This is our seventh instalment of our series Indie Game Developer Interviews where we cover the day to day of indie studios and look into how they make their amazing games.
Want to see something beautiful? Go to Grace Bruxner's twitter and you'll see some beautiful designed games she's working on. Seriously. It's amazing.
I got ahold of Grace through her twitter to talk about what it's like to be an independent game designer, both working on her own game and with studios. She's an inspiration to say the least - coming from a game-less background, she started building games she wanted to see in the world, games that were non-violent and based on the feeling of exploration. She couldn't find any out there so hey, why not build them herself? I find this is a common theme while talking to indie studios - they build a game that they have looked for and cannot find so decide to build it themselves. This drive has produced some amazingly fun and beautiful games (like Queen Bee's!) and it's been fantastic to explore Grace's world.
No joke, but she's one of the hardest working people I've had the pleasure to interview.
What inspired you to get into game design? Any games in specific?
I come from a pretty game-less background I think. I played very few games growing up and wasn’t directly inspired by any games in particular to get into the industry. Mostly I found that games as a medium were super interesting and I couldn’t find any specific games that really catered to my tastes. I always played games super passively and explored the worlds as much as possible without engaging in the mechanics or systems themselves. There was always a sort of frustration with how few games (that I had access to at the time) focused specifically on that exploration and discovery feeling. I didn’t want the stress of fighting or danger when I explored worlds so I set out to sort of create my own market of games-- non-violent and passive games that feel good to explore.
Could you describe to me your average day as a freelance game designer?
My days are usually split between working at League of Geeks in Melbourne and working from home on my own work. When I’m working from home, my average day is probably waking up at 11am and not having any breakfast, thinking about how I could get breakfast if I wanted it, and then putting off eating breakfast until it’s lunch and getting a large lunch to make up for the lack of breakfast. Once I eat lunch I’m usually ready to make games. I look at my task list for the day and decide what seems to be the most fun task and get to it. One of my favourite things to do is look at emails. I find emails very fun because they’re usually written so formally like a letter and there’s very little urgency to respond, unlike direct messages. I digress. Usually my day involves some sort of 3D modelling and world building, and working with my programmer Tom, who makes tools and systems for the game we’re currently making. I usually don’t do the programming myself for my games. I work pretty consistently until about 6 or 7pm and then eat dinner and watch something. I don’t think my days are particularly interesting but I like developing.
What is the gaming space in Melbourne like?
Melbourne is a super interesting and diverse space for game development. Commercial spaces like the Arcade in South Melbourne is where a bunch of studios work out of-- I think that can be super beneficial for the companies there, because the studios are in a sort of constant, open conversation with each other. A bit more north, we’ve got Share House, which is a smaller co-working space which has a bunch of lovely indie studios who are creating incredible work, including House House, Paper House and 2Pt. For the more casual and underground developers, spaces like Bar SK are super interesting. Bar SK is a gallery and bar space which showcases a constantly rotating selection of independent games. It’s also a sort of hub in Melbourne for all types of developers. There’s also a super wide range of places to study games, like RMIT and Swinburne. We also have Freeplay Festival and Melbourne International Games Week, which are both lovely times of the year for making friends. There’s a lot going on here.
How would you describe your aesthetic? (I love it by the way!)
Thank you! By others it’s been described as “something out of a nightmare” and “cute”. I think that kind of sums it up. My models are poorly constructed messes of geometry that manage to look neat by the time I’m finished with them. I think the thing that makes my work seem distinct is my use of lighting. I’ve found a secret way to make everything look lovely in Unity which helps for hiding the hot mess that is my work.
Any tips and tricks for people getting into the industry?
I don’t know if there’s any tricks but maybe it could be worth talking to a witch for some sort of industry hex. I think the most valuable thing for me in the industry was making friends and not connections. At game events I was never looking to get a job or network, I was just so excited to be in a space where I could meet people with the same interests as me. That helped me to relax and meet people for who they are and not what they do. When you’re starting out, being as personable and kind as you can be is a much better strategy than handing out business cards as soon as you meet someone from the industry. Also, share your work as often as you can. Twitter is good for that.
What projects are you looking forward to?
I’m super looking forward to Untitled Goose Game from House House. That game gives me so much joy. They’re also lovely developers and people who have been supportive of me and my work since day one-- but that doesn’t influence my answer. The game is a masterpiece.
What are your favourite games?
Ooh. I never know how to answer this because I don’t play many games. Recent games that I’m into are Hidden Folks, Hitman, Holedown (lots of ‘h’ games here) Supertype, Short Trip by Alexander Perrin, Splatoon, (now lots of ‘s’ games!) and What Remains of Edith Finch. But I must say my favourite game is ALIEN CASENO, which I made. No bias.
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About The Author: Caroline Corbett-Thompson
Caroline is the Marketing Director at Itavio. You'll find her listening to NPR and scowling 99% of the time.
More posts by Caroline Corbett-Thompson