“Just do it!” Nike aside, this is the motto adopted by Vannasouk Phadilok and Anthony Matecki of Vast Galleon Studios. The pair have just released their first game, Super Fall, for Android, and we sit down to chat with them about the industry, their passion for games and what it takes.
Bev (Rocket Chainsaw): Tell me a little about Vast Galleon Studios. How did you decide you wanted to make games?
Vannasouk: We both studied game design, so we learned a lot of stuff, both theoretical and practical.
Anthony: After studying at QUT and Qantm, there weren’t that many jobs in the games industry. But we still wanted to use what we had learned over the last couple of years, so of course, we still decided to make games. Even though we’ve had our ups and downs, we’re still going to try and do it.
RC: Yeah, exactly. I think if you spend that long studying something, you’ll want to try and make a living off of it. It’s also interesting because I think a lot of people don’t realise it’s something you can study, or that the games industry is much more than just triple-A titles. In that sense I think Brisbane is a great starting point, because we’ve got so many little indie companies starting up everywhere.
V: And of course we have one of the great indie companies here, Halfbrick, with Fruit Ninja.
A: Games in general make more money than the movie industry and there’s the entertainment value as well. A movie will go for an hour and a half whereas a game can last for many hours. And you think about the amount of work that goes into one game, even a little indie game which costs a couple of hundred dollars, it’s much more than that of a movie.
V: It makes me really excited to be part of this industry, to get our name out there and do our bit for the Brisbane community. We all have that time when we’re struggling and looking for a job, but there aren’t any out there, so we thought, “let’s make our own”.
RC: Tell me about Super Fall. How did you come up with the idea for it?
V: Super Fall is a very simple game which we made because we just wanted to make something and get it out there. At Vast Galleon, we have the philosphy of “Just Do It”. I feel that in game development there’s a lot to be learned, but for now, we just want to get the train going. When we were thinking of initial ideas, it always came with some conflict, like wanting to make something too grand in scope. But if you do that, you’ll never make a start.
A: Some people think you need to do things 100% the first time around. So for example, if they were to design a new character, they might then think that they need to start adding even more characters as well. But the thing with indie games is that sometimes you won’t have time for that, so you need to just do it.
RC: Do you feel that having to have a ‘perfect vision’ discourages a lot of indie developers, rather than the more realistic view of constantly reiterating and building it up over time?
A: I think with a lot of indies, if something is going to take a long time they feel that it’s not worth it to them.
V: Just on that note, and this is somewhat related to the discussion on whether video games are art or not; I believe that video games can be art, but video game development itself is a trade. For example, there’s practical skills to be learned, and by practising those skills, you’re going to get better at it.
A: Yeah, like if you’re a top DJ. If you slack off, your skills are going to get worse, but if you keep going at it, you’re going to get better. I mean, you could watch tutorials online, or you could just do it.
RC: And I guess nowadays, a lot of people also think that making money from games is the most important thing. But you have to get somewhere first.
A: If you do nothing, you’ll never get there, but we’re trying to get there. Look at any pioneering industries or even great artists like Leonardo da Vinci. In the end, he created some amazing stuff.
RC: And he got to be in a video game.
A: He did. But I mean, you look at some of his designs and he designed a tank made out of wood, which people reiterated afterwards. So that’s something we should be trying to do as well, since we’re in design. It may not be as flashy as a tank, but it’s something and better than nothing. If we keep going and become big, we’ll achieve something.
RC: Do you have a lot of friends in the industry? I notice you’re friendly with the team that did Mage.
V: I actually gave a bit of advice on Mage, with a bit of the level design and the art, stuff like that. Back to the original question, I can’t speak for most of the gaming community, but it seems to me like they’re in their own little bubble, and it’s hard to crack. Our main network is every graduate from QUT and Qantm, but a lot of them have no jobs and they’re just left to dry. So we try to reach out to them and get working together on titles. We’ve worked on a variety of projects, just doing what we can to get it done, so that we can come up with our own wave of game developers.
RC: I also saw you’re working on something new at the moment on your Facebook page?
V: That’s Monster Fighter. It’s a simple game, but what we’re trying to do with each title is build our skills. Monster Fighter is going to be a single-player mobile game like DOTA or League of Legends. It’s designed to be a casual experience; you have a hero, you run around, you kill enemies, and each time you play it gets harder and harder. It’ll be an opportunity for us to show off our other skills like 3D.
RC: And that sounds like something you’ll be able to build on, like adding new characters or maps.
V: And even multiplayer.
A: Within scope. Some designers they think about they want to make, and it’s something like Diablo III. The project suffers from feature creep. And then you have others who want to get paid.
V: I think how much money someone’s entitled to depends on how much effort they put into their work. I think if you put passion into your work, money will eventually come. We’re always looking for more people like us, people who can work on a shoestring budget.
RC: So you work full-time on the project?
A: Full-time. But we really enjoy it; when we die, we can say we created something.
RC: On the fun side of things, how did you come up with the name Vast Galleon Studios?
V: It’s actually randomly generated! Four years ago, we wanted to do something, so we loaded up a website generator which spat out two names: StrangeGame Studios and Vast Gallon Studios. We went with Vast Gallon, but as I went through uni, a lot of people gave us crap. They were like, “That’s a ship, shouldn’t it be a ‘galleon’ with an ‘E’ in it?” So when we finally registered our company this year, we put the ‘E’ in it.
RC: What have you been playing lately?
A: DOTA 2.
V: I’ve just got a huge library of PlayStation 2 games that I never touch, but at the moment I’m playing Persona 3.