I recently sat down with the developers at Ginger Labs LLC, the men behind the new game “Iggy’s Egg Adventure”, now out on Steam for PC. I found out about the game when I watched Kovic, a YouTube let’s player and streamer, play it live. It looked like an interesting 2.5D platformer that threw back to games like Donkey Kong Country. When I attended the Pixel Pop Festival in St. Louis Missouri, I was able to meet the guys behind this game. After a bit of chit-chat in front of their display, I was finally able to briefly play the game. It played just as charming as it looked. I decided to reach out to the creators for an interview, and they happily obliged.
C: Hi, I’m Chris Buchanen. I’m the art guy for Ginger Labs LLC.
L: I’m Leland Davidson. I’m the coder… also did some mapping.
Tell me about Iggy’s Egg Adventure. A brief overview.
C: Iggy’s Egg Adventure is a 2.5D platformer that was very heavily inspired by the games we played as kids. Games like Super Mario Bros, Sonic 3, Sonic 2, and Donkey Kong Country. In fact, it’s a lot like Donkey Kong Country except that you play as a baby velociraptor named Iggy. There are also several other unlockable dinosaurs that you can play as. You basically kill other dinosaurs and cavemen while you try and rescue your mom.
How did you get into development?
C: It actually started as a capstone project for my associates degree in visual communications. I recently watched Indie Game: The Movie and thought: “You know what? I should just do this. I should stop waiting for someone to tell me that I can and just give it a go.”
L: Originally I was saving up money to be an actor in some place I didn’t want to go to. After talking to Chris, I thought “Let’s just do it. I’ve been very interested for a long time, so lets just do it.”
C: Yeah, if we used our feet at all or moved around a lot we could be spokespeople for Nike.
Have you made any games prior to this?
C: I think the only thing we did together was our high school senior project. We made a custom Warcraft III map that was basically simulating World of Warcraft. WoW came out not too long before that and we were fascinated by the game. We tried to make the WoW map inside Warcraft III and it came out alright. We did the opposite of what we are doing now. I did all the scripting and he did the map work. Other than that, no, this is the first game development we’ve done and the first project that we’ve done.
L: This is the first GAME we’ve worked on together. There are OTHER things we’ve worked on that you don’t want to look at, ever.
C: We did a little bit of video stuff. It’s not porn. It’s not that. *laughter* We promise.
What inspired you to make a cute but kinda violent games about dinosaurs?
C: I know I wanted it to be cute, because I’ve never had a problem with cute stuff. Sonic was kind of a cute character, and Tails was adorable. Diddy Kong and Donkey Kong didn’t look super ferocious. I felt like the graphic style wouldn’t necessarily be easier, but when you are doing stylized graphics, the game didn’t have to live up to something beyond the scope of what two people could do. If we wanted to go for a hyper realistic look, that’d be great, I love velociraptors and a real raptor would be awesome, but it would have been out of our scope. Since we were doing a stylized type platformer that reminds you of your childhood, cute just felt natural. At the same time it’s been a long time since platformers have been THE thing, THE genre of video game, and I think it’s okay for them to grow a little bit. We wanted to keep the same formula but we wanted it to be something we could enjoy currently and that WOW factor of “oh my god that’s a lot of blood that came out of that guy, I wasn’t expecting that.” At the same time we didn’t want it as gruesome and brutal as Happy Tree Friends. I think when we played around with the style a bit, it wasn’t something we had seen before, and we liked the reaction we got from it.
Why go with a 2D platformer?
L: 2D was easier to start with. I taught myself all the programming we needed so it was easier to work on the 2D playing front.
C: When we started he didn’t know a single line of code. Much of this was self taught. We felt that platformers would be just a bit easier to do for our first game.
When developing games, do you stick to what you want to do, or do you kind of watch and follow current trends with genres?
C: I think for Iggy we actually did the opposite. I tried not to look at the current trend because it made me feel dreadful. At the time we started Iggy, there were a number of dinosaur games cropping up on mobile, PC, and console, but they were not that great. For the most part when you think of a game about dinosaurs, you don’t have the highest expectations. What we did for Iggy was we looked a lot to the past and we started playing every platformer we could get our hands on and essentially did some market research using older games. If we decided on a different type of game for our next one, we’d keep an eye on trends and see where things are going. I’d definitely want to see where things have been as well to find out why things aren’t working as well now as they used to. I think it’s important to know where something has come from to keep it going in the right direction. However, we wouldn’t keep a heavy focus on what’s working now because I want to do our own thing. I’m talking in circles, I’m sorry.
You guys had a failed Kickstarter and some investors bail on you. You obviously thought this game was special enough to keep going. What kept you going?
C: You get to a point where you are in too deep. You almost get into a depression or denial about things. We were to the point where there was no turning back. We had to do it. I think that’s kind of what kept us going. We put too much into it and we HAD to finish it. At the very least it will look good on our resume. Even if people hate it and it’s awful and we sell 2 copies, we can put it on our resume: “We made a game and it’s up on steam.” We had to keep reminding ourselves that no matter what, we will be enriched by the process of doing this; this will help us grow as people. I’m the kind of person that when I get pushed a lot and people tell me I can’t do something, I get angry and I really want to do it. I want to do it so well that it makes people say, “oh.. well, I guess he can do it!” So mostly anger and depression kept us going.
L: I’m on his side. I was determined to see it throught. If we didn’t have anything to show for this, then I’d feel like we just wasted 2 years of our lives. I needed to see it through and prove we could do this. I was determined to get to the end even if it meant 20 hours a day working.
How do you feel about using Kickstarter? Is there anywhere that process went wrong for you?
C: I haven’t really thought about it. I know part of the reason we weren’t successful on Kickstarter was we didn’t really have a great product to show. Looking at the videos of the early early alpha compared to what it is now… would I have backed it? No, I wouldn’t have. The other part was not having enough awareness of the game out there. People didn’t know about it. I think in the future if we had enough popularity and we had something that WOULD get backed we’d use it. I like how Kickstarter gives you the ability to reward the people who have backed you so you just aren’t taking their money for a copy of the game. It’s also a great tool for building hype before it’s actually ready to come out. It’s a really powerful tool. As to the success of it? I’m not sure, it’s very situational. It’s been kind of up and down the last couple of years, especially in games development. There have been some that just don’t come anywhere near their goal, and some like Mighty No. 9 that blow their goal out of the water. I think it would really depend on what kind of game we are making, what our funds look like, and if we think the game would be successful.
L: My opinion on that: From what I’ve seen, the super duper successful Kickstarters have had some classic name attached to it; Chris Roberts, Keiji Inafune, ect. Those are the projects that get traction because they have name recognition. The moderately successful ones still have a lot of presence beforehand because they spend a lot of time advertising. Looking back on our Kickstarter, we were just two guys and we didn’t have enough resources to be able match that, realistically. If we did another Kickstarter, we’d have to do a lot of prep work or a month long campaign to even promote the Kickstarter itself.
Besides funding and learning to code, what are some obstacles you had to undertake?
L: Not killing our roomates?
C: Yeah, not killing each other. A lot of it was code stuff, or modeling stuff, or art stuff. We kept running into brick walls, so I decided we needed to start calling them hurdles; not a road block , not a wall, a hurdle. We will get over this and we will get passed this, it’s just going to be difficult until we do. As we got further into the development, we became more fluent in what we were doing. The end was the hardest part. The end is when you start running into a lot of the stuff you don’t know how to solve, like bigger bugs. It’s like Jenga… inverse Jenga. You’re trying to build the tower and as you are building it higher and higher, you find where there are pieces missing. You try to keep it going without it crashing on top of itself.
L: Oh, the crashes!
C: We had a bug a week before release that we worked on for 16 hours straight. We had no idea what was causing it. It wasn’t like, “Iggy sometimes turns around for no reason.” It was, “The game crashes completely and you have to restart it.” It was the worst kind of bug you could have. That was really difficult. There was a lot of mental exhaustion from constantly waking up, working on the game, then going to bed. Other than that, funding is difficult. Just don’t give up.
Was getting Iggy onto Steam a difficult process?
L: That’s an interesting story.
C: Steam has their Green Light System where users would say that they would or wouldn’t buy it. When we ended our Kickstarter, we were 13% of the way to the top 100 of the games on Greenlight. We weren’t doing very good. I just put it in the back of my mind decided to focus on finishing the game. When we got close to the game being done, we were 76% of the way to being greenlit, but we hadn’t gained any votes. So few people had been using Greenlight that we ended up near the top 100%. We ended up getting through by sending an email to Steam and asking for advice. We ended up getting Greenlit that way a couple months later. Once we got past that, it was a very legitimizing feeling. We’re actually a thing now! People will take us seriously!
How has feedback been since the release?
C: Incredibly positive. You have your face in it so close for so long that you can’t tell whether it’s good. Everyone tells you that it’s good, and any time we had a public showing we had positive feedback, but I still had that doubt in the back of my mind. I’d think that we’ll put it out there and everyone will hate it. So far a lot of people like it. We’ve been getting 7 out of 10, 8 out of 10, 8.5 out of 10 from reviewers. People really enjoy the difficulty of it. We were worried that because it gets really hard at certain parts, people would be turned off by it. However, if we didn’t have that difficulty, we’d be deviating from what our entire goal was: to recreate one of those games we played as kids. The old platformers were not easy. They don’t hold your hand or give you an achievement. People have really had a positive response to it and we’re really excited about that.
Do you feel that live streamers and let’s players are essential in marketing an indie game these days?
C: Definitely. With a game like ours, a lot of the replayability comes from different characters who have different powers and different costumes. We don’t have randomly generated maps or anything like that, so would doing a let’s play make people not want to buy it? “I’ve already seen the ending so I don’t need to purchase this.” I don’t think that’s been a real problem. I think it makes people want to buy it more.
L: I’m pretty sure no one plays our game for the story. *laughter*
C: The difficulty factor makes people want to try and see if they can do it. Definitely, the let’s players have been the reason for most of our sales. It’s the best place to get publicity. It’s awesome we live in an age where YouTube is as powerful as it is. As long as you are charismatic enough and you get people to pay attention to you, you have a lot of power as a let’s player. You get to kind of decide whether a game gets to see the light of day.
The barriers to entry in game development seem pretty low these days, is competition pretty fierce?
L: Mostly yes. I think most the competition is actually getting noticed in the first place. There is a sea of independent development.
C: I wasn’t ready for the hardest part of game development to be getting people to look at your game. It’s easy to get in, but getting the game out there is hard.
Do you see a future for Iggy? Any sequels, spin off games, merchandise, or anything else planned?
C: We want to do a game with as many microtransactions and DLC as possible!
L: Free to play! *laughter*
C: NO. We’ve been approached by people saying, “Please make a second one!” We definitely have plans for a second game, but right now we need to focus on paying back what we owe for making this. After that, we’ll look at whether we can financially create another game. It may not be “Iggy 2” right away, because we’d want to make it right. We did as good as we possibly could with this one, but there were so many things we had to leave out and things we could have done better. Iggy himself is a very marketable character. I’d love to get him on the Wii U and maybe get Nintendo to make an amiibo at some point. *laughter*
What advice would you have for someone just getting into game development?
C: Don’t give up. I’ve talked to quite a few people and I know from our personal story, there are a lot people who are onboard at the start. Originally we were supposed to have 4 or even 5 people doing this game with us, but after a couple of months we were down to 3, then just the 2 of us. That’s happened with numerous people. The project then just dies. The difference between making a game and not making a game is just doing it. You have to be committed to it and you have to tough it out. If you are fully committed to the project and you think someone else may not be, talk with them, find out if they really are committed. If they aren’t, have a backup plan. Try to think how you will continue the project if this person leaves. Don’t be afraid to learn new things and branch out. You have to be ready to do whatever it takes to finish it.
I’d like to thank Ginger Labs LLC for their time and I encourage everyone to give Iggy’s Egg Adventure a try. It’s a very well made platformer and you can grab it on Steam for $9.99. Check out their website at www.iggyseggadventure.com.