If you’re into independent gaming and haven’t heard about Captain Forever then–as cliché as it sounds–you’ve been living under a rock for the last two weeks. Created by Australian developer Farbs, the title garnered massive popularity after coming in first-place at China’s Independent Games Festival; I can’t help but feel that it was well deserved. Enough talk about the game, however, as the review will follow in the next couple of weeks. Instead, let’s talk about the man behind it all.
Farbs, whose real name is Jarrad Woods, and I sent e-mails back and forth for about a week before finally conducting an interview. As evidenced by the following, he’s quite a polite and humorous developer. We began by exchanging greetings and discussing our respective time regions. We even made a joke or two and discussed just how ugly the MSN smileys were, and somewhere in there, this awesomely elongated interview occurred.
AN: First, you got back from China a couple of days ago. How did winning the festival feel? How did you originally get into the competition?
Farbs: Well… it felt great! I honestly didn’t think I’d have a chance against some of the other entries, so it really took me by surprise. My memory of the event is a little hazy, but I think my acceptance speech started with “Wow”… followed by a long silence. When I saw the festival announced on the usual gamedev channels I pounced on it. IGF itself is an extremely tough competition, but in an IGF that’s only for a subset of the world (in this case the Asia-Pacific region) I figured I might stand a chance.
AN: You certainly did well, to say the least. Was the entire ceremony in Chinese? Did you understand much of anything?
Farbs: Some was in English, some was not, and much was translated into both. Honestly though, I get extremely nervous at times like that so all I noticed was a blur of colour and noise. Then I thought someone said Captain Forever, but I wasn’t really sure. People started looking at me so I figured I should stand up and walk to the stage.
AN: Well put! How long have you been a developer? Where did it all start (maybe a specific game it started with)?
Farbs: Well… I’ve been through several stages of developerhood. Ages 0..10 were embryonic, in that I didn’t make games. Ages 10..20 were larval, so I made Scorched Earth clones for my calculator and a million unfinished titles for my Amiga. 20..30 were pupal as I grew into a real game developer cocooned in the safety of other people’s development studios. I worked on Hot Wheels: Bash Arena for PC…then many years worth of unfinished or unreleased titles. At 30 (this year) I burst free from the cocoon as a fully developed (imago) indie game developer. Huh. That metaphor worked better than I expected. Thank you, Wikipedia.
AN: I must admit I did chuckle quite a bit at that one. It sounded rehearsed, as a writer I’ll give you lots of credit for that!
Farbs: Heh, thanks. Oh, and to actually answer your question: Monty Mole on the C64. It had a developer credit on screen all the time, which made me realize making games was a profession I could work in.
AN: You’re welcome, that metaphor deserved it. I’ve got a couple of questions about Captain Forever itself. I’m sure you have gotten this before but: how did you come up with the concept? Did you develop it all on your own?
Farbs: I came up with the concept in a somewhat shameful way – I played someone else’s game, then decided to remake it to suit my own gaming tastes. The history of the title goes like this:
Warning Forever – A brilliant top down shooter by Hikoza T Ohkubo.
Battleships Forever – A brilliant RTS by Sean “th15″ Chan. BF takes the modular spaceship concept pioneered in WF and applies it in epic pew-pew space battles. Whereas before you only fought against the modular ships, now you can also control them. BF was an IGF nominee.
Captain Forever – A hopefully-brilliant arcade/construction game by me. As a twitch arcade gamer I wanted BF to let me directly pilot the ships, and to build them while I was playing. BF isn’t that kind of game though, so I had to make CF in order to play it.
[He stresses that the game is in no way affiliated with the other two.]
AN: Why would you have to stress that? It’s a fantastic game, regardless of the affiliation.
Farbs: Thanks. I have to stress that because I’d feel bad if people misinterpreted the game as an official sequel. I don’t want to mislead anyone. Also I don’t want to get sued.
AN: Ah, I understand now. I was guessing that but thought there may be a different story. I’m sure they appreciate the homage, however. So I know that now you’re working on Captain Successor, what are you trying to do differently this time? Will it still be only on PC or go beyond?
Farbs: Captain Successor will be the first supporter-only game. When I launch [Captain Successor then] Captain Forever will be free, and supporters will get access to a series of games made only for them. In CS I’m experimenting with new module types – missile launchers, shields, gimballed thrusters… things like that. It’s the same game style as Captain Forever, but with more variety in each play session. It’ll be Flash again, as will the game that follows it. Since I promised a series I figure I have to make at least three games. My main plan is to build up the game world and experiment with the gameplay through this series, releasing a new game to supporters every few months. That said, I’m also talking to people about spin-off games for other platforms, developed by external teams. I’m a long way from announcing anything like that though.
AN: That’s great to hear, I thought that the overall layout and feel of the game benefited from Flash. Also, I can see variety only as a positive in the upcoming title so it should be very interesting! That about wraps it up, actually, is there anything else you want to mention about the current gaming world or anything for that matter?
Farbs: The gaming world is pretty cool at the moment. I think we’re heading into a new age of experimentation and creativity. Genre stagnation is finally coming to an end, and I’m super excited about what the next few years will bring.
AN: You will be happy to hear the gaming world is also excited as to what you are coming up with in the future. Thank you Jarrad, have a great day in the land down under!