Jason Pickering Interview

Jason Pickering Interview

Following on from the release of Microgue with pocket-sized RogueLight, Ms Spell, Jason Pickering is a man with one hand in game development and the other in the world of animation. My Boxed Universe catches a moment of his time to interview him on RogueLikes, his experiences in the mobile market and what the future might hold.

MBU
First and foremost, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. For the uninitiated, can you please introduce yourself to our readers?

PICKERING
My name is Jason Pickering. I am a 3D animator who transitioned to solo video game development.

MBU
As a man who’s published two successful RogueLikes onto mobiles, is it safe to assume you have a love for that particular sub-genre of the RPG? If so, where do you think it stems from?

PICKERING
The first time I was introduced to a roguelike was from a DS game called Shiren the Wanderer. I think what really draws me to the genre is the idea of the procedural generation. I like that every run is completely different.

MBU
Are you personally more a fan of RogueLight mechanics over the more harsh RogueLikes?

PICKERING
I am a bigger fan of the Roguelight genre. The main issue I have with Roguelikes is that they can be a bit too complicated and the player becomes weighed down with stat tracking. I like the lighter feel of roguelites, where you only have a few stats to worry about.

Microgue 2

MBU
Microgue was your first mayor foray into the mobile gaming scene, and it was published by Crescent Moon Games. Was there a reason you approached that company in particular?

PICKERING
I was actually an animator for Crescent Moon when I started working on MicRogue. I was working on the sequel to ravensword and in my spare time I was developing MicRogue in Flash.

MBU
Ms Spell is self-published, how did that choice come about and how have you found it so far?

PICKERING
It was something I had wanted to do for a while, It gives me a lot more control on the direction of the game and marketing. That said it has been incredibly complicated. I had to do a lot of stuff for myself that Crescent Moon took care of. I also didn’t have the fan base that Crescent Moon has going into this game release.

MBU
You tend to focus on a retro pixel-art aesthetic in your games, which is interesting for a man with a background in 3D animation techniques. Have you considered moving into 3D or do you find the pacing of this style better suits how you like to develop games?

PICKERING
There are a couple reasons. I really like working within limitations, something you may notice from the design of my games. I like the challenge of working in limited sizes. Ms. Spell originally was even more retro. I used the PICO-8 color scheme which was only 16 colors. This was a little to limiting so I decided to change it. The other thing is I feel much better programing 2D games. I am not the best programmer and I tend to have better luck with a flat 2D engine. That said, I have been experimenting with 3D models rendered to 2D sprites.

Microgue 1

MBU
Who does the music for you games and how did you reach out to them?

PICKERING
My first two games were done by a musician named Jack Menhorn, who I met through the TIGsource Forums. He was too busy to do the music for Ms. Spell so I reached out to Sound of Pixels, who he had recommended. They delivered the music and SFX for Ms. Spell.

MBU
What do you personally look for in a game?

PICKERING
I do most of my gaming on mobile now and I do not play as much as I use to. For games I look for something unique and also something that has a wide design, lots of options and choices to make. I also try to take a look at the most popular games on the app store. If a 100 million people are playing clash royale I would like to know why. Another thing that I find nice about the mobile market is the quick gaming sessions. It allows you to do quick plays when you get the time.

MBU
How long was Ms Spell in development?

PICKERING
It was a little over a year in development. I had started building a Roguelike engine in February of 2016 and I launched April 2017

Spell 1

MBU
You’re planning updates for Ms Spell, can you let us in on what we can expect to see in the game in the future?

PICKERING
Right now the first update (Which should be out soon) will be strictly bug fixes and improvements. As for new content, I am still figuring that out. My goal is to submit small updates that add about 4-5 new things each time and will be themed. The first new content update will be themed around undead. It will have 2 new spells, 1 new treasure, and 3 new enemies. One of them will be a new type of enemy I will be focusing on. The game currently has one unique enemy, a dark knight named Baron Mortis. Uniques are special enemies that are rare and give special items, or spells when killed. Think of them as mini-bosses. I also have added a new area to the game. It will be a “mini-bosses area”

MBU
Did you launch the game knowing it would see updates?

PICKERING
Yeah I made plans to leave a lot on the cutting room floor. I figured once I launched I could then look at how people were responding and go from there.

MBU
Do you plan to stick with the dungeon exploration genre or spread out into different types of game?

PICKERING
I do plan to stick with it, but also branch out. My next game is in fact a platformer. It won’t have any randomized content. I also have about 4 prototypes for different roguelikes that could come after that one. I am in no way done with the genre, but I don’t want to get too locked in to making one type of game. I feel that can lead to some stagnation in design.

Spell 3

MBU
How have Microgue and Ms Spell performed to date financially?

PICKERING
MicRogue has done well as far as my terms go. When I launched MicRogue, I was hoping to make about $5000 from it total and as of now its done about 4 times that. Ms. Spell has not been as well with sales being at about $500. It’s a much different game and without Crescent Moon, I knew I was going to have to build up that brand recognition from the beginning. I am hoping with future updates and improvements though sales will increase and future titles can also drive people towards my library of games.

MBU
Is there anything you’d like to see in a game that hasn’t made the cut?

PICKERING
I often return to the idea of a deck based roguelike, That was actually the original version of Ms. Spell, which you can kind of see reflected in you “hand” of six cards. As the player travelled through the game they would build this deck of skills, but I could never get it to work properly, Maybe someday in the future I will be able to make that a reality.

MBU
What advice do you have for budding game devs?

PICKERING
Just try and make the games you want to make. If you are going to make a game you don’t like, you won’t like working on it. This should not feel like a job, but almost more like a hobby. Something you enjoy doing and that’s why you do it.

Spell 2

MBU
Thanks again for taking the time to talk to us today. For those who want to learn more, Jason Pickering can be followed on Twitter HERE, and his games can be found HERE and HERE.