Ste Pickford is one half of the Pickford Brothers - you know those guys who did Feud, 180 and more recently Naked War! Ste, for the record, is the more hairy one!
Posted by stepickford on May 26, 2010 19:39 (May 26, 2010 19:39)
RF Editor : What is your favourite Pickford brothers games and why?
Well, as you know, we've only been officially using the name 'The Pickford Brothers' since we went 'indie' in 2004. Before then it was just a nickname people had for John and I. We've worked on three or four games in that time, although only one - Naked War - has been released so far.
Even if I look back on all the games John and I have worked on over our careers, rather than only those since 2004, the games we've made since becoming The Pickford Brothers are the best we've ever made. Sorry retro fans! If you'd asked me this question a few months ago I would have answered that Naked War was my favourite, as it's the most rounded and well designed game we've ever released, and is probably the game that we're most proud of. Over the last few months though, my opinion is changing, and I now think that our latest game, Magnetic Billiards, is the best thing we've ever done.
I'm not just saying this becuase it's fresh to me. In fact, you often really dislike games that you're working on, especially when you're close to completion, because you're just so sick of them. Sometimes it's not until years after release that you can look back and see past the bugs and the features you didn't squeeze in, and see what was good in one of your own games.
Magnetic Billiards is a game we worked on for about a year after Naked War was released. It started off as a prospective XBLA game, but Microsoft changed the terms of their platform (making it very indie unfriendly), so we switched to developing it as a PC game. Then we stopped for about a year to work on a new prototype sports game, called Art of Soccer, that we were funded to develop. The funding dried up so we returned to the almost-complete Magnetic Billiards, and coming back to it after a break has allowed us to see it with fresh eyes again and realise that what we're making is something really special.
As with Naked War, the indie development method that John and I have settled on allows us to put more thought and design into our games than we were ever able to in a studio system. We both work separately from home, chatting over IM about whatever we're working on together, but mostly working by ourselves on our own areas of the game. We then meet up every Friday evening and play the game together, and chat about what we've done that week. We then head to the pub and talk about what's working in the game and what's not, and see where the conversation leads us. Very often we end up coming up with really good ideas that build on what we've already done and expand or improve or optimise the game in some way. I think being away from each other all week, rather than working together in a studio all day, forces us to sort of save up thoughts and ideas about the game, and maybe think them through a bit more before we talk about them, and then sitting in a pub all evening - away from the distractions of a studio or the playable demo - forces us to do nothing but talk about the game for hours on end, and really think ideas through to their conclusion. We then regularly completely change our plans for the next week on the basis of what we came up with on the Friday night, so the scope of the project is constantly changing slightly. The result is a really well designed, well balanced, well thought through game, although not always exactly the same game as the one we first thought we were going to make.
This particular game seems to have an extra bit of magic though. Even after living with it for a couple of years, we both find ourselves playing it, and thinking about playing it, all the time. It has that special ingredient that makes you want to keep playing it just a bit more. It's not unfair or difficult, but it's almost impossible to master. We've chipped away at the design and the game rules to make it almost endlessly fascinating and never boring, but without making it over complicated or difficult to understand.
We're both really excited by it, and are dying to get it finished and out there. We've had a small number of alpha testers playing it, which has given us some really useful feedback about the early tutorial mode we had (which we've pretty much completely scrapped and replaced with something better), and we're about to launch a limited beta, with online high scores so we can start to measure how well people are actually playing the game, after which we should be ready for a PC release later in the year.
Plok! was always my favourite Pickford Bros. game! It was a bit hard though, but I did get really far one day and saw the brilliant levels that came later....definite potential for a port / remake on Xbox Live, or indeed a sequel....
Right, I'll stop my Plok fanboy-ness now......keep making those games!! =)
Hmm, not sure ismellicecream. If you've already worked in the industry then you don't need any tips on how to make games. Going indie? Well, I can't really say I've made a success of it myself yet, so perhaps I'm not in the best position to give advice. Tighten your belt, and keep your game small and simple. The sooner you can get something finished - but still good - the better. Be prepared to take on lots of roles, not just game designer.
Boyo - haha, I wish! So far we've been doing contract design work between projects which has paid the bills and kept us going. We also had some funding for the Art of Soccer project, which helped as well. We haven't made enough from Naked War yet to fund the development of another game.
Sir Clive - we'll be letting people on the beta via the Magnetic Billiards Alpha facebook group, so join that and you'll get a notification (we'll change it's name to Magnetic Billiards Beta when we're ready, hehe). Also, everything will be announced on the website and blog at http://www.zee-3.com/magneticbilliards or http://www.zee-3.com/pickfordbros/blog