On April 6th, 2011, the world will be a better place (and a much, much bloodier place). Why, you ask? A new game will debut in the Xbox Live Arcade – The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile. Today I will post the interview results with the charismatic James Silva, which covers the new game as well as some basic background information. Readers here can expect our initial impressions of the game roundabout April 4th, as we were allowed a sneak peek into the new project. Without further ado, here we go:
How did you get your start in video game programming, and what was your very first project?
Making games has been the only thing I’ve wanted to do in life, and I attribute it to two things. When I was 11 or 12, I, like lots of people that age, was so crazy about Nintendo games that I’d design characters and worlds on paper for games that I somehow imagined pitching to game companies. When my semistrict parents got weary of my Nintendo obsession, they instituted a no-videogames-on-weekdays policy. Making games didn’t count, so I started learning how to make text adventures in Basic just so I could play something. This eventually developed into a big part of my life, with me making Zombie Smashers X in 2000 and The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai in 2009, the first game I made that was super successful.
Did you eventually decide to get yourself any kind of formal education regarding game design?
I’ve got a Masters in Computer Science, but most if not all of the technique I use in game development is self-taught. In fact, I used game development to help me with school way more than the other way around by submitting games or game-like projects (like an animated CPU scheduler) as final projects for a bunch of classes.
From an Indie standpoint, how much extra work does it take to get everything accomplished?
I haven’t actually ever held a “real job” in the industry, so I can’t make an honest comparison. However, I can echo the common sentiment that wearing several hats has its ups and downs. It’s nice to have a large variety of tasks; switching from one to another keeps things from sinking into any sort of tedium. The downside is that your brain sort of experiences something akin to the computational expense of a context switch—it takes some time and effort to fully switch gears from something like engine coding to art, so when I’ve got to hop around to a bunch of different areas of a project rapidly I end up feeling a bit burnt.
We all know you’ve had award winning work done – do you already have the chance of losing the “Indie” and become something more “mainstream”?
Whatever the label, I just want to keep making games. I don’t really have any epic plans for growing the company.
On the topic of Vampire Smile, what major changes have you made from Dead Samurai, and what motivated those changes?
The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile is built on a completely new engine, with all new art, effects, and overall feel. When I made The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, I had very little experience in XNA (it was my second attempt at anything. Essentially the game was built as a contest entry. For Vampire Smile, I wanted to build into the engine flexibility that would have otherwise had to be totally jury rigged in the Dead Samurai engine.
The end result is richer art, more expressive animation, smoother gameplay, and more general awesomeness. If you try the two games side by side, it’s pretty apparent that there have been some major changes.
What core factor really makes a game popular?
I think it’s a combination of good gameplay and character. A game won’t get very far without engaging gameplay, but it’s the character of game—the art style, theme, and attitude—is what really sets awesome games apart from fun games. Silent Hill games are the perfect example of this: the games’ hallmarks are clunky combat and use-a-key-to-find-a-key puzzles, but I can’t help but love the crap out of every single one of them (pre-Homecoming), thanks to the awesome character of the games.
What games are you currently playing?
I just cracked open Dragon Age: Origins again, so don’t expect anything productive out of me for a while! Also, my girlfriend and I have been tackling coop Xbox360 games, Borderlands being the most recent.
2011 looks like an amazing year for gaming releases. What game are you most excited about?
Batman: Arkham City, Portal 2! Also, we just got a 3DS and I can’t wait for Ocarina 3D.
For those of us who haven’t played anything from Ska Studios, how would you describe your newest game (The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile – April 6th, 2011)?
It’s a disturbing, art-driven, over the top stylistic action platformer. The story picks up two years after the events of the first game, with falsely imprisoned, mentally spiraling Yuki vowing revenge on the three corrupted leaders of society. The game plays a bit like a graphic novel that explodes in blood when you press buttons: the combos are insane, the weapon loadouts are grisly, and the world is epic.
After this release, do you already know what the next project will be?
Our next XBLA project is called Charlie Murder; we’re hoping to have it out in 2012. Hopefully gamers in the future have similar tastes to those of gamers of today.
What other shout-outs or special mentions would you like to bring attention to?
Big thanks to Dishwasher fans! Your epic support lets me do what I love every day.
Thanks James! Below,we’ve embedded a youtube video that will allow you to see into the very heart of Ska Studios, and also take a look at a few clips of the gameplay and development tools. Be sure to show the video some comment love, and also visit http://www.vampiresmile.com.