Post feature RSS Out of Chaos - Art : An Interview With Ian Boswell

This is an interview with modder and professional game designer & level designer Ian Boswell - Creator of Hetzchase_Nailway Mod for Portal 1 and the upcoming Colours mod for Portal 2.

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:::::::::: INTERVIEW

- How important is modding to you?

Ian: The modding community showcases both the best and worst of what people are capable of when working with limited tools and a lot of time. Out of this chaos is usually born new ideas which can be applied professionally to the industry to create new and exciting types of gameplay mechanics neverbefore seen.
As Miyamoto put it: Creating another Mario game is easy, re-inventing the Rubick's Cube is hard. This is where modding's true strong suits exist: it's not in just creating new content for games but in creating new types of games nobody's seen before.

- Do you create new types of games often?

Actually yes. My mods exist to both expand the lifetime of older games and draw attention to my talents but they always try to introduce something new either artistically, thematically, or gameplay wise which hasn't before been seen.
In my day job I work as a video game designer. I am creating a game for Steam right now with about $200,000 budget, which isn't a whole lot for what we're trying to do with it, but it's at least a start. I, myself, won't be getting a penny of the money as I'm going to be spending all of it on research and development as well as hiring a team of programmers to assist me with that. I consider modding a weekend thing or a hobby though I will admit it's a bit of an obsession.

- It sounds like you love doing what you do for a living.

Yes I am completely in love with my profession. Like with any job there is stress and deadlines and there's always somebody you have to please but I think my past performances speak for themselves.

- What would you say is your greatest success?

Like most musicians my "biggest hit" is always the thing I am least proud of. I always feel my greatest success is the most recent thing I've worked on as I apply all knowledge of past experience toward it so it's always progressively better than the last thing I worked on.

If you're going by financial turn-around and popularity though, I had Motion9Studios LLC. spend about $400 on a programmer in Brazil to create a base Physics engine for us in objective C. I created all the art for it and we tossed "Kinetic Balls" up on the app store as our first release. It became the Number 1 app in February 2010.

It was the sillyest thing I ever worked on, yet apple was using its icon to represent the entire app store at one point due to its sheer popularity.

- How many downloads did you receive?
We lost count around 3.8 million, but I assume it is much more than that as it has stayed in the top 50 slot for 2 years now. Angry Birds obviously came along and demonstrated that people love avian-themed sling shot physics games way more than just clacking little balls on strings together. Ironically following our success about 20-or-so clones popped up on the iTunes market. None ever became as popular as ours though. I think there's a lesson in there about how the industry works. I wonder how many hundreds of angry birds clones have been made.

- Can you tell us anything about the Steam Game you are working on?

Not yet. I can confirm it is set in space, though what that means is kind of vague. Space is a running theme I'm going with recently. Even this mod, Colours, takes place on the moon.

- How did you get into the games industry?

I swore to everyone one day that I was a video game designer. Even though I did not yet have a job in the games industry I just started saying it. I said it to myself, and everyone around me, and put it on my resume. All my past work was just mods I'd created for the source and unreal engine. I featured my animation of "charlie" from Hetzhase_Nailway in my portfolio:

And I pointed to my mods and my computer science Master's degree as evidence of my ability to handle whatever was thrown at me. Mods are what got me noticed, honestly. Mods and craigslist.

- You actually got into the industry via craigslist with only mods to back up your skill level?
It was pretty clear from Day 1 at my first game studio (Promenite) that I was a cut above the rest. Whenever we all gathered around a table on day 1 with a ton of fresh new recruits they asked all of us: "So... Who has an idea for an awesome game we could put on the iPhone and Droid?"

Nobody spoke up. Everybody was keeping quiet. I wasn't though. I was loud. Never stop being loud, never stop being noticed, you should always be that pink elephant in the room, boisterous and noisy. If you have the solution to the problem, just shout it out loud. Ignore everyone else around you. That idea and getting it out is more important that dilly-dallying, small-talk, or budgeting discussions in some cases haha.

The point is, every time somebody says "do you have a solution" i don't act like a politician and dodge the subject. Maybe it's my 240+ IQ, I'm not sure what it is, but when a problem is presented to me I will find a solution in 5-20 seconds easy. Then I will blert it out and usually everyone stops in their tracks and says "Whoah... That's amazing. Where did that come from?" I'm similar with pumping out art and 3D models. Give me enough motivation and I'll deliver a good 15,000 dollars worth of design work in 2-3 days and you'll only have to pay me by the hour because that's how I roll.

I don't think Money makes the world go round. It is a means to an end. A means to survive. I only ever have to be paid what will keep me alive and sustained. Beyond that nothing is as important as delivering the product and making your voice heard.

- Do you apply this same tactic of "being loud" to your game design work and modding?

Absolutely. I will not go quietly into the night. I will not vanish without a fight! I'm going to live on. I'm going to survive. I'm going to celebrate - Waaait a second that is a quote from Independence Day...

In any case: I'm the most humble person I know. I often will give up a huge chunk of my salary to help a co-worker out or make sure we can hire an extra programmer or two. But that doesn't stop me from saying if you're looking for a great mod then look no further than what I'm putting out because I always emphasize quality first.

Colours is just another example of the crux of the quality I deliver on a daily basis.

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