News Q&A

Another Talk with Adam Pype, developer of SpookWare, No Players Online

The Indie Ranger Team recently had the opportunity to talk with developer Adam Pype again, developer of No Players Online, about his past and recent developments. Having recently released the popular game SpookWare, Adam was able to answer a few questions:

Recently you released SpookWare, a faithful horror remake of WarioWare, and when you last spoke with Indie Ranger you said that young developers should focus on one core mechanic for their games. Is SpookWare a natural progression of this idea? 
 
I like to think I still stick pretty close to this idea of making games about one mechanic. I suppose it doesn’t need to be a mechanic, per say, but it’s more about having a core idea. It’s also probably why I’m doing more horror stuff these days. Horror is such an incredible genre to work with. I’ve been making horror stuff a lot more ever since NPO. It’s so versatile and there’s a bigger focus on atmosphere and setting than in other game genres. I feel like the current popularity of horror games is a testament to that fact. If you browse through popular games on itch.io right now they’re pretty much all horror games, but each and every one of them is very different. And they’re always very strong ways to explore a certain scenario or a type of fear and building an atmosphere and feel around that.
Whats For Dinner? 

So with the one game a month goal, what gave you the idea for SpookWare? What was the “why” for SpookWare?
 
So I have this list on my desktop with a bunch of ideas and games I would want to make for game-a-month. SpookWare, for me, was kind of a way to pay my respects to the WarioWare franchise. I grew up playing WarioWare DIY on my DS, and the idea of making a game like WarioWare is one that’s very high on that list. I’ve been making to make one since forever and I can tell you, it felt very good to finally scratch that itch! I made the game for the 2 minute horror jam, and because I remembered WarioWare was on the list and the submission had to be a horror game it made sense to put two and two together. I feel like it’s short enough as well to fit the jam.

How did you go about the development of SpookWare?

Development was pretty straight-forward. Originally the idea was to make 30 micro-games, 4 seconds each. That would total up to exactly 2 minutes, which would have been perfect for the theme of the jam. But it quickly dawned on me that that was probably going to be too much work. I had already been postponing starting development on it as well, so I knew before I even started that I needed to reduce scope.
I started work on the game about a week before the deadline. Making the UI and systems in one weekend so that it was very quick and easy to make microgames for it. Now I had a very nice and versatile setup for making microgames very quickly, and so I did. I have a full-time job as well, so I didn’t have much time for each microgame. The process for each microgame was making the assets using edited images in Photoshop, moving it over to unity and making it interactive, defining win or lose conditions. At this rate I could make one microgame ever one to two hours, so two a day. I had 10 by the end of the week. The last few days I spent polishing stuff up, adding audio that Viktor Kraus had made over the week and shipping the game. I eventually didn’t even stick to WarioWare’s hard limit of 4 seconds per microgame, and the time limit is wildly different each game even up to 12 seconds for some. I guess nobody noticed so that’s good!
So recently you co-hosted a WarioWare inspired game jam with developer Hyohnoo titled “The IndieWare Jam”. What is the end goal for “The IndieWare Jam”? Did you enjoy developing SpookWare so much that you wanted to pursue the idea some more?
 
I can’t take credit for the idea of the jam! Hyohnoo came up with it after talking with them about SpookWare and I said I would definitely be down with helping stitching the games together in the end. I’m very curious to see what people will make. I think making WarioWare type stuff takes a lot of work, and it’s definitely not something I would have been able to do when I was starting out. But I’m looking forward to seeing how other people approach it!

So prior to releasing SpookWare, you released a game called “VHS, 1986”. There seems to be a wide range of speculation behind the game, what was some of the symbolism behind “VHS, 1986”? 
What was the development of “VHS, 1986” like? It seems like you put in a massive amount of thought and time into sourcing all of the assets of the game, how did it all come together?   
 
I made VHS during the peak of the coronavirus lockdown in Belgium. I moved back from London to stay at my parent’s house while I was working from home. I was doing a lot of walks with my brother (when we were allowed to do so again) around that time and seeing all those empty streets really inspired me to document it. I had also been inspired by a Brutalmoose’s “Mystery Tape” series, where he runs down stores looking for blank VHS tapes and seeing if there was anything interesting on it. So I filmed the deserted streets of lock-downed Belgium with a crappy VHS filter and put together some obscure tapes to really sell that mystery around blank VHS tapes. As well as stitching in the occasional footage of boring broadcasting from the 80s. Just like the way you would accidentally record over parts of your tapes back in the VHS-era. It was really fun to go out and film stuff at the dead of night again, which I hadn’t done since No Players Online’s secret tape that I also filmed.

One of the things that popularized “No Players Online,” was the Alternate Reality Game aspect of it, and “VHS, 1986” seems to continue in this trend, do you think you’ve tried to emphasize this aspect in your game development? 
 
I have thought about doing more stuff with ARGs, I think it’s a really interesting alternative medium to tell stories and entertain people. I’ve always been obsessed with mystery hunts ever since I was a kid and being able to make them for hundreds of internet strangers is a dream come true. “VHS, 1986” was made for the Haunted PS1 Wretched Weekend jam and it’s no coincidence that my game, as well as other submissions, had some cryptic stuff in it.

Going back to your earliest games, you’ve really experimented with a wide range of themes and mechanics, however, across your development there seems to be an “other-worldly” theme to your games that seems to keep coming back.
What was your goal with “Don’t Look Away From The Colors”? 
 
I usually base my games around stuff going on in my life. “Don’t Look Away From The Colors” was made when I was taking a lot of trains back and forth. Whenever I was on a train I’d play this game where I’d try to trace my vision along the edge of the horizon and buildings that you could see out the window. I even based the last level on this fact by making it an actual train. I thought that idea of tracing stuff with your vision could definitely be a game and that’s where that came from. I find it really interesting to hear people tell me that they thought the setting was scary or as you describe it “other-worldly”, some people even told me it’s a form of minimalist horror. I do always try to go for a very specific aesthetic, and one I usually can’t really describe. This game is really a good example of it, with its old slideshow transitions and almost sepia colors and classical jazz improvisations. As well as a kind of disturbing distortion whenever you win or make mistakes. There must be something innate in me that can’t stop me from making horror games, I guess?
 
Going back even earlier, what was your goal with “The Tower”? 
 
I made The Tower with a friend when I had him over for the weekend. Whenever I do a game-jam with other people I always spend the first day or two just going outside and doing stuff to get inspired. I feel like having a shared experience with the person you’re making a game with really helps. I had been stuck with this idea in my head of making a game based on a piece of art (an idea I revisited for Day Divider) so we went to a local museum and looked around until something really inspired us. There’s this piece by Léon Spilliaert of the beach at Ostend and a lighthouse.
Der Deich, Ostende (La Digue de Mer, Ostende).
His work has this very specific aesthetic and feeling of the beach at Ostend, where I spent a lot of my childhood at, that’s kind of indescribable. There’s something really beautiful about that long stretch of grey beach, with grey skies. So we decided to make a game based on it, we both made one environment. I made the outside, which is a one-on-one recreation of the painting, and my friend made the interior, which is a recreation of the place in the museum where we found the piece. I’m very obsessed with museum spaces in general, but that’s a topic for another time.
Do you think you will ever revisit some of the mechanics of your previous games like “Don’t Look Away From The Colors,” and “The Tower”? 
 
Maybe, there’s no telling in what I’ll do. I have a lot of other ideas I wanna work on in the future. But I really liked the mechanic for “Don’t Look Away From The Colors”, I just think it feels really good, you know? I wouldn’t mind expanding on it someday, but I’ve always believed that if I ever make bigger titles I would want to commit to it full-time. So for now I’m good experimenting with game-a-month. Still so much to try!

Finally, what are some of the next projects you are working on? 
 
I’m still on break from SpookWare, but I have some potential ideas on the horizon for next month’s game. I’ve also been organizing a massive secret collaborative project with some folks on the Haunted PS1 community. It’s currently very much in the works but you’ll hear more on it around Halloween! Furthermore, I’ve been very interested in learning networking and multiplayer these days, if I ever get around to learning it I have a ton of ideas for online experiments!

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