Today’s adventure is an interview with Adrian Sandoval, the lead designer of Island Officials which is an indie game company. I had the chance to interview him at Too Many Games recently and there’s quite a lot to cover, so let’s just jump to it!
Kayarath: So I assume you’re enjoying Too Many Games right now?
Adrian Sandoval: Yeah, it’s been a really good show this year.
K: Awesome! So can you tell me why you guys choose Island Officials as your company’s name?
AS: That actually was a decision made by our head of the company, Ryan Morrison. I know he came up with it in his basement and there was a lot of alcohol involved. That is the most I know about the name.
K: That’s how the best names are made up.
AS: Yes, it is true.
K: Your first games were DS puzzle games, Hands On! Tangrams and Orion’s Odyssey. I assume they were perfectly good starting projects to help establish your company?
AS: Hands On! Tangrams was our first title. It came out in 2009 and did very good for us. We released it in some local retailers. It was released in K-mart and on Amazon.com which you can buy now for $10.99 USD. It was a good initial release. It helped us learn the Nintendo DS platform when we moved on to our second game, Orion’s Odyssey. It gave us some good starting revenue so we can move on to other projects which we’re showing off today too.
K: Yes, I can only guess your business apps are your way of farming money?
AS: (unamused laughter) We don’t really have that many business apps. We have done a lot of novelty apps and things for entertainment purposes and people find them amusing and enjoyable so it’s not really just about making money, it’s also about bringing smiles to people’s faces.
K: Okay, what sets apart your company is that you do both digital and analog games. What are the pros and cons of such dual classing?
AS: We just love games; it’s really it. We got a very diverse set of people. We got five, six different teams working on different things at different times. We want people working on analog games because it’s in our sector, it’s more games. More games for us to make and more games for other people to enjoy.
K: Five to six different teams? That’s pretty… big. That’s a lot for an indie company.
AS: Yeah, it is. We’re about twenty five to thirty people strong. We put about five to ten people on different projects. We’re showing off Frantic Frog which came out on IOS and Android recently. That had a three/four person team. Orion’s Odyssey which I worked on had about ten. A couple more have come and gone over time. For analog games, we usually just have two or three people on each.
K: I’m still amazed by the fact you have twenty five people in the company.
AS: It’s a pretty decent number. We’ve been around for about five years now so we accumulated a lot of talent over time.
K: Getting back to digital/analog games; Pixel Lincoln! Which version came first?
AS: Pixel Lincoln started as a analog game where the main player character was a penny. But since you can’t distribute actual currency with your games, we moved on to making the game for the Nintendo DS. After working on it for so long, a 3DS eventually came out so now it’s coming out on PC. We also did a Kickstarter for the new analog version of the game which is a deck building game. The Kickstarter was very successful. We should start shipping out the games some time within the next month.
K: Cool. About the video game, Pixel Lincoln, it seems like you basically threw in a whole bunch of random stuff that you thought was cool, wrapped it in a 16 bit platformer and called it a game which is totally awesome.
AS: Well, we’re glad that you think it’s awesome. The creative people around that team, I don’t try to understand their madness. And it certainly is a certain type of madness but people seem to really enjoy it between bread throwing 16-bit presidents and laser cats that come from the sky. A lot of people seem to enjoy that randomness.
K: How can you say that with a straight face?
AS: A lot of practice. I do pitch the game to a lot of different people like that.
K: How you’d get Chipocrite to do the game’s soundtrack? I love that guy.
AS: Chipocrite is just a really great guy and when we told him, “Hey, we got a game we think would be a great fit for your style.” He was just happy to do it. It wasn’t that difficult. It’s really easy with Pixel Lincoln to get people on board.
K: Yeah, it is. If Pixel Lincoln’s gonna be on the PC, I assume it’s gonna try to get on Steam at least. Don’t you have to go through Greenlight for that?
AS: We haven’t gone through Greenlight yet. We’re still accessing our options there so we don’t really have anything to announce at this time. Obviously, we want to get on the Steam platform and we’re gonna talk to Valve about it but as far as going through Greenlight or going directly through it we don’t really know right now.
K: Do you have an opinion on Greenlight? It can be both a boon and a bust to indie game companies like you.
AS: You know, it’s been a really solid process for a lot of different companies right now. I do know that there has been some negative responses; mostly for the bigger companies. It seems like Valve wants to try to get more people to go through Greenlight rather then going through direct process. I think it’s great that we can use it now to get advertising out and let people know that the game exists so there is kind of a side benefit to that. However, it also seems like another gate and I can see where that can annoy people.
K: It seems to have the same problem PAX Prime does. The number it can accept is far smaller then the number that want to get in.
AS: Yeah, that’s true. But at the same time it’s all about marketing and making the best game possible. As long as your game is good I don’t think it’ll be any trouble to get a game on there.
K: I would like to give you the chance to announce that Pixel Lincoln will be a launch title for the Xbox One. If you want to say that now, feel free to do so.
AS: (laughter) We don’t have any plans for any console releases. Right now, it’s just PC and Mac and we’re looking into developing for mobile platforms. Anything beyond that is gonna be based on public reaction afterwords.
K: Yes, it’s such a beboobug. Speaking of made up words, tell me about LangGuini.
AS: LangGuini was our first analog game. We created it at the Philadelphia Game Jam in 2011. I might be wrong on that, someone will correct me later. The objective of the Game Jam was to create a game based on the theme of extinction and we went with the extinction of the English language. We came up with a game where you make up a word based on word (fragment) choices that you get through your cards and you get a random number of cards depending on the dice roll. You get a word and you present it to everyone else and those people have to define the word. Then the person with the best definition wins the round.
K: I tried it out once and it was quite fun. It’s a good party game.
AS: Oh, good. I’m glad you enjoyed it. We were definitely going for that party feel.
K: What amazes me is that Philadelphia has an actual gaming scene attached to it which is the last thing you expect from Philadelphia. Can you tell me more about it and your experiences with it?
AS: Philadelphia actually has a pretty big gaming scene. Some good names include Cipher Prime who are good friends of ours. They released Auditorium on PS3. They did the sequel on Kickstarter. Splice came out on Ipad recently. That’s a fantastic game that everybody should get. Final Form Games did Jamestown which is one of my personal indie favorites. Other then that, there’s a really big supportive community in Philadelphia and we’re really glad to be a part of it.
K: Cool. How would people get into that scene?
AS: Just make games really. You can sign up for a membership with the Philadelphia chapter of the International Game Developer Association (IGDA). It’s also free to come to come to a meeting. We usually do it every other Saturday but they want you to check the IGDA website at www.IGDA.org and find the Philadelphia chapter on there. They can see when we have meetings. Just come in, talk with people, talk with us about what we do, how we got started and such. Really it’s just as simple as… live in Philadelphia and start making games and let people know your games are out there.
K: Easy enough. Talking about games, tell me about Frantic Frog.
AS: Frantic Frog just got released last week on IOS and Android devices so you can find it on the app store and Google Play. It’s an action arcade game starring Hopkins who is trying to store up bugs for the winter. The player plays by tapping the screen and eating as many bugs as he can without eating bees and lady bugs and other kings of bugs that would probably cause more pain then anything else.
K: Yeah, it’s a nice way to spend five minutes.
AS: Yes it is! It’s supposed to be a good pick up and play game. Something you can do while you’re traveling; waiting in a doctor’s office, something like that. People get really addicted to it.
K: What games do you actually play when you’re not making them?
AS: I’ve been playing my 3DS a lot lately. I just got Oracle of Ages/Oracle of Seasons Legend of Zelda games from the Gameboy Color on the virtual console. I’ve been playing a lot of FEZ lately. I like to play the other indie games that are available. Mostly I stick to RPG and adventure style games.
K: Awesome. So I’m guessing they influenced you in some way?
AS: Yeah. Earthbound is a really big influence, I talk about that one a lot. As far as action games go, the Metal Gear series is a huge influence for me. I’m also influenced by other types of media. I love animation. For Orion’s Odyssey, we took a lot from Looney Tunes and a lot of the older irrelevant style animation. I got a pretty good amount of influences.
K: Where can people go to learn more about your stuff?
AS: They can go to our website at www.IsalndOfficals.com. They can also follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook; we have pages for both. We’re gonna have a Google+ page soon; probably some time after this show is over.
K: Thank you very much!
AS: Thank you!
K: It’s been a pleasure.