A VISIT WITH DANILO CAGLIARI OF MIDIAN DESIGN
By Peter Rootham-Smith
Midian Design is an indie developer company that produced a range of games including Odissea - An Almost True Story, Oz Orwell and the Crawling Chaos, and Quantumnauts 2: Black Hole Happens!.
The person behind Midian Design is Danilo Cagliari, who creates the games single-handedly apart from testing and translation.
GB: How did you get into making games?
DC: Iím 39 years old now, and I've been playing computer games from the time of Arkanoid, back in the mid-eighties. At the age of 18, I loved the adventure games by Lucasfilm, and wanted to make adventure games myself. But at that time there wasnít any appropriate programming software to start an amateur project. Around 2008 I discovered the AGS (Adventure Game Engine), which gave me the opportunity to realize my dream on my own.
GB: Whatís your background?
DC: I have always worked in the graphics sector in different situations, but nothing as satisfying as realizing video games, creating stories, animating them, and of course, seeing them appreciated.
GB: What games do you like playing yourself?
DC: I love all kinds of video games. I have recently enjoyed Tomb Raider, Bioshock Infinite, GTA, and Divinity Original Sin, but probably those that I prefer the most are MMORPGs. I've played pretty much all of them since the days of Ultima Online. From a person who makes only graphic adventures, people might expect another kind of answer, but I actually do prefer to produce adventure games over playing them.
GB: What influences your game making?
DC: I am a fan of the themes that relate to mystery. My games are influenced by sci-fi writers both in scientific and pseudo-scientific fields. I always wanted to create adventure games inspired by the great names of the past such as Lucasfilm and Sierra, by inserting the themes which I appreciate like ufology, ancient civilizations, paranormal powers, etcÖ
GB: What drives you to make games?
DC: I wanted to make adventure games especially for my desire to tell stories. There is a common thread in my games, maybe it is not clear to all those who played them, but this is the main reason. I wanted to express an opinion and share it in a visual and playable way.
GB: Are you a full time game maker?
DC: I work in both the graphics and computer business, so in a way, yes.
GB: Do you ever wish for a 9-5 job?
DC: Iíve had a nightmare or two about itÖ
GB: Do you work long hours and all the days of the week?
DC: Absolutely. I do take care of everything -- plot, graphics, music... Only two parts, beta testing and translating, are done by others. But if I want to succeed in producing at least one game a year, I really have to commit myself, which I do.
GB: How do you manage developing a game? For instance Broken Age used sprints.
DC: I think basically every project, game or not, works in sprints or iterations. Especially when you work in a team style, for example translators and beta-testers or even publishers.
So to give you a good view of my developing time-line, I can roughly build it up in the next iterations or sprints blocks:
Iteration 01: fleshing out and writing out the story.
Iteration 02: creating the art (backgrounds, sprites, music and sound-fx).
Iteration 03: coding everything, up to a fully playable alpha build.
Iteration 04: the alpha build is now been translated into English and is also roughly tested.
Iteration 05: issues noticed during testing are fixing now plus some fine-tuning (minor changes and additions).
Iteration 06: the first beta version got tested thoroughly.
Iteration 07: fixing the bugs from the 6th iteration. Sometimes add some slight alterations, an example can be because one or more testers reported about a puzzle which logic (in solving it) didn't made enough sense.
Iteration 08: the first Release Candidate got tested.
Iteration 09: some very minor bugfixing.
Iteration 10: the second Release Candidate got tested.
Iteration 11: last few tweakings, at this point it's already pretty bug-free so to speak, so only tweaking/tuning here is left.
Iteration 12: the third Release Candidate got tested. This usually doesn't get any negative results, so ready for release now (and otherwise 2 iterations, 1: fixing and 2: testing will be added)
Iteration 13: wrapping up the game for the official release
GB: What game are you working on at the moment?
DC: I am finishing the final touches of The Apotheosis Project with Screen7, who is the publisher and also arranges the voice acting. So I just started to work on the second chapter of Oz Orwell, called Oz Orwell and the Exorcist.
GB: What excites you about that game?
DC: The thing that really excites me in this game, The Apotheosis Project, is to see a component that was not present in my previous productions so far, which is the dubbing by really talented voice actors/actresses. People who follow the news of upcoming products at Screen7 might already know about this, so adding this new aspect (voice acting) to my newest, and soon to be released, game makes it even more exciting for me.
GB: Do you work on more than one game at a time?
DC: No, it would be impossible for me. I like to think constantly about a specific story, make it grow month after month by adding new ideas, and therefore it is necessary to invest all my energy into one product at a time.
GB: Is it important that people playing games know real people have made them? And how hard it can be to make games?
DC: With the advent of social networks, it has become a practice -- there is no longer a real boundary line between "fans" and programmers, the same as with singers or actors. Such a platform provides an opportunity to have direct contact of course, but the appearance of the internet has reduced the gap. I would not want to be argumentative, but unfortunately this situation, if good for some, is obviously, from another point of view, bad for others. In fact, I've seen games being completely ruined because of the pressure from the players. Day after day they clogged the forums and social networks with claims that arenít objective enough, which often led the programmers to distort the original idea, which was fine for the more silent majority of players. This is especially true and happening in the field of MMORPGs. So I'd love to work on one of these MMORPG projects. But because of the negative type of community that comes with these games, I prefer working on adventure games instead
GB: How important is support from the Adventure game fan community?
DC: Itís very important. In recent years I have had many contacts from people who simply want to meet me or make a compliment, and also people who help me with the projects, help me to make it known around the world. Alone I will not reach any goal.
GB: Is now a good or bad time to be making games?
DC: Nowadays we have Steam, GOG, Desura and another thousand sites for digital distribution, sales and offers... The fight against piracy gets stronger and people begin to understand the importance of keeping the game market alive. So yes, it is a great time to be a creator of videogames. Especially for independent software houses.
GB: Can games say things besides being entertainment? Like express political views?
DC: As said before, absolutely. Thatís what I do, but not literally 'in the field of politics' of course. But I always try to convey a message. That, of course, can be read but it is not necessary to do so in order to appreciate the game itself. The media does this too, sending messages of all kinds, in every way. It is sort of undeniable.
GB: Can games be Art? Is that a meaningful question?
DC: Games are definitely art. Not all of course, running behind a ball in a pixel version is not art, but when I think of games like Zelda Windwaker, ICO, Brothers, Loom, just to name a few, it is clear that we are talking about art. In a video game we have music, history, modelling, itís a tangle of art forms.
GB: Will you still be making games in 10 yearsí time?
Well, I will have approximately 50 years left, and after that I'll
be pretty much a kid again. And then... So, unless we find ourselves
in a scenario like Fallout, I do think Iíll be making games for as
long as possible.
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