Jody met up with indie creator Alex Norton in Brisbane, Australia, to talk about the development of Malevolence and how it went from scrap-paper beginnings to an explosively successful Kickstarter.
What’s your philosophy of what makes a good game?
Norton: I’ve always been a big fan of the Id Software motto of “easy to play, hard to master.” I think that’s really good, but I think it’s a bit of a loaded question because it depends on what platform it’s on. If you’re jumping on a console, I don’t think consoles should ever have been used for a long, extensive gameplay experience. I think a console should be something you pick up, have a quick game, maybe a multiplayer experience — [it's] especially really good for those — then put it down again and walk off. I think PC has and always should be just the portal into other worlds, big worlds. Mobile gaming is the same again. You need to be able to play a game in five minutes, and people still make games that are designed to have this rich content experience. I think you’ve gotta play to the strength of the platform that you’re on.
The thing that makes a good game is to allow your passion as a game developer to show through. I don’t think it matters what the game is or what it’s about or how it’s played so long as you love it. Akhranox to me is a holiday location. I love visiting it. It’s so much a part of me. It’s like a child in the family. It’s going to be a very sad day when I finally click the button to send it off because of that fact. I raised it from a baby engine. It started out as nothing and turned into this huge, huge thing. The biggest part is it’s not just a huge thing for me anymore, it’s a huge thing for a lot of people. A lot of people forget that the other people, players, are about 50 percent of the game. Because without the players — not a game. No point for its existence unless the player’s there.
Some people play games just for fun, download an iPhone game, but they don’t really play it. It’s there for when they’re bored on the bus. But there are a lot of people — and you especially see them at events like this — [who] for them gaming is more than just a fun pastime. It’s an experience; it’s a part of them. Only someone that can feel that way about a game I think can make a game that will inspire that, and that needs to show through in order for them to like it. It doesn’t matter how weird the game is, people will love it if you do. You get that whole joke that your mum used to make, “When I make cupcakes, I add a pinch of love to every one.” You’ve gotta do that with games because it’ll show, it’ll show.
You get all these triple-A titles that are very cold. They seem like there’s a factory that’s pumping out first-person shooters, and it’s always the same thing with a different theme. There’s no love in them because it’s about making money. Whereas you see all these people here, they would love to make money from their games, they would love to be able to do it, but they want to make money because that will allow them to keep making games. It’ll fund the next one. It’s not that they’re making games to make money, they’re making games because they have to. The game is going to get made, it has to get made, and these guys are just seeing it through. I think if you have that system when you’re making a game, it doesn’t matter what the game’s about. It’ll be a winner, you just gotta not forget that, not get corporatized.
Were there other games you’ve worked on before this, ideas that didn’t work out?
Norton: I’ve made pretty much every idea I’ve had except for one, which I’m saving for after this. I have to make games; I can’t help it. Once this is finished, I’m gonna need a simple game, like a palate cleanser almost before I move onto my next big project. I’m holding that one aside because it’s a nice straightforward one. Before this there’s definitely been lots and lots of games. I’ve been making them since I was 10, when I got sick and was stuck in front of a computer. I remember saving all my money for my first computer, a 386, and it had Basic on it. I would sit there all day, wake up, go to school, and I was at the computers at school, typing away, pull out the 5.25-inch floppy disk, bring it home, and keep working. They say that a good indie game is a summation of a certain time in your life, and Malevolence is the same thing. Everything that I’ve done has done that — sums up a little bit of me.
GamesBeat 2014 — VentureBeat’s sixth annual event on disruption in the video game market — is coming up on Sept 15-16 in San Francisco. Purchase one of the first 50 tickets and save $400!