Interview with Abscure Games on Propel and Upcoming Projects
  • Can you tell us a bit about the people behind Abscure Games – who are you guys and what are your backgrounds?

Technically there are only two of us. I do the programming of pretty much everything (games, website, etc…) and most of the more shiny graphics (website design, logos, all that jazz). Ethan, the founder of Abscure manages pretty much everything else. He makes lots of awesome graphics for the games, and manages most of Abscure’s PR and things like that. Occasionally we will call in help from other people -especially when it comes to game music- but they just help out for a project or two. When it comes to game design, both Ethan and I constantly brainstorm about general game stuff.

As for our backgrounds, there’s so much to tell. I know Ethan resides in some far off place called “America”, seems like everybody lives there these days. He’s an avid (American) Football fan, and generally a great guy.

I live in good ‘ol New Zealand. A few years ago I was having trouble finding anybody from here that actually made games, but now they’re cropping up all over the place which is a nice thought when the country you live in isn’t on some world maps. I’ve only been programming for a few years, but I’ve made good use of it. I make games (which you know), but I’m also in a robotics team full of a great bunch of people, who actually won the world championships last year. Did I mention that I am insane?

  • What got you into game development and how was Abscure Games formed?

My story is a bit boring. I Googled “Game Maker”, and there it was. I was about ten at the time so I really didn’t get anything good done. Just a hamburger exploring a horrible brown landscape and I think some blue baubles were involved. Came back to it after a few years and started actually programming something half decent, loved what I was doing and couldn’t stop it.

I wasn’t around for the time of Abscure’s forming, I just found the team on a Game Maker help website. It had a few more members when I joined the team, but they have since left except for Ethan and I. The reason for calling it “Abscure” is a secret that I will take to my death, but I can give you a hint. It’s NOT a combination of “abstract” and “obscure”.

  • We admire your philosophy of making games that are free or cheap! How do you stay motivated to create new games without any financial reward?

There are many reasons for this.

  • Ethan and I like people playing our games, and if we make people pay to play them, our audience goes down dramatically, and our audience isn’t that big anyway.
  • Leading on from that audience point, we’re going to make almost no money with such a small audience. My endeavours with Launch, a game that I made just to see what happened if I tried going commercial weren’t very pleasing.
  • When making a game that costs money, things just get complicated. You spend time managing the legal things that could be spent making games.
  • Paying for stuff sucks.
  • Ethan and I are young, money isn’t too much of an object yet. And when it is, we’ll find better ways to make it.

The list goes on, and on, and on. Making free/cheap games just seems better.

  • We really enjoyed Propel, it’s pretty challenging! What was the inspiration for this game?

The mechanics of the game were already set out when I made the Fall Game, Ethan and I made it like that because we just liked things simple. One day I was replaying the Fall Game for fun and I realised that it was a good game that never really got enough attention because it was made when Abscure was still young. I set out to remake it, and change it quite a bit. I went with a neon feel because I wanted to try something a little different, and then I set out to make everything super polished so the game would just feel fluent. To put it short, the inspiration for Propel was mainly every neon-ey game out there, and every gravity changing platformer out there.

  • Are there any hits or tips you can give to help us crack Propel?

There isn’t much to beating the tricky levels, it’s just practising until your hands get sore. A really important thing to try is anticipating things. One level is just a series of challenges, mostly in quick succession. You need to remember what challenges are where and keep your fingers at the ready until you have a map of the level, and the key presses you need to do, in your head at all times.

  • Were there any elements you were hoping to incorporate that didn’t make it into the final game?

Plenty. Mainly revolving around the level editor. I wanted to have some sort of level system that saved the names of the levels you have into a database and you could select them instead of using that ugly file browser. I also wanted to have an online level database that you could upload and download to. I guess time got the better of me and I just had to release the game in the end.

  • Looking back on Propel and the other games you’ve developed to date, what things are you most proud of?

Definitely Ruined. Ethan and I had an idea in our head for that game from the beginning, and it came through. It’s just so much fun to design a world and watch it come together like that, with a story and everything to go with it. The game just felt right and it was a real shame that it didn’t get noticed more than it did.

There will be more games like it, though. That’s the great thing about making games.

  • Have you got any other projects in the pipeline you can tell us about – either in production or at the ideas stage?

There’s one game Ethan and I have been working on since early last year, but haven’t managed to work on it for a while due to other things. It’s called the World Within and it’s a story driven platformer with some extra things thrown in. It will definitely be easier than Propel, but still a bit of a challenge. We’re taking a different approach to the mechanics of the game, like we do with all of our projects, so it should be something worth playing.

Something closer to completion is Launch being made into freeware, expect it in the next week or so. It wasn’t selling any more, in fact it barely sold in the first place. I didn’t want it to just shrivel away and die so I decided to tweak a few things and make it free to download.

You should be seeing a Flash game from me by the end of the year, I don’t know what it will be about or how it will play but it will be Flash.

  • If time and money were no object, what kind of game would you see yourselves producing?

Old school 3D platformers is one way to put it. I don’t mean old school as in retro graphics, and not really pre 2000 either. Just 3D platformers how they used to be made before FPSes took the show in the commercial gaming industry. Games series like Jak & Daxter and Rayman have really inspired me to do what I do and I want to see myself making games like them one day. Alas, making games to that degree does take a lot of money (making 3D models ain’t cheap), and even more time than that, so it could be quite a while before you see me making those kind of games.

  • Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions about Propel – and we wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours! We look forward to hearing from you again.

It was fun answering your questions! I hope you find enough good games to review until another one of mine is finished – if mine is good that is. Ta ta for now.

the author

A keen gamer since her parents bought her a NES at the age of 7, Zyle’s more recent gaming preference is for RPGs, Turn Based Strategies and Puzzle games. She’s pretty terrible at FPS and RTS but enjoys them all the same, and is currently avoiding MMOs due to a lack of time! Favourite game of all time: Ultima Online.