Indie Games Spotlight for January 22nd, 2012

By mancide, 6 years ago
The fine folks at nullptrstudios, who developed last week's Indie Games Spotlight featured game Ramen Ninja, agreed to sit down and share some of their experiences in a developer interview this week.

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Ok, let's start this off with the obvious, first tell us a little bit about your gaming history.

Gaming history, hmm.

Brian and I have very different tastes in games usually, though I would say I have better taste. Some of my favorites are Privateer, Final Fantasy 7, Metal Gear Solid, Secret of Mana, and one which Brian doesn't get, WCW vs. NWO.

Brian's favorites are Castlevania 2 Simon's Quest, Shatterhand (I have no clue what this is), Chrono Trigger, TMNT 1 & 2 and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night being his all-time favorite game ever. Brian constantly makes fun of me for not having played Chrono Trigger, and I simply don't understand his love for most of the Castlevania games. Recently, we both haven't been able to put down Forza Motosport 4, Gears of War 3, Street Fighter IV, and Team Fortress 2. I guess we are pretty much all over the place in the genres we like.

How long have you been developing games?

My first game I developed was in college about 9 years ago. I made an online Final Fantasy Tactics clone. It was awful, memory leaks, and all sorts of other issues, but it was my first. Since then I have always been trying to make either a game engine or a game, never really getting too far by myself. Ramen Ninja is my first published title, and it was a long time coming.

Brian started developing text-adventure games back in 1996 when he was 13 in QBASIC. He worked on various games in college including a Pirates vs. Ninjas game and coincidentally also developed a Final Fantasy Tactics clone as well (we didn't know each other at this time and his tactics game sucked too). Afterwards, he did a small stint over at Vicarious Visions, working on Ultimate Spiderman 2 on Game Boy Advance (never released) and Over the Hedge for the Nintendo DS. At some point after that we met and found that we both had the same passion for game development and decided to start our own studio. Since then Brian worked mostly on the game engine side of things, which provided the foundation of the technology behind Ramen Ninja.

What events or concepts helped shape the direction for Ramen Ninja?

Prior to Ramen Ninja we designed 3 other games, none of which came to fruition and ate up about 3 years of time. At that point, we took a hard look at what we were doing and decided to prioritize on making much simpler games that are fun without requiring a massive feature list. We then evaluated what we are both good at and worked on designing a game that could be accomplished within a reasonable timeframe. One night. it hit me, make a sneaking game. At first it started off as a game about a guy that needed to sneak out of hell. But we didn't really want to go the bloody route (no pun intended) and the satanic theme was too dark. Somehow the idea morphed into you sneaking around fast food restaurants getting back generic treasure and avoiding robotic enemies. However, this didn't feel cohesive enough. We then equated sneakiness to ninjas because it is what they do best. Naturally, since all ninjas eat is insanely delicious ramen all the time, it was a logical choice to collect it. As far as how we came up with the bad guy, Brian absolutely hates udon noodles; he thinks they are equivalent to the leftover cheese on a discarded pizza box in a dumpster. From this inexplicable hatred, the Evil Dr. Udon was born and became the enemy of our ninja hero. Since we have no clue how ramen is actually made we joked that it must've been grown like a crop on farm, hence ramen farming ninja. In hindsight, none of this actually made any sense. Does anyone actually know where ramen comes from?

I'm not sure where it comes from myself, but I know it is super delicious.

What was the most significant thing you took away from the development process?

It's about scale and knowing the limits of what we were really capable of making given our size. As an indie developer it is easy to get caught up in the design process without realistically assessing its development costs. You can quickly end up digging a big hole you cannot get out of.

Another big takeaway was the need for a solid foundation to build your games. It was critical to develop an underlying engine that provided us not only with support for core game functionality, but also enabled future projects to leverage systems that we were building. We were very careful in controlling the scale of our engine features, as this could have easily consumed a good chunk of our development time.

Microsoft recently announced some changes to XBLIG. Do you feel these
changes are moving the service in the right or wrong direction?

We are happy that changes are being made to improve the options available to Indie developers. In addition to the current changes we would like to see achievement support, special sales opportunities (like the Indie Bundles on Steam) and better visibility for Indie Games on the dashboard.

Bundle promotions would be a great attraction if I do say so myself.

If you could go back in time and change one thing about the development of Ramen Ninja, what would it be and what would you do different?

We would have added ninja-like abilities, such as ninjutsu spells, smoke bombs, and more interaction with level objects. Ramen Ninja is a sneaking game at heart and these elements would have provided us a larger design space. This would have enhanced the game and given the player more creative ways to solve levels.

Do you all feel, as most frequently comes up on TrueAchievements, that
Indie Games would benefit from a small amount of Gamerscore?

Absolutely, it would bring the indie game experience to be more consistent with other games available on Xbox Live. Indie games are generally small and enabling achievements will certainly add more value to the product. In Ramen Ninja we would have added achievements for getting 5 stars in all levels, escaping the goat man, completing the game, etc.

Do you have any future plans for more Indie Games?

Actually, we have already started work on our next game. It is a shooter\platformer that will target phones and tablets first, followed by Xbox Live Indie afterwards. This time around we are going to be able to add more features and bring the game to market faster since we have learned so much from the development of Ramen Ninja.

You can find more information about nullptrstudios at their website or by following them @nullptrstudios on Twitter.
Written by mancide
When not enjoying video games, our fearless newshound enjoys an nice pint of fermented barley and hops in a variety of styles. India Pale Ales, Stouts, Porters, Witbiers, Saisons, Gose, Lambics, Barleywine, you name it. If it has water, malted barley, hops and yeast in it, I'll consume it. I also enjoy all things technological, Doctor Who, wrasslin, traveling, and spending time with my family.