AT: Thanks for taking your time to answer some questions for us, Barrett!
Please introduce yourself to our readers. Names, age, place of living, hobbies and other private secrets.
BM: I'm Barrett Meeker, a first time indie game developer in Santa Monica, California. I grew up on Legos, Lucas Art's point and click games, and I started doing 3D computer art in 1995. I'm 33 years old and one of my favorite hobbies which I hope to have time to do again soon is motocycle racing.
AT: As a CG artist, what game and movie productions did you personally work for?
BM: Some of the more well known ones are Dante's Inferno's super bowl TV commercial and cinematics, Batman Arkham City cinematic, and Halo Wars cinematics. I think I've created artwork for over twenty different games now.
AT: How does being a CG artist help in the production of an adventure game?
BM: In my case, since almost all of my previous work was pre-rendered, it is a big change moving to realtime 3D for Homesick. With this sort of adventure game experience, being able to try and bring the detail and fidelity I was used to making for cinematics into a world you can walk around in at your own pace really helps sell the environment and makes it a little more interesting. Coming from a CG cinematic background as computer hardware and tools have gotten better and better, I'm able to take a lot of techniques from the CG cinematic way of working and do them inside the game.
AT: Your Kickstarter campaign got you 3 times the money you were asking for. What did you think when you realized fans actually liked your ideas very much?
BM: I thought, "Wow it's really happening!" It gave me confidence that the art was probably really hitting the right feeling with people, that something about the project and the art was really resonating with people. It was great, it's like discovering thousands of other people out there want the same kind of game you want, suddenly I felt very connected to the world.
AT: 8.000$ for an adventure game seems rather modest. Do you think you could have done it with this little amount?
BM: Yea I think I would have made it work, but it wouldn't be the same.
AT: What was starting your own company like?
BM: It was a bit scary, and it still is not having a steady income. I think the scariest thing is that I am spending a year or two working on this one project, and with the exception of the kickstarter, I have no idea if I'm going to make any money. It's very different from being an employee where even when I might not be happy with a particular project, I feel like I'm not wasting time completely because I'm still getting a pay check, I can still be saving money, having hobbies, going on vacations, etc. When I was previously employed my partner Morgan got me really into budgeting my income and saving money, I'd look at my budget at least every week and it was a great feeling to be saving money. It feels like progress, it could be toward a house, or a vacation, or anything. In my case my goal was to start a company. It was a dream I wasn't sure would ever happen, but I'm so glad it has just for the experiences I've had already.
AT: Congratluations on making it into steam. How did you experience the Greenlight process?
BM: Thank you! It was amazing and crazy how many people saw our game on there and liked it. I think in the couple months we were on there we ended up getting more than 120,000 hits and over half of them voted for us. I still have no real idea what brought all the traffic since it seemed like it was just internal greenlight traffic. One guess is that the art caught people's eye.
AT: Steam now let's his users share their game libraries, which has often been referred as a bad move for indie developers. How do you think about this issue?
BM: To be honest, I don't really know much about the library sharing, I haven't tried it myself. Purely from a business perspective Steam wouldn't want to hurt it's game sales, so maybe it's not actually hurting things that much. I could see it being more likely to hurt games like Homesick that are story games you generally would just play through once, compared to multiplayer games.
AT: Do you feel homesick often?
BM: Not really, actually. I think I'd miss the area I live in if I moved, I might feel homesick then. But now I work at home and don't plan on moving anytime soon, so no, not homesick that often.
AT: How did you come up with the idea to do Homesick? What was the initial thought, and what was the inspiration for it?
BM: I thought a lot about the kind of feelings I wanted the game to have. Coming from a 3D art background I knew I wanted to make a game where the environment was very important to the game and the feelings the game would give you. I knew I wanted it to be a pleasant environment to be in most of the time, but also to have some contrast to really highlight the nice peacefulness of the environment as well. I played Dear Esther and it really opened up my eyes up to the power of environment art and atmosphere to almost create a whole game on it's own. So I was thinking along those lines, but I still wanted to give the player things to do in this environment, especially if some of those things could really further the story. I also knew I needed to try and keep it small, so that I could actually finish it within a reasonable amount of time, just on my own. With all these requirements I thought a lot about the stories I could tell within them, until I felt I had something that was exactly what I wanted. It's a story that is very relevant and personal to me but still fits within what I felt I could do well.
AT: What tools do you use for working on Homesick? Any tools our readers might know?
BM: I'm using the UDK game engine, which is basically an indie-version of the Unreal 3 engine, which a ton of games have used. For the 3D I'm using Zbrush, which is a 3D sculpting program. It's a lot more like sculpting than traditional 3D modeling.
AT: If you had started to draft Homesick without budget limitations in mind, what would you have made differently? Would the game simply have become „bigger and better“, or would Homesick have become something totally different?
BM: It might be a bit bigger. If I had started with an unlimited budget I probably would have hired some help, I wouldn't want to make a bigger game myself, and working with a team would make sure I wouldn't be having to work on one project for longer than a couple years. I'd say it would maybe be twice the size and three times the puzzles, but maybe I'd keep a lot of that optional because I want people to beat the game and get the whole story, I don't want to bore people.
AT: What plans do you have in mind for the time after Homesick? Would you rather get another employee job in the industry, stay independent or do something totally different?
BM: I really want to stay independent and make another game. Sometimes I think about employee jobs I might love though and daydream about having an office to go into and coworkers and being part of a stable company where I get to just focus on one part of a game. But at this point I want to keep trying to make my own games, I feel like I've learned so much making Homesick that I really want to apply to the next game, I can't give up. Ideally I'll be able to keep making independent games, but for future games I might be able to hire help and create some work stability for a team, with my own company.
AT: If you were to make another game, what kind of game would it be? What genre, what setting?
BM: Probably a VR focused adventure game in a different world than Homesick, mainly so I could have fun making art for a new setting.
AT: Will we ever see more of the world Homesick plays in? Another game, a director's cut, a special edition with background information?
BM: I would love to someday, I think the art assets will hold up well. There will be a prequel.
AT: Is there a final release date for homesick yet?
BM: Nothing definitive but we're really pushing for November.