Superheroes. Usually, they have secret identities, like Bruce Wayne and Batman or Peter Parker and Spiderman. Well, it seems we may have found our very own superhero in Markus Scheidgen, a university computer science researcher and lecturer by day, mobile game developer by night. Ok, he may not save lives on a daily basis but he does save us from boredom by creating mobile games. Luckily, we got to have a little chat with him to find out more about his latest game Cube Orbit.
Let us begin with a small introduction; tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
I am a university computer science researcher and lecturer that develops small mobile games in his spare time as a solo hobbyist game developer. I live with my wife and two kids in Berlin, Germany.
And how long have you been in game development? What was it that got you into it?
I am currently working on my third actually published title. Of course, as for many aspiring indie devs, there are a lot of prototypes and abandoned projects in between. Rather than being inspired by a specific genre, I’d like to experiment with different mechanics. What constantly draws me back to game development, is the amalgamation of vastly different tasks that designing a computer game entails. I love to jump from programming to designing mechanics to modelling to cutting trailers to drawing sprites etc.
Now we’ve gotten to know you, let’s talk about your new game Cube Orbit. Describe to our readers what kind of game it is.
I like to refer to it as a “tactical colour match game”. Adding a clock and movement to the playing field makes it feel completely different to your standard match-3/color match game. It is more about placing colours strategically, assessing odds, and making fast decisions than solving a puzzle. Basically an arcade version of casual colour matching.
And what was it that inspired you to make this game? Is this a genre you’ve always been a fan of?
I was not really inspired by a specific genre, but for some odd reason, I always liked the aesthetics of boldly coloured cubes. When it comes to game mechanics it is not really about a single epiphany or inspiration. I rather prototype lots of ideas and most of them kinda suck. Cube Orbit is based on the one rare prototype that happened to be fun.
What have you done to make it different from similar titles?
I did not try to create a game in a specific genre. As a result, the core game loop is very unique while the systems around it are very much inspired by casual/mobile game cliches. Players can be sure to experience something new while feeling right at home at the same time.
The game is currently set to be released on mobile devices; what made you choose to go into mobile game development?
There are a lot of casual mobile gamers that just want short distractions and are happy to try free games that promise to deliver something unique. It is more about some cool new mechanic than lots and lots of content. This makes it much more feasible for a solo developer like me to provide some value. I just cannot satisfy the needs of hardcore PC or console gamers.
Have you thought about releasing the game on other formats?
Yes, putting it in a browser could work pretty well and I’ll probably try to do that after the mobile launch.
During development of Cube Orbit, did you face any difficult moments or obstacles that you struggled to get around? If so what would you do differently next time to avoid them?
I started it with a very simple idea. In its core, Cube Orbit still has very simple mechanics. I had a first running and actually fun version of the game after just an hour of prototyping. It’s just a rotating structure and you can apply colour to its elements. The difficult thing is to turn a starting concept or mechanic into an actual game. Something you have fun playing for more than just a minute. I basically build several vastly different games with different level and progression systems around the same concept before I had something that I think can entertain for several longer sessions of play.
And following on from that, other than completing the game so it is ready for release, has there been any other moments you’ve been particularly proud of during development?
The proudest moment is when I can push the big red release button.
Just a couple more general questions to tie things up now; firstly what advice can you offer to wannabe developers who have an interest in games development? Are there any systems or software you’d recommend using for starters?
Concentrate on publishing a “game”. Do not overthink ideas, it does not have to be super unique, do not overly polish, just release it. Once you released your first game, you are ready to work on more and more proper games. There is nothing more frustrating than having done lots and lots of unfinished and abandoned projects.
Build on the strength and skills you already have. If you are an artist, use a well-established genre and make it beautiful, If you are a programmer concentrate on simulations/mechanics/systems and stick to a simple abstract aesthetics. If you are a writer, do something with a strong narrative, etc.
Secondly, the Nintendo Switch has just been released all over the world and the initial reactions have been quite positive, especially for the new Zelda title. What are your thoughts on Nintendo’s new console?
I love that Nintendo is trying to innovate with a different console concept each generation and I hope they are doing well. When they fail, we are stuck with the higher, faster, louder mentality of Sony and Microsoft. This probably sells units but does not really fosters new and innovative game ideas.
And would you ever consider developing games for the switch?
I can dream about it. One day.
Now to finish things off, just one random question. What’s the longest you can hold your breath for?
There was a time in my life where I was really fascinated by apnoe diving/free diving. I once made it to about 4 minutes.
And that’s the end of that. We had a lovely chat with Markus and hopefully, you lot enjoyed reading it as well. If you fancy finding out more about Markus and his new game, then as usual, there are details about where to go below:
38 yr old hobbyist game developer from Berlin, Germany. PhD in computer scientist. Worked in the .com-bubble, telecommunications, wireless sensor networks, and health care as a researcher and consultant for over 15 years. My steam account library only has 48 titles. Started gaming on a Master System. Tried to build my first games with 11 on a KC85 (the East-Germany version of the C64).