Unnecessary Sentience: An Interview With Joe Richardson

Recently, we ran a Kickstarter post on Unnecessary Sentience. I had the chance to sit and discuss games development with the developer of the game, Joe Richardson. Here is that interview.

1. How are you, and can you tell us a little about Unnecessary Sentience>?

Unnecessary Sentience is a game that I made for the Newgrounds Construct 2030 Game Jam (it came 4th). It is also the first stage of a longer project, that I have Kickstarter-ed under the same title. Both the jam game, and the eventual full project are point-and-click adventures, with collage-style artwork and quirky/daft writing.

2. What inspired the game?

I’ve spent the last ten years or so teaching myself irrelevant skills for no reason. Illustration, animation, music production, writing. I recently realised that I’d inadvertently taught myself most of the skills required to make an adventure game. I have always loved adventure games, so I thought this would be the perfect way to bring all my ‘skills’ together. Also, this realisation has coincided with the final year of my BA, so I was already looking for something I cared about enough to dedicate a year of my life to.

3. What has been the easiest part of development?

I’m not sure there has been any easy part! The element I am most comfortable with is animation, because I have had the most practice at that. I used to make things for fun, I really enjoyed making short, daft animations, but making a game is a bit more serious. I am now driven more by the excitement that I might be able to make something genuinely good for a change, not just the enjoyment of the actual process.

4. What has been the hardest?

The hardest thing has probably been working with unfamiliar software. The jam game was made mainly as a way of getting to grips with the software I will be using for the main project. It’s been quite a slow process – I have no real previous experience making games – but I think I’m in a position now where I’m comfortable enough to make something bigger.

5. How was the game funded, and did this add extra stress to the development?

The test games were both made without any funding, using an old laptop and free versions of software. This added a lot of extra stress. Firstly, because my laptop couldn’t cope, and repeatedly turned itself off, and also because the limitations of the free software were pretty restrictive.

The main project has been funded on Kickstarter. I only had a modest budget – enough to get me a working computer, and licenses to the necessary software – but this should make the whole process much easier.

6. Do you wish you had gone with a publisher to deal with anything? Is being an indie beneficial over that?

I don’t think either the test games or the main project will be large enough to warrant the involvement of a publisher. Also, from the little I have seen, the online community surrounding indie games seems to be so strong, well structured, and friendly, that I couldn’t imagine needing further support. There are sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo that can help with funding, loads of great blogs and forums that can help you gain exposure, and a ton of different distribution channels as well. This seems to me like a huge advantage that games have over other artistic disciplines I have been involved with.

7. Is there anything you’ve learnt during development that you wouldn’t have learnt otherwise?

Too many for me to mention.

8. What indie games do you like to play besides this?

I mainly play adventure games but, to be honest, I rarely find anything I really like. I enjoyed Machinarium and Kentucky Route Zero, but didn’t finish either. I like playing really hand-made feeling games – interesting/creative ones like An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, as well as completely mad ones that should never exist, like Enviro-Bear 2000. But the only game that I can really say I have been blown away by in the past few years is The Sea Will Claim Everything by Jonas Kyratzes. This game is too far-removed from any comparable point of reference for me to even attempt to describe it here. But for me it represents all that is great about indie games.

9. What is your favourite game of all time?

That’s an easy one; Monkey Island 2!…No, wait; Monkey Island 3… no; 2… 3! I don’t know – I really enjoyed Grim Fandango… I heard someone performed some wizardry that allowed Grim Fandango to be controlled with mouse clicks, that might be the best game ever, but I haven’t played it… So I’ll go with Monkey Island… 3. Guybrush is hands down the best main character ever. The art is great. The music is fantastic. The puzzles (almost) all make sense. And the story is well structured, well written and hilarious.

10 Is there anything else you’d like to say? Where can Unnecessary Sentience found?

The test game is available to play for free on Game Jolt . The finished game will be popping up around this time next year. You can keep track of it, and my other projects, at www.joemcrichardson.com.

Thanks so much for your time, and have a great day!

 

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