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Interview with The Spirit Engine 1 and 2 developer

By Joseph | July 16, 2009 at 9:14 am

Mark Pay, sole maker of The Spirit Engine 1 and 2, recently chatted with Joseph Wartick about the past, present, and future of his game design.

1. Tell us a little about yourself. What got you into games? Why did you decide to make games?

My name is Mark Pay. I’m a 25 year old Computer Science graduate and artist living on the south-east coast of England. My first games console was a SNES. I sold it back in ’94 to buy a games development package called Klik and Play to run on our old family 486. I’ve been developing games since then. It’s a creative hobby that requires and rewards many different skills. It’s also very demanding of time and patience. I like seeing the end product and hearing that people enjoy it.

2. What are some difficulties you’ve faced in the Indie development scene? What kind of successes or failures have you experienced?

Motivation and time are the biggest hurdles. The Spirit Engine 2 took five years to finish and it’s difficult to maintain interest over such a period. Working under contract in a creative industry often restricts your freedom to work on personal projects. Most of the online portals offer very one-sided distribution deals and are currently engaged in a price war at the expense of developers. And of course there’s illegal downloading, which hurts developers directly.Aside from the love of the craft, game development, especially independent development, is generally not an attractive industry to work in. My greatest success so far has been simply finishing the game. My greatest failure has been a lack of marketing. I’m just not a salesman.

3. With The Spirit Engine 2 aging, what projects are you working on? Can you tell us anything about them?

I’ve been through a series of failed projects in the past year, most of which I’ve shelved after a month of development time when they failed to excite. I’ve made a start on The Spirit Engine 3, but I wasn’t happy with my progress, so I’ve put it on ice for now. I plan to get back to it eventually. Right now I’m working on a turn-based WW2 RTS. To my surprise, it’s going rather well, so I’m trying to see how far I can take it. It’s still very early in development though.

4. Seriously, it’s just you? How the heck do you have time for all this? Is making games your full time job?

I’ve had Josh Whelchel working alongside me as composer and Jim Riley helping with testing. Their support has been invaluable, as has the encouragement of forum posters and fans of the first game. Much of my personal development time for The Spirit Engine 2 came from university and unemployment. The rest is stubborn commitment at the expense of my own free time. I’d certainly like to work as a full-time developer, but it’s not a good way to pay the bills. Unfortunately I’m not having much luck finding a ‘proper’ job right now.

5. The Spirit Engine 2 is such a unique game, where do you look for inspiration in making a title like this? Also, why is the “easy”difficulty so darned hard?

I think it helps to draw influence from as many other genres and mediums as you’re passionate about, both for narrative and for gameplay mechanics. Genres can become inbred and insular if they don’t bring in fresh blood. It can help to deliberately subvert genre tropes you dislike, and there are a lot of those out there. I’m a much bigger fan of sci-fi than fantasy too, so I tend to mix a lot of that in. Major thematic influences for The Spirit Engine 2 include HP Lovecraft and the English Civil War. I haven’t really played a lot of RPGs myself. Just the old Black-Isle stuff on the PC, Seiken Densetsu 3 on the SNES and Disgaea on the PS2. That’s both a help and a hinderance when considering mechanics.Any difficulty is probably due to shortcomings in the game’s tutorial. That’s been a common problem.

6. Why is it called ‘The Spirit Engine’ anyway?

The first game’s ramshackle plot had you following a fairy that was eventually caught and put into a machine. I kept the title for name recognition. I could wave my hands and mumble something about themes involving the juxtaposition of faith and science instead. 😉

7. Finally, what’s for dinner? I’m having a burrito. Do you like burritos?

Shepherd’s pie and mixed veg. I’ve not had a lot of Mexican food, but the few burritos I have tasted have been pretty nice.

Thanks again to Mark Pay for agreeing to the interview. Be sure to check out his site to play The Spirit Engine for free or purchase The Spirit Engine 2 for $15.

Check out the review of The Spirit Engine 2

Topics: Indie, Indie games, Indie Report, Indy games, Interview, Interviews, Reviews, The Spirit Engine, The Spirit Engine 2