Interview – Fun Infused Games

This morning, Fun Infused Games released Trivia or Die onto the world. Achievement Locked chatted to Kris Steele to find out more.

I guess the first (most obvious) question is: how does one go from out of control hyperships, to game shows?

I started Trivia or Die while working my second release Abduction Action!, actually, long before I even thought up the idea for Hypership Out of Control. The game got tabled when I started to really focus on finishing Abduction Action! and stayed that way throughout the development of Hypership. It was only after I finished the reverse wave update to Hypership that I got back to Trivia or Die. I figured it wouldn’t take long to complete the game from that point and didn’t want my previous efforts to be wasted.

As for why I created a game in this style, I’m a trivia fan actually. I used to play What The?! and Avatar Quizcall a lot but I felt there were things I could improve upon with my own game, namely the types of questions being asked and the speed at which questions were being asked (it felt like too much unnecessary waiting between questions on the other games). I wanted to add some new twists too in order to liven the game up and make it more accessible to a general audience, which is where the insults and the idea of killing off the losers came from.

You find killing off players more accessible? I guess we can be thankful that you design games and not quiz shows!

So, you thought it wouldn’t take long, did that turn out to be the case in the end or were there any stumbling blocks?

I figure XBLIG has more casual or non-trivia fans than hardcore ones. Killing off players, adding funny insults, and avatar support too are all things that will help make the game more appealing to these casual fans and get them into a game they might otherwise dismiss as uninteresting. And yes, it is probably a good thing I don’t make real game shows  because I don’t think anyone would be willing to participate in them.

The game ultimately took a month or so long to finish than I anticipated. While getting the core of the game done went rather quickly, it took a lot longer to polish the game to the level I wanted. A big part of this was because of the avatars. I do the vast majority of my development and testing on the PC but you cannot display avatars on the PC. I had to do a lot more testing on my Xbox, which is unfortunately not in the same room as my office. Each time I ran a new build of the game, I was forced to get up and go into another room. It also took much longer to create the 500 questions in the game. I was ready with the rest of the game last week but I didn’t have the questions finished until this past weekend.

How was it developing with avatars for the first time, were there any constraints that caused you problems?

I had to learn a few new things in order to get avatars into my game but it wasn’t anything majorly difficult. All my previous games have been completely 2D and avatars are 3D objects so there were some differences in setting up how to draw them and position them on the screen. Once that was setting, it was pretty easy to work with them and interact with them.

I’m not an animator so I relied on the stock animations included with the avatars for Trivia or Die. I did feel this was a bit limited in variety. I did find animations that I felt worked well for all the situations I needed them in but it would have been nice for instance to include multiple celebration animations or multiple dejected looks for when the avatars are being insulted.

Could you have made your own animations if you had the know how, then? I can’t remember seeing any non-stock animations in Xbox LIVE Indie Games, but then I guess that’s because many avatar games don’t get played for very long.

With avatar games being quite badly received generally by critics, did this affect your frame of mind while creating Trivia or Die? Was there anything you did to try and separate it from other avatar games?

Yes, you can create your own animations for avatars. I suspect not many games do this but it is very possible.

I see two major problems with avatar usage in XBLIG. One, avatars simply don’t fit some games and are only thrown in to help boost trial downloads. I could have easily put your avatar on the join screen in Hypership and called it an avatar game but that wouldn’t be adding to the game in any positive way. Two, some games exist purely because avatars tend to get extra attention and really aren’t even games in their own right if you removed the avatars.

In trivia games, avatars make sense. People like to play as themselves and the type of character an avatar is is the type of character you’d expect to see in a game show. We didn’t just add an avatar standing idly by in our game either, our avatars cheer when they win, look sad when they get insulted, and look frightened when they are dropped to their doom. We went out of our way to make it feel like avatars belonged in this game and I feel we succeeded in just that.

Is there anything you’d have liked to do, if you were using your own characters rather than avatars?

Had I used my own characters, I probably would have been more violent with them, think Super Meat Boy type stuff. You can’t do anything gruesome with avatars and you can only commit violence against them in a cartoonish type of way. I do wish I could have done this kind of stuff but I believe more gamers would have liked to play as their avatars than would have wanted the Mortal Kombat of trivia games.  If I port Trivia or Die to other platforms besides the Xbox, you might still get to see this.

Are there any future plans for Trivia or Die, either as a franchise or as updates to this title?

For the current Trivia or Die game, I will of course release an update if any bugs or issues are found in the game. I may do an update with more questions but how much more time I invest in this current game depends on how popular it is with gamers. I have done at least one update to each of my three previous releases for what it is worth.

I do believe there will be more Trivia or Die games too. Most likely they will be more genre specific in their questions, such as an Entertainment Edition that focuses on TV, Movies, and Video Games. Right now though I’m burnt out on writing trivia questions, I need to take some time to work on something else.

Themed editions sound excellent, but I can certainly understand the need for a break! What else are you working on? Where next for Fun Infused?

Right now Fun Infused Games is really busy. We’ve got three games that are pretty far along in development. First is the sequel to Nasty, called Nastier.

For a while I had an artist that was going to collaborate with me on this and really make the game look good but he ultimately didn’t have the time for it and I haven’t really worked on the game since we split ways a month or so ago. I really would like to make the game look a lot better like it would have with his help but its all up in the air right now.

Then I have this classic style platformer, which doesn’t currently have a name.

This is also a collaboration project I’m working on. We’ve got a full playable level and some other bits and pieces done.

Finally there is another platformer project that I plan to unveil in the next week or two. I’m working with a very talented artist to make something unique. We’ll be pushing hard to have this ready for Microsoft’s upcoming Dream Build Play. I think it will really stand out, it looks unlike any game I’ve ever played before.

I’m also exploring releasing our games on other platforms besides Xbox Live Indie Games. For instance I have done some work on a PC release of Hypership and have also started on making a HTML5 version of Hypership that you can play in your browser. I’ve also been trying out Unity3D as a game development tool and would love to be able to bring some of our titles to mobile platforms like iPhone or Windows Phone 7.

Blimey, sounds like I should probably leave you to it.

So, to sum up, tell us in a sentence why we should be buying Trivia or Die!

Trivia or Die will give you a ton of great trivia and a lot of laughs for only 80 MS points… that’s a steal any way you slice it!


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