TechRaptor recently reached out to Alex Poysky of Quadro Delta, developers of Pixel Piracy and the upcoming Pixel Privateers, who was gracious enough to spend time answering our questions. In the interview below we asked Alex about game development, addressing criticism, his thoughts on Early Access and Quadro Delta's upcoming games.
TR: Please tell us about yourself, your experience in the video games industry and Quadro Delta.
Alex: My name is Alex Poysky, I'm an Ex Soldier who decided to turn his life around three years ago. I began as a PR contact for Indie Games, ended up as the Head Of Content Management at GamersGate.com , and in my time there, discovered Vitali and his awesome little prototype and became his Producer! We worked together in what little spare time we had to create Pixel Piracy! Nowadays, I help run the studio we founded, and manage the developers working on Pixel Privateers and Pixel Piracy.
TR: You've recently addressed criticisms of the way the launch of Pixel Piracy was handled. Do you feel that this has helped you gain trust with your customers, both fans and detractors?
Alex: Yes, it did. I've always been forthcoming with our fans and detractors, and take criticism on the nose. We dropped the ball in a few regards, and our Enhanced Edition of Pixel Piracy, which is entirely FREE for anyone who has the game, is our apology letter. It's a way of coming through on those promises, giving more than what was asked, and not charging a cent for it.
TR: What advice would you give to other indie-developers re: addressing criticisms and staying connected with their communities?
Alex: Criticism is like Failure. Don't take it as defeat, take it as a learning experience, stand up, dust yourself off, and keep working hard to achieve your goals.
TR: You are quoted as saying "TAKE criticism in stride, and fix your mis-steps." What steps do you think can be taken to heal the rift in gaming that has formed between the games media, some game developers and the core audience of gamers?
Alex: Don't generate a "Badditude" with your consumers. They ARE your pulse, they are what make or break your game. Learn to understand that, learn to love the haters, learn to be able to accept that neither you nor your game are perfect, and things will be that much easier in the long term.
TR: What was your experience with Steam Greenlight like? Are you glad that you chose this route to get Pixel Piracy onto Steam?
Alex: Greenlight is over-saturated to extremes, and you have to jump through some serious hoops to get voted. It's more of a popularity contest based on what you can promise and the flashiness you can show than a REAL quality control. I'm not criticizing it because it's currently the best safeguard, but there could be other, less arbitrary ways to expose your game to the mass media.
Think about it this way, of the over 200 developers I know, probably only 10% are able to speak in public, take criticism at face value and not as a personal attack, are social extroverts, and are happy to speak with hundreds of people without feeling pressure build up. You mean to tell me that my game get's voted onto the world's largest digital distribution center, not based on it's merits, but based on my capacity to do a song and a dance for people while they vote?
I can see how THAT particular issue is a constant uphill battle for the other 90% who DON'T have those aptitudes.
TR: How did you get involved with Re-logic as the publisher for Pixel Piracy and will you be teaming with them on the newly announced Pixel Privateers as well?
Alex: No comment on the Pixel Privateers front, and I met Red a few years ago. He was who inspired me to leave the military and pursue a life in gaming. He too was a soldier, and I admired the hell out of him for having the tenacity to be a pioneer in many aspects. He changed his life around, he learned and grew, and he was rewarded for that. Four years ago I looked at him and said "One day I will be there.", I think we've always gotten along due to similar backgrounds. One day we had a chat on Facebook, I showed him the game, and things clicked, that's how we became Re-Logic's first published title!
TR: You were originally planning on releasing your upcoming game, Pixel Privateers, as Early Access. You instead released a free playable Alpha and made some statements against Early Access. Do you think there are viable alternatives for indie developers who may feel that releasing a game in Early Access is the only way to get the funding to complete their game?
Alex: Yes. Early Access is currently as attractive a buzz-word as "Roguelike" in the industry. People have taken an aspect of core industry that was meant to be a solution for budding studios to achieve their goals, and turned it into a sort of catch 22 where you see these HUGE name studios that have no true need of the money use it as a cushion to push out inferior quality products at top price, then use EA as a crutch to never have to come through.
We slogged through it, launched a title with problems, and have faced those problems head on. We fought to make a name for ourselves and pick up the pieces that we dropped. We made and are continuing to make amends, but not everyone does so. I'd set Early Access as something FIRST TIME studios can use, but obviously there's a market, a very LARGE one, for it, and that's not going to change.
TR: In January you talked about burnout that members of your studio faced while making Pixel Piracy. Burnout seems to be a big hurdle for many people in games development. Do you have any insight to share with other developers on how to maintain a better work-life balance while developing a game?
Alex: Developers, as I see them, in my experience as a Producer, are like painters. They have a beautiful idea, begin with a blank canvas and start out well. Things take shape halfway through and everything looks like it'll go well, but there is a sort of "plateau" moment in which you realize that every time you put that brush on the canvas, it CLOSES off an idea you had in a different area. This is a sort of "Red Zone" for devs, as the thought of coding themselves into a corner is terrifying, and that last 25% is always the hardest. It's where you have to take creative decisions and "tie off" code so to speak that will permanently be sealed.
For many, the sheer stress that is caused by having to make these creative decisions themselves is enough to dissuade them from ever finishing. For others, it's the pressure of feeling the critique of the fans, letting them down. Others still simply feel fed up by having to stare at the same code day in, day out.
My advice? If you are NEARING completion and HAVE the money, hire a maintenance programmer, someone who could help you cross that finish line. If you don't have the money, offer him a cut of sales in exchange for his help. There is no shame in having someone else finish what you have started. Think about it this way, when a carpenter makes a bench, there are times when someone else sands that bench down, then paints it. Those finishing touches help DEFINE the bench, but the base? The structure? That was the carpenter. Think outside the box, and understand that you can't take on everything always. Pobody's Nerfect!
TR: Which steps do you think the industry need to take as a whole for games to be seen as a true art form?
Alex: We are taking some great steps as an industry to provide video games as an art form. Games WRITTEN by Hollywood directors? Professional actors giving voice and character to the games, and game-play that delves into aspects of both common and uncommon life that nobody has ever gone into. But it's always been art, always.
I remember being bullied at school. I was a tough kid so it'd usually have to be a group of bullies to beat me up, and I'd go home after a crappy day and turn on Monkey Island. That music is still with me to this day. I hum it in the shower, that tune is sort of a mantra. You can do it, you can overcome. If that isn't art, if that isn't influential then nothing is.
TR: You seem very open to people making videos of your games and posting them to YouTube. Do you place more value on Youtube, word of mouth or traditional games journalism for coverage of your games?
Alex: It's a mix of all three really. My personal experience is that YouTube has had such a massive impact on the industry on the whole that it has become the "go-to" place for developers to show off their work. Unfiltered, unobtrusive videos showing off your work, the comments, SEEING a professional gamer PLAY your game. It is all so very useful to us that based on the feedback alone I would say it's invaluable. But to top it off, those videos entice other potential customers to purchase your title.
Traditional journalism is wonderful as well, offering an expose of your game's good and bad points for you to take into account.Word of mouth is tied into both Youtube and Journalism, and when it spreads, it spreads like wildfire. All three are effective IF you have the energy and capacity to pull them off.
TR: Do you plan to bring your games to consoles and handhelds or are you going to going to stick with PC/Mac/Linux?
Alex: No comment, just... stay tuned ;)
TR: Pixel Piracy has some excellent and hilarious shanty songs. Can we expect to hear any space-shanties in Pixel Privateers?
Alex: Yep, although they might not be what you expect. (I LOVED the Cantina in Star Wars... wink... wink.. nudge... nudge...). Kole Hicks, our amazing composer, has been hard at work since the first moment of pre-production, which means that this time around there are certain scenes of the game which are based AROUND his incredible music, offering a whole new layer of fun.
TR: Can you give us any hints about your upcoming multiplayer game? Is it going to use the Pixel theme as well?
Alex: The upcoming multiplayer only title is called Pixel Principate. It stays in line with the Pixel theme and the safest way of describing it would be, what if Space Station 13 were taken to ridiculous depth, with a focus on inter-character, as well as inter-STATION relationships. It'll be incredibly fun for sure. The best part of all? Pixel Piracy's original developer, Vitali Kirpu, is making it entirely from scratch. He's learned from his past mistakes and so far is offering up an overwhelming amount of content with a similarly overwhelming LACK of bugs. Our multiplayer tests are very positive so far, and it doesn't look to be THAT far out. Expect it in mid/third quarter 2015.
TR: You've released free playable Alpha builds for both Pixel Piracy and Pixel Privateers. Is this a trend that you are going to continue with other games in the future?
Alex: We do in fact want to keep up with out "free information" trend. Our players, detractors, and reviewers love the gesture, and it helps us get neccesary feedback. I know we are unique in our way of thinking, but sharing is caring. If you play and like the game when you pirated it, you will do one of two things: buy the game, or tell others about it so they can buy it. If you hate the game, you won't be as inclined to bash us on the forums since you didn't pay for it.
I like the knowledge that those who purchase our titles are those who do so without having to do so due to them being available on torrents, it makes the gesture that much more meaningful in our eyes. And to each of you who has paid for the game due to our way of managing them, thank you from the bottom of our hearts, it means so much to us.
TR: In January you announced that Pixel Privateers would be delayed for two months. Is it still on track to be released in April?
Alex: April/June period. We want to make sure it's great!
TR: Do you have any final thoughts that you would like to share with the readers of TechRaptor?
Alex: We are just a group of humble people trying to make great games for our fans. Knowing that our work has helped other people's days, even if slightly, is amazing. Thank you so very much for taking the time and consideration to interview me, and if you ever want to chat about Pixel Principate I'd be happy to get you in touch with Vitali!
To your readers: If you ever wish to contact me I'm quite active on Reddit, Twitter (@alexpoysky) and Steam. Don't be a stranger! I'm happy to oblige you!
Techraptor would like to thank Alex for taking the time to answer our questions. You can find more from Alex by following him on Twitter or visiting piracysim.com. Pixel Piracy is currently available on PC and can be purchased from Steam or DRM free from GOG. More information on the Pixel Privateers free Alpha build can be found here. Look for Pixel Privateers in April/June and keep an eye out for Pixel Principate later in 2015.