This was the first interview I ever conducted, and was published on N-Europe on 22nd June 2007. It was with the developer of a game called QWAK, a rare homebrew Game Boy Advance game released during the reign of the Nintendo DS.
We recently caught up with Jamie Woodhouse, freelance developer of the hit game QWAK for the Game Boy Advance, which is out right now. Read on to find out how one goes about making a game without a large development team, and what Jamie’s favourite variety of cheese is.
N-Europe: Hello Jamie! Can you explain who you are and what QWAK is about?
Jamie Woodhouse: I’m an indie game developer based in Sheffield in the UK. I have been making games for over 20 years now. QWAK is a fun platform game, about a duck. The objective is to make your merry way through the game’s many levels, collecting fruit, gems, power-ups and pick-ups galore as you go. QWAK is well regarded for its playability and addictive properties by its many loyal fans.
N-E: Have you had any previous involvement in the industry prior to QWAK?
Jamie: Sure, mostly in the capacity of freelance developer. I did a version of QWAK for the BBC Micro (way back in 1989). I was also responsible for Nitro (Psygnosis) and ATR (Team17), and have a number of projects for the Game Boy Advance, including Lego Racers 2.
N-E: What was your inspiration behind creating a game like Qwak?
Jamie: I just wanted to create a fun game which I’d love to play myself.
N-E: QWAK is a game that has been around since 1989, what do you think makes it a game that is timeless and can still be enjoyed today?
Jamie: Well, there is an abundance of variety in the game, each time you play, something different happens. At least it feels that way to me. There doesn’t seem to be any prescribed way to complete levels. So for me, this variety adds to its timeless quality. Plus, there is a multi-layered aspect to the game-play. For example, you can complete additional tasks for extra bonus points and eggs.
“I just wanted to create a fun game which I’d love to play myself.”
N-E: Describe some of the challenges in bringing a game to the market without the backing of a large publisher.
Jamie: I’d have to say, the biggest challenge for me is simply having to do everything myself. I have to handle development (all the design, coding and art), marketing, promoting the game, duplicating the carts, printing manuals, processing orders, everything. It all adds up to a lot of work, and it’s very important how I distribute my time between all these tasks. It’s not easy, and it’s quite lonely too, not having anyone around to bounce ideas off or to share the creative process with.
N-E: What would you suggest to others who wish to do the same as you have done?
Jamie: That’s their decision; however, they might consider creating a game for the PC, so they can sell it as a download.
N-E: What are your target sales figures for QWAK on the GBA?
Jamie: It’s a limited edition run of 300.
N-E: How do you feel about original content on the Wii’s Virtual Console, 360’s Marketplace and the PlayStation Network? Do you think it could help independent publishers to get their products out to wider audiences for a low cost, and do you plan on releasing games on any of the formats?
Jamie: I haven’t had the time to look in to these as yet. I am too focused on the development of QWAK for the PC right now. It’s something I may look in to soon.
N-E: What are your views on how the growth of the online community has affected gaming?
Jamie: This is no doubt a very good thing. People using online forums can discuss games, what’s good, what’s not so good. Perhaps this gives opportunity for a game to do well, based on merit, more than on its name or license?
N-E: What age were you when you first got into gaming, and what got you into it?
Jamie: I got dragged in to computer club (kicking and screaming, against my will) by a friend at school. Not sure why I was so reluctant, but I loved it once I was in there. I would have been around 13 or 14, I guess.
“The biggest challenge for me is simply having to do everything myself. I have to handle development (all the design, coding and art), marketing, promoting the game, duplicating the carts, printing manuals, processing orders, everything. It’s not easy, and it’s quite lonely too, not having anyone around to bounce ideas off or to share the creative process with.”
N-E: When you’re not too busy working on your own projects, what games do you like to play to pass the time?
Jamie: I tend not to play too many games; I spend way too many hours in front of a PC as it is. I’d rather get out of the house, and do some exercise, go salsa dancing or something. However, I have been known to spend a whole weekend (or two) playing Colonization (it’s a strategy game). Bad puppy!
N-E: Do you have any plans on moving onto the DS and to create game concepts that use its unique features?
Jamie: No plans for doing anything with the DS.
N-E: Do you think Qwak would lend itself well to DS controls? Is a DS version something you would be interested in developing?
Jamie: I’m sure QWAK would lend itself very well to the DS (not sure how the touch screen would integrate in to the game though). I’d love to develop it for the DS, but there is no way I could to that, not without publisher backing or having a very large sum of money in the bank to purchase licensed developer status.
N-E: And finally, what is your favourite variety of cheese?
Jamie: Angelina Jolie (Angelina, you can call me on 077…)
N-E: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Jamie.
Jamie: No problem. Don’t forget to check out the FREE demo of QWAK.