It is great to see people take an interest in my site. Here is James Earl Cox III, a game developer who loves to experiment, has a passion for writing and often participates in game jams. I came to ask what he has to say on those topics.
Tell us about yourself, just_delete_it (or your real name – sorry, what is it?)
James Earl Cox III is the real name. I attempted to get just_delete_it to stick for a little while, but to minimal response, which is fine! James Earl Cox III sounds like a pseudonym, so I’m happy to run with it. As for what I do, I currently develop small hobbyist games, along with short story writing and cinematic experimenting. University ties into all three on various levels, though my games and writing are done independently.
Can you say anything about your newest games?
In terms of Mr. Kitty Saves the World, a new member to my team found some CD in an abandoned building. After a day of his absence, I went to check on him. There was a note left in his empty apartment telling me to upload it. He was simply gone. I don’t know exactly what kind of beings inhabit that game, but I don’t plan on touching it ever again.
Before uploading that, I made a strange mutant feeding simulation game named Foodie. It was created for MolyJam and the game is based off of the quote “I don’t think experiments should be just experiments. They should start becoming things.” I wanted to create a strange short experience for players, and I think it succeeded as that!
What is it like being a game developer from an English and cinema background?
I really enjoy it for its advantages! For instance, there are a lot of story related obstacles I feel more confident in grappling with: the different styles of narrative, when it is appropriate, how to cut down on dialogue or if dialogue is needed, and the positives and negatives of camera angles, to name a bunch. Not to say that understanding these makes my games any better than others. Confidence can be a double edged sword for sure. The main thing I seem to struggle with is the actual programming. Yet it’s been rather fun to learn programming and figure out ways to create unique experiences with my current ability.
Any quick writing tips?
The sign of a good visual media piece is to condense and minimize the amount of text as much as possible. Don’t have your characters explain their situations, position clues around the environment for players to find. This way the game will immerse the player even further into the world, rather than remind them of the game’s artificiality with non-diegetic text. Of course this doesn’t apply to Twine games and ones where text serves a deeper purpose.
On your site, “Seemingly Pointless”, you have a number of experimental games. They are pretty creative. Do you think it is important to keep doing these and keep pushing back the boundaries? How does that help you in more serious game creation?
Thank you! And I do plan on making more experimental games. We all know that games can have achievements and upgrades, that games can have puzzle solving and bad guys to shoot, but why not aim to create a specific emotion or moral dilemma? What I hope to do is bring a meaningful and alternative gameplay sensibility to commercial games. A few are in the works as well, but as most good things go, these take time.
Your games also seem to almost have a style where you took pictures of real-world people and objects and put that art into your games. How did you get to creating such a style?
That style is actually relatively new to me! I’ve been experimenting with different art styles to expand beyond the flash game look and pixel style, and I was really drawn to the collage and hand drawn feel of Jack Spinoza’s games and The Catamite’s games, not to mention the animator Cyriak. While it takes a bit of time to make (at least for me), the nice part about the style is that it stands out and, as long as the various Frankenstein’d bits come from photos, the art will match. It’s also cool how this style can create an uncanny valley effect.
Do you have any funny anecdotes involving game development?
Very early on, I was trying to create a game that has the player protecting a small child. I focused a lot on making sure the child acted in a specific manor, as the game’s core idea was to create a love/hate relationship between the player and the child. After a week of making sure the kid would follow the player correctly, I play tested the game and the small child jumped about 6 feet off the ground, hovered, and began flipping through its sprite index. I think I jumped out of my seat. All it needed was projectile vomit and I could’ve released it as an exorcism simulation.
You have some game jam experience. What is your number one tip for game developers wanting to start participating in Ludum Dares?
Make it small and plan on cutting features. Mainly, finish your game and upload it! You can’t get feedback if you don’t release, and you need to race that deadline.
Anything else you wish to tell us?
If you’re down for a sobering experience, look up Nixon’s speech titled: “In Event of Moon Disaster.” It was written in case Apollo 11 was unable to leave the Moon and is one of the most haunting pieces I’ve ever read.
Also, link: http://seeminglypointless.com/
Er… okay… Thanks!
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