A quick visit to the site of RoflGames.com will tell you that they like pixel art. Jo-Remi Madsen spearheads this small company and produces games in the fashion of old, amongst whom a remake of the Fable franchise. Not so much because he loved the game, but the concept behind it. It also comes to no surprise the pixel programmer can be found on Minecraft, delving away. NoobFeed contacted the man to find out more about his passion for games, his projects and programming.
Daav: First off, thank you for taking the time to do an interview, sir. Do you spend a lot of your time programming professionally or is it more of a runaway hobby?
Jo-Remi: Programming on D-Pad Studio I do professionally, while programming on Roflgames I do as a hobby. Programming, wheter as a job or a hobby, I love every minute of it.
Daav: Do you run RoflGames alone or with other people?
Jo-Remi: Roflgames.com is a personal project of mine, but I tend to bring team members in on my projects. Simon, my friend and collegue at D-Pad Studio, is going to help me spruce Fableous up for its demo release, and often I get great help from musical artists around the web, notably Vinter In Hollywood, who’s made many soundtracks for my games.
Daav: For everyone who doesn’t yet know you and doesn’t know what your company implies; what can you tell us about yourself and what you do with RoflGames?
Jo-Remi: I’ve simply loved video games since I was little. Owning two controllers for my NES, I usually played games with my sister and my friends. Playing and sharing my games back then was fun, so I decided to take my hobby a step further, by creating my own games.
My love for sharing games gave birth to my website, Roflgames, where I share my most polished projects. Every game created for the site thus far has been created using my old-school pixel graphics, and are free to download and play. They range from shooters to RPGs, the latter being my favorite genre.
Higher definition rendition of Fableous
Daav: You are creating a downgraded remake about Lionhead Studios’ Fable franchise, called ‘Fableous’. I loved how you mentioned: “I've experienced Fable to be a so-so game, but the ideas behind its concept are so fantastic.” I remember when its previous name ‘Project Ego’ would be uttered by a Dutch magazine every month and discuss in large detail all the things they were trying to do. I also felt disappointed that the finished product delivered a lot less than its words promised. Hypes sometimes ruin the fun for people.
So, isn’t it hard to create more with less? Or does the simple aspect allow you to be more creative and implement more things in less space? What are your thoughts on the matter?
Jo-Remi: Project Ego made me choose Xbox back in the day. I was enthralled by the first screens I saw from Project Ego, and started imagining how the game was going to be. Those images are still in my memory today, and the first Fable never really made those images come to life. I’ve done a lot of personal Fable projects since then, (including a Chicken-Kicking mini-game), but now I found the opportunity to share one of those projects on the web before the release of Fable 3.
It’s so incredibly easy to create more with less! All one needs to know is how to use ‘less’. Many developers today focus on ‘more’, while people using ‘less’ are getting ahead. People using ‘less’, are often referred to as Indie Developers, the small solo artists/rock bands of the game development industry. I’m one of the proudest Indie developers you’ll find, and damn it if ‘less’ is going to stop me from creating incredible games.
Daav: Tell us all we need to know about Fableous. Your thoughts about the concept are amazing; it shows you really pondered the matter deeply and that’s commendable to say the least. So, what will all be available in Fableous? What can fans expect?
Jo-Remi: Fast combat, a highly interactive world, incorporated with deep and easy to understand mechanics. Fans can expect a fun and flowing game that does not halter or stop. Too many games stop the player from interacting with the world.
I’ll use Fable 2 as an excellent example: Every time your dog sniffs out a treasure, you bring your character over to dig for it. Digging for the treasure brings on a cutscene for 5 seconds, as you watch and wait, unable to interact. The player in this example, usually waited 5 seconds for a small money bag, which in Fable 2, is not worth waiting or even dig for. Games are made to be interactive, not to be a sequence of ‘wait-and-sees’.
Daav: Do you think fans will like the simple creation or do you expect criticism?
Jo-Remi: Fans love the project thus far and anticipation for the project grows as Fable 3’s release is closing in. I expect people to help me develop it, which is a great thing about being an Indie developer and having an open development blog open for the fans to share comments. Criticism can help to create greatness out of mediocrity, if one knows how to take criticism quite well. I’m one of the developers who do.
Daav: Do you think Lionhead will appreciate the sentiment and do you intend to give them notice of your project?
Jo-Remi: If they do, my wish came through. I’m a sucker for Lionhead and if I owned Lionhead Studios, I’d make a tower out of it and invade England. Either that or create epic games from my office. If they do take notice of the project, I will skip and jump like a little girl home from school and I’d shed golden tears going to sleep. I’m the hardest of workers and I’d love for my work to get noticed. It already has by many fans. *skippedy, skip*.
Fableous Combat System
Daav: Former Microsoft big-shot Ed Fries recently made headlines by recreating Halo for the Atari 2600. Are you planning on making Fableous into an actual release for an old platform or will it be available for download only? What information can you give us about your release plans?
Jo-Remi: The project was initially meant to complement Fable 3’s release, like a countdown. It got inspired from James Rolfe’s Halloween Countdown(Monster Madness) at Cinemassacre.com. I wanted to fill my weekend with a small Fable related project that would allow me to get into the Fable mood. I decided to update the players at Roflgames on it and wow! Fable fans noticed it right away and my attempt at building anticipation could not be more of a success. I anticipate Fable 3 now more than ever.
Where I’m going with the project is quite clear. Now that I’ve started, it’s hard to stop. It’s a great way to learn and master game-design, more so than a school could ever teach. My website updates every Thursday with info on my spare-time projects.
I usually also make a point out of honoring longtime fans, donators and contributors, by giving them screen time in my games. Screen time usually ranges from naming enemies, bosses, characters or locations after the person in question. In Fableous, I’ll add donator/contributors names to characters, tombstones and map areas or weapons, if they so wish. It’s a great little way for me to honor supporters.
Fableous Fishing System
Daav: I, for one, would love to see Fableous coming out on a platform like the Nintendo Entertainment System, which is currently on the rise since Battle Kid came out. But moving on; RoflGames already created some games and is still busy with others. What can you tell us about your finished products and what are you currently still working on with RoflGames?
Jo-Remi: I’ve seen Battle Kid, it looks awesome! I love when Indie developers do homebrew! Thanks to nostalgias, the good old NES may never die.
Dungeon Chaos was the project that made me decide to create a website. It got so many plays and fans got curious, so I decided to start telling the fans about my games. All my games are under constant revision, as I’m never quite happy with them before they are perfect. So I’ve only got a few finished projects. Being a Programmer, a Keeper of Syntax, Defender of Code, I’ve become accustomed to things having to be perfect before they are complete; nothing or all; zero or one.
Concepts are what I share mostly on Roflgames, in which I can include the Adventure Of The Galactic Snupp, The Rim and Pirate Boat Voyage. All these games will be developed when I’m finished with all my other duties. I’ve got a huge job ahead of me. Luckily, I’m a workaholic.
Video recorded at 50% speed for better viewing
Daav: Do you have any idea if your games are popular in demand, how many people have played it and so on? Do you get a lot of feedback from your projects?
Jo-Remi: I do, and yes, when people discover my games, they usually come back for more, which is why creating games is such a magnificent hobby and so fun to do. It’s hard to stop creating content when people constantly want more. It’s a creationist’s drug. Feedback on my games has always been positive from the internet, while the people closest to me are the ones who seem to enjoy critiquing my projects, helping me spot gameplay improvements.
Daav: Do you take given feedback into account for the following project or basically venture according to your own love for games?
Jo-Remi: I take feedback more seriously than most, while at the same time doing what I think is best. I’ve always been a gamer first and a game designer second. As I play my own games, I can get bored with them and as a gamer, I know if something is wrong. Improvements can be made to most things, and knowing games as well as I do, one can note a possible improvement on the fly.
Fableous Fishing System
Daav: You are also busy with a project called Owlboy with another team, D-Pad Studio. What can you tell us about this and how is it different from your work with RoflGames?
Jo-Remi: Oh, this game is so grand! Describing its grandness using words is difficult! It’s a granddad of grandeur! My team is working at a whip-crack nowadays, trying to reach its completion. It’s about Otus, a young Owl, who can pick up objects and allies and gain their help in the perils to come. This includes battles with pirates, impossibly large creatures, and dungeon huge guardians. The artwork is so masterfully done in this title, that even I, a member working on the project, am envious of it. It’s an ode to nostalgias and retro gamers everywhere; while still giving so much light and detail to the 2D pixel aspect of it that it feels new! Working in a team is much more fulfilling opposed to working alone. Everyone on my team burns for proper game design.
D-Pad Studio Owlboy Gameplay Footage
Daav: You have a post about the pixel craze of the moment, Minecraft, eating away at your development time. For the fans of the popular game, can they know your information for Minecraft and what you are currently ‘working’ on there?
Jo-Remi: Currently, me and Simon, D-Pad Studio’s artist are working on an office. Using my MineCraft server, we’re going to use this this building for team meetings. From the meeting room we’ve got an excellent view over the Pixiffic Ocean, and a busy Viking Village can be spotted on the shore, just below the office balcony. Only thing missing is a woman in the reception. It’s just like any other office, but with zombie scratchings at the front doors. It’s got a subway railway track as well.
Roflgames Dungeon Chaos
Daav: Apparently your efforts didn’t go by unnoticed as your team seems to have won a prize at the Norwegian Game Awards. How was that experience for you?
Jo-Remi: One of the first of many great achievements for D-Pad Studio. Norwegian Game Awards was great! We’re trying to be humble, but we can’t. We love every minute of attention that our games attract and I know one thing for sure: I’ll never stop creating games with this team. If my arms were to fall off, I’d program using my toes.
Daav: Do you also try and attend other game conventions?
Jo-Remi: We’ve been present at the GDC in San Francisco, where we got nominated for the IGF prize of ‘Excellence in Visual Arts’ for Owlboy. To me, it was like coming to Hollywood. I saw my idols everywhere, with Peter Molyneux walking down the hall and Will Wright having a chat with a group of people on the corner. We’re going back there this year and everywhere else, as we’re trying to meet with as many fans and like-minded people as possible. E3, GDC, Pax, and any convention I can think of. We want to be there.
Fableous Lychfield Graveyard
Daav: Despite working on your own projects, you still take the time to promote other developers and websites, such as Zero Punctuation and Angry Video Game Nerd. This again shows your love for games both old and new and that warms my heart. Are there any developers or communities you’d like to mention here and why you’d like to promote them?
Jo-Remi: It would fill the entire page if I were to mention everything that inspires me. Music is one of the things I get obsessed about. In this department I’ll mention Vinter In Hollywood and D-Pad’s own composer Jonathan Geer, both of who’s music I listen to every day.
Among the sites I check about every hour of every day are: TigSource.com, Gametrailers.com, Derren Brown’s blog, GamaSutra.com, PixelProspector.com, etc.
Daav: I won’t ask you to ‘add anything you’d like here,’ as I find that vague and usually doesn’t create an original platform, due to the vague nature. I’d simply like to thank you once again for your time and hope your Fableous project (and others) prosper and get the attention they deserve. Jo-Remi Madsen, thank you and good luck.
Jo-Remi: The pleasure is, without question, on my side. ~Jo
Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed.