Interview: Alistair Aitcheson

 


Xbox Live has ruined everything. Gone are the days of proper gentlemanly altercation in videogames. Days when a man could take measure of his opponent by bitterly twiddling his moustache during a heated glaring contest all prior to a game of Flame Tag on Chinese. With broadband and Xbox Live all the rage these days, developers are facilitating the behaviour of the uncouth; bawling words down a microphone or placing one’s on-screen genitals between the parched lips of a bloodied corpse. Yet each of those is a poorer substitute still for being present in the company of your adversary as you crush him without quarter.

Fortunately Alistair Aitcheson must feel similarly because Greedy Bankers vs The World pits you and your opponent at opposite ends of an iPad. You really can’t get much closer than that and if you are, well the term probably isn’t “enemy” anymore.

We spoke with Alistair toward the end of the Expo by which point he and his team had spent four days showcasing vs The World. If there’s any justice in the world that effort will have paid off because the game is damn good fun, although I reckon Alistair’s going to have a few broken iPads to answer for.

Foolishly we failed to ask him whether he believed there ought to be more face-to-face warring in multiplayer videogame but here’s what we did talk about:

 

Tell us a little about Greedy Bankers vs. The World and yourself

I launched Greedy Bankers vs. The World just a few days ago, my name is Alistair Aitcheson and I’m the sole developer behind the title so I do all the graphics as well as all the programming. The game itself is a simple puzzle game with a lot of complexity layered on top. So there are a lot of strategies that you can try to use against your opponent, the most exciting of which is the fact that you can reach across the game board and steal your opponent’s gems and take them over to your own side and everything that you steal goes up in value. That means in Greedy Bankers greed is good and that really does define the nature of the game.

 

There’s obviously some satire in there. Did you set out looking to make a game about the banking fiasco or did the gameplay come first and the story tie in neatly later?

It was very much the gameplay that came first. The original prototype I made as part of the Experimental Gameplay Project, which is a a monthly collective where you make a game about a specific theme. I came up with this game to go with the theme of casual addiction. I called it Greedy Bankers at the time because it had gems and money in it and it was an in joke with a friend at university. Everyone liked the name so much that I decided to run with it and I created all the characters based around the title. So in the new one especially there’s a range of different banker characters you take on in the story mode; there’s a plucky young intern, a big fat CEO, a robot  cash machine, stuff like that and it gave me a good excuse to draw some fun stuff. But it was really the gameplay that came first and everyone liked the title so much that I thought it was something to expand on.

 

You’re a one-man studio, is that so you maintain creative freedom or is there more to it than that?

Yeah, it really is that. When I graduated from university last year I really wanted to work in the games industry but I wanted to have creative freedom so that’s why I started my own studio. I also wanted to give everything my own personal touch so I do all the artwork as well as the programming. The programming I knew I could do on my own because it’s something I enjoy doing. The artwork I also knew I could do and I wanted to do that on my own because then everything would have my personal stamp on it, my own personal trademark. It would be nice if, with the next games I put out, I can continue using my own style so people can recognise an Alistair Aitcheson game because it looks like an Alistair Aitcheson game.

 

As someone who has graduated from uni and jumped right into indie development, what advice would you give to someone leaving university looking to follow a similar path?

Well if you’re looking to be an indie, iPhone is a difficult market. It’s very hard to make a lot of money on it. I’m still struggling to build up the business at the moment but I’m hoping that being invited to show the game here at the expo and the amount of coverage that has given me is going to be a real leg-up and going to help me drive the business forward. I think you have to be brave, you have to be bold. I think there are lots of people who think ‘I want to make a game, I enjoy making games but I want to be able to make a living off it so I want something that will guarantee me at least a little something’, so they make a simple casual game based on an existing formula. But that’s actually a trap because if something’s already popular that normally means that there are plenty of other games just like it. So you really want to put yourself out there, be bold, be brave and take risks.

 

We’ve spoken to a few of the other indie developers and they’ve each been enthusiastic about the free-to-play model, is that something you’ve personally looked at?

I can see that being a growing business model for developers. I have nothing against it, I would like to be able to use that kind of model with my own games but as yet I just don’t have any ideas for games I want to develop that would work well with that model. But yeah, I can see how that could be a real blessing for small developers because you don’t have the barrier of a pay-wall to enjoy the game. You can still get it and enjoy it but enthusiasts can pay for extra content. It makes sense.

 

What can we expect in the future from Alistair Aitcheson?

I’m gonna see how this one goes over the next few months and work it out from there. I guess it just depends on how well this does but I’ve got a bunch of prototypes under my hat that I really want to expand on and maybe they’ll end up being my next game.

 

Thanks to Alistair for taking the time to talk us. You can keep track of all things Greedy Bankers on Alistair’s website here or you can follow him on Twitter here. Greedy Bankers is available on the App Store for the low-low price of £0.69. It’s a nifty and addictive little puzzle game; well worth checking out. However, if you’re the owner of an iPad then Greedy Bankers vs The World is undoubtedly the version to buy. The multiplayer is cracking.


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