Mark Warner has a very interesting sense of humour. Its a mix of dark, grumpy, mischievous and a little adventurous which is all seen in the work completed so far on Cadence is Elsewhere. Mark and I have developed a bit of a Twitter rapport over the last couple of months with our gentle ribbing about each others ‘side of the pond’ and the spelling of ‘maths’ (not ‘math’, Mark). So when I found the assignment to interview Mark, I had to jump in and claim it for myself.
I became aware of Cadence is Elsewhere in August because a couple of Twitter followers had re-tweeted the link to the KickStarter. Naturally my eye was drawn to the big pink teddy bear (it is pink after all) and then I discovered the game and the beautiful artwork and gameplay that had been achieved to that point. But Mark was having a really rubbish year and a lot hinged on this KickStarter as you will find out.
Mark, as someone who grew up with ‘Choose your own Adventure’ books and text adventure games, it fills me with happiness to see the genre isn’t dead! Is this a genre close to your own heart?
Did you know they still publish “Choose your own Adventure?” My oldest daughter works in a library and they totally still stock them. Or something very like them, I forget.
Er….Moving on then.… RP shuffles papers wildly trying to look for more questions….
The artwork and graphics are both different from each other but both just as beautiful. Did you produce the artwork yourself as well as the graphics in game?
Ha, no, the voxel art is OK but not up to the standard of the project, but thank you for the flattery anyway! The 2D character and promo work is done by J Whitney, who is an AMAZING artist. She’s recently graduated from art school, which is unbelievable to me given the quality of her work. Check out her portfolio. She’s been a dream to work with and I hope that the project will take off so that I can commission her again!
You worked in the industry for a long time before quitting for your health. Has this made the creation of Cadence is Elsewhere easier or harder?
Well, unfortunately my work before was all in corporate IT, so I’ve got no head start on networking or contacts to get the project seen, ideas heard, or make funding more likely! However, 20 something years of programming experience does make it a lot easier, I think, to pick up various tools like Unity and C# and run with them almost right away. I’ve also done digital art as a hobby forever (and sadly have never gotten very good at it!), so that means I can start a bit ahead of the learning curve with tools like Maya 3D and Substance Painter, which I’ve begun using most recently to retool ‘Cadence’s’ look to make it more as I envisage.
Cadence is Elsewhere isn’t a new project. I know you have recently started up a Patreon but didn’t have as much success for your KickStarter as you would have liked. What is different about Patreon that you think will better suit your project?
To be perfectly frank I’m not entirely sure it will work! Ha! It’s an experiment. A number of our KickStarter backers encouraged me to start a Patreon when our campaign came up short. I think it might be more successful if I can get the word out mostly because backers (or patrons) will see a more immediate return in the form of incremental rewards as the project progresses, but I can’t be sure until I try it out.
I’m sure you have dissected this to death but any ideas why the KickStarter wasn’t the success it could have been?
I think there’s all sorts of reasons. Chiefly, the campaign was rushed due to my own personal circumstances. Because I was forced to leave my job because of very serious health issues (a seizure disorder has caused me multiple cardiac arrests, 3 fractures in my spine, and more fun), I had immediate financial needs. Namely: the mortgage was due. So, in what was in my opinion an insanely short interval (about 9 weeks), my collaborators and I managed to put together enough of a game and promotional art for a trailer. Sadly, a huge percentage of indie games took a hit on KickStarter this Summer.
I think Summer is hard on KickStarter to begin with especially video games, but with a couple of high profile indie failures (or perceived failures) fresh in people’s minds,everyone has had an uphill battle. And in our case, we started without any community around our game at all. Huge hill to climb! Our next campaign will have much more time spent and hopefully, a larger founding community ready to support us at launch.
That’s what we spectacular types at Orange Bison aim to do!
So, apart from our brilliant website of course, what else does an Indie developer need to succeed these days? Its an ocean full of fish out there so how do you get noticed?
I think, quite honestly, that while a great game and a good concept are key, they’re about 25% of getting recognized. The other 75% being a strong community who believe in your idea, and not a small helping of luck, either. With such a crowded field, being noticed by the right folks is huge. You need the social media platforms that are going to propel you to indie fame. Gone are the days when excitement over KickStarter as a platform was enough to get you noticed with a scrawled plan on the back of a napkin, for good or for ill.
For a solo developer like yourself, what does the money generated from these drives mean to you?
Heh, it means that not only can I pay my brilliant collaborators, but that I can keep the lights on and my children fed. It’s a pretty big deal. This project isn’t a hobby for me anymore. I think there’s pros and cons to indie games as a side endeavour. I find the pros enormous, such as being able to not only dedicate more hours, but more focus in the best hours of the day, and have incredible motivation while I’m working. The cons, obviously, are worrying about that pesky mortgage and electric bill. This is my livelihood, sink or swim.
I love seeing how you involve your daughter in your game design. Is she an aspiring game developer herself?
My youngest is definitely an artist, but I don’t know about game development. She does enjoy programming a toy robot she got as the result of our backing another crowdfunded project not long ago, and she does enjoy building obstacle courses for her older sister in Disney Infinity. Mostly, she’s an artist, and will be quick to tell you that she’s moved on from 2D drawings to 3D paper craft and sculpture, so I’m not sure if I’ll be getting much more Rosalind fan art. Lately she’s been building a growing army of pastel coloured bunnies from craft paper and toilet paper tubes…
What’s your advice for aspiring developers taking their first steps in the world of Indie game creation? Any hints and tips from someone who has worked as part of something bigger and for themselves too?
When I succeed at any of this I’ll be sure to let them know. LOL! Right now I think my only advice would be that collaborators can seriously improve the look and feel of your project, and that you’d better be prepared to pay them what they’re worth if you go looking for them. SO MANY people out there expecting artists to either work for free or get paid only when you do. Don’t do that, man. That’s bad mojo.
And finally your bonus question…I’m a little scared to ask….What inspired the Chewbacca thing?!
Hey, I was born in 1977. I have to like Star Wars! I built Chewbacca hoping to do local charity work such as at the area children’s hospitals. Sadly the Rebel Legion chapter in my area is a bit weak, but I’ve done one or two things for kids with cancer that people really appreciated and that were also a lot of fun. And the local conventions are great, too. Chewie gets treated like a celebrity and I can’t even walk 3 feet without a request for a photo! That suit is a whole other story, about 2000 hours of work including “making” his fur from scratch using 6 different colours of hair extensions.
I always knew you were bonkers Mark, but woah!
Its such a shame, in my opinion, that such a talented mind cant find more support in a crowded field. A mix of circumstances have led to Mark trying to continue his game while paying out on medical bills and keeping a roof over his family’s head so I’ll link his Patreon so that you can see for yourself what his plans are (the page is worth a read anyway as its hilarious).
I know that Mark is going to keep trying with Cadence is Elsewhere and I know he got a huge boost from the game being Green-lit on Steam in early August (sadly the KickStarter didn’t give him the funds needed to continue developing at far as he wanted to). It just goes to show how much time developers have to invest not only in game creation, but the selling of game ideas in advance of developing them in to a playable article like the AAA games developers can. Don’t forget to find Mark on facebook and twitter to stay informed about how his project goes. Best of luck Mark, and I have ensured that all spellings are in UK English as I know you would want 😉