I recently talked to Joe Rheaume, the developer of the game Chronotron and the site ScarybugGames. His game Cronotron was a member of the PAX 10 and was the only game of the PAX 10 to be a flash game, making this achievement even more notable. Joe was also featured on the popular G4 television show, X-Play. Here is what he had to say.
I understand that you’ve been working with flash for awhile now. Could you tell me a bit about your roots in flash and how you got started?
I was working a pretty terrible QA testing job for insurance software. I was miserable there so I started looking for a better job and I saw a listing for a job programming educational games in flash. I had never really programmed in Flash, just done some animations, but I had a Computer Science degree, and knew I could pick up any new language within a week or two. I actually had to work pretty hard to convince them that I could do it, but they hired me.
I did indeed pick up Flash right away. Within a year I designed and helped develop an award-winning game for Miller that trains bartenders, as well as hundred of other games of varying complexity.
The stuff I do at work is beholden to budget, time, and client needs. I wanted to have more control over what I made and I had lots of ideas i wanted to try on my own, so I just started making games at home too.
You develop education and training games for the big corporations. How does this influence the way you create games outside of the workplace?
What I try to tell people in the educational games industry is that all games teach you something. The successful educational games use gameplay to teach the learning objectives. The terrible educational games just treat gameplay as something to keep you from getting bored while the spit information at you. So the challenge in educational games is to identify the learning objectives, and then make the gameplay teach those objectives.
Normal games are much easier. The only thing you have to think about to make a game fun is gameplay. However, you should also think about what your gameplay is going to teach the player. That’s the thing that will make a lasting impression on the player. If your game teaches something the player is resistant to, the player may not enjoy your game as much. If it teaches them how to do something they’ve never done before, they might feel realy smart or empowered, and then they’ll like the game.
Let’s talk about the hit game Chronotron. How did the inspiration for Chronotron come about, and how difficult was it to code?
Hearing about Braid made me think about doing a time travel game. But I wanted to focus just on the ability to loop time and cooperate with recorded versions of yourself because that seemed like it would lead to the most interesting puzzles. Many of the puzzle elements in the game were also inspired by The Lost Vikings. Portal was also an inspiration.
The game was pretty difficult to code. The initial engine and everything came together right away, but every time I introduced a new type of object, it would point out a bug in the engine somewhere.
Did you ever think Chronotron would have you doing interviews with tv shows like XPlay and being a PAX 10 winner?
No way! Luckily I have friends who told me otherwise or I would have never submitted the game to the PAX 10 contest!
What games and projects are you currently working on now?
I’ve prototyped a few games recently, but I think they need to be rehauled or re-examined in some way before they become an official next project. There is probably some interest in a Chronotron sequel or level pack. To be honest, PAX has taken up so much time that I haven’t been able to sit down and really develop recently. Hopefully things are settling down now.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
FlashGameLicense.com is awesome!