We talked to James Whitehead over mail, since it is hard to schedule MSN-conversations between two busy people.
James Whitehead is the developer of The New Satan Sam and other games too.
James Whiteheads website can be found here.
A short description of The New Satan Sam:
SatanSam is a freeware light puzzle/action platform game. Originally intended as a direct remake of the first SatanSam game released back in 2002, the new game has exceeded the original. At the moment of this update there are already 53 levels spread over 3 worlds.
Completing levels requires the player to utilize weapons and objects at their disposal, be it to destroy bad guys or flip a switch or whatever. Knowledge of items is key to beating this game, as well as good reflexes.
Without giving too much away, you can mix around Sam's powers for interesting combinations. You will learn more of these in game.
You can find The New Satan Sam here.
The interview begins:
Q: Tell us more about yourself - how old are you, where do you live, what do you do for a living? (one of these basic interview questions)
Hello! I've just hit 22, living in near Manchester (England) and I currently work as a game artist and dabble in a bit of graphic and website design.
Q: When did you start playing games? Do you have any fond memories of those times and did you decide to make a game of your own because of some of them?
I started back on my dads Spectrum ZX81. I must have been stupidly young because I needed my cousin or dad to get a game running on it.
But nothing creative happened till I got my Amiga 600 (Wild Wacky pack or something) which came with Deluxe Paint 3. I didn't want to make games then but when I was about 7 or 8 I used to redraw graphics from my fave games and create little mockups of my own. Then along came little application suites which let me do this. AMOS and The Shoot-em-
up Construction Kit opened the floodgates I suppose.
Q: Were you a big fan of a particular game that might have put you on to making this game or did you just like games in general?
Turrican was always a really part of my childhood. I drew out comics, "mods" I suppose they'd be called now, even acted out little games in the school yard. It's the only game I constantly liked and one I can play today and enjoy the same. Since I've grown up I've fallen in love with Mario, Zelda, Pokemon and GTA (betcha didn't see that coming!),
they're pretty much my staple of inspiration and all I really play. id, Valve, Nintendo and Retro are my little idols I suppose.
Q: Did you ever have crisis where you almost decided to make commercial games instead of freeware?
It's always a tough decision. Commercial brings home the bacon, but freeware gives you more control since you answer to no one. Thing is I like bacon and control so I'll never be happy in my choice.
Q: What made you decide that you wanted to make freeware instead of commercial games?
Originally a lack of skill on my behalf. I'm a perfectionist and if I don't like something then I'll either work on it till I bleed or throw it up as freeware. Right now I'm happy working on a smaller freeware project and doing various graphic and game art.
Q: Have you considered making commercial games?
I've found myself asking this more and more since graduating university. A few publishers have been sniffing around but I haven't said yes to any of them yet. Depends on the amount of bacon. Gotta pay off that damn student loan.
Q: If you were to make a commercial game (however cheap or expensive) what kind of game would you make? And inspired by what?
I don't think I'll ever want to make a 3D game. My spirit lives in the 2D world beside Samus, Bren McGuire and that little guy Mario. My vision now is to make something 2D but with a large resolution and using some kind of stylised visuals. I've always wanted to make a game with "painted" graphics.
THE GAMEMAKING PROCESS:
Q: The new Satan Sam has an amazing weaponssystem and moves list, is there any inspiration from other places in there?
I think the sword was the first item in there, the inspiration was a tribute to the father and son butchers from Coronation Street (I know I know!). The rest were evolutions of the first Sam game, except flame powers now threw you around the level instead of just melting ice. A lot of people think it's Megaman inspired but, and I'll probably be castrated for this - I've never even played a Megaman game.The final evolution of Sam was thrown in completely at the last minute which was so stupid. Spent a few updates sorting that pickle out. Basically the fundamentals were just pulled right out of the air and slapped down without any design background!
Q: Will we see more games like Satan Sam from you? Are any on the drawing board?
I've got another 2 platformers coming out - Tormishire and something heavily conceptual little game nicknamed Leaf. I suppose Leaf will be Sam-like in the mindless destruction of it all. Everytime I get a big surge of Sam downloads it makes me think that people maybe would like a proper sequel one day.
Q: Are there any things left out of Satan Sam that you would have liked to put in there?
Oh yes! As the project was coming to an end I wanted to remove the map selection screen, replacing it with a Mario 64 style "hub" world. My friends shouted at me so I left it the way it is. I also had to remove the co-op mode since it was just a pile of poo. I added in Echo World for compensation, but I think that was put to waste since I only know a few people who've beat it!
Q: Where did you get the inspiration for Satan Sam and its out-of-the-box story and gameplay?
The inspiration was nothing more than a random person emailing me, asking me why I was working on Sam 2 when Sam 1 wasn't inished. I dropped everything and went to remake Sam 1 as it should have been. Everything from there on was dropped on in layers throughout production, throw a bit of story in there, add a new item here. From that kind of view it was poorly designed but it just worked.
The dropped Sam 2 was a bit rubbish to be honest, I had just played through MGS: Twin Snakes *and* Sonic Advance and so I made a game which rewarded the player on beating levels in either a sneaky or speedy way. God that even sounds terrible on paper... No wonder I dropped it so quickly.
Q: Will we see a sequel of The new Satan Sam at some point?
I'd count on a direct sequel! Hopefully I can make it bigger and more explosive without needing a super computer next time! I don't plan ahead of my current projects though.
Q: How is your own idea of what the apocalypse might be like? (Didn't see that one coming did you?)
Eek! I actually had a dream about a mega storm destroying the Earth a few nights ago. Hope it wasn't a vision. I got my shoes wet :(
Q: Do you have a funny fact to share about the making or whatever of Satan Sam? (It will be our little secret?...nah...)
I don't play that many games.
Q: Did you work alone or with more people?
(If with other people)
In almost all my projects I get some good quality graphic advice off a certain Ryan Wheeler (aka Biax) and in all my new projects I lessen the soundtrack load by stealing some tracks off a certain MrPineapple (he's a legend but much better than that Will Smith film). MrPineapple is Mike to my Tim Bisley, or Brian. I think I'm more of a Brian. My girlfriend Caroline and friend Tom are very good at discussing ideas, they're geniuses. Tom worked with me on a couple of projects, Jetball being our finest (and shortest) hour I think. I started making a game about us all a few years ago but that kinda fizzled away.
And I get virtually all my ideas whilst dog walking, so thanks for that Muffy! (yesyes my dog's called Muffy)
Q: Being the leader of a group of volunteers can be frustrating as you can't really demand anything from them, since they are there of their own free will. How do you motivate the people making the game?
Shouting helps! Nah generally I'm a friendly chap so I just overuse smilies by accident and find it helps. Really though it helps them get exposure too so it's a win-win for everyone involved. If not then I whip out the angry smilies. Only I'm not so good at them ;> is probably the most evil I get.
Q: Was the game ever in danger of not being published? Why? And at what state?
About 90% I thought that nobody would like it and it would be terrible to play. But what's a project without a few hissy fits?
Q: What specific tech side of making a game is the hardest (to find people for)? (Music, Graphics, storyline, translation, etc.)
I find there are lots of artists out there. If anything translation (oh bugger I haven't even thought about translating my projects yet) and good musicians are very hard to find. And you can't have mine...
Q: Did any sacrifices have to be made with the content?
I approached this with a "screw it" attitude. 30mb for a platformer? Pfft let's release a 40mb version too. Everyone has broadband now, even me up in the tucked away, rain soaked hills of England.
Q: Where did you find the will to power through this consuming job?
Did the fans help or was it just sheer willpower?
Willpower! I don't recall releasing info for a good 6 months. It was like "here have a screenshot" which got a few people interested. If memory serves Sam was kept secret until October 2004 and released Feb 2005, I threw a trailer out at around November and the hugely positive comments helped loads for the final push.
Q: Will you keep working on the game or have we seen the last version of it?
I've been contemplating doing a final update but knowing me I'd spend another 9 months on it and totally cripple any chances of other projects! I've got a soft spot for that little character. I'd like to do something for it's 2nd birthday (14th Feb) but I don't know if I have the time.
Q: What will be your next game/remake?
Tormishire. A game loosely based on the Sam universe but there's no crossover or anything like that. Sprites are the same size though! It's an epic non-linear platform game that's burning out all my creativity and taking a stupidly long time to make.
Q: Where do you see yourself 5 years from now regarding gamemaking?
I've had some big offers recently but it's nothing I'm ready to openly talk about. They're probably watching right now.
Q: Any words for other freeware game developers?
We need more Metroivania style games! Really good quality ones, if you make one I'll love you.
Q: Any favourite freeware games we should know about?
I think it's famous now but there was a little game called Alex Adventure floating around somewhere. I thought it was buckets of fun when I first played it! I think I emailed Alex (the creator) and just asked for more! I'm also really looking forward to Mr Stumps Dentures 2, Mushroom Saga and Biax's own Titan Exodus 2.
Q: If you were to mention a GOD of freeware, who would that be?
A God of freeware? I really don't know but I think Cactus would be a Jesus like character. I've only played a few of his games but damn, that guy must not sleep! His output to the community has been immense. A real inspiration to a 1-game-every-2-years bum like me.
Q: What are you currently working on?
Gamewise I'm working on Tormishire and doing another round of graphics. Right now I'm working on organising my hard drive!
Q: Have you ever heard of CWF's developer help project?
I've heard bits!
Q: CWF's dev help project aims to be a 'bridge' between freeware developers and people interested in participating creating freeware games. If you needed more helpers, would you consider opening a thread in CWF, telling which kind of help you need?
I'm stupidly busy at the moment (don't you dare mention how long it took me to do this interview!) but we'll see.
Q: If you could choose to do a freeware game with any gamedeveloper (freeware or commercial) who would it be?
Team 17 with the working environment of Valve. So a creative dos house really.
Q: What kind of game would you make? (Related to the question before this one).
A good proper classic style Worms game! Just before they went a little too silly and lost the fantastic background art.
This is mix of puzzle and action platform game. The game includes 127 levels, 10 worlds, 14 big bosses, support for 2 players (Co-op), support for 4 save files, unlockable secrets and a lot of weapons. Completing levels requires the player to utilize weapons and objects at their disposal, be it to destroy bad guys or flip a switch or whatever. Knowledge of items is key to beating this game, as well as good reflexes. Without giving too much away,... (read more)
CWF Crew rating:
(3 of 6)