Guest columnist Vourbot has returned once again with an exclusive!
I've been working on Tall Studio's Shoot'em Up Kit, and I was able to get them to do an interview. Check it out...
How long has Tall Studios been together, and what did they do before?
We started Tall Studios in 2010. We had been developing the Shoot ‘Em Up Kit in our spare time and we realized that it would only get finished if we went full time. John has been in the games industry for 20 years working for studios of all sizes including Ubisoft and Activision. Karen had previously been a programmer working on control systems for a water company before having a break while the children were young, but finds working in games much more fun!
Has Tall Studios made anything else besides the Shoot 'Em Up Kit?
The Shoot ‘Em Up Kit has always been our main focus but we have also worked on games for other companies including Manchester City Football Club, Sky, Activision and a VR project for Sony.
What has been the greatest struggle in making and marketing the Shoot 'Em Up Kit?
As the Shoot ‘Em Up Kit is intended to allow people to make a huge variety of games and we didn’t know what people would be making, it has been a challenge to get the feature list right, and to make the Kit flexible enough to give a lot of control without requiring programming. We didn’t know what features would be used a lot and which would not be used. We also had no marketing experience, so that has been a big learning curve.
You have an excellent reputation for quickly fixing bugs, responding to user problems and requests, is it a full time job?
Product support takes quite a bit of our time but the community is very important. We appreciate people supporting us by buying the Kit while it is still in Early Access, so we try not to keep people waiting when they experience a bug, need some help, or make a suggestion. I think that it’s also true that for every person who reports a bug there are others who have experienced it and not said anything.
As an insight to our indie developer readers, is your work on the Shoot 'Em Up Kit paying the bills? If not, how successful would it have to be to do so?
It isn’t fully supporting us yet, but we hope that it will pay the bills when it’s out of early access and we start selling on more platforms.
Where is it for sale now?
It is on Steam Early Access. As soon as we are ready to move out of Early Access we will be expanding to more stores.
What would it take, above what it does now, to consider the program "alpha" phase? -What is planned for the program in the future?
The Kit itself is almost ready, but we will first get the documentation and tutorials complete and up to date. We also want to add game templates and game creation walkthroughs to help people get started. There are lots of plans for the future – export to other platforms (android, iOS, console), support for VR, and expanding to other game genres such as a Platformer Kit.
I have previously recognized the Shoot 'Em Up Kit as "the layperson's only-real-time-manipulation-of-photoshop-style-art program (AKA video game maker) in existence", is that true?
There are some great PC game makers, but the others require some level of programming or scripting. We were determined to avoid this in order to make game creation more accessible to artists, designers and hobbyists who just wanted to bring their ideas to life as simply as possible. This is an on-going quest. We still encounter gameplay situations where we could just say, “you can do that in the Behavior Editor” but we always strive to avoid this and add it as a proper feature in the Kit.
Is it rewarding/useful/frustrating to have people testing the program as a beta?
It is very useful and rewarding. The feedback from the community has been great for finding out which features are popular and which need expanding. It’s great to be able to ask questions to the community and get feedback. The list of game templates comes entirely from the community. People have pointed out common shoot-em-up features which were missing, so we have been able to add them to make the Kit more complete. The frustration is when people don’t contact us. It’s disappointing to hear through other sources that someone has experienced problems and didn’t contact us for help.
What has been your general feedback on the program?
People have been happy with the features and we’ve had a lot of nice comments about the depth of the Kit. Some have struggled with the limited set of tutorials, particularly if they have a specific game in mind. We’ve also had some genuinely moving feedback from people who have created a game they’ve been dreaming of for many years but had no way of creating it. Comments like this make all the struggles worthwhile.
What have you seen people using the program for? Fun/profit?
We have seen a range, with a lot of people making games for themselves based on an idea they have had or a favorite game from the past. Others are making commercial games. We love seeing what people are creating; people have amazing ideas and on a few occasions we’ve wondered how someone has achieved the effects they have.
As far as fun goes, are there any/how many/ or do you recognize any other users (besides me) who are shocked, grateful, and amazed that you have so successfully unlocked "video games" as an artistic medium for them?
Yes, we have had some amazing messages from people delighted that they can make their game ideas a reality. The original inspiration for the Shoot ‘Em Up Kit came when a friend asked if there was a product that his son could use to make the games he had designed on paper without having to learn programming, and it is very satisfying to know that out Kit is allowing people to do that now.
When this program is finished, what would Tall Studios like to do next?
We have so many plans for new features and new directions to take it in, I’m not sure we’ll ever be finished with it! We have already made progress with the Platformer Kit and the multi-platform version is nearing completion.
Last question, what advise do you have to all the creative people who would like to become indie developers, whether utilizing your program or not?
Enjoy the process. Pick an idea and style that excites you and run with it Do it because you love it, not to get rich!
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