The man behind one-man studio Initials Video Games, Shane Brouwer, is here to tell us about his first full game — the newly released Super Lemonade Factory — and going it alone.
Can you tell us a bit about Initials Video Games? Who are you, and how did you get into mobile gaming dev?
I'm currently employed as a 3D artist for a post production company, and games are something I do in my spare time. I've always been passionate about video games, but only just recently found myself in a position to release a game I felt really happy with.
Super Lemonade Factory is your first game, yes? Can you explain a bit about it — how does it work? What's it about? And how does it deal with labour relations, gender roles and moral dilemmas for industry in wartime?
I have made smaller gaming experiments in the past, but Super Lemonade Factory is my first fully featured game.
The game centres around a married couple, Andre and Liselot, who make their way through a recently inherited lemonade factory. Both characters have a unique set of traits that allow puzzles to be solved, but in most cases, one person is useless without the other. The pair really are greater than the sum of its parts.
Each of those themes are dealt with in subtle ways. As you progress through the game, you'll get to know the characters, and why they are doing what they do. I've tried to show respect for the people playing the game by not beating them in the face with a story that attempts to present a "right" way, or "good guys" and "bad guys". These are people with families just trying to do the best they can.
There's massive competition in the mobile gaming market. What does Super Lemonade Factory offer that other games do not?
Super Lemonade Factory has been a labour of love for me, and contains an extremely personal story. While I took considerable care to include a story, it's possible to play the entire game and not read or hear one word of the story. Many people playing on a mobile device don't want a long and involved story, they just want to clear a few levels.
If the player is curious, and wants to be involved with these characters, there is a rich story to be found. These aren't just traditional video game "bad guys", these are your peers, your co-workers, your friends, who have their own lives, their own hopes and dreams.
What has been the biggest challenge for you so far? How did you overcome it?
There has never really been a major hurdle for me. Making games is something I do because I enjoy it, so any challenge that presents itself is something I enjoy solving.
The biggest challenge is yet to come in the form of standing out in the aforementioned crowded market place.
What do you think is the essential ingredient in a truly awesome mobile game?
I think it's interesting to think about the places people play mobile games. It could be anywhere, and it will almost certainly be in a less than ideal setting. You have to keep these things in mind when making a game, so that players aren't deprived of vital elements due to a distraction.
I particularly like when a game is a representation of the personalities of the person or people who created it. It's great when you can see not just someone's creative vision but a reflection of who they are and what they are into a game, and those elements haven't been watered down by focus testing or a marketing department.
What is the best thing about working in mobile gaming development? What is the worst?
The best thing has been watching video games grow up all over again.
In 1998 a Nokia 5110 phone had a resolution of 47x84, and a monochrome screen. From there I watched as the mobile space grew into a mature platform.
Throughout this growth, developers have had a rich history of video games to draw from, but were limited by the processing power of the hardware. We are now at a stage where those limitations are starting to disappear, but it generates another interesting problem. Even without limitations, how do you create a fun game?
What's next for Initials Video Games?
I'm going to start work on getting Super Lemonade Factory on to more platforms. I'd like to see it in as many places as possible.
I've also set up a system for people to make their own levels. I'm going to collect all the fan-made levels and put the best ones into an update in the near future.
I'd also like to get a two-player version of Super Lemonade Factory onto the Winnitron arcade machines. I think the independent arcade machine platform is perfect for this type of cooperative game.
Super Lemonade Factory for iOS, AU$0.99 (50 per cent off launch sale)