Question Time: Rebecca Fernandez

Well you asked for it, and I agreed it was a great idea. Starting from today 'Ask Kotaku' is being replaced with 'Question Time', a new feature where we find someone from the Australian Games Industry to answer your questions for an hour. We're kicking things off today with Sydney indie gaming stalwart Rebecca Fernandez!

Rebecca Fernandez wears many hats: she is the CMO of indie studio Convict Interactive and also teaches programming at University of Wollongong. She is also very involved in expanding Sydney's indie gaming grass roots through the International Game Developers Association in Sydney.

She is currently working with her studio on Triangle Man, which will soon be available on PC.

She also likes watching soccer and her favourite player is David Villa. There is no accounting for taste.

For the next hour, you can ask her anything!

Thanks to Hermes and Thoth for the idea!


Comments

    What's the worst part about starting a new project?

      curse you!

      Probably deciding on which idea to go with. We have so many ideas, and it really sucks to have to not make some of them because we don't have the right skills or resources.

        Following up, have you been able to repurpose any of those ideas later on when you did have the skills or resources available?

        Are there any memorable successes or failures that came about from doing that?

          Hmm, so far, not yet. We do have a game that we almost finished that we'd really love to work on again when we are able to - you can watch the video here if you're interested: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKAJWOpNGr4&feature=plcp

          Though, I guess we're currently making Triangle Man because of a previous, less ambitious project. We released a prototype of this game on XBLIG and it was received so well that we decided to ramp things up a bit and make a full version of the game.

            Contra meets Super Mario Galaxy. Nifty.

            Thanks for answering.

    first question: is this thing on? *taps mic*

    Hi Rebecca,

    Lately I've been wanting to try my hand at programming but have been finding it a bit daunting to find a specific language to learn, so I was wondering if you'd happen to have any recommendations on which to have a go at? (I'm a beginner with no previous experience in programming.)

    Thanks

      python! it's awesome, easy to learn, and surprisingly powerful.

      Hi Shinobi,

      Well, I started with C++ at uni, but that can be a bit daunting without a teacher to help you out. I have a lot of friends who started out in Python. That's probably a good one for game development.
      Javascript is another good one - there are some great classes out there, do a search for codeacademy on Google.

        Thanks for the reply, considering what my friends and now you have been saying I might give python a go. :D

          I'd say start with Python 3, check out the official tutorial here: http://docs.python.org/py3k/tutorial/

        +1 for code academy. I started it recently because I wanted to write better macro's in excel. Has been really useful.

    David Villa? There is no accounting for taste, indeed.

    is the hardest part of being an indie developer gaining exposure?

      For us, yes! We're a group of developers with no previous experience at big name studios. So we can't name drop previous cool games in order to get exposure.
      It's really hard, so far I've been cold calling journalists in order to get reviews and features. Though Sydney is a good place to meet up with Australian journalists, so creating relationships with the local media seems to work well (hey, I'm currently answering questions on Kotaku, so it must work somehow).
      We're now about to get youtube and twitch reviewers to do playthroughs of our game.
      And we will be exhibiting at EB Expo to try and get Triangle Man in front of as many people as we can.

    As an Australian developer, do you agree with region pricing for games, e.g. would you sell your game for less in the US than you would in Australia?

      Hi Jake,

      No way, we want to sell our game for the same price everywhere. The only differences we put in place are purely for marketing purposes. For example, we set our game to sell at $4.99 USD via Desura. This equates to about $4.81 which doesn't look as nice as the $4.99 price. So we adjust it a little for that reason.
      If this ever changes then it will be because a publisher or distributor is pulling our strings. Desura are great, they give us full control over price.

    Hi Rebecca, I was one of your students last semester for 114. I was wondering if you could help me with this one assign-.. kidding. :P

    My real question is, where does your motivation/passion to work in the video games industry stem from?

      Hahaha, cheeky bugger. I hope you made it through to 124!

      Hmm, I first decided I wanted to work in the games industry in my final year of uni. I'd already participated in a game jam in Brisbane (I'd link you but their site was eaten by a virus) and had seen how easy it actually was to make games.
      In the final year of uni I did a class about computer graphics. It was so fulfilling to make images and colours move around on the screen. I could make all sorts of interesting things happen, and all I needed to do was program. I'm rubbish at art, so graphics programming was a way that I could finally create something worth looking at. I find shaders particularly interesting! So much maths involved in these - I love maths, so I really really enjoy it.

    Best advice ever been given? And who gave it?

      "Do, or do not. There is no try." - Yoda

    What's the worst part of making games?

      Being neck deep in the games industry and not having time to play all the other amazing games that are brought to my attention. Especially when they're made by good friends.

    why is David Villa your favorite player? And what is your favorite team?

    Must be extremely difficult to be a CMO of a small Indie developer, how do you cope when your marketing experiments fail? or do you enjoy the challenge?

      It's hard - I get pretty down at times, which can make me lose motivation. I've been trying to read up as much as possible, and ask fellow indies for advice.
      I honestly can't say I enjoy the marketing challenge all the time. If it wasn't such a challenge then I'd have more time for programming, which is my first love.
      The thing that makes it all better is watching someone play the game and experiencing great enjoyment. That justifies my existence, and really pushes me to keep going, even when I'm feeling down. That and my friends. The local game development industry is amazingly supportive.

    How do you find managing your time between your teaching job, getting stuff done with the indie studio, and, well, everything else life throws at you?

      I'll admit that I fail a bit sometimes. There are friends and family who I've not seen for a very long time, who I'm sure are feeling neglected.
      For a while I put myself last so I could get everything done. That's really unhealthy, I wouldn't advise it. I became severely vitamin D deficient and actually collapsed in the office. Not fun. I now try and excercise and get out in the sunshine more often (soccer is great fun).
      I do try and keep a balance, I try not to work too much on weekends, but that's not always possible.

    Hi Rebecca!

    What made you choose this path?
    I'm keen to get into some more.. interesting .. development, such as games dev. What would you recommend for someone who has some exposure from a uni course (C++)? Good places to start? They didn't teach us all that much, just the basics.

      Hi Dave, I kinda answered this one above, but I'll add a bit more.
      I've been a gamer since I was four, so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that I'm now making games. My favourite subject at school was maths (I was such a cool kid...), and programming seemed like a way to get a job that involved maths (that wasn't accounting or teaching).

      As for recommending where to start, hmm. It depends how confident you are, and how "hardcore" you want to go. For C++ you could look into OpenGL. However if you're looking for a game engine then you could try XNA or Unity, both of which use C#. If you have experience with C++ then C# will be a piece of cake.

    What are your top 3 favorite games of all time?

    Gunzerker, Commando, Siren or Assassin?

      None, because my mountain of shame is horrendous :(

    What is your favourite piece of stationery?

      Those fancy hole punches. I enjoy throwing the little pieces of paper around like confetti afterwards. And then running away so that no one can ask me to clean them up.

    Hi Rebecca!

    What is your favourite game?
    What is the best game?

    They could be the same; you could love a flawed game (because/despite). Please note: although the first question is subjective, the second does actually gave a correct answer. ; )

      Hi Mawt. Now, everyone will probably leave after I say this, but it's definitely The Sims. I enjoy playing out the stories of the characters, watching the AI and investigating the genetics in game. I really don't get any time to play though :(
      As for the best game? Hmm. I'm going to say Spacewar! because I probably wouldn't be here if that was never created.

        Follow up Q: when you use the term 'genetics' in game what are you referring to? It's an interesting terminology.

          Oh, I meant that literally. The sims can have kids, so I enjoy seeing what they look like. I think I've mostly worked out the algorithm they use, but it can be interesting to see that a Sim will inherit purple hair from their father and maybe hazel eyes from their grandma. It's the small things....

            I thought that is what you meant, that is honestly really cool. Thanks for answering!

    "Rebecca Fernandez wears many hats..."

    ...TF2 fan?

    what's it like operating out of Australia?...what do you think of the games industry in Australia? (I didn't even know we had one)

      The games industry in Australia is awesome. We have so many talented people here. There are AAA studios, larger independent companies, smaller indies, hobbyists, students - so much diversity! So many great games have been created in Australia.
      However, it makes it REALLY hard to build up exposure for our game. It isn't as easy for us to pop over to PAX or E3 in order to show off our games. And Skype calls to media in other countries have to happen at really awful hours of the morning.

    What are your thoughts on the Windows 8 marketplace? Do you think it's one of the biggest opportunities for pc indie dev's in recent history (or almost ever if you want to get really hyperbolic? :P), the reason being that it's a store that anyone that has a win 8 pc/laptop/tablet will have, unlike Steam or pretty much any other game store which people need to first have heard about (yes, there are people that haven't heard of steam :P), then have installed, and because it's easier to get onto than steam (the store people are most likely to hear about, if they ever do).

    Last edited 26/09/12 12:07 pm

      I want this to be a great opportunity for indies and gamers. At the moment I think the Win8 marketplace is a bit too closed to really do well. I may be wrong, but I think that they are only accepting games that have touch controls, so that they work on PC, tablet and phone. I can't think of too many games that would be suitable for all three of those platforms.
      I imagine that Microsoft will soften this stance not too long after the release of Windows 8.

        To be fair, win8 marketplace does not mean the same thing as the Apple App store -- Third party marketplaces are allowed (ie, steam, amazon, etc) for pushing out apps.

    Hey I'm at UoW! I'm studying Creative Writing, what advice would you give to someone who wants to start writing for games?

      Do you want to start writing about games, or writing in game content? If it is the latter then I'd suggest joining the UOW Game Making Club: http://www.facebook.com/groups/91577973607/?ref=ts
      You can meet a lot of others who are making games, perhaps you could offer your services and join a team.

    Who put the bop in the bop she wop she wop?

    I've always been interested in game design, but recently I've become more interested in the writing and production side of things, which I feel have become sorely neglected. I briefly studied game design at university and decided that scripting isn't where my talents lie. If I were motivated to write in games, what steps could I take to pursue that?

      Hmm, that's a good question. I'm not sure I'm the best one to answer. Perhaps you could ask the guys at See Through Studios - they just won an award for Best Writing for their game Flatland: Fallen Angle: http://www.seethroughstudios.com/

    Did I miss my chance? :(

      Let's all act very upset, she'll come back, I'm sure of it!

        Thanks Jack, you know me too well ;)

          NNnnnnuuuu, now the general public knows my real name!

          Unmasked, I is!

    How do you ensure your indie game is worth the $5 - compared to games on say, the IOS/Android platform, which are 99c?
    Do you worry about the shift in the indie PC scene where a much higher and more complete(/larger) game experience is expected from indie games, than indie games on mobile?
    Have you considered mobile development?

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