The OUYA is an exciting new frontier for many independent developers, and among the many capabilities of this Android-powered, open-source Kickstarted project is its potential to help open up new worlds for even the smallest developers and studios to become competitive and join the fun.
Take Eve Park of 1-Pup Games, for example. Working solo she’s managed to pour eight years of valuable industry experience into OUYA-exclusive launch title Pingo, an addictive poker-inspired puzzler that marks her first project for the upcoming console. Thankfully, we were able to pull the talented and super-busy Ms. Park aside for a in-depth chat about the future of OUYA development, her new company, and Pingo itself. She’s certainly one to keep an eye out for – check out her insights into the game industry below!
Freshly Updated with even more Dancing Penguin action – special thanks to Pingo artist Ryan Hudson for sending over high-res artwork (and don’t forget to check out his official webcomic Channelate right HERE!).
When did you decide to make the leap to developer after having worked in so many areas of the industry?
I decided to finally take the leap of faith and begin my own studio, the day the OUYA launched. I had always been quite happy working in a team, and helping to make someone else’s idea the best game it could possibly be. But I was a little frustrated with the lack of opportunities presently in Colorado, and I’d really like to stay here. So based on my diverse skill set, creating opportunity made a lot of sense. It also made a lot of sense and a small indie out of nowhere, to start with a new app market. In case the OUYA grows, I might be able to grow with it.
But to be honest, a big factor was that I was also deeply inspired and moved by the courage of Julie Urhman to challenge the current industry. I’m sure she could have just kept working for big players, but instead she decided to take a huge risk. The OUYA could have been a complete failure, and frankly only time will tell whether it ultimately is. But for the simple noble pursuit of awesome, she put her career and reputation at stake. She is my hero. I realized, if she could be bold enough to blaze trails with a new console, I could in my smaller way blaze my own. She inspired me to take my commitment to game development to the next level. And as an independent studio, I am able to take risks I never could if I had a publisher to answer to or a team to care for.
Pingo combines intriguing elements of established puzzle games to create something new. It seems to work well as a casual title as well. Was casual gaming the venue you always wanted to work in way back when you first started developing and why?
When I first decided that I wanted to make games, I imagined myself doing more hardcore titles like the games I grew up with. Warcraft II and Diablo were among my favorite games growing up, and I dreamed of working for Blizzard. But my first job in the industry happened to be in casual games and it turned out to be a really good fit for me. For eight years I’ve been making casual games, and I love it.
I like the idea of trying to make a game that anyone can enjoy. If someone has a bad day, they can come home and play a little game to take the edge off. Play is a really important part of a happy, healthy life. Casual games fulfill that need without a great investment or time commitment.
How long has Pingo been in development for the OUYA?
Development for Pingo began in January as an entry for the OUYA Create contest. While it did not win, I did receive a lot of positive feedback on the game so I decided to keep working on it as an OUYA launch title.
How different was developing for an unreleased console rather than an established one? What were some challenges unique to OUYA you found yourself facing?
Developing for the unreleased OUYA has been really challenging! Because so far, it’s been a moving target. There’s been several updates to the Unity OUYA SDK since the OUYA Create contest, and a few OUYA updates as well. I have to say, that these transitions have all been really smooth, thanks to Tim Graupmann, who’s been developing the Unity OUYA package. He’s done a really great job with it. I sincerely believe, if it hadn’t been for his work and his support of the community, there would be a lot less launch titles on the OUYA.
Nonetheless, the development kit has been a work in progress. There are a lot of things that you had to figure out and setup manually back in January that today have been integrated and automated. The current SDK is pretty slick, and can be integrated into Unity in a couple of minutes.
What are your thoughts on the ways that OUYA could potentially revolutionize the games industry and development for indie teams?
The success of the Kickstarter shows that the concept really resonated with people. I think people are really hungry for something like this.
I believe part of the problem with console games is they are just too expensive to develop for, there’s not a lot of people who can afford to do it. And they also can’t afford to take big risks. Ironically, what makes indie games so great is that a lot of them aren’t. In order to make something truly great, you have to have the freedom to experiment and prototype. Which means you also have to have the freedom to fail. Not every innovative experiment can be a winner, but those that succeed are the types of games that move the industry forward and inspire us all.
We have this kind of freedom in other places, but I’m excited to have a brand new market.
The OUYA game jam seems to have opened doors that may have previously been closed to you, allowing you to open 1-Pup, getting more exposure, and other valuable input. Ultimately, how do you think people will respond to this simple yet ingenious little game?
I really can’t say. I’ve gotten a lot of really positive feedback from people. I think it’s a fun and clever game, and I think it has the potential to be a really successful game. On one hand, it combines familiar mechanics into an all original experience. But on the other hand, the playing cards might put off more core players. An original game might also put off players of card games who may not wish to deviate from the familiar classics. I’m looking forward to seeing which way it goes.
Why did you decide to choose OUYA as your platform of choice over Xbox 360 or mobile devices for your new game
Were it not for the OUYA, I would develop for mobile, and I still will. However, it’s a hard uphill climb for any new developer or modest resources to acquire a large enough install base to make a splash in either iOS or Android. And I’m prepared to do so. But the OUYA offered me a fresh opportunity to be first to market. Should the new console grow, I hope to grow with it.
What are the greatest pieces of advice you can offer to those looking to get into development, independent or otherwise? What languages do you find the most useful and which tools are the most user-friendly, in your experience?
I chose Unity and C# because they had huge communities, prolific support and were wonderfully cross platform. There’s a free version you can fiddle with for as long as you like, and there are plenty of free quality tutorials available on the internet. However, I admit that I hadn’t fully investigated Cocoa or Corona at the time. There are quite a few really great free game engines out there. Unity is a great option, but I warn you, you’re going to want the Pro version if it ends up to be a serious project. At $1,500 per seat it’s a bargain compared to licensing a 3D game engine in the not so distant past. But that can still be a lot for an indie developer.
As a sort of game industry entrepreneur myself (working with a staff of one to promote myself, to make a name for myself) I can see you’re working night and day to make this project a reality. It’s a mammoth undertaking for a team, let alone one person. Are you going to try to add more people to the team to handle some of the workload down the line?
There is a beauty and simplicity to working alone. However, I will certainly consider adding a few team members in the future. It’s always a pleasure to work with talented individuals who share my passion for game development.
What’s next for 1-Pup Games after Pingo? Are you looking to go bigger and create a different type of game?
I have not committed to any particular project yet, but I expect it to be quite different. It will probably be bigger than Pingo, but not big.
For more on 1-Pup Games’ Pingo be sure to check out their official site right HERE!!