We fade to Gray...
You have no idea how long I have been wanting to use this line somewhere on the website and now thanks to both Miracleman and the game in question taking up most of the interview below I finally get to use a cool 'Viasage' reference on RGG. For me that's a win!
The reason I can is because this indie developer inspired by classic point 'n' click adventures and great story telling has among his other fine work created a game using Grey as the main theme i.e. An Alien. So why is that? I guess it's over to Gabriel to find out, it is after all what we pay him for. Well, pay is a strong word...
RGG: Introduce yourself to our readers, so they get to know a little bit about the mind behind the games.
Maciek: Hi, my name's Maciek (I'll let you forever wonder how to pronounce that), here and there known as Fitz. I'm an indie retro adventure game designer, cartoonist, on-and-off writer, illustrator and publicist for a Polish online magazine at www.esensja.stopklatka.pl. I'm 35 years old -- a veteran gamer with two left hands and wooden fingers. But I'm stubborn and obsessively finish all games and complete all tasks in them.
RGG: When did you start making games? Why?
Maciek: I started working on Gray about five years ago -- soon after discovering the wonders of Adventure Game Studio. The dream of making a game was not a new idea, though. I had great plans for making something similar to Sam & Max Hit The Road when I was half my current age -- but that didn't go anywhere. I was a kid, I had neither the time, the skill, the patience nor the knowledge to make a game. At 30, I had some experience in writing, some skill in drawing and I thought with AGS the programming would be easy-peasy. I was wrong -- but then again, I wasn't as stupid as I believed myself to be. And so, two years and three months later, Gray was complete.
RGG: What tools do you use to create a game?
Maciek: Adventure Game Studio, by Chris Jones. It's an engine dedicated specifically to adventure games, with scripts based on C++ -- a language I find very intuitive (if merciless to errors in punctuation). Other than that, I use old, oooold freeware software for graphics and animation. I should use something newer and less clunky, maybe -- but if you're a retro game designer, you have to make sacrifices.
RGG: What games would you say fire branded your life both as a gamer and a designer?
Maciek: Day of the Tentacle!!! That game is to me the Sevres standard of adventure games. It has a wacky premise, great humour and awesome, quirky graphics and music. It's because of DotT that I won't consider a game I do complete without a full-blown animated intro and outro. Also, Gray definitely takes after Doctor Fred and the Purple Tentacle. As a gamer, my personality was shaped -- or twisted out of shape -- by Little Big Adventure: a game both wonderful and deadly. That game made me the maniac hell-bent on finishing a game no matter the cost ;) I've never finished Mario on NES and I don't care. I haven't gotten farther than the third level of Pac-Man and I couldn't care less. But since LBA and I'm... relentless! *wink wink, nudge nudge* I finished The Longest Journey, Syberia. I beat Gish! I reached 99.96 percent in Just Cause 2 (which is all you can get due to a design fault). Although... I did give up on Just Cause 1! And I never really got into Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
RGG: Did you play games growing up? Any special memories you would like to share?
Maciek: Did I? I got my first computer -- Commodore 64 -- at the age of 8, but I was no stranger to gaming even before that, with coin-ops making their way through the slowly falling Iron Curtain. And those awesome Russian handhelds. I still have one, and some thirty years later it's still perfectly functional. Then I had an NES rip-off, and then, finally, my first PC. Special memories? Oh, too many to enumerate. But there was one that completely blew me away and redefined what I did and what I knew: the day that, after playing Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis for a month or so, I learnt from a friend that I don't have to start the game from scratch every time, that I can SAVE THE GAME at ANY TIME and then LOAD it whenever I wanted! :-O
RGG: Tell us about Gray, what’s the game’s story?
Maciek: It's very simple, bordering on non-existent -- but I take no shame in it ;) You're an alien. Your ship crashes on Earth. Find ship. Fix ship. Evacuate. I'm dreaming of making a game with a more nuanced, elaborate plot, spanning over half the galaxy, with different races, raging conflicts, love, romance, thrill, suspense -- but somehow, all I can think of are these simple slap-stick gags. Say this -- get punched in the face. Pull this -- have something fall on your head. There's not much going on that isn't a direct or indirect result of the player character's actions. But there's fun to be had -- and some pretty tricky puzzles, too (I take sadistic pleasure in watching Let's Plays of my games!).
RGG: The game is freeware, and we know that is not the first option of some indie designers, why did you decide to release it for free?
Maciek: It just never crossed my mind to make it a commercial title. I made it out of sheer love for the retro adventure genre. Besides, I'd been making comics and other things and putting them up online for free for anyone to see long before that -- so it was just natural to me. I might do something commercial in the future -- but to do a whole game on my own takes a lot of time, so it'd take YEARS to make something of any substantial length. I guess if I ever decide to go pro, it's going to be either comics or prose.
RGG: The game has a very peculiar design, the colours you have chosen are quite unique, can you tell us a little bit about that?
Maciek: In my comics I make abundant use of limited colour palettes -- three or four being the ideal. This particular set of colours I took from the plastic casings of four rubber stamps at work. I put them in the scanner and then took the colours from the scanned image... and that's it! I was a bit hesitant about the blue, especially the trippy effect of the red-blue combo, but my sister -- who's a professionally trained artist -- convinced me this is the way to go. Besides, Ben Chandler -- a.k.a. Ben304 -- whose games were my first encounter with Adventure Game Studio, also made a little game with crazy colours. So I thought: why the hell not?
RGG: The point and click genre is not very common these days unfortunately. What motivated you to create a game of that genre?
Maciek: The answer is quite simple: because I love adventure games. I was lucky to be growing up in the early 90's -- which was the golden era of adventure games -- and played a lot of classics.Day of the Tentacle and Fate of Atlantis I've already mentioned. Then there was Hand of Fate... Teenagent and a few other Polish games you probably never heard of. Prince and the Coward, maybe? Monkey Island, obviously. The Discworld games! And as much as I loved The Longest Journey and Syberia, my heart was always with the funny ones. But what I loved the most is that in those games I can take my time. I don't have to run the whole time, I don't have to jump or avoid death from above, below and all sides. I can look at things, grab something and try using it on something else -- if only to hear it's a ridiculous idea.
RGG: What games inspired Gray?
Maciek: LucasArts games, of course. Ben304's game called simply "!" -- the one with crazy colours. And arcade games, I guess? Strangely enough -- especially considering what I said right above. All my game so far are side-scrollers, in a way. You only walk left and right, and usually proceed to the next room by going right, with the goal of reaching the last one.
RGG: The game has a Monkey Island vibe, with the character’s comments and the atmosphere, is it a wink to that lovely franchise or I am just being wrong again?
Maciek: You are absolutely right! I love Monkey Island for so many things. Snide comments, yes. And the dialogue trees! Talking to everyone about everything is what I love most about adventure games -- more so than the puzzles. Also, in my current project, The Unprintable MAGENTA, I ripped-off... I mean paid a little homage to the insult sword-fighting. In a way, at least.
RGG: If you were to pick 10 games of any console or PC to take for a ride across the solar system on Gray’s request to accompany him on a new quest, which games would you choose?
Maciek: Mostly things I always wanted to play but never had the chance to -- or games I never finished, such as Monkey Island 1 (puter died on me halfway through it, I think) and Discworld 1 (crashed on me after the Simon says puzzle). Journey -- because it's a PS3 exclusive and I'm too cheap to buy the thing for just one game. Mario 64 -- because Mario 64. Virtua Fighter 3 - the coin-op version! Of games I'd love to replay -- NES's Solbrain and that obscure C-64 game about a soldier guy who could turn into a female gymnast and back at will, each of whom had different skills. Can't remember the title for the life of me! Spy vs. Spy -- which I only saw briefly at a friend's house once. Amiga's Desert Strike... and last but not least, C-64's Skate or Die!
RGG: What other games have you designed?
Maciek: I made a little game called Monty the Komodo Dragon for AGS's monthly game jam back in September 2013. It's a quirky little thing with no dialogue, collage-like graphics made of photos of animal parts, animal products and animal excretions - to reflect the game jam's topic, "Animals". Right now, I'm working on another game that started as a gamejam project in August 2014 -- "The Unprintable MAGENTA" -- which got too big for me to make it within a month, and continues to expand to this day.
RGG: What would be the ultimate goal of Gray or your other games, if there is one?
Maciek: World domination. If that fails, I'll settle for fame and fortune, I guess?
RGG: This question is almost a must: What are in your opinion the best and worst things of being an indie developer?
Maciek: The best thing is I'm my own boss. I'm the captain of this one-man boat. The worst thing is sometimes this boat gets lost out at sea with no sense of direction -- and sometimes, in the middle of the night, I wake up drenched with sweat and thinking "It's gonna crash! AAAARGHHH! IT'S GONNA CRAAAAASH!!!!"
RGG: Do you often play indie games? Any favourites?
Maciek: I'm an old busy man -- so I don't have the time or patience to play games as much as I used to. Mostly adventure games, quite obviously -- with the AGS community being my prime source of indie entertainment. If you want to do yourself a favour, play anything by Ben Chandler a.k.a. Ben304 a.k.a. ThreeOhFour, some Wadjet Eye games -- and if you played Gray and want more games with malicious and yet strangely endearing aliens, I recommend the Visitor series by NickyNyce.
RGG: Last but not least, your space, here is where you can say whatever comes to your mind, that includes murder confessions, insulting the interviewer, suing someone, telling us you are going to tattoo my face on your arm, whatever you want, really.
Maciek: Eat. Play. Love. Drink lots of liquids at regular intervals, especially if you're an indie dev leading a sedentary life -- because kidney stones hurt worse than giving birth. (Megatron's_fury agrees...)
RetroGameGeeks Final Thoughts...
I once read somewhere that in order to make indie games you have to be somewhere between madness and genius, like no sleep, have a very vivid imagination and be able to take life's experiences then apply some outside of the box thinking. After speaking to Maciek it's clear to both myself and the RGG editorial crew that this guy nicely covers all of those bases.
It's always great to see the classics stir something in people, it's even more cool when said inspiration is a genre that the mainstream dev community and especially publishers abandoned years ago. As each day goes by more and more of the things that made all of this great is going back to the people it defined the childhoods of. For us that's poetic, it's beautiful symetry, some days it feels like gaming is coming home...