INDIE GAME DEVELOPER INTERVIEW WITH ADAM VIAN
We spoke with Adam after meeting him at Pocket Gamer Connects London and giving his latest game Tangle Tower a try. Read below for our Indie Game Developer Interview with Adam Vian, Creative Director/Game Designer at SFB Games.
Indie Game Developer Interview with Adam Vian
I’m the creative director / game designer at SFB Games. We’re a tiny company! Officially it’s just myself and my brother Tom (tech director and programmer), but we often hire Catherine Unger to do amazing art and other things SFB has made a mixture of games for web browsers, mobile and now consoles. Our most well known game is probably Snipperclips, a co-op puzzle game published by Nintendo as one of the launch titles on the Switch.
Can you tell me about your game, what makes it awesome?
So our most recent release is a murder-mystery detective adventure game called Tangle Tower.
Genre-wise it’s been described as a mixture between Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and Professor Layton. The game is fully voice acted, it has an orchestral soundtrack by Raphael Benjamin Meyer, and lots of amazing 2D character animation by our animator Jonathan Harris. Basically you have to explore Tangle Tower, find clues, solve puzzles, speak to suspects and solve the mystery! The average playtime seems to be around 5-6 hours. It has good reviews! 🙂
What has the journey been like making this game?
We started work on it several years ago, and then we had to shelve it while we worked with Nintendo on Snipperclips and its DLC release Snipperclips Plus, which took around two years, all told. Afterwards, we dusted off Tangle Tower and carried on for another year or two of development. I feel like we worked on it forever – I definitely began to feel like I was living inside Tangle Tower itself. The world and the characters became quite real to me. Hopefully that translates into the game a little bit.
The artwork and characters are awesome, how important to get this right in the game?
Thanks! The character designs are a collaborative effort between myself and Catherine Unger. We’d go back and forth on the designs, tweaking them for months or even years before we were happy. Some of the characters got design changes really late into production. I remember Felix Fellow had a completely different head until the last second – he used to look much older. Fitz Fellow wore little red opaque glasses for a long time, but once the voice acting tests were made, I realised I wanted him to be more sympathetic/vulnerable – so I took the glasses away and gave him eyes.
The spine of the game is the conversations with the characters – the suspects, and conversations between the two detectives, Grimoire and Sally. We had to make sure that experience was as satisfying and entertaining as possible. The characters are also the story – so the player needs to have opinions and suspicions, just from looking at them. This feeds back into the background art, too. The rooms are usually inhabited by one or more of the characters, so they’re just as important for storytelling.
What got you into making games and making indie games in particular?
We grew up watching Flash cartoons and playing Flash games on Newgrounds.com
. Tom and I taught ourselves Flash so we could start making stuff and be part of that community. We started off mostly making cartoons, but slowly transitioned into games. Eventually, Steam and the AppStore became a thing, and suddenly there was a whole indie game industry. We never really wanted to join big games companies – we’ve always just made our own stuff, so we’d like to keep doing that as much as possible.
What have you learnt from making games?
Um… lots of things, probably! I’ve learnt to be thoughtful, careful, critical and not to make assumptions. If you can, find the joy in your game idea as early as possible – try to prototype something fun and compelling before spending a lot of time on assets or even committing to theme/characters/etc. We’ve had experiences where we ploughed ahead with a game design that we later discovered was fundamentally flawed – and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s an invaluable experience to have. But still. Better not to do it too often and for too long. Also… you’re never ‘almost finished’ with your game. Somehow, there’s always loads more that needs to be done. To this day I don’t really know how any games get finished and released, including our own.
If you had advice for indie games makers, what would it be?
Make small games (and finish them, when you can) to get experience. Make different games – different development processes, different genres, different platforms, just do a bunch of different stuff. Experiment and make stuff that’s weird, instead of making something safe you think might sell. Play a bunch of different games, old games, new games, weird games, bad games, games from different countries, try to give yourself a broad pallet of inspiration to draw from. Attend game jams and make tiny games in one day. Limitations breed creativity! Go watch this video right now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-WrQ77zUvA
(and then everything else on Mark Brown’s channel).
How can people support you and your game?
That’s easy, buy Tangle Tower on Steam, Switch or get it on Apple Arcade! Leave a rating or a review! Talk about it on social media! Tell your friends! Ask your favourite youtuber or streamer if they’d be interested in it!
Where can people buy/play the game? And learn more about your studio?
my twitter: @SFBDim
Tom’s twitter: @SFBTom