Sunday, 14 February 2010

CaptainD Interviews Simone Bevilacqua (BOH)

I caught up with Simone Bevilacqua, creator of the popular retro-style game BOH (see my review of BOH).  I chatted to him about the game, game-making, indie gaming, retro gaming, and stuff... well, I sent him a load of questions by email and he was kind enough to answer them.  Does that count as chatting?
1 - What first inspired you to make BOH?

At first, nothing in particular. In the years, an idea had been forming in my mind. It was practically an unconscious process, based on elements from other games that had for some reason caught my attention. Some day in 2003 the idea reached a shape that made it visible to me. Only from that point on I could see what were those elements and whence they came.

The core engine of the game constitutes the implementation of such idea.

I'm talking about the top-down view of a world that is made of dynamically illuminated dungeons and that spins around the main character - all rendered through the wonderful abstraction of tiles and hand-pixelled graphics. The top-down view, the dungeons and the tiles are elements I've seen in countless games; the character-centric rotation of the world was inspired by Tail to Nose, a coin-op F1 game that shocked me with such a concept in the early 90s; the tile-based dynamic illumination was an aspect of Shadowlands that impressed me a lot when I saw it at a friend's home (again in the early 90s).

As for the rest, the influences I'm aware of are from Wizard of Wor, The Amazing Spider-Man, Impossible Mission (C64 versions), Alien Breed, The Chaos Engine and Ambermoon (Amiga versions).

2 - What particular Amiga games stand out in your memory?

Just to name a few (besides those already mentioned above): All Terrain Racing, Flashback, Lionheart, Ruff 'n' Tumble, Slam Tilt, Superfrog, Banshee, Benefactor, Darkmere...

3 - How long did BOH take to code?  (To the first working copy that you were happy with I mean - I realise development is never really going to stop!)
Development started on July 19th, 2007. The version that ended in the gold master is dated February 4th, 2009. In that period, only some 3 months have not been dedicated to BOH (but most of them were used for developing KOG, another game for AmigaOS and Windows, and a game for C64 called HOC INIT EXIT). After, development never stopped: since then, I released 9 updates, 4 additional themes, 10 additional missions and 3 additional translations.

4 - What aspect of BOH are you most proud of?
Sorry, I'm afraid I can't choose.  (Gah, that sort of answer isn't supposed to be allowed in my interviews... oh well...)

5 - What do you think the future of the Ingie gaming industry?
Before releasing BOH, I didn't even imagine what world I was about to enter: I knew practically zero about the indie scene. Now I've learned something, but still I don't think I have the knowledge to make a plausible guess. Anyway, my impression is that the indie movement (for want of a better word) is turning from a scene into an industry (as you correctly called it), and it's hard to foresee how big it can become. If it happens, such change will inevitably affect the nature of indie gaming, but, hopefully, the truer spirit will remain alive thanks to bedroom coding and homebrew initiatives (maybe there will be a split? a new industry and a new scene?).

 6 - Why do you think Retro Gaming is so popular these days?
Because modern games are totally different. They are not better: they are just different. The enjoyment they provide is different from that of the good ol' games. People who know what gaming was like in the past, miss it. Some also understand the importance of not losing that kind of gaming and of helping youngsters discover it. At some point, also the market realized such an importance and the business potential behind it, and that gave retro gaming a nice push.

7 - What are your plans for the future?  More games, continuing to refine BOH, or both?

I have plenty of ideas for both BOH and other games. Frankly, I don't want to stick forever to BOH, so I'd rather work on something totally different. The point is: will I be able to? For sure I'd love to, but I'm unemployed and BOH sales are not enough to live on.

8 - Have sales of BOH matched / exceeded your expectation so far?

They reached the minimum objective, but honestly I'm not exactly happy with that.

9 - What games (Amiga or otherwise) would you most like to see remade in true retro style, but with more features?
None. The games I like are already retro, so there's nothing more to be done on them. And I don't know modern games (because they simply don't attract me), so I have nothing to choose from.

10 - What advice would you give aspiring game programmers?
First of all, ask yourself if creating games is really what you are after, and not just a means to something else - in the second case, maybe there could be better ways for you. Then, don't be scared by the difficulties, work hard, be ready to give your heart, be humble and honest, be ready to handle success and failure, keep in mind that real passion is the most precious resource you can count on. Yes, I know, this is way too generic and applies to pretty much everything in life, but that doesn't make it less true, does it?

If you haven't already, don't forget to check out the Official BOH Website!

CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog

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