Indie Interview: James Robertson With Game Of Cubes
So I recently had the chance to interview industry veteran James Robertson who has worked with the likes Bullfrog on games like Theme Park, Populous and Syndicate, as well as developing with Funcom. He has now turned his attention to the release of his first in indie game for Apple platforms on iOS called Game of Cubes. Robertson describes the game as such:
A highly unique puzzler, which is set to engage, activate and stimulate your brain into overdrive. With casual accessibility, hardcore depth and hours of enjoyment, Game of Cubes is a title for anyone wanting the next in portable puzzling.
Our resident writer Marko got a chance to play the game and had this to say about the game:
Game of Cubes is a simple game, but sometimes simple can be elegant. The core premise of the game is to move various cubes with patterns on them in such a way that the two patterns match up. The result is a game that tests your mental capacity and problem solving capabilities. There are various modes available to you such as Normal play that has you solving puzzles that get harder as you go along and timed courses that give you a set amount of moves to complete the puzzle. I found it surprisingly fun even with its simple mechanics. If you have a few minutes to kill and you’re a fan of puzzle games then this game is ideal for you.
Robertson calls the new start-up games studio of his Oso Games and hopes to break into other platforms as soon as possible, with an Android release looking to be probable. I got to sit down with him and talk about his past in the industry as well as where he thinks he is heading with his new game. When talking about Game of Cubes he referred to it as a simple puzzle game where you match up up “other cubes with the shapes on top”. It’s a very simple game, in a 3D perspective. There are different patterns on the faces of the cubes and you have to match up all the different coloured cubes. He tells us that the game is available and has been tested on all available Apple mobile devices, so if you have an iPad or an iPhone you’re in luck and can give the game a go.
We then went on to talking about coding Game of Cubes, which he stated was not the hardest of affairs with the current technology being much easier to use then in the past. Particularly we discussed the implementation and the usage of Unity in the development of indie games, which Robertson felt had a lot to offer. This is what he had to say:
The thing about Unity is that it lets use as much or as little of their engine as you want. In Game of Cubes for example I’ve used very little of their editor. I’ve gone and used a basic thing which has a camera and a light, and I actually produced all the graphics and the levels in code.
I also got a bit of time to talk to Robertson about his involvement with Bullfrog Productions and what it was like working on games like Theme Park and Syndicate in the early 90s. When I asked him about his experiences he replied that it was:
Painful, and we were obviously developing on PC where it was all DOS-based. There was no concept of code completion, and no internet really so you couldn’t look up any detail about the code. You had to ask other people or look it up in a book, and see whether other people knew how to do this. With Bullfrog I started in QA, and I was working on Populous and Power Monger. I then did some city design for Syndicate. I was then programming on Theme Park.
I then proceeded to asked the most hallowed of questions: “What was it like working with Peter Molyneux?”. This was his response, as follows:
It was actually a lot of fun. I haven’t spoken to him for many years, so I don’t know what he is like now. But back then, you know he was a real nice guy to work with, a real workaholic like you wouldn’t believe. He would sit in the office and program all day, and then he would take a copy of the code home and program all night. The next day he would come with a new version of the game and there would be a thousand new features, and a thousand new things to look at and play with, and try out.
In regards to development, he told me that Syndicate was programmed by two programmers and Theme Park with him and Peter Molyneux full time for a year and a half, with a few other people helping to finish off the game at the end. But essentially Bullfrog was a standard model for how many indie studios operate nowadays. The entire team Theme Park consisted of only fifteen people. Now with Game of Cubes that spirit and passion has carried on.
With the future looking bright for James Robertson he hopes to develop and produce a diverse range of interesting games in the future. He told me that he always has twenty to thirty game design ideas floating around in his head. For him, it is just question of whether he can find the time and money to pursue these ideas into full development. Robertson’s key to success is “time” and taking out the time to try and do things, and try things out, and not be afraid of failure. This was the philosophy he and the team at Bullfrog followed. They made some of the most amazing games. Game of Cubes carries on that tradition.