... Read All To help celebrate this weekend’s Portland Retro Game Expo I absolutely had to run an interview with Wick, the creator of the upcoming Indie mega hit Crescent Loom. Wick is also the creator of Starship Rubicon, a game we published a time ago and he is also fortunate enough to be boothing with us at this years Retro Expo! If you are visiting the con and heard about Cheerful Ghost or Crescent Loom and are checking us out for the first time then Hello! If you are a long time reader then welcome back! I urge everyone to checkout the interview below and ALSO to head over and try the web version of Crescent Loom at the URL below. You know, for science.
jdodson: Could you tell people what Crescent Loom is?
Wick: Lemme tell ya, it's the next big thing. It's gonna change the way humanity sees themselves & the entire natural world. It's a paradigm shifter, the best thing to hit the educational game scene since Frog Fractions.
The premise is simple: you're a brainweaver who designs creatures from scratch in order to rebuild a planet's ecosystem. Now, build-a-bug games have been done before - Spore is the most famous - but any semblance of actual scientific rigor is usually sacrificed on the alter of "fun gameplay". They restrict your power "for your own good", ensuring your creations will always be able to happily dart around the screen -- but at the cost of any truly authentic creativity.
Crescent Loom doesn't mess around. It simulates ion channels opening and closing, neurotransmitters binding to their receptors, microcircuits of flashing neurons, muscles contracting and relaxing, the drag of water across the entire body, and the satisfying crunch of jaws on carapace. Your first creatures will be floppy, terrible creations with seizure-wracked brains, but you will try again. And you will learn.
And after you've put this all together to make a pulsing, living creature? Send it out into an online ecosystem where its performance is tracked and recorded. The most fit creatures will flourish, only to be toppled by the next biological strategy that you - normal players - invent and implement.
jdodson: How’s development on Crescent Loom evolving? Any recent discoveries or experiments that changed how you look at the game?
Wick: Crescent Loom is the most experimental game I've ever made, so its design has had to be flexible from the beginning. For example, the current main gameplay challenge - creature racing - is something that I threw together for the Kickstarter campaign and then discovered worked better than my original plan for environmental puzzles.
jdodson: At what point during the development have you thought “This is really turning into something special” or something you really set out to accomplish that is working well?
Wick: Simulation games have a certain magic where emergent properties will just pop out and surprise you. I remember my first creature after I really worked out the water physics just gliding through the water in this sublime way.
I was surprised to find that it could propel itself by wiggling, and for the first time was able to do laps around the cavern. I never wrote anything that specifically makes creatures go forward -- it's all an emergent property of the physics and neuroscience.
jdodson: What games are you playing right now?
Wick: Besides playing other create-stuff games for research? The roguelike structure of FTL and Crypt of the Necrodancer fit well into my "de-stress-for-an-hour" niche. For more substantial kicks, I just started playing Banner Saga 2 with a friend.
jdodson: I imagine there is a totally legit scenario where when I click the right things in Crescent Loom the game achieves an “AI Moment” and becomes sentient. After getting its bearings on being a living computer game I wonder if it had to pick its favorite song and movie, what would it be? This is important to know because when this happens you want to be ready for it.
Wick: Ah, see, this sort of popular conception of AI is one of the reasons I'm making Crescent Loom! I want to show people that a specific brain is a tool for moving a specific body. The idea of a body-less sentience contradicts itself; you can't divide the mind from its body. It wouldn't know what to do.
I digress. Whalesong and some kind of undersea nature documentary.
jdodson: The gaming landscape has changed a lot since it’s earliest roots in the Arcade. What do you think about the gaming industry in 2017?
Wick: It's awesome that the barrier to entry has gotten so low! Despite the occasional indiepocalypse.
jdodson: The other day I was at the store and it was an explosion of pumpkin spice items in that there were literally “pumpkin flavored dog treats” for sale amongst a sea of other things. We came away from the store having purchased 11 different pumpkin flavored foodstuffs. This isn’t a question I just think I might be part of the problem.
Wick: Ain't no problem with pumpkin.
jdodson: How has the experience of launching Starship Rubicon affected the development of Crescent Loom?
Wick: Oh heck yeah. I'm so glad I was able to go through the process of making and releasing a game with such a (relatively) simple design. It forced me to learn the basics of the industry and what my own strengths and weaknesses as a developer are.
jdodson: Have you learned anything that you’d like to bottle up and send back in time to tell yourself about approaching Starship Rubicon?
Wick: Spend more time on the art, make it more screen-shot-able. The marketing starts with the basic design of the game. The hustle is never going to end.
Honestly, I feel like past Wick also has a message for me: "Why are you working alone? Hubris! Jon is the only person keeping Starship Rubicon playable. Find a person who is good at the stuff you're bad at and work with them!"
jdodson: I just wanted to say to you, and also publicly, that being part of Starship Rubicon and publishing it was one of the highlights of my recent life. Thanks for working with me on that and I really hope you get something great out of the development of Crescent Loom. This isn’t a question, I just wanted you to know that. It’s also cool to be boothing with you at PRGE this year, can’t wait to see how people respond to the game!
Wick: Daw. I am so so so glad we were able to work together on Starship Rubicon. I'd probably be going to grad school or something way more conventional if we hadn't gotten that off the ground.
jdodson: What systems are you planning on releasing Crescent Loom on?
Wick: Windows/Mac/Linux. I think it'd be great on tablets, too, but that's a far-future thing.
jdodson: In our last interview back in December of 2015 we talked about Star Wars so I need to continue that tradition with a couple questions. HAD TO!
Episode VIII is coming up and now that Episode VII is out and Rogue One, what are you looking to Episode VIII to do?
Wick: Watching Rogue One was the biggest movie disappointment for me in a long time. There were some beautiful shots, but something didn't click for me. It felt like a movie of somebody's d20 campaign. Plus, a film whose entire final quarter that has nothing but the glory of dying in suicide attacks against a powerful enemy seems a little politically tone-deaf. Any excitement I had for VIII was quenched with that.
jdodson: Now that it seems we are getting a new Star Wars every year and maybe more than that at some point do you think that changes what Star Wars is? I’ve asked this to people before but i’m not sure we’ve really worked out an answer i’m comfortable with yet.
Wick: Look what they're doing with Marvel; a main storyline (Avengers) every few years punctuated with one-offs and spin-offs. Seems likely that's what they're gonna be doing with this property, too.
jdodson: What major things do you have to add to Crescent Loom before you think it’s ready to ship?
Wick: Shipping is a blurry line. I'm spending this last month of Kickstarter funds to fulfill all the rewards & polishing the game into an early-access thing. From there, it's a flexible to-do list based on where the next round of money comes from.
// MORE TUTORIALS
jdodson: If people are interested in helping you out with the game in some way, testing or otherwise what could they do?
Wick: For free, just play the online demo at crescentloom.com and save an online creature or two! I love seeing what people make. If you wanna support it / stay involved, there'll be links to purchase early access.
jdodson: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today, anything you want to say before we wrap things up?
Wick: Making games with good mechanics is the easy part. The hard part is making something that speaks to the human heart.