Interview with Manchester indie game dev – Ginger Biscuit Games

At our Manchester Gamers Unite meetups, we are lucky to meet different indie games developers within the Greater Manchester area who bring their games (some of which that are currently in-dev), for our community to try out. Tim from Ginger Biscuit Games is one of the indie devs who lets our crazy bunch loose on his game.

I really enjoyed the multiplayer version of his puzzle-platformer Off And On Again (OAOA) and found myself intrigued about his game, and the local indie dev scene in general, which I thought you might also enjoy! Do check out the death match multiplayer clip below too.

OAOA deathmatch multiplayer game clip

Tell me a bit about OAOA:

OAOA tells the story of a dying world inside a computer system where you are the hero tasked with rebooting time. It is primarily a single player 2D platform game with a focus on puzzle and skill based challenges, where the game levels are created and destroyed during play.

There is also a 2-4 player local battle arena mode, each player has one projectile that can be thrown, but can’t be used again until they have caught it. The player can direct the throw and can “recall” the projectile to them by hitting fire again. I was basically trying to make the type of multiplayer that resulted in my brother throwing a controller at me when we were young. It looks frantic and chaotic at times, hopefully it is easy to pick up and play, but also has a certain degree in mastery through practice and skill.

Where did the idea for OAOA come from?

Storywise it grew out of what we are now calling “Fake News” and the idea of history repeating itself in a destructive pattern.

I came up with the idea of a world inside a computer that is created on startup, booms upon connection with the internet, but struggles to separate good information from bad, becomes corrupt and virus riddled and eventually needs a reboot and restore.

The player is created when the user initiates that process. Whilst this is a simple click of a button in our world it is the start of a quest for our hero character, tasked with activating an ancient artifact to reboot time to before the corruption took hold.

Whether the same mistakes can then be avoided however is the issue. Is the world destined to continue in a loop with our hero is repeatedly called upon to turn the system “Off And On Again”.

Can you tell me a bit about the development?

I was making games and tech demos for fun using a laptop on my daily commute whilst living in London. I started making a game where the levels were drawn on a sketchbook and the player controlled a stickman. This got good feedback at indie pub nights but I really didn’t know where I was taking it so I shelved the idea whilst working on a mobile racing game.

It frustrated me as it was a really good demo, I just couldn’t find a full game in it. It was much later that I came up with the idea for OAOA

I originally developed the demo in C++ with OpenGl, when I came back to it however I was using LibGDX, I started to port the code to this, but also saw a chance to have a look at Unity (Which I’d resisted for a while) with a project where the basic logic was already designed.

The main issue I have is time. I’m a father of two boys (4yrs and 1yr) and have a full time day job that has nothing to do with games. My laptop goes everywhere with me and I do development as and when I have spare minutes. If I was still doing everything in C++ with OpenGL I would be getting little done; Unity allowed me to get on with development at a much faster rate.

Screenshot of OAOA by Ginger Biscuit Games

How did you get into games dev?

I have always loved games and wanted to make games when other people were still saying they wanted to be train drivers and astronauts. Very little guidance was available and I always got funny looks when stating this to either teachers or careers advisers. The only school subject involving computers was IT, which in my school was paired with Business Management. So I drifted away from the idea by the time I’d left school.

I actually went to University to study Mathematics. In my first year I was living with a computer science student and spent more time on his coursework than my own. I took the wise option of quitting my Maths course and switching over to Software Engineering.

There was no specific gamedev courses or modules at the time but I put effort into learning OpenGL and started experimenting with my own demos. There wasn’t much of an Indie scene at that time either, Introversion were using the tag line “Last of the bedroom coders” but I think they were actually the forerunners of this current boom in indies.

I only really started making full games by myself when the Android and iOS came along. They allowed me to make something and put it in front of an audience with relatively little cost and with kit I already owned.

What made you want to be an indie developer as opposed to working for a triple a studio?

Having not yet made money doing this I’m still not sure I can properly call myself a proper indie developer!

After uni I did try to get jobs at AAA studios. I had quite a few interviews, jumped through a lot of hoops but ultimately never got my foot in the door.

So instead I worked in other industries, Space, Defence, Finance, Insurance… and kept doing my own game dev stuff separately.

The thing is, whilst I wanted to make games, I think the thing I really wanted was to work and socialise with like-minded people. I think I have been lucky as I have managed to find that outside of a big studio, initially in the London Indies community and subsequently in Manchester.

Is there a large indie developer scene in Manchester?

The dev scene in Manchester and the surrounding areas is huge, whether it is hobby devs, full time solo indies, small studios, publishers or indeed AAA development.

There is a community group called Gameopolis headed up by Simon Smith which is the best place to start if you want to find events and contacts. Gameopolis has run events with speakers from Microsoft, Sony, BBC, UK Games Fund to name a few. Last year they also organised “Jamchester” which saw 200 devs competing in a 48hr game jam.

There is a monthly pub night for Game Devs, a Play Testers meetup where devs can get feedback and help with their work and also events like Manchester Gamers Unite which hopefully can provide a crossover between devs and gamers.

There have been a good number of big indie games coming out of Manchester in the last couple of years, Titan Souls, Sub Level Zero, Ether One, Unbox, Filthy Lucre, Rude Bear Resurrection (due out soon) etc with many more inbound.

What do you think would help to grow the indie dev scene in Manchester?

Cooperation, between developers and community driven groups. There are lots of pockets of different communities that need to have more people crossing over between them. That is part of the goal of Gameopolis, to give people the visibility of all activities for Game dev in the Manchester area.

What advice would you give to games dev students who are looking to land their first job?

Attend game dev events, as many as you can. People call it networking, but it’s just making friends. Expand your social circle within the industry as most opportunities will come from places you don’t necessarily expect.

Keep your options open, and look at how your skills can be used in other industries. Games jobs at large studios are few, the bar is high and you still need to buy food and pay for a roof over your head. As long as the bills are paid you can get on with making your own stuff and setting up a team in your own time, so dont limit your CV to just games if you can help it.

Keep making stuff and share it with a group who will give you honest feedback. Accept that feedback even when you don’t like it :).

What’s your one pet peeve about gaming in general?:

Free-to-play on mobile. I’m not against the monetisation method, it’s more that some games have been ruined by being designed purely to drag out the IAP.

A good example of this is Dungeon Keeper, a classic PC game that I’d love to see a mobile adaption for and would happily pay a “premium” price for. Instead it was designed around ever increasing timers to unlock and build things. Now you can play these types of games without spending cash if you are willing to set something going and come back a day later for it to be built, but what is the point? It just gets you to the next slightly longer unlock.

My point is that the gameplay is missing and it is all about getting to that next timer.

I would love to see more games like XCom, Monument Valley, The Room, FTL on mobile. Games that aren’t free, but give me a game to play through rather than an exponential mountain to climb whilst offering to climb it for me if I pay.

To find out more about how you could showcase your game at Manchester Gamers Unite, or if you’re a gamer interested in attending the free monthly event, head to our Facebook page. To find out more about OAOA head to Ginger Biscuit Games.

Sugar and Games

I'm a video games fanatic with a particular passion for RPGs. I started gaming when I was 5/6 and got into the Pokemon series and have never looked back. I started this blog as a place to share my thoughts on new releases, relive some nostalgia and share upcoming indie games. I run monthly gaming events in Manchester (Manchester Gamers Unite), at which indie devs share pre-release projects they are working on.

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