JournoDevSwap: Through the looking glass

JournoDevSwap: Through the looking glass

By Andrew Smith

October 5th 2012 at 11:10PM

An outsider's perspective on the inner workings of journalism

[For their first challenge – Our developers-cum-journalists were tasked with conducting an interview with one of the development teams – You can find all the interviews here.]

I need to get something off my chest first.

I came to this event in fancy dress, but frankly I began to feel a little bit of an arse for doing so. I say fancy dress, but really just dressed up a bit daftly to poke fun at some of my journalist friends.

Hat, shirt and tie under my jumper ( pictures all of twitter by now!) that kind of thing. But as soon as I started to talking to the people involved, I realised that while it may raise a smirk, my japery did a disservice to those around me.

For the journalists and students involved in the London Games Festival Developer-Journalist Swap-over Hack, this was more than just a bit of fun.

I took Rob Crossley (from CVG) and Kevin Chandler (from Indieskies) aside to talk about their game, and discuss their thoughts on this incredibly unique and eye opening event.

We're at the LGF, halfway through the festival. How does it feel to be involved in something so left field as a role swap?
Rob
: It's fantastic. It gives you a different perspective on the whole process, and I think that as well as learning how the other disciplines work, as well as learning what it's like to be a Games Designer, we also get to find out about why people do it, why its fun.

I'm genuinely getting a sense of why people enjoy it, why developers do what they do. Instantly there was a sort of sense of teamwork, a sense of like this goal and this mission - and I've always thought that studios have it - but having experienced it I think I know more about it now.

Kevin: We get to see everyone normally in their usual roles and how they go about it, but maybe it's better in this kind of scenario because not only do we learn more about you guys but we also learn how you guys act outside of your comfort zones. That's actually pretty decent for us in quite a lot of ways, and it's good, it's good fun.

So far.

Yeah we might do another one where we hate each other *laughs*.

Rob: *laughs* That's bound to happen.

Tell me a little bit about the game and the company you've formed. What's the name of the company?
Kevin
: Rob Crossley and Kevin Chandler's Really Cool Game Studio

It promises a lot!

Rob: It's a working title.

Kevin: We haven't printed business cards yet, but they're ready.

They're in the queue at Vista Print?
Rob
: We can still edit them, though *laughs*.

Kevin: We got an email for a really amazing offer.

Rob: Other printing services are available...

Of course, this isn't the BBC, I'm hoping someone's going to pay me for all the name drops in the article. The game itself; you've got 48 hrs so you've got to get in there quick. We're in hour two or three, have you decided on what the game is?
Kevin
: Yeah. We know exactly what the game is, already we have it deployed to Rob's iPhone so it's all ready to go.

Rob: The objective was to be as efficient as possible, we wanted to get something up as quickly as possible because we understand the time constraints of the game jam, and-

Kevin: I think the game design that you picked, or you know we kind of collaborated on-

Rob: It was collaborative.

Kevin: You initially put out was a great one.

Rob: Oh thank you

Kevin: Because the first one, because it's so simple we can do a lot of kind of work to, you know, kind of tweak things and make it look and feel...

Rob: And there's a theory of game design which is that any old game can be boiled down to a verb, essentially, like Tetrs is stack and Mario is jump, I suppose, and so the idea is to get something that is as simplistic as possible and just, people have fun within that simplicity, if that makes sense. It probably doesn't.

Kevin: Have we said the game name yet? I don't know if we've said the game name yet.

Rob: No, what is the game name?

Kevin: I don't know... what is it?

Rob: Is it Granny versus Ninjas?

Kevin: See now I've written the provisioning profile on iOS as Granny Ninja.

Rob: Granny Ninja it is then.

Kevin: We could do Granny versus Ninja because it sounds more kinda, you know, you're a Granny and you're versus Ninjas.

Rob: What about Grinja?

Kevin: I don't know about that, I don't know.

You mentioned shooting being the verb that you wanted to go for.
Rob
: No, dodging is our verb, isn't it?

Kevin: yes, yes it is.

Ah my bad.
Kev
: we've definitely taken 'SWAP' to a new level though.

Rob: yeah we have.

Ah ok so how does it build into this 'swap' theme?
Rob
: do you want to answer that?

Kev: sure, ok. You get these sort of boxes of cool items that pop out of nowhere beind you, that you know you've got to get them , if you don't get them you could be at a disadvantage.

When you get one of these boxes it changes your weapon. And that's you swapping a weapon. But that's not all, because we did kind of take it from two sides, this swap thing, so if you miss one of these boxes it will hit into one of your enemies coming towards you, and they'll get the gun.

Rob: the tables have swapped, as the phrase goes.

It does now. That's the subtitle of your game.
Rob
: the DLC

'The Swappening'. Ok cool. So a little bit of your backgrounds now I suppose. Rob your background is a journalist of some repute and some experience.
Rob
: yeah, working class hero * laughs* I'm joking, I'm joking.

It's all on here... My recording software's not laughing.
Rob
: That's really good, I've not used that before, I'm so using that, that's genuinely brilliant.

Kev: Can you just make up random phrases so whe we kill stuff in the game, that stuff comes up?

Rob: hahah sorry.

We've covered what you're getting out of it right now, but by the end of this 48hrs what are you hoping for, personally?
Rob
: um, to know more about developers, to know more about why they do it. And also to understand a bit more about game design. I think the main lessons that are going to come out of this, in terms of game design - I know we're not in a massive studio.

So, you know, we're never going to learn a lot about how that's gonna work - but I'm still working with you guys on designing a game and there are things that have come up that I never expected would come up, challenges that... things that are very literal in games design is actually a massive f-ing problem.

Kev: I'm sure tomorrow we'll find that out.

Rob: yeah exactly so I just realise now that, I don't know, if something seems right in a game, if something seems straightforward and simple in a game, it doesn't meant that it's a straight forward and easy concept, it means the developer has made it straightforward and easy. If that makes any sense.

Yeah, yeah it did.
Rob
: unlike the last one I did, which made no sense.

You mention that you want that understanding... Is that purely from a journalistic point of view for when you go back to your day job, and the insight it gives you, or is there an element beyond that?
Rob
: no, in all honesty it's just from a journalistic point of view. I like to do stuff outside of stories that will help me with stories, and certainly understanding what the development process is like will help me with stories, and I like to get as close to the industry as possible. 

Because if you do that you get a better sense of what it's about and I think it ... I think if journalists can be as well informed as they can be about the industry then it's only going be better for journalism.

So how about yourself, what's the thing you're hoping to get out of it above all else?
Kev
: meeting new people, talking to new people, finding out what they do and generally having a good time. That's it, all in a nutshell.

Brilliant, than you very much.

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[Note: This interview was submitted after the 10pm deadline]

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