What sparked your interest in video games?
With confidence, as a player, I can attribute my interest towards video games to how they made me feel as a child: their extending my capabilities for experiencing worlds, interacting with them and refashioning my ‘self’ within them. Since Summer Games on the Commodore 64, they take me beyond what is merely ‘actual’, into what is virtually ‘possible’.
My interest in video games as a developer sparked, I believe, from the same reason. I understood that interactive, virtual worlds offered expressive possibilities which transcended traditional media. Framing my visions and my messages through them, I try to engage and temporarily ‘dislodge’ players from the world in the same way video games originally made me feel.
Can you tell us about the creation process of Tony Tough games? What challenges did you face during the process?
There is very little to say, I am afraid. We simply were a group of passionate young males of nearly twenty years of age who got together and stuck together to make Tony Tough happen. We worked hard and long to develop a rather big game from scratch. It was the first game that we tried to develop after having merged two small and relatively inexperienced Italian independent teams. The biggest challenges were, comprehensibly, organizational and logistical. From the point of view of content design, the character of Tony Tough was roughly based around my literature teacher at high school, while the plot of the game is a bizarre, playful take on Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Out of the games you developed, which game is your favorite? Why?
As their father, so to speak, it is my contractual duty to state that I love them all equally. Haha!
Having to pick only one, my choice would be the iPad action-puzzle video game Gua-Le-Ni; or The Horrendous Parade. I believe this is the case because we decided to develop out of love for game design and on a solid base of friendship and trust among all the people participating. Diego, Marcello, Martin, Paolo, Davide, Oliver, Samir and the Reverend Hugo Tissington… They all put their time and their fine skills at the service of a vision and made it better, made it their own. Personally, I love Gua-Le-Ni because it is quirky, full of secrets and is a tangible expression of the philosophical approach to game design (or the game-design approach to philosophy) that I pursue. Besides, the game draws inspiration from my childhood and makes it an even more personal, intimate project for me.
How did your past experiences help you in creating Gua-Le-Ni; or, The Horrendous Parade?
Omnia disce. Videbis postea nihil esse superfluum. Coartata scientia iucunda non est. (Didascalion, VI, 3)
Why did you decide to use biometric experiments on your game?
It just happened to be the game I was developing as we needed to start running research experiments, so it coincidentally became our pilot project. One game mode of Gua-Le-Ni asks the player to solve beastly puzzles under an increasing time pressure and that kind of stress is clearly detectable with the medical sensors we are employing. So, the game offered a good substrate to start experimenting and tampering with. I believe that the intense waves of pressure and relief are a familiar feeling for people who played our game; well, the frequency and intensity of those waves were something we specifically designed with the help of this new (psychophysiological) approach.
How can a developer use biometric experiments in their own work?
In the upcoming issue of Casual Connect Magazine (July 2012), a lengthy article will explain our process and its advantages in detail. For now, I hope it suffices to say that hooking game testers to lie detector-like setup provided valuable insights about the effects that the analyzed game and its game design choices have on their bodies. By monitoring (for example) changes in heart rate, the conductivity of skin, respiration, and the contraction of certain key facial muscles, developers can obtain objective answers to questions that otherwise might be answered only subjectively and partially by traditional quality assurance procedures. For instance:
- Is the initial speed of our video game too high?
- Did we reach a climax in emotional involvement where we intended (likely at the end of our free demo)?
- Does the tutorial of our video game succeed in keeping players engaged while empowering them to perform well?
- How does our target audience feel during their first game-over?
At the moment, research and publications are at a very early stage and the costs and the expertise involved in testing a game biometrically are too high to be faced by just any developers. But in a close future, it will become a more viable and accessible tool to understand game design and what it means to have ‘fun’ at a very basic, biological level.
What predictions can you make in regards to game development?
I foresee two dynamics in the close future of casual game development:
1) I predict an even stronger influence, in the creative process, of metrics (user-metrics, telemetry, biometrics) and scientific approaches to the understanding of user experience. Game design / interface design and community management will be increasingly structured and refined with the aid of sophisticated and reliable statistical methods.
2) I believe that the democratization of production technologies and the booming cultural popularity of casual video games and casual video game development will lead to a general decrease in the perceived economic value of video games. As a consequence, the majority of casual game developers (at least the independent ones) will find it progressively harder to make a living out of conjuring small games. I believe the casual sector will polarize around a few dominating (and science-driven) companies and an army of independent developers which will struggle to survive combining a no-longer economically viable game development practice with other activities (teaching, coding for other industries, freelancing for big companies, etc.). In other words, the diffusion of middleware and know-how will preclude the possibility to independently develop entertainment software as a profession.
This is how I see the future of the casual sector of our industry, thank you for your questions and for following this coiling snake of words until here, in case you did.Casual Connect Asia Highlight: Stefano Gualeni, NHTV Breda University,