Interview – Evan Skarin

Following on from Intertia!‘s tremendous win at the DICE Summit, caught up with the team leader on the project, Evan Skarin, to find out what’s next.

How do you feel about Inertia’s winning of all those awards?

Euphoric is close to describing how I feel, but really, the English language cannot possibly encapsulate my feelings.  When we won the Gamers Choice Award I was pretty excited.  When I sat next to Adam Sessler and he told me we won Technical Achievement it was bullet-time mode from there on out as he proceeded to say we won Achievement in Gameplay and the Grand Prize.  Despite being in slow motion, it felt like someone pressed the fast forward button as it was hard to grab onto the moment and savor the experience.  It was a weird feeling, but it is one I will remember forever.

How did development of the game work?

Inertia was a student project developed at The Guildhall at SMU over a total of about four months.  Our game is particularly unique as the initial team only had two months to come up with the concept and develop the game due to the strict time constraints placed on us via The Guildhall.  Unlike other entrants in the Indie Game Challenge (IGC), developing a game over a year or two was not an option.  We had no choice in what engine we wanted to use, we had three other classes which were just as demanding as the Inertia project, and we had a bunch of milestone presentations and additional class formalities that impeded our development.  Milestone presentations are definitely worth while, but the point is that Inertia was more of a learning experience as opposed to seeking to develop an award winning game.

How many people were involved in development and what was your involvement?

The initial team of five members had two months to develop the game.  These team members include John Bevis, Wayland Fong, Michelle Hayden, WIll Swannack, and myself.  As team lead, I was responsible for management of the project and team meetings.  I had to ensure we completed every milestone on a timely manner while upholding the highest level of quality.  Additionally, I prototyped and implemented the light effect that follows the character, created the third level, prototyped the scripting for the checkpoint system, pickup system, and fire hazard, and also created the art for the space background and data block pickup.  I was pretty much a producer, level designer, and artist at the same time, although my fellow teammates filled multiple roles as well.  That is just how it works in a small team.

After the semester of two months was over, Inertia development was assumed to be finished.  Fortunately, The Guildhall decided to create a production class and we were asked if Inertia could be worked on by a second team to add more content in order to release it on Xbox Live Indie Games.  With our blessing and guidance the second team created six more maps, reverse map mode, speed mode, cleaned up some of our code, implemented the shattering glass mechanic, and successfully submitted the game to Xbox Live Indie Games.  The team members for the second team include Brandon Stephens, Erasmo Simo, and Chris McCrimmons.  Upon getting the game up we decided at the last minute (literally three hours before the deadline) to submit the game to IGC.  Having been voted at The Guildhall as the Best Student Game we knew our game was fun, but we had no idea we would bring home the Grand Prize and beat all the professional teams for the Gameplay and Technical Achievement Awards.

This really is amazing.  I have said this before but I cannot say it enough, thank you to everyone that helped develop Inertia.  All of you made this a reality.

What the prize money go towards developing more Xbox LIVE Indie Games, or was this a one-off?

The prize money will be split evenly amongst all the team members.  As far as future development is concerned, Inertia Studios was born due to the success of our game, but who knows what will happen in the future.  We would love to have the opportunity to develop Inertia further, but considering many of the team members have jobs at companies such as Id, Microsoft Game Studios, Timegate, and Redfly it may be that this was just a one time deal.  Personally, I would love to develop more indie games with Inertia Studios, but who knows what opportunities may arise in the coming weeks from our success at IGC.

Regardless of what we decide, we strive to continue to make an impact on the industry be that via indie games or AAA titles.


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