Interview with Stephen McVicker - The Developer of ZENFORMS!
Interview with Stephen McVicker - The Developer of ZENFORMS!
Let's get the ball rolling! Let the readers know who you are. How long have you been in the gaming development scene? What have you worked on previously?
I'm Stephen McVicker. I'm from Dublin, Ireland. I've been into game development for a long time. I used to make fan games when I was younger. The first game I made, and showed off online, was a game called Pokemon: Silk. Looks pretty crappy if you check it out. I do like the custom main character though, ha.
I used to a tool called RPG Maker 2003. I love that tool and based a lot of my modern code on the functions in the style of that...
After I released a demo of that game, I moved onto other games, such as it's sequel Pokemon Silk 2:TakeOver (a lot of original ideas for the time such as playing as the bad guy and making decisions that impacted the story), and Pokemon Digital Network - a game set in a weird future style world. I ended up becoming a mod of the Game developer section for Pokecommunity and stayed a mod for over a year (got annoyed with the community so I needed to step away from a mod role). As you can see, I was always in love - not with the pokemon franchise - but with the experience they offered, the lore of their characters, and their world. So I used to make fan games but with my own spin on them. I went to college to study game development. In the summer of my first year there I worked with a start up making some small iOS apps. Mid way through my second year, I end up getting really annoyed with the course, so I decided to drop out, and turn a fan game I was working on at the time, Pokemon Protectors, into it's own original game for iPhone. Still working on it as I do this interview haha.... It became ZENFORMS: Protectors.....
What are ZENFORMS?
ZENFORMS are little creatures created from this powerful, but mysterious-unharnessed by humans, energy that comes from the core of the planet Gaia. All ZENFORMS come from one of three "Newborns" - baby ZENFORMS. From here, these ZENFORMS branch evolve based on their stats into various other ZENFORMS.
They have several evolutionary stages, but cannot reach their last stage, the Grand stage, without humans. Although it has been very rare for a human to evolve a ZENFORM into a Grand ZENFORM (the final stage of evolution), ZENFORMS understand they need a symbiotic relationship with humans if they want to become this stage. Protectors, a group of people only allowed to raise ZENFORMS, capture, and train ZENFORMS. Their goal is to look after the world they live in, bring peace, but also to raise the ZENFORMS' stats correctly and help them evolve into the best ZENFORMS they can.
What pricing model are you going with for your game?
I haven't announced a final price yet, but I have said it will be about $3 / €2.59. Or less even. I'm still not sure.
I plan to offer the game in a small chunk for Version 1.0 but update the game for FREE. There will be no IAP at launch (and for a while), but if I do add them, I'll never charge for storyline content, gameplay features, or new ZENFORMS (if I ever add any :P). I tell people- think of how Minecraft was released for PC. It was released, but the developer made BIG changes along the way - for a long time, for free. This is what I'll be doing.
What made you decide that you wanted to make your own Pokemon style game?
I was working on a game called Pokemon Protectors for about a year. Here is a concept video from 2008. There is another demo video there too.
When I dropped out of college, I said to myself "Right, I better work on a game that I can sell" - that game was to be a re-imagined Pokemon Protectors. That game was already full of original concepts such as gaining a reputation, becoming famous, making choices, and even how I handled Pokemon and their stats (only used 3 stats). Not to make a funny pun, but ZENFORMS evolved several times into the project it is now. Originally it was more like the other knock-offs. The creatures were just like Pokemon. The game was called Protectors when it started. Then when I decided to work with a girl called Sherry Ivanna, the ZENFORMS were born. We came up with the idea of this evolution system that was like real life. If they have good speed, they'd evolve to creatures that looked quick. If they used a lot of fire attacks or ate food that would boost their fire element stat. When it came time to evolve into an element stage (the adult stage), they'd evolve to a fire creature.
The project changed FULLY (complete remake/rethink) 3 times, haha.
How long have you been working on the ZENFORMS? While you have been working on the game has there been any feature or set of code that you just can't seem, or couldn't seem to get right for quite some time?
I've been working on the game since March 2010. That includes the really old more knock-off style. It also includes me programming the engine basics. Loading the map, reading the map, setting up the player, the people, and more.
The one area I'm stuck on is the battle system. Out of my fully 3 remakes of the project, the battle system has changed four times- like fully changed. Two out of those four times, the battle system was fully playable. I want the battle system to be simple to kids, and to people just picking up the project, but I want it to be deep to players who like that in their RPGs. I feel the version I'm working on now has struck that balance. Still working on it though. It's my main sticking point with the project. The good thing is, the battle system will be done once it's done. Other than adding improvements, it will be fully playable even in updates without me needing to re-edit the code. That's why I want to get it right first go (with Version 1.0).
What sets your game apart from not only the traditional Pokemon games, but also the few other Pokemon style games that are in the works for iOS?
The ZENFORMS, for a start. They just are not these random creatures you train and "catch them all". In fact, I never tell the player which ZENFORMS they have already caught because it's not like that. Each ZENFORM can be very unique. All ZENFORMS under the Adult stage, can have 3 possible movesets - each moveset with about 10 moves. You can learn any move at any time as long as you have the Skill Points to buy it. This can be very interesting as you begin to really evolve a ZENFORM. You can have the same ZENFORM you see 50 times in the wild, but each time, that ZENFORM has different moves than your ZENFORM.
Skill Points, are a point system used to do anything with your ZENFORM, from increasing stats, learning attacks, and evolving. How you spend those Skill Points can really make your ZENFORM.... YOURS!
I've also been working on the game for 2 years. Clearly I'm not trying to cash in and rush to market like others. I've created an entire fake planet, with it's own history and lore, for me to showcase, and you to play and discover. When you play ZENFORMS:Protectors, it will make you see that while the other games might have HD graphics, ZENFORMS is the only one with charm, soul, and offer you a world you can invest your time in and not feel ripped off.
I see the question a lot, and I have asked it myself, so we might as well post in here as well. Are you looking for any Alpha/Beta testers? What is the reasoning behind your answer?
No I'm not. That's even a joke with my close friends. I don't let them play the game. I'll show them it sometimes, but I never let them play it, or look at it for too long. I want them to enjoy it. I made the game have a lot of references to them, myself, and various memes and videos we see online.
I also want new people who don't know me personally to enjoy this game.
I do everything. I didn't hire a writer, I wrote it myself. This is going to be a way for people to see my sense of humour, and to see the energy I put in just to make them smile and enjoy the game experience. I don't want testers for two main reasons. One is I want the game to feel fresh when it comes out. It's not fresh if I have beta testers for months and I keep delaying the game. The second reason leads from that and it's I don't want it to leak, be pirated, or anything of that nature.
I love that people even ask. It's kind of mind blowing to see people excited for the game. So just wait, you won't be disappointed!
THIS IS PART ONE OF THE INTERVIEW. THE INTERVIEW WAS TOO LARGE FOR ONE POST SO I HAD TO SPLIT IT UP INTO MULTIPLE PARTS!
Last edited by Varking; 08-02-2012 at 10:50 AM.