Gamedev Interview: Ruinarch

Last week, I spoke a little about a pretty cool game called Ruinarch, in which you take the role of a dark god and screw up as many villager lives as possible. Well, I was lucky enough to secure an interview with Marvin Apacible, the brains behind this awesome indie game.

Ruinarch is on sale right now for 15% off, with an upcoming big content patch. Click on the image to go to the Steam page, and I hope you enjoy the interview!

First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you do?

My name is Marvin Apacible. I co-founded Maccima Games with 2 other fellow game developers I used to work with on a previous job. I conceptualized our first game called Ruinarch. My role is game design and overall project management.

What does being a game designer actually mean?

For me, it’s about transforming an interesting game idea or concept into something that is actually fun. I believe everyone has great ideas but it takes a lot of work to convert that into an actual game.

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?

I think this mostly has something to do with companies attempting to get as much revenue as they can from the work that they do. As a gaming company grows bigger, it tends to become more oriented towards profit rather than passion and that demands a certain type of mindset to get as much income as possible.

For some games, I believe this is acceptable. For example, I find games where microtransactions are mostly cosmetic to be acceptable. On the other hand, certain gachapon F2P mechanics take advantage of human psychology that they can be somewhat predatory.

In my previous company, we did some F2P mobile games and the necessity for such predatory game design is one of the reasons why I quit and made my own startup to focus on paid PC games.

Tell us about your current project.

Ruinarch is our first game. It’s basically a reverse-Rimworld where you play the role of an evil overlord playing with the lives of AI-powered villagers.

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?

It’s natural to get hurt when you see criticisms for something you’ve been passionately working on for a long time. At the same time, it’s important to understand that there is probably nothing in this world that can be ‘universally’ liked. What you put out there will always have some people that will not like it. And that is okay. It is also important to get through nasty comments and distill some feedback that you can use to improve the game. After all, that’s what early access should be all about.

What advice would you give budding developers into taking the plunge into game design?

Make quick and simple games first. There is a very high failure rate. As you gain more experience and confidence in your abilities, you can slowly transition to more ambitious ideas.

If you still have time to play video games, what are some of your favorite ones to play?

I am fond of simulation, strategy games and RPGs with rich stories. My recent most favorite game is Outer Wilds, This War of Mine and X-Com 2.

What inspires you to do what you do?

Money. But also, I love playing games so much and sometimes some game idea that I want to play comes to my mind and then I decide to make it if it doesn’t quite exist yet. Funny thing about this is that I end up not enjoying the games I make since I know too much about how they work, so it’s kinda counterproductive.

What is the hardest part of your job?

You can have a lot of interesting ideas and it appears great in paper, but when you put them all together, it may end up sucking in reality.

What was your favorite thing about game development? Is there anything you find difficult or challenging in dealing with the struggles?

The fact that your imagination and skills are all that limits what you can do.

What lessons have you learned from your first game?

Same as another question above, make a simple game first.

What are your future project(s)?

Perhaps a monster capture and arena type game with a gameplay loop that is similar to Football Manager’s.

If you couldn’t be a game developer, what ideal job would you like to do?

A script writer.

What is your ideal video game if money and time was no object?

An RPG like Suikoden 2 with a rich war/politics themed story, with a lot of interesting characters to recruit, and a ‘castle’, ‘town’ and ‘army’ that you improve as you progress through the game.

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