Video game developers, they are the dedicated heroes labouring away for hours making our industry and hobby possible. As a consumer of video games, I have always wanted to know what video game developers are really like; do they play games, do they see the industry the same way as a consumer does? Thankfully, Nico King, Artistic Director at Chaos Theory Games – an up and coming Australian game development studio – had some one on one time with me and spilled the beans.
King’s love of video games started when he was about 12, “after being inspired by many GameCube and PS2 games that I would play for endless hours.” He and his friends, James Lockrey and Will Bagley, “were always coming up with interesting new concepts, filling all of these multi-coloured notebooks with ideas and sketches.” The trio were consumed by these ideas, constantly discussing their designs which “were all almost direct clones of games we all enjoyed.” Nevertheless, it was the beginning of a love which would see King, Lockrey and Bagley go on to form Chaos Theory Games.
“At that age, we had no clue how games were made beyond a basic knowledge of the kind of skills involved. We’d heard of the mystical art of programming and heard wonders of its wizardry, I practised my pencil drawing on occasion, but beyond that it was still a mystery. All we knew was that we wanted to make them, and we all had that expectation in our mind that that’s what we would just end up doing by the time we’d finished school.”
After years of research, King and friends “had a good idea about what it took to design and create games, and we had automagically managed to all align within the three perfect development roles… an art guy (King), a code guy (Bagley), and a sound/everything in between guy (Lockrey).”
While the team knew the lengths they would have to go to develop games, none of them had any of the practical skills required to do anything about it. “It was the first time I was ever really exposed to code by taking a software class in high school.”
This would not stop the trio. At the age of 18, King, Lockrey and Bagley formed Chaos Theory Games and began planning their “first five big releases that would all be a number one hit, as you do when first forming a brand new company with no clue what you’re doing.”
After the team had finished High School, they were eager to improve as quickly as possible, attending specialised university/college classes. “We were trying to get our first project off the paper and into our hands, but as we’ve always criticised ourselves for, it was horrendously over-ambitious and it was kind of lucky that we realised this early on and decided to catch ourselves in the act.”
King, Lockrey and Bagley then decided to focus on more realistic prototypes. With reference to an episode of Extra Credits, King told me, “we’re still learning how to fail fast and hard, get our mistakes out of our system, and find out where our strengths are.”
Based on his early attempts at making video games, King offers this advice for those thinking about dabbling in video game design, “do it. Read every article that comes with a ‘WARNING: MAKING GAMES IS HARD STICKER’ and take that under consideration, but if it’s what you want to do, nothing is too hard. With the number of free tools on the Internet, easily available software, the rise of digital distribution and self publishing, game design is more accessible than ever. I’ve enjoyed every day working on my own ideas, and if you think that’s what you want to do to, there’s nothing standing in your way but you, and time – time’s a bitch.”
Having recently completed his studies at Sydney’s Academy of Interactive Entertainment, King does not plan to stop making games. “For me, games are still in their infancy and because the technology that games are built upon evolves so fast, the goal of exploring the complexities of the medium is both a moving and expanding target. It’s the ultimate medium, the Gesamtkunstwerk of human kind: to be able to create worlds that people engage in and refer to their experiences in the first person, as if it’s happened directly to them, is amazing. There is so much that I feel I have to offer to the field, and even a lifetime’s work of learning and contributing probably won’t be enough for me.”
“The big game-changer, to me at least, is the rise of virtual reality tech. If my career is going to take me anywhere, I certainly hope it’s there. We are only just starting to see the beginning of technologies that I would dream about as a kid. Hardware like the Oculus Rift, the Omni treadmill, the new Kinect camera or other motion controllers open up quite literally a whole new world of experiences to create. Once those technologies have overcome their important technical challenges and become mass-market affordable, which won’t be too long now (we all hope), I’ll be developing for those platforms as fast as I can, if not before.”
King has ambitious goals, but, “For now, it’s all about what we can accomplish with the limited funding and man hours that we have access to. I’m keen to experiment with all kinds of platforms: from mobile, to console, to desktop. Our company mission statement, “We strive to design innovative and immersive experiences that challenge, inspire and entertain.” really sums up my approach at this point in time.”
Come back to read part 2 next week where King talks about PC, console and mobile development and Chaos Theory Game’s array of games.
Thanks to James Lockrey for the use of the Logo.