a lot of support out there and people always want to help each other out and see them do well.
If there was any piece of advice you could give to would be devs?
Just go for it and don’t be afraid to fail. You will learn a hell of a lot from just giving things a go. Keep going at it, keep getting better and learning all you can and put stuff out there and get feedback. I also would probably advise to try and keep projects small and see them through.
It is about the experience the player has at the end of the day. That is what is important.
Did you consider crowd-funding Core Control?
No. I didn’t feel it wasn’t a project that needed backing to get it done. I suppose I could have still tried to crowd-fund it to help make it better and build more of a community around it during development. But I feel I am still growing as a developer and need to learn a few more things until I feel confident I can produce something people are going to be giving me money up front for. Thinking about it now I am very happy I didn’t have that added pressure anyway during the development.
What are your thoughts on crowd-funded games in general, compared to the more traditional publishing route?
I don’t have a problem with it or games that are made via it. It is a viable alternative to traditional publishing but it has its own issues. I think from a consumer point of view some people see it as a pre order and don’t fully realise the risks that could be involved in backing a project.
Would you say the quality of Indie games is now equal to that of AAA titles?
Bit of a loaded question really and I disagree with the premise that indie games have been always been worse than AAA. Also quality could mean a lot of different things. A game can be good or bad however it is made or funded. It is about the experience the player has at the end of the day and that’s what is important.
It seems to me that bigger publishers tend to forget this grass route gaming philosophy of the players experience being the most important thing and instead, perhaps, publish early to reach deadlines or cut corners for costing. Would you agree?
I think the thing you have to remember is that the people working on the game are going to be trying to make it the best they can. Sometimes decisions have to be made and there is no perfect outcome. Maybe the difference is that indie games can be a bit more open about issues they have had.
So would you say that indie developers being – for the most part – more approachable for your average joe, have a better connection with their audience and are more able to effectively deliver the great game experience?
I think there is just less people in the loop most of the time and they can act on things a little faster or in different ways. Does that mean they always delivers a better game experience? No but it can help get you there.
Is a successful Indie game still an Indie game?
Sure, why not?
Is Minecraft an indie game then?
Mojang are not an independent company now being owned by Microsoft. Minecraft was a game made before that.
Trying to achieve whatever goal it is that you set out at the start of the project is what’s important.
Not that I consider myself much of an arbiter for what is and isn’t indie.
Basically I don’t think a game changes from being indie if it gains success. The definition I suppose is about how it was made / financially supported. Not how well it did.
Is the spirit of Indie development more important than the outcome of the game?
I’m not really sure what the spirit of indie dev is to be fair. From my point of view, trying to achieve whatever goal it is that you set out at the start of the project is what’s important. Failing to do so is also fine but make sure you are learning why.
Core Control is available on which platforms?
It is available on Windows and Mac.
It was just easiest for now to get them released on there and gain some feedback to be honest.
Any expansion plans?
I would love to make a version for tablets really. That was something I had in mind for it from the start and am definitely still hoping it will.
Well I am always working on a prototype of one kind or another. I am currently working on a cat-focused game with a friend that I am hoping to put out an early version of soon.
Are there any developers in particular that you admire?
Ohhh that’s a hard one. There is a lot of people doing a lot of awesome stuff out there.
But if you had to?
If you force me to say someone then it would be a somewhat predictable… Well Mike Bithell and Rami Ismail as they always have some interesting stuff to say on things as well as making awesome stuff.
Can you name a few games you are excited about?
No Man’s Sky, FireWatch, Fugl and Relativity are probably the ones most on my radar at the moment.
Any final thoughts?
Go play Core Control and yell at me with feedback @Yarrwulf
Core Control is available to download from Ben’s website.