Eric is the developer of the online game puppet nightmares. (The game is 18 plus, so the usual warnings apply here.) he has been running the game since 2008, and what is remarkable about the game is that unlike more popular MMO RPGs, it only has text and graphics. He is the sole developer, writer, illustrator, and moderator of this game.
And today, I interview him.
Me: I always like to start with something simple. Tell us a little about yourself?
Eric: I’m a web developer and an artist that has both a son and girlfriend to take care of. Don’t have much else to say unless you want to know something specific. I’m far more interested in my projects than I am myself.
Me: How long you’ve been programming? Did you used to program as a kid? Or you learned that for developing your game later?
Me: Wow. you were about my age when you start learning it. Goes to show you don’t need to be some prodigy child programming out of diapers.
Did you always wanted to be a game developer?
Eric: Sure, I was only really interested in games as a goal. My family was getting older and I knew most of them wouldn’t live much longer, so a strong motivator to keep working was their impending death. When all three of my family members passed away, I was lucky that PN was able to support me financially.
Me: So, how did you develop the idea of puppet nightmares? Was it a gradual thing which came to you over the time? Or the idea existed within your mind for a while, taking shape slowly?
Eric: I’m not really 100% sure. The original story had a lot of undertones of child victimization, and once I made it adult only, that attracted a lot of unsavory people with fetishes I don’t want to talk about. In response for this I pulled back and tried making it safer for work, but the community didn’t like that, so I ultimately went the adult story angle instead and just replaced most references to kids. Of course, this alienated the people with sick fetishes completely, so the irony here is that MORE porn/adult content got rid of them.
This back and forth caused some problems, which resulted in several unhappy customers and is likely one of my bigger business regrets. I try not to make any big announcements either way in regard to how adult I want future content to be since going too porn would anger my existing base, and going too soft sucks a lot of the interest out of the game.
Generally, my jobs a lot more exciting if I share select details with certain people I trust anyway. I’m not really a build your world around the community kind of guy, I’d much rather take people on a journey they didn’t know they wanted, which is the aim of my current project.
Nothing disgusts you more as a creative than a neutral reaction to your work. Even worse if all you hear is bitching and nothing positive from people. Gamers can have trouble understanding that because they’re so used to saying whatever they nasty things they want about the newest corporate cash grab, and no one outside of fanboys gets offended, but independent projects have real people behind them with real feelings that deserve more respect than how people like Jim Sterling behave, and get themselves sued and targeted by upset people as a result.
Me: Speaking of adult content, do you face persecution because of it? And do you think that the success for your project lies in the fact that it actually offers nice and tactical game play to those who want that, and adult content to those who like that?
Eric: I see adult content as a hook to bring people in with the hopes that they’ll like the game enough to stay. Most people will be hesitant to try a game unless it offers adult content, and the ones that don’t care tend to be more annoying people with higher than reasonable standards because hey, they can get an SFW RPG anywhere. I’m basically competing in a much more bloated space at that point.
Some people don’t like doing business with my NSFW game, but that’s why I have an SFW version as backup, though going forward, my new story will likely be strictly NSFW because that’s where the money is and I’m not an SFW kind of creator.
Me: You’re the sole writer, developer, and artist of this game. Did you ever feel overwhelmed by these responsibilities?
Eric: Yeah, I knew I bit off more than I could chew when I started for sure. Getting things stable and adding content in the early days made me actually lose my hair for a while. I was literally working day in, day out and it was not good for my health. These days I try to limit the number of hours I work, which is still a lot mind you, since my usual work schedule is often 3am to 1-3pm.
Me: Now, for a lot of people, programming ends up the most important part, instead of a tool for accomplishing great things. What do you think about that? Do you think that we live in the time where we do not need to dig deep into the machine necessarily to accomplish our purposes?
Eric: Only people with a lot of experience or some extreme optimization goal like an emulator or working with outdated government computers should really bother with machine code and the like. There are so many tools these days it’s easier than ever to become a programmer and you can accomplish a lot with higher level languages, or even frameworks, that aren’t such a pita too use for your goals.
Me: You also chat with your players in the game, while most developers prefer to keep their distance. Why is that, and did you ever regretted talking to the players? (Present company hopefully excluded.)
Eric: There’s all kinds of reasons not to deal with people when you run a game.
If you aren’t making any money, you may not want to waste the time you need for your real job, if you do make at least OK money you have to be aware of how sensitive players can be to how you speak, which gets annoying.
If you’re making too much money, you may just be too far up your own ass to want to deal with the “little people”.
Talking to players can be good or bad for your business in general anyway, its largely dependent on the type of personality you have – mine ain’t that great so I spare most of you too many interactions with me.
At the very least though I don’t think I’m elitist and better than everyone – I just like drawing tits and working on my game.
Me: Do you code daily? Do you think advice like “Write every day” can be applied to coding? Like “Code daily to improve”?
Eric: No. Coding is a bit more like riding a bicycle than other serious activities. Commands you may have forgotten you can always look up and, as long as your code isn’t too obscure to read, can generally pick up from where you left off.
I really don’t document my code as well as I should, but I do try to use readable variables instead of a bunch of $a and $b type stuff.
Me: What do you think about taking a rest every once in a while? I had an instructor in 2020, who was a real workaholic. He wouldn’t watch sports, won’t talk about movies, instead he just went from project to project.
Do you think that it is important to take a break? Maybe watch an anime to relax?
Eric: I really don’t get much relaxation out of TV; it just makes me feel kind of lazy to watch more than a few shows. If I want to relax, I find getting out of the house works best and being reminded that there’s a world out there past your window.
As for vacationing somewhere, maybe one day when I know I can easily afford the time to do it.
Me: What do you think about learning to draw art? Do you think it can be taught, or you just have the ability of drawing, or you do not?
Eric: it’s always a learning process, very few people are going to be instinctively good at it with no direction whatsoever. Like most things it’s a skill you develop and I’m nowhere near as good as I’d like to be at it.
Me: Final question. You’ve been running the game for 14 years. Did you ever needed to rewrite it from scratch? Or when working with legacy stuff, did you ever thought of “Ah, screw it. I’ll just rewrite this part”?
Eric: There’s been one major rewrite and mostly adjustments aside from that. Got something big in the works though, stay tuned!
That concludes the interview. Outside of the game, Eric is not very talkative. So, I decided to keep it short, before even I talked about doing an interview with him. Anyway, check out the game, and like, share, and follow this blog.
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And I’ll see you in the next article.
5 thoughts on “Interview with an Indi Game Developer”
Ah, I’ve been stuck in my WordPress bubble for so long and have only seen interviews with writers, that this interview with a game developer was a treat. Thanks for sharing!
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I’m glad that you like it, and you even left a comment! I’m in a desperate need of comments you see.
The thing is, aside from those developers who like to talk big, and do nothing to back that talk up, actually convincing great game developers to give an interview is a hard thing. And that applies to programmers as well.
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Fascinating, Tanish. I find the video game niche interesting. Interviewing a developer gives me a glimpse into that world. I have not played a video game in 30 plus years but my buddies in their late 40’s still enjoy these games on a daily basis. Cool stuff.
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Glad you like it!