You might know the name Victor Ireland — the outspoken ex-head of Working Designs was responsible for translating and publishing a number of beloved Japanese games, like the Lunar series and Alundra.
But you might not know his son, Broderick Ireland. Broderick, an 18-year-old designer who just released his first game on the Xbox Live Indie Marketplace, is a member of the "next generation" of game makers: he wants to bring games to life just like his father before him.
Second-generation designers are not particularly common in the video game industry, as interactive entertainment is still so young. So I thought it might be interesting to do a Q&A with Broderick. We talked about his new game, his interests, and the many ways in which his father has influenced him over the years.
The full conversation follows:
Kotaku: For starters, could you tell me a little bit about your game? What type of game is it? What's special about it?
Broderick: Space Crüesader is a twin-stick, Robotron-style shooter with tons of added flair. Cool explosions and effects, over 370 professionally-recorded voice-clips, over 45 minutes of music, etc. There's also some options to turn on subtitles for the hearing-impaired and to disable flashes for epileptics — you don't see those considerations in indie games that often. I really tried to make it more than "just another twin-stick". In fact, that's why I realised pretty early on that the player needed something to do other than just "here's a level, here's your time limit, shoot stuff". This eventually lead to the rescue gameplay mechanic that the game is kind of centered around now. Adding in the rescue mechanic really made the game more interesting, as it also added a sort of underlying story of the "why" behind everything your doing that's there if the player really looks for it.
It's actually a fair bit more complex than "you've gotta save Earth!", but it's not super in-your-face and it's intentionally ambiguous to an extent, as I personally hate stories that try to get overly wordy and detailed in a genre or game type that doesn't really need the added detail. There's also a lot small pop-culture references I threw in, whether it's in badge descriptions, some of the default names on the global highscores, or voice clips. Pretty much just little winks and nods that the player will encounter throughout the game, but, again, in a very subtle manner — they may not even realise they're references.
Essentially, I really tried to make Space Crüesader something with a bit of soul, going above and beyond what a lot of Xbox Live indie shovelware delivers. This isn't Twin-Stick Shooter 9001: Scantily-clad Zombie Avatar Massager Edition — I really tried to make this special.
Kotaku: Xbox's Indie Marketplace feels a little desolate these days, and I've heard that it's tough to get a lot of attention on there. Do you plan to take the game to Steam or any other platforms?
Broderick: There are bright spots and some terrific games, but it is a pretty grim marketplace, yeah. Attention definitely runs at a premium if you're on XBLIG, as most everyone sort of brushes it off as the area where all the crap goes. I've heard it described as the red-headed step-child before, and I think that's a pretty good description.
As for other platforms, I would love to get Space Crüesader on Steam, in fact I had it added to Steam Greenlight day one (i.e. the day Half-Life 3 was put up 10 times). I was totally prepared to bring Space Crüesader to PC and Mac (possibly with Linux support too), but my Greenlight page wasn't an FPS or Minecraft clone, so it was hard to get attention.
I currently don't really see much of a reason to spend the time (and, by extension, money) to bring it to other PC marketplaces if I can't get it up on Steam, as that's really the holy grail of PC distribution. We'll see. I'm very interested in Mac (and Linux to a lesser extent), as they really don't get a lot of games and I don't think that that's very fair. If the Greenlight thing doesn't work out, I may very well look into the Mac App store. Greenlight seems to be governed mostly by "hey, this looks pretty" or "hey, this is another First-Person Shooter/Minecraft clone", so I suppose that only time will tell.
Kotaku: Tell me a little bit about what it was like to grow up with Victor as your dad — did you get to see a lot of games before they were released in America? Did he show you a lot of games when you were younger?
Broderick: Gaming has always been a pretty huge area for me growing up. I definitely remember playing some of the games Dad was working on growing up (and a few that never made it to release). A lot of great games that I've played have been imported (a few of the recent ones like: Earth defence Force/Global defence Force, Blue Dragon, DeathSmiles). Our copy of Gears of War is actually one of the Asian copies (the Korean one, I believe) because Dad wanted to play it on his Asian Xbox! I was also in a segment cut out of the original Making of LUNAR. We still have the tape with my 6 year old "staff" interview discussing my view of the game's production in my custom-sized LUNAR Polo.
Growing up I also learned what "Save", "Confirm", "Yes/No", etc. looked like in Japanese pretty quickly, as even if you can't understand what the characters in a RPG are saying, you'd better know what those mean or else you'll be replaying a lot of areas. One of the things I found out about importing is that for every three or four great imports I played there were also one or two really, really weird ones (I'm looking at you and your man-juice, Cho Aniki).
I definitely seem to remember more of the imports of recent years than the really old ones, mostly because I think, at the time, I didn't really "get" what was so special about them. "Oh, this game's got weird crap on box of it. I can't understand the text. Whatever, I'm just going to go back to Banjo Kazooie." That kind of thing. I do want to make it clear that I definitely understand and appreciate their significance now, as I can already hear people going "You grew up surrounded by great imports, why don't you remember all of them!? Why haven't you mentioned [import X]? Why aren't you talking about Waifus yet!?"
Kotaku: What are some of your favourite games? Have you always wanted to make games?
Broderick: This may come as a surprise, but I am fairly unbiased when it comes to genres. I've played so many games that it's really hard to name my "favorite" ones, but I can name quite a few ones I enjoyed a lot.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
I played this game to death on the 360. Literally over a thousand hours, a few characters, the whole shebang. Then I got it for the PC a few years ago and logged over five-hundred hours on that copy.
Tales of Vesperia
Out of all the Tales games that I've played, this is by far my favourite. The writing, voice acting, gameplay and style all came together in this one. Most Tales games have some of it come together (seriously, spend more money on voice acting!), but not all of it. I'd totally recommend it.
The Ace Attorney Series
Phoenix Wright was my #1 reason for owning a DS for a while. Every game in the series was great. Somehow something as boring as a court proceeding was turned into something awesome. Who knew?
The Professor Layton Series
Great puzzles? Good stories? Addictive music? Professor Layton has it all. A series that should definitely not be missed.
Disaster: Day of Crisis
A Wii game that's not shovelware? Sign me up! Pretty much Disaster Report (another great series) but as a wacky action game on steroids (Flaming tornado? Yes, please!), I was astonished when this game wasn't picked up for the U.S.
Freshly Picked: Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland
Remember that annoying guy in green tights from Wind Waker? He actually got his own spin-off series for the DS. The even more surprising thing is that it's a really great top-down adventure RPG. Another title that should have made its way to the U.S.
Dad said Nintendo told him the character was too "controversial" for the U.S. market, so I'm unsure if it'll ever come out here.
An amazing music game, this is another title that never made it to the U.S. market. Eventually we got, what, one of them? Other than some of the menus and most of the music being in Korean, a surprising amount of the game is in English. Sometimes it's worth it to boot up my PSP just to listen to the music.
The Ganbare Goemon Series
A lot of childhood memories are associated with Goemon. The characters and settings (who can forget Gorgeous My Stage?) made it something really special. I'll always remember the first time you call on Impact in the Nintendo 64 Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (the U.S. name), as that made a huge impression on my 4-year-old self. Aside from one or two duds (I was never a fan of Mr. Goemon, for example) the series holds up really, really well.
I'd never live it down if I forgot this. This is definitely one of my all-time favourites, simply because of the immersive story-telling, gameplay, etc. Everything about it was so perfect. Definitely one of the best games I've played.
Demon's Souls/Dark Souls
These games set the bar (for me at least) for challenging, strategy-oriented, action RPGs. These games used the minimalistic story-telling that I mentioned earlier — just enough to get you into the world, but not too much that it pushes you out of it. Amazing games.
As for your second part of the question, no, I didn't always plan on making games. I knew that I always wanted to be a part of the process, but I never would have dreamed that I'd be doing the programming (mostly because I was never very good at maths). Thankfully, when you're programming, you've got to improve your maths skill quickly, or else you're in for a lot of very frustrating nights.
To be honest, I always thought I'd be a part of the visual process (designing, directing — a visualizer), but I started learning programming. Then I got to do both programming, and designing. That's the fun part — when you're only limited by your own creativity. Once you have to work within the limits you've imposed ... that's when it becomes "work". The middle to end of development is where "if it was easy, everyone would be doing it" comes into play.
Kotaku: What sort of influence do you think your dad has had on your work?
Broderick: Generally, I'd say it's been a huge positive influence. He's been the one that's helped from the start, so I can safely say that the game wouldn't be what it is today if he hadn't helped out. That said, I can't say that all of his ideas were gold (just like I can't say that all of mine were either), but between both of us — between the arguing about what should and shouldn't be in — the game was definitely changed for the better.
I also learned a lot — a lot about how the industry works internally, a lot about industry politics, a lot about design, etc. Looking back at where I started, essentially a gamer with absolutely zero programming and zero design experience, I can't imagine getting from where I was to where I currently am without his help.