LiveCoder + Gamer - Interview with Alex Seropian

We had the pleasure of interviewing one the the most successful game developers in the world - Alex Seropian [he even has his own Wikipedia page] Alex has also been involved in Armenia for many years, and to find out that he actually uses LiveCode was a super bonus. We were inspired by his success and we think you will be too. - iTechnology.am Editors

iTechnology.am: You have started your incredible career back in the 1990s. What has changed since then in game development market?
Alex Seropian: It fascinates me how the games business has come full circle since I got my start right out of college.  Back in the 90′s a few people could come together, create something amazing on a shoe string budget and release it to the world as shareware or on floppy disk and create a business out of that. Once the consoles started gaining in popularity and game distribution became dominated by retail sellers the cost to create and distribute game software became prohibitive for smaller independent teams. Innovation suffered and quality often took a back seat to the spur of the moment priorities of publicly traded game publishers. Now, because of digital distribution and new mobile platforms plus a resurgence in PC gaming we see a lot of independent development happening. A ton of innovation is going on right now and small indie developers are all over the place. We can now reach a much, much bigger and global audience quicker than ever before. And developers now have a direct communication channel to their players. It’s definitely a great time to be making games.

What are the current game development trends you are seeing that our reader should be aware of?
Obviously there’s a huge focus on mobile platforms right now as more and more of the world is accessing the net and content via these amazing devices.  It’s important for anyone thinking of building products for a fast moving market to look forward instead of backward. One of the biggest mistakes large companies make is to look at what’s popular today and try to replicate it. There’s a huge temptation to think “Wow, this Minecraft thing is awesome, we should make something like that!”  But the truth is, kids today don’t want something like Minecraft because they already have Minecraft thank you very much. They want something new. It’s hard to predict what that is, but it helps to set yourself twelve months down the road instead of twelve months in the past. That’s the great trend behind today’s indie developers - they are building new stuff.

A Video Documentary of the Making of Midnight Star

“Our friends at Armenia’s Tumo Center, an open media studio in the heart of Yerevan, thought it would be cool to document the making of Midnight Star for the curious students over there…we worked together to provide Tumo with an in-depth look inside a core mobile game studio.”-Alex Seropian For the non-Armenian reader unaware of Tumo, you can watch a video to learn more about this astonishing center by watching here.

Episode 01 - Industrial Toys Introduction
Episode 02 - Going Mobile
Episode 03 - Creating the Game
Episode 04 - Story & Characters
Episode 05 - Game Design
Episode 06 - Engineering
Episode 07 - Music Composition

 

As a both developer and founder of several game developing studios, what is the key to your success and where do you focus on: building a team or developing a great idea?
I’ve always looked at the project at hand as being “the team”. For me it always starts with the people that come together and the culture that binds and motivates them.  The team has to have a common purpose they believe in - a strategy. And finally they need the commitment and leadership to execute at the highest level. No awesome new game idea matters if you don’t have the right people or the the right environment to build in.

You always like to mention that you preferred to open up your own business rather then work for someone else. But your career has been a back and forth between start-ups and corporations, any advise for young Armenian developers?
Trust your gut.  You’re young, you can screw some things up - that’s okay. The lessons you learn the hard way will be valuable for a lifetime.  You won’t know the answer to everything - especially if you are trying to do something new and interesting. Everyone will have opinions for you. But if you have a gut instinct - go with it.  The brain is hardwired to undermine you otherwise.

Being VP & GM of Core Games at Disney Interactive Studios seem like an incredible experience with such an iconic brand. What impact did that experience have on you?
Working at Disney was fantastic. There are so many amazing people there.  So much inspiration and drive came from being in an environment where everyone around you is clearly at the top of their game; be it Pixar, TV Animation, Disney World, ESPN - the list is long. Being amongst teams like that really makes you want to do something meaningful. Being independent you tend to derive that kind of inspiration from your competitors. Was quite interesting to get that from team mates.

This issue of iTechnology.am is focused on LiveCode. How does  Industrial Toys, your latest venture, use LiveCode and why have you chosen it over other more popular languages? 
We use LiveCode in a few ways. Primarily it is the underlying engine in our Midnight Rises graphic novel application.  Live Code made it really easy to get an app up and running super fast with just one scripter. That allowed us to experiment with the design, layout and features that make our take on the graphic novel format new and original. Because of its ability to extend to native code as well, we could also integrate some very specific features to connect our book with our mobile shooter game Midnight Star.  This kind of easy/quick startup combined with extensibility made it the perfect choice for us to power our app.

We also use LiveCode to develop some internal tools. Because of the speed with which we can create interfaces and the flexibility with which we can deploy apps, Live Code made it possible for us to produce tools for non-engineers to perform fairly technical tasks.

Editors Note: Industrial Toys has created an interactive eBook App using LiveCode to coincide with the game. watch Alex explain details about the book and this revolutionary idea.

 

What are the business advantages of using LiveCode?
From a business perspective it comes down to time. With LiveCode you can create a standalone app targeted at multiple platforms in minutes. Literally minutes. This frees you up to spend more time on design, features, what have you. With LiveCode you can do a lot more for a lot less.

Is there extra special advice or suggestions for Armenian developers?
Digital distribution and the various app stores have turned the video game market truly global. The barriers to entry for making games are the lowest they’ve ever been.  My advice is to get out there and make stuff!