Clockwork Wolf Interview
A busy lone wolf, is a happy lone wolf.
Alvin, the man behind the creative force that is Clockwork Wolf, has shared with us at App Apes some interesting information about his routine, his projects, including the well received Neural Diver, some tips for other indie developers, as well as an idea about the future of Clockwork Wolf.
Alvin is a busy man, working a nine to six job, and managing his free time to both enjoy what the gaming community has to offer, as well as provide it with new, unique games. After his day job, Alvin whips up a quick dinner, then does his best to get a few productive hours into his hobby of game development, which he admits can get pretty hectic. He explains that becoming a game developer is “an exploratory step” for him, and that the idea of creating something that others find fun is simply appealing. This draws a parallel to his Neural Diver game, in which players are elite cyber soldiers, exploring neural networks. He makes certain to keep hydrated, and also take breaks to play games, for there is no better way to get a feel for the market and player base than to play other games. That doesn’t mean his brain isn’t working away, thinking of new ideas. “Sometimes ideas take a while to germinate,” he says, and he finds that he can sometimes figure out “solutions to a problem, simply by going out for a walk or taking a shower.”
Alvin has been dabbling in the commonly used 3D developer tool, Unity, for several years, but admits that he just never got around to creating a complete game, because he lacked the other tools he wanted in order to create one. He tried open source as well as low priced software, but could never fully get into them. This changed last year when Side Effects Software released Houdini Indie, which allowed Alvin to have a content creation tool at a very affordable price. He says that his journey into game development began around that time. Currently, Alvin does utlize Unity as his game engine of choice, chiefly due to its ability to translate over to many platforms–platforms that Alvin wanted to publish his game on (Android/Google Play and iOS). As for creating the 3D models and textures, Alvin used Side Effects Software’s Houdini Indie. He also sometimes uses Pixelmator in lieu of the pricier Photoshop, for when he needs to do bitmap work.
As for inspiration and apps that he admires, Alvin cites Shattered Pixel Dungeon, Rec., and Camera Zoom FX for various reasons. Shattered Pixel Dungeon provides a challenge, and has excellent controls, as well as a depth to it that Alvin greatly admires. He also likes the graphics of the game, stating “even fine details like causing a fire to spread through grass is captured in beautiful pixels.” Rec. for Android is an app that helped Alvin capture video of Neural Diver for promotion purposes, and explains that Camera Zoom FX is a “great replacement app for the stock Android camera program. He loves the various color treatment and boarder options. He also states that Neural Driver was inspired by Tempest 2k, in his Google Play description of his game, and explains that the game was designed in an attempt to fetch the retro feel of games from the 1980’s. Alvin explains that Neural Diver was really the answer to the question he posed to himself: How can I create a game similar to Tempest 2K that relies on natural, touch screen controls? While he could have simply cloned Tempest 2K and utlized onscreen joystick, Alvin wanted to do something more interesting and novel as he finds the on-screen controls subpar for they lack “the tactile feel of the real thing.”
Neural Driver, Clockwork Wolf’s first published game, took a little over a month, or about five weeks, to complete. In the free time he had between Christmas and the New Year, Alvin developed the main “engine” of Neural Diver: Cyber Defender. He expands, “the main game logic was completed quite fast, however, most of the time after was spent creating the content – 3d models and textures, as well as creating the various levels, and testing out the levels.” Alvin learned a lesson during all this, and that is that it takes a lot of effort and time to make a game. He says, “I never thought game testing would take so much time.” Testing took longer than expected, because finding just the right level of difficulty was, well, difficult. Alvin took care to make sure that Neural Diver was challenging, but not so difficult that no one could beat it.
As explained earlier, Neural Diver was inspired by Tempest 2K, but not wanting to make a clone, Alvin instead made a tube shooter using a touch screen interface. The virus theme came about after Alvin read books like Rouge Als (Insidious – synchronicity Trilogy) over the holidays when he first began the game development process. The result is a game suited for all ages. Anyone who enjoys a challenge, will enjoy the colorful and unique gaming experience that Neural Diver brings to the table, or rather the tablet. Alvin adds that anyone who might “enjoy a new twist on the arcade shooter genre,” will find pleasure in the game. He explains that he “designed the game so that your attention is sometimes drawn away to a certain part of the screen, but really, attacks are coming from all over. Also, the incessant incoming enemy units rarely let up, forcing the player to be really focused on not just shooting randomly. In fact, shooting randomly is rather hazardous to your health against certain virus units!”
As for tips for other indie developers, Alvin explains them best:
“One of the explorations I’ve embarked with this game is monetization. I actually did not take into account banner sizes, and types of advertisements there are. Short to say, do figure that out early, so you will be able to put the advertisements in the proper places. Due to the lack of space on-screen, I moved from banners to full screen video ads, but decided to remove them as I think the ads simply do not fit with the way my game is designed. Something to note for newer game developers!
Another aspect is game testing. I’m fortunate to have had a few people test my game over the development process. I actually re-did all the virus units because they were originally too detailed and difficult to pick out against the background. The new models – I hope – are easier to determine as they have stronger silhouettes and bolder colors.”
Alvin the Clockwork Wolf has learned a lot from creating Neural Diver, and many game developers can learn from his experiences, as well. As for the future of Clockwork Wolf, Alvin suggest that his next game release will explore the other end of the spectrum, as he is designing a more laid-back game that he hopes will be more fun to play, and not extremely challenging. We at App Apes wish him the best, and look forward to the next great game the Clockwork Wolf is tinkering away on.
Find out more about the Clockwork Wolf on the developer website.