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Earok interviews Joshua Smyth

Joshua Smyth is a New Zealand based freeware game developer. His most recent works are the challenging graphical rogue-like Caverns of Underkeep and the thrilling neo-retro shmup Attack of the Meeplings. As I know him personally and since he already has multiple good quality games published on his website I thought he would be an ideal candidate for the first game developer interview on my blog.

What compelled you to begin making games

Start with an easy one why don't you =) I guess I like the idea of creating worlds, ever since I was young I'd always be one to think, "what would happen if this was different, what would that lead to?" I guess thinking outside of the scope of the games and books I was reading would lead to interesting scenarios, I think its just an extension of playing make believe as a kid.

Of course I never knew how to make games, but I could always play out these little scenarios in my head or with my friends. I also figured at around age nine that there were people who made games for a living (quite obviously) I didn't know any of these people, but I figured that if someone was doing it, then I could do it to.

What introduced you to gaming?

Now thats a multi-faceted question. My earliest memory of a video game was at the pub, I think I was about four or so and I remember seeing this coffee table height spaceship shooter game. I remember being quite transfixed with the animation and the fact that you could move the stick and the ship would move. Now I'm far too old to remember absolutely correctly, it is a very early memory, I don't know if I ever even played the game or not. Thinking back now, it was probably Galaxian or something.

But what got me really interested in gaming was an old Sierra title called 'Quest for Glory'. There was (what seemed to me) a huge world to explore and I remember trying to type in any command I could think of. Of course most of it wouldn't work, and I was pretty bad at the game (I was six or seven) but I was pretty stoked just exploring and wondering what treats were in store for me in the forest, I had no idea what could be found there.

That game started me on all the other Sierra and adventure games. I've been primarily a PC gamer since.

What are the inspirations for your games

Ha, if you look at each of my games there are very obvious inspirations =). When I'm designing a new game, I'm almost always thinking of 3 or 4 older titles to borrow elements from. I think I do pretty well to synergise with my own ideas as well.

I haven't made enough games to come up with a unified theory of game-design inspiration yet.

What tools do you use to develop your games?

It really depends on the target platform and what I want to do. I've used many languages in the past, so I'm quite comfortable using the tools most appropriate to the task. Currently I'm programming in Java 1.5 to make browser based applets. I do have some plans to do some C++/Lua/SDL games in the future. I've used that Trinity before and it works very well, although not on anything I've released.

I've used VisualBasic/DirectX in the past. In the tools front, comes in very handy for my sprite work. I also use visual studio for my IDE.

What kind of games do you want to make in the future

That would be telling.

I want to do games similar to the games that first inspired my RPG/Adventure style games, with interesting worlds and characters. That is a bit of a long way off however as I'm only just about to finish my degree and start my normal career.

Speaking of careers, do you eventually intend to develop games professionally?

I've flirted with the idea - If I do I don't want to be working for someone else. I'm currently quite happy making games in my spare time, if the opportunity presents itself I would have to think about it more when the time comes.

Its not easy doing the marketing/business side of the equation. I'm definitely interested in that part, but you've really got to give it priority if you want to live of your creations.

What is your favourite indie or free game you've played in the last year?

Cave Story. I know it was released a couple years ago but I only played it last year. Eschalon Book I was also a favourite of mine.

Note to the creator of Cave Story - I'll buy a T-shirt if you're selling them.

Do you have a favourite indie or free game designer?

I really admire Seth Able Robinson, the creator of LORD (Legend of the Red Dragon) apart from playing the game very competitively on BBSs in the mid-90s his games have a lot of personality in them.

He has a good sense of humour, not many games nowadays make you laugh. I miss that. Ben Croshaw is also a favourite of mine, his adventure games are really good.

Do you have any advice for people who want to create their own games?

Reduce Scope. Programming games is quite hard, if you can't make space invaders you shouldn't really be trying to create an MMORPG (This interview was done a while ago, I realize I said virtually the exact same thing in a recent blog post, it must have sunk into my sub conscious - Erik). Also have a go at parts that might not necessarily be your discipline, if you're mainly a programmer have a go at doing art. If you're mainly an artist, have a go at programming scripts or logic. I'd also suggest to just give it a go.

Joshua's website is If you have a few minutes to spare head on over and try to beat my AOTM score. I dare you.



Té la mà Maria - Reus (not verified)

very good blog, congratulations
regard from Catalonia Spain
thank you