With the brilliant Guide The Light coming out on iOS on the 22nd of this very month, we thought we’d post a nice interview with the man behind the game, Paul Ripley. Paul’s a very talented chap who has done work for, among other companies, Sony Liverpool. That’s right, on WipEout and stuff.
As you can see from the game’s trailer, he’s very good at his job.
So anyway, we rambled on a bit – it’s all very interesting, don’t worry – but we thought we’d split the interview into two parts. Here’s part one! Enjoy!
Appy: Where did you start your career in games?
Paul: I started making simple games in basic when I was about 12, on my Commodore 64, but stopped doing that after a couple of years. I returned to making games in about 2000 when I started working for Magenta Games in Liverpool. We made a few PS1 and PS2 games, such as Disney’s Treasure Planet, and Stuart Little 2. Later on I moved to Sony Computer Entertainment where I programmed on PS3 games such as the PS3 launch title Formula 1 2006 Championship Edition. I also worked on WipEout HD, and the PS Vita launch title Wipeout 2048, as well as many prototypes.
Appy: What was the most influential game in your childhood?
Paul: I’m not sure any games were particularly influential, but I have strong memories of Shadow of The Beast 2, Turrican 2, Speedball 2, and Populous 2 (all on the Amiga, and all 2nd sequels for some strange reason!).
Earlier than that though, I can remember getting thoroughly beaten by Manic Miner on the C64.
It’s interesting to note that one of my colleagues at Sony was one of the creators of Shadow of the Beast (Studio Liverpool having previously been Psygnosis).
Appy: How do you approach designing your games? What are your inspirations and priorities?
Paul: In the last few years I’ve been looking at how to design games for a touch screen, which presents different problems to traditional control interfaces. I’m really not keen on console ports with virtual sticks, and I much prefer games designed specifically for the available controls on the device.
I had a lot of experience working on prototype games for the PS Vita, and that was useful for finding out what does and doesn’t work on a touch screen.
Most of the game ideas I’m working on all stem from a single core idea or mechanic, and I build the game on that. For example Guide The Light only really has one mechanic – moving mirrors around, so it’s simple to learn the controls. You can then design complexity on top of that by adding a few simple rules that have to be combined correctly.
Appy: What’s your favourite game on iOS at the moment?
Paul: I’ve been so busy with developing GTL and contracting recently, I haven’t played many new iOS games for a while. I’ll be doing a lot more “research” soon once GTL is released 🙂
I do have one favourite at the moment, but it’s a top-secret prototype I’m working on, so I can’t say any more at the moment!
Appy: If you could, please tell us a little bit about Colin Fawcett and the dedication to him in the Guide The Light credits.
Paul: Colin was a friend and colleague for about 5 years – I worked with him at Sony, where he was an art director, and also drank a fair few beers with him!
Colin left Sony at around the same time I did, and set out as a freelance game artist.
He produced the majority of the great artwork in Guide The Light, where his skill as a comic artist really helped define the visual style of the game.
It was a great shock when Colin recently passed away, after a short battle with cancer. It was the least I could do to dedicate the game to Colin.
Appy: What was the first inspiration for GTL?
Paul: I’d had the idea years ago, but hadn’t had the chance to make it, and it would have been clumsy to play with more traditional controllers. I suspect it was one of those ideas that arrive in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep – most of my game ideas come then, and I usually write them down.
After I decided to go solo making iOS games, I first developed Hexius, as it was simpler to get up and running, and then I turned my focus to Guide The Light, as it really suited touch controls.
Appy: What do you want you players to feel when playing GTL?
Paul: I want players to feel the satisfaction of solving puzzles! Pretty much all of my game ideas have puzzle solving at their heart, and GTL is no exception.
Appy: What made you decide to have players helping out a character, rather than just a traditional abstract puzzle?
Paul: GTL is purely a level based puzzle game, but it can be very hard to convey to players why they should play a puzzle game if it’s very abstract. I discovered this with Hexius – it has a hardcore following of players who keep coming back for more, but it was hard to sell to more casual players due to it’s abstract nature.
It’s a fairly well known design principle that if a game features a character, then people can relate to it better – as you solve the puzzles in the game, you feel a little like you are helping someone achieve something, rather than just performing an abstract task.
By having a character exploring pyramids, it also made it easier to settle on the art style.
Appy: Are you particularly passionate about Egyptology or excavations/treasure hunting?
Paul: I wouldn’t say I’m passionate about it, but I do find it interesting, and often pop into museums with Egypt exhibits when I’m passing. I guess I was probably influenced by watching lots of Indiana Jones as a child!
Appy: Who else helped you make GTL and what did they contribute?
Paul: Phasic Labs is a 1 man band, but I couldn’t have made GTL without the excellent hand-crafted artwork from Colin.
The amazing music was created by Richard Abbott, who I was introduced to by an ex-Sony colleague. Richard makes great music as well as running an Aerospace company, believe it or not!
I made all of the other content, did all the programming, and designed the levels, but the level design was iterative, with quite a few friends helping me refine the designs over the last year.
Appy: What was the key inspiration behind the tone and style of the audio?
Paul: The audio inspiration is mostly Richard’s – I wanted the main music to sound cinematic, but not too dark, and the in-game music to be mysterious and atmospheric, but not too obtrusive, as it shouldn’t distract from playing the game.
Richard returned some prototype tracks astoundingly quickly, and it a variety of styles, and with only a few tweaks we had the final music.
I produced the sound effects, but there wasn’t much inspiration required for those, because it’s fairly obvious what each event in the game should sound like.