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This month our guest is Nick "Wildcat" Chionilos:

Q: How many guys and girls are working in your team (excluding Silica, of course :) ?

A: VERTEX Games is a subsidiary of VERTEX, Inc., an 85+ person company. Our current game team consists of one developer/programmer, one graphic artist, and one texture artist/musician. When needed, we can draw on the resources of VERTEX Inc, for some outstanding programmers, and extra people to help out as needed.


Q: Have you worked with other game development tools before starting to use the Acknex engine?

A: I have worked with a couple very simple "no programming needed" tools like Click-N-Play, and Multimedia Fusion to start with. These were very frustrating though because they did not play up to my strengths as a programmer and all games that you can click together will end up with a similar "feel". I quickly moved on to the Duke Nukem and Unreal level editors to learn the basics of level design and how to interact with a 3D engine. I quickly discovered that these tools were either too inflexible or the licensing was too expensive to seriously consider using them for my projects. 3DGS was a perfect fit for price and flexibility.


Q: What tools are you using for models and sounds?

A: Since our strengths are in coding, we often barter code for models and sound. When we do models in house, we usually use Truespace for more complicated models, and MED for the simpler ones. We skin with Photoshop, and we use Acid Music for background music, and Goldwave for sound editing and effects creation.


Q: Your copy protection system looks good. How does it work (from client's point of view) and why is it better than other copy protection systems?

A: From the clients point of view, you get a number of trial uses of the game before it goes into unregistered mode. At any time, a user can enter a special code that is unique to their PC and register the game to make it fully playable. What makes this protection so cool is that you can have someone copy their registered version of the game and give it to a friend, and on the friends machine it will run in the trial mode until they register it. Since we are distributing our software on the shareware concept, we want to make it easy to get our software on as many machines as possible, but we don't want a registered version of our game to get out and impact our sales. This system works extremely well for us, plus it was designed with A5 in mind.


Q: Do you miss an important Acknex feature? Which one?

A: The Acknex engine has come a long way since A4, but I believe that it's database commands still have no substance. While we have the ability to add rows to a database with the existing file commands, without the ability to delete or modify specific rows, the DB system offers nothing that we can't do with load/save or existing file commands. Graphically, I'd love to see bump and texture maps for models and dynamic shadowing on terrains. While I know it would have to be used sparingly for speed reasons, I'd love a flag that would allow polygon-level collision for models.


Q: It looks like you're doing self - marketing, therefore you get much more than the usual 7-15% for every copy that is sold through a publisher. Are you happier with your marketing method?

A: By self-marketing, we obviously don't need to sell nearly as many copies to make a profit, but the down side is that it takes a tremendous amount of work to promote a game and get it available from as many sources as possible and this takes time away from building new games. On the whole, we are pleased with our approach. If we ever create a game that we want to get on store shelves, rest assured that we would go through a publisher. It is amazingly hard/costly to get shelf space as an independent and those are deep, uncharted waters for us!


Q: What sale - increase techniques would you recommend to us?

A: The most important way to increase sales is to keep a clear idea of what will make your game special and implement it from the earliest design stages. The unique elements of your game are what will lure people in, so don't compromise on them! Show your customer right away why your game is better than the competition. Remember that if you don't grab their interest and keep it, you may not get a second chance!


Q: Do you plan to release a new game in the near future? Can you give us a few details about it?

A: We are currently working on an arcade style space game called "Aethers Cradle" that should be ready in a few months. The game has simple, elegant game play that is tremendously easy to learn and a lot of fun. One of our hooks is the visual appeal of our game elements: the good guys have this beautiful, organic, ethereal quality similar to the technology of the aliens in the movie "The Abyss", while the visual appeal of the bad guys is in their mechanical lines, and the precision of how they work together to thwart your "happily ever after" aspirations. The contrast in the way the two sides interact make it mesmerizing to watch, and will hopefully generate that "You have to see this" reaction in players that will lead to them sharing the game with all their friends (especially to lure them into the multiplayer versions of the game)!


Q: Would you offer to act as a publisher for other Acknex developers? If so, why should we choose to work with you?

A: We would definitely consider acting as a publisher for Acknex developers. If a game met our standards, we KNOW how to prepare an Acknex game for the shareware market. We can provide our security / registration solution, file encryption, installation routines, web space / bandwidth, game promotion, and our E-commerce solution. That will save a game developer both time and money. Plus, I **guarentee** that a game published with us will generate a lot more than 7-15% for it's creators!


Q: Do you have a few tips for the newbies?

A: I have two very important tips for newbies:

- Start small! There is a lot to learn in game development, and it is not fair to expect to jump in and make the next great selling game in a few weeks while you learn all the tools. Start by building **tiny** actions for entities and learning how the pieces fit together... THEN move on to that game you've always wanted to make! My first actions were to make an object spin in the direction of an arrow key that you pressed. After that was working, I discovered that it looked a lot like an object tumbling in space. That simple spin_the_object routine SLOWLY developed into the Space Tool and the Space Flight Workshop available on the download page... one step at a time.
- Make games that play up your strengths and minimize your weaknesses: VERTEX Games is very strong on programming and weak on model making and animation. Did you notice that our first game, VERTASM, has only two models: a sky sphere (which we also used for planets), and the blocks that are the game elements, and NO animations! Making Vertasm taught us Plenty. NOW we know enough to tackle Aethers Cradle!

Good Luck from WildCat and all of us at VERTEX Games!