I’m back with a new game dev interview! Today, I bring you a great chat I had with Chip Flory, the design lead of the cool game Fictorum.
What is Fictorum? Going off the listing on Steam, Fictorum is an action RPG featuring destructible environments, a procedural node-based world map, and dynamic magic shaping. Now, I played this game earlier in 2019 and while I loved the magic system and it’s physics, at the time I found it a bit short on content. With some big updates, I’m looking forward to giving this game another go. It has some really cool ideas, and I recommend you give it a shot.
Here is a link to the game down below: just click on the photo!
And now onto the interview itself!
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you do?
I’m Chip Flory, a programmer living in Seattle. I’m a government consultant by day and a game developer by night. Most notably, I’m half of Scraping Bottom Games and the design lead of Fictorum.
What does being a game designer actually mean?
For me, it means that I’m an engineer of fun. I need to be a source of it, have an excellent gauge of it, and constantly research it.
There has been a great deal of controversy in recent years about micro transactions in gaming. Not so much an opinion, but why do games tend to cut out content to sell later as DLC and lootboxes? Is it to do with development costs? Or is it time related?
To generalize, it very rarely has to do with making up development costs/time. At its worst, it’s a cash grab, plain and simple. This is especially true and nefarious when we’re dealing with a full release of PC/console game at the standard market price with microtransactions. But, at its best, it can be an excellent way to utilize an engine, game assets, or game world to tell another story—The Dishonored franchise is a great example of the latter.
Tell us about your current project.
It’s Fictorum, which is an action RPG/power-fantasy with destructible environments and customizable magic. It’s our first real game and we’ve been working on it for almost 5 years now.
As anyone who creates anything, we must all deal with criticism from consumers. How do you go about it particularly in the prolific and viral standard of gaming today?
I come from a customer service background, so the most important advice I ever received was to listen for the complaint. If someone tears your work a new one and goes into detail about, for instance, how bad your third-person camera behaves… take a look at it! Take notes, fix anything that makes sense to, and respond in the most positive way that you can. Potential players will take note.
What advice would you give budding developers into taking the plunge into game design?
It’s never been easier to get started. If you’re interested in it, download the Unreal Engine, create a template of a game you’d be interested in working on, and look a YouTube tutorial of UE Blueprints in action. They make coding faster, easier, and, honestly, enjoyable.
If you still have time to play video games, what are some of your favorite ones to play?
Slay the Spire has been my go-to game recently. Since v2.0 released, I finally peeled the shrinkwrap off of Breath of the Wild and have been having an absolutely wonderful time playing through that.
What inspires you to do what you do?
Most recently, it has been our player community. Our players are smart, thoughtful, and creative in the ways they create spells, often coming up with combinations that we haven’t even thought of! Since releasing v2.0, we’ve received so many emails, reviews, and community posts saying things like “I’ve been looking for a game like this for years and I’m so happy I’ve found it!” It warms my heart and inspires me to work harder to improve our game for them.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Troubleshooting technical issues that I can’t replicate on my machine or debugging obscure errors on my own machine. Either of those would be my own personal hell.
What was your favorite thing about game development? Is there anything you find difficult or challenging in dealing with the struggles?
Finding the idea or mechanic that drives your game is an exhilarating feeling and is probably my favorite thing about game development thus far. There are so many struggles, much like I mentioned in your last question.
What lessons have you learned from your first game?
Start small, especially when you’re new. We initially had a grand idea of a massive game for our first project, with an in-depth story with an adaptive campaign layered on top of the basics of Fictorum. It took us very little time to realize that this was well beyond our team size and experience to create. We boiled down our concept to what Fictorum is now, and honestly, that was still a lot of content for a team of two to expand and upkeep.
What are your future project(s)?
We have several possible ideas for our next project, but we’ll be sharing those when we have something to show.
If you couldn’t be a game developer, what ideal job would you like to do?
I think I’d enjoy being a UI or UX designer. Having designed (and then redesigned, and then redesigned again) all of the UI for Fictorum, it has given me a good grasp and healthy appreciation of visual design and a good user experience.
What is your ideal video game if money and time were no object?
I think that my codeveloper and I would love to make an open-world RPG a la Skyrim or BotW at some point, but I think that’s well beyond our reach with our current team size.
Huge thanks to the Fictorum guys for taking the time to talk to me. December will bring a slew of new articles, including my favourite video games and novels of 2019. Stay tuned!