Dr. David's Indie Spotlight: Imagine Me dev on leaving Activision, forming a studio, evolving a game
It's no secret that starting your own studio is no small feat, especially when you come from a publishing giant. Still, that's exactly what Christopher Figueroa did. After being a part of 29 games for nearly three years at Activision, the developer began working on Imagine Me as lead programmer, launched a successful Kickstarter campaign, and co-founded KinifiGames.
Set in a dark world filled with dungeons, the game follows a boy named Robbe who's desperately trying to recapture his lost memories. Imagine Me just launched on Steam Early Access last month, and though it's still going through its beginning stages, the foundation for a solid platformer is most certainly evident.
I had the chance to ask Christopher a few questions about the game, forming a studio from the ground up, and working at Activision.
GameZone: Congrats on the Steam Early Access launch! First off, what are some of the games that inspired Imagine Me?
CF: I went to school for game development and all I wanted to do was make a game. I would go to the Game Developers Conference and see all these people my age making games, and I just wanted to be a part of it.
GZ: The controls are incredibly precise and actually remind me a bit of Super Meat Boy. Did that game play any influential role?
CF: No. Due to difficulty, I think people compare us to Super Meat Boy, but in reality, Imagine Me is nothing like it. Imagine Me is about air control. Trampolines will shoot you in the air and you have to avoid spikes and holes in the floor. I couldn’t make a game half as good as Ed and Tommy do.
GZ: The graphics of Imagine Me are very clean and minimalistic and almost have a NES-like look to them. How much of this visual direction will translate over to the final version of the game?
CF: The current state is alpha, so it's prototype art. We actually are doing a huge overhaul on the art, and its going to reflect the cover image of Imagine Me. Zac Duff, the artist, is from Australia, and he does some amazing things!
GZ: Speaking of which, what are some of the bigger changes or additions you're hoping to add to the game as development continues?
CF: Random generation is the biggest thing we are adding. Its going to change the game completely. The current levels will almost be a tutorial for the random generation.
My favorite part of the new random generation room is that you can get the luck of the draw and have a wonderfully easy time until you get near the door. It's funny to watch people be so happy they got to the door that easily only to be surrounded by spikes.
GZ: Ideally, when would you like to have Imagine Me completed?
CF: Our target is late May for the final release on Steam.
GZ: Let's talk a little about KinifiGames. While a part of the indie dev scene, you have experience that goes back to Activision. How was it going from a major publisher and developer to building your own studio from the ground up?
CF: Starting your own studio isn’t easy. I had to remake all the contacts I had back at Activision such as Steam. The weirdest part was everything I’ve known about game development through Activision didn’t translate to KinifiGames. I had to remind myself not to take some of the things I learned from Activision.
GZ: What's been the hardest and easiest thing about being an indie dev?
CF: Depends on the day, but overall it's finances. We used Kickstarter, Humble preorder sales, and Steam sales to make Imagine Me and continue its development, but we aren’t full indie yet. I still work a day job. I wish that I could make games for people full-time, and I probably will in the future, but we just aren’t there yet.
The easiest part is if there is a decision to be made, we just do it. At Activision you had to talk to tons of people and get things approved. As an indie, you can do whatever you want. There are no rules.
GZ: On the Imagine Me Kickstarter page, you stated that you intend on working on more games in the future, not just this project. Is the KinifiGames team currently considering any particular game ideas that you can share?
CF: Everyone and their grandma has a game idea and we aren’t any different. I have so many ideas, and sure, there might be something coming up, but you’ll just have to wait and see.
GZ: You just attended GDC. How was that experience? Did you show off Imagine Me to the public? If so, how was it received?
CF: I love GDC. I get to see my friends from all over the world one time a year and it's in beautiful San Francisco! We did not show Imagine Me off because we were running around with press, seeing talks, and going to round table events. It was actually a nice break from development on Imagine Me.
GZ: Is there anything else you may want to let game players know about Imagine Me and KinifiGames?
CF: This is only the start. A lot of people always ask, “What's next?” but we have plenty of things happening in the future, and I’m so excited to update Imagine Me and make it a game that is challenging and fun.
I'd like to thank Christopher and KinifiGames for taking part in this interview. Imagine Me is the studio's debut project, and it's definitely a promising endeavor. Already the controls are incredibly fluid, and the levels are enjoyably challenging. Of course, changes and additions are coming as the game's still in development, and the dev team just added random level generation.
Imagine Me is available on Steam Early Access for $9.99, and it's also in development for the Wii U.
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