Interview with Neven Mrgan, co-creator of The Incident

Interview with Neven Mrgan, co-creator of The Incident

Neven MrganAfter the release of The Incident to the app store last week and our subsequent review of it on my latest GDP101, Neven Mrgan, the self-professed “art guy” on the project kindly agreed to answer a few questions about how The Incident was made, his role in the project, what tools were used, and more.

Here we go!

Let’s get the introduction out of the way – what is your name and what do you do for a living?

I’m Neven Mrgan, and I’m a designer at Panic Inc.

What was your role on the incident? Do you work for big bucket or was it contract?

The Incident was Matt Comi’s idea; he is also the developer on it. I’m the art guy. We both contributed to the game’s story, gameplay, etc.

At what point did you get brought into the project? Were you around during the planning stages? Has the game change much from those original planning phases?

Matt pitched this idea to me after releasing his previous iPhone game, Pocketball. He wondered what it would be like to work with a designer/artist, a role he usually handles himself in his projects. I think the experiment worked out swell – it’s been a completely problem-free trip so far.

Matt’s original pitch was, what if you were a side-scroller character stuck in a Tetris-like world, and your goal was not to make sense of the puzzle pieces, but to simply survive their onslaught. It’s an action twist on what could’ve been a matching puzzler.

Is this your first experience making a real, commercially-viable title? I know that you made a browser-based game a while ago – how does the incident relate to that experience?

PieguyThis is the first “real” game I’ve worked on, though I’ve shipped pleeeeeenty of other kinds of software. Last year I toyed with an HTML-based iPhone game called Pie Guy; it scratched my ludological itch and taught me a lot about the web. And a little bit about games, maybe?

How has response been to The Incident? I know on the review we recorded and posted this week, it’s been pretty amazing with almost 500 views in one day. How has it been on your end?

We could not be happier with the way the launch went. Up until the very last second, we had no clue if there would even be any significant response to speak of. But pretty much anyone we can think of has covered the game in some way, and the emails and tweets we’ve received have been super-positive. Our approach to marketing is fairly hands-off (and our budget is a comfortable zero dollars); we were hoping the game would generate buzz by word of mouth and letter of blog, and that certainly seems to have happened. Again, it’s been really really great, and we thank everyone who took the time to blog, link, review, or just say “nice job!”

What tools did you use to build the game’s visuals? What tools did you use to create the soundtrack to the game?

The Incident bubbleMatt uses Apple’s standard set of iOS tools, of course; other than that, probably the biggest piece that he didn’t build himself is the Box2d physics engine. As for what he built: we’re finding that in game development, you end up creating super-specific tools which don’t exist because nobody else is making your exact game. So to build the game’s world, to test it, and to debug as we play, Matt created a set of tools meant only for The Incident.

I used Photoshop to draw all the graphics. Beyond that, I made a few HTML/JS-based utilities to help with some techie tasks (setting up sprite sheets etc.)

The soundtrack was made by the very awesome Cabel Sasser. He used FamiTracker and absolutely nothing else, which means the game’s theme song (which, by the way, is called “Stuff Falling/The Love Theme”) would totally play on an NES.

How did you decide on the incident’s unique control scheme? Where there other control types you had considered before committing to The Incident’s?

We considered them all; onscreen controls, swiping, multitouch. In the end, the simplicity of the tilt’n’tap system was unbeatable. I understand some people’s aversion to tilt controls, but I think the frustration mainly comes from trying to play precise games where you’re expected to tilt your guy into a two-pixel spot. That can be a challenge. The Incident, on the other hand, is a very fast, quick-reaction, wide-movement game. We think our current control set works great for that purpose.

Are there any plans to port it over to another platform or do you think the controls scheme that is native to apple’s mobile offerings limit your ability to do this?

The Incident - BashThe control scheme may be an issue, but there are two much bigger limiting factors. For one, we don’t own any other devices. Purchasing them, learning to use them (in a way that really teaches us the device’s strengths and weaknesses), then learning to develop for them is an enormous task. It is, of course, doable, but to go through all that we would have to be either really interested in these other platforms ourselves, or there would have to be a huge market waiting for us. Since both Matt and I are long-time Apple users (and that’s the world we work in as well), we can’t say we’re super-interested on a personal level. As for the financial appeal of developing for any other platform, the numbers just aren’t there. We don’t know anyone who’s making money on Android apps.

Are you working on any other games you’ve got in the hopper you can talk about or are you taking a break for now?

We are most definitely not taking a break :) The first update to The Incident is already in the works. We hope to make the game even better, deeper, and more fun over time.

Do you have a home console? If yes, what game is getting the most play right now?

Don’t tell anyone – I’m not much of a gamer when it comes to contemporary games. That should come as no surprise given the retro aesthetic of The Incident. I don’t dislike modern games, I just can’t keep up with everything that’s coming out. The only console I have is a Wii; right now I’m still trying to find the time to beat Super Mario Galaxy 2. Elsewhere, I’ve really enjoyed Limbo and VVVVVV.

Fine details

The Incident is available on the app store for $1.99 and according to me, is well worth the money. In case you missed it, here is my GDP101:

What do you think?

Have you tried The Incident? What do you think? Do you agree with the review or have another opinion? Let us know in the comments below!

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