Ten Questions With… Peter Wagner (One Man Band Games)
One Man Band Games recently released a PC version for Blowy Fish on Steam and we were pleasantly surprised by this simple, yet addictive title. After reaching out to Peter, the solo developer behind the game, he was kind enough to not only answer our questions, but also provide us with some keys to give away to our readers. Check out the widget at the end of the interview for a chance to win your own copy of the game.
Can you give our readers a quick introduction of yourself and your work?
Hello, my name is Peter Wagner, I’m 34 years old and I’m living in Munich, Germany. I originally studied Business Computer Science and worked for a couple of years as IT consultant / programmer. Regardless of being well paid I never really felt comfortable in this role. It turned out that creating and maintaining business software was not as exciting as the real reason that tied me to computers since my childhood: GAMES!
As most gamers do, I always fantasized about creating my own games, and about one and a half year ago I decided I finally want to find out whether I’m really able to do it. I released two games under the name “One Man Band Games” so far: “Planets Gone Rogue!”, a spacesim-roguelike and “Blowy Fish”, an endless 2D platformer. Oh, and if you play Legend Of Grimrock, check out this old mod I made with a friend: “Prison Ward”.
As you can guess from “One Man Band”, I’m working alone and I try to do as much stuff as possible by myself. I have no education in graphic design nor in music which makes it challenging to create art, sound and music for the games, but I’m learning as I go and I’m getting better at it every day.
How did the idea for Blowy Fish come about?
At the beginning, I only had the abstract thought of “adding an unusual mechanic to an endless runner”. The initial idea for Blowy Fish was to navigate a blowfish through an endless tunnel with wide and narrow sections. The player would need to watch for the blowfish not to inflate too much or else it would pop on the tunnel walls. I built a quick prototype for it, but no matter how much I tuned or changed the inflation / deflation mechanics, the original idea was never fun to play.
However I was happy with how the tunnel / terrain generation was working technically, so I looked for a way to change the gameplay to become more challenging to play. After several iterations I tried an “Angry Birds / Slingshot”-control for the fish, I added in some enemies and that was the first time it felt fun to complete a level.
Blowy Fish is your first Steam release. How did you find the experience?
So far I’m very happy with how the Steam release went. I put the game into the Greenlight process with little hopes for it actually ever being greenlit. I was especially worried that people would hate / vote against the game since it clearly was a mobile game originally. Voices like this were present, but were the minority against a lot of people who voted for the game.
After being greenlit it can be a little overwhelming to look through all the available options in steamworks because there is a lot of stuff to understand and to configure correctly, but in the end I was able to figure it out all by myself.
When the game is released it automatically gets a “small base level of attention” because it appears in the “Upcoming Releases” list, which in turn leads to review requests by YouTubers, streamers and bloggers. This was a nice experience in comparison to a mobile release where the game is mostly ignored unless you land a viral hit or your game gets featured on the respective platform.
After the game was out for several days it got mainly positive reviews on Steam. Also I can see by the leaderboard entries and the Steam Community pages that people are actually enjoying playing the game on PC despite it being a simple casual game and this alone is worth the Steam release.
What are the games that influenced you and how?
There were at least three games that influenced the development of Blowy Fish:
Angry Birds and Desert Golfing share the same control scheme and especially Desert Golfing gave me the idea that adding a golfing / slingshot control to the prototype could be an interesting idea.
The greatest influence however was Crossy Road because I was amazed by their Free-To-Play-Monetization model. The game itself is free and you can have lots of fun without paying anything or even watching an ad. If you feel the need to get that new character a little faster you can choose to watch an ad or to buy it directly.
I added a similar model for the Android version of the game. In the Steam version, there are obviously no advertisements, so I increased various probability values in the game so you earn the in-game currency faster on PC.
What was the biggest challenge while creating Blowy Fish?
Due to the endless nature of the game I was never sure at what point the game was “complete”. I could have continued creating new enemies or mechanics forever, but each new gimmick I put into the game meant a later release date. As creator of the game you have seen the game so many times, you can’t tell anymore how someone who sees it for the first time would experience it, and if he or she would be satisfied with the amount of content you put in.
This problem was solved when I noticed that putting too many enemies in a level at once would make the game too hard anyway. I also realized that different combinations of enemies make for different gameplay. A fish that pushes you back in the level isn’t a huge threat alone, but in combination with an enemy that kills you on touch it might become a hard obstacle to overcome. Therefore I concentrated on different enemy combinations for the different levels, slightly increasing in difficulty as you progress.
What aspect of creating Blowy Fish was the most fun?
What are the future plans for Blowy Fish/One Man Band Games?
I’m trying to bring Blowy Fish to additional digital storefronts right now. Depending on the success of the game I could imagine doing an update with additional items / enemies / game modes.
While I was waiting for the game to be greenlit, I started to work on a very small and silly one button mobile game that will be out in the next weeks. Since I’ve learned from my experience with Blowy Fish that it is a realistic option for me to create a game that gets greenlit on Steam, I’m planning to create a dedicated PC game for which I already have a first idea.
What is the most unusual thing on your desk right now?
This little toy fella that might have slightly influenced the color scheme for Mr. Blowfish. Then we have…
The blue glowing triumvirate of gaming accessories…
…and last but not least a Pac Man coffee cup.
As a solo developer do you have any advice for other developers who want to follow
the indie route?
Phew, probably enough to write double as much as I’ve written until now, but most importantly:
- Start with very small ideas, something that takes you about 1 month to complete. Even in the simplest game, you will find that once you start creating it, there are hundreds of little design decisions and technical problems that can easily double or triple your development time. The more games you create, the better you get to foresee these surrounding issues.
- Create your social media accounts, your homepage, etc. as early as possible. There are thousands of indie game developers around and the biggest hurdle to success is to get your game noticed in any way, so start creating attention for what you are doing as early as you can. If all fails, let your girlfriend sew a gigantic blowfish around an exercise ball:
- If you’re stuck, create bad quality and then improve. If you find yourself in a situation where you are stuck with a creative task like designing your main character, stick to the mantra “Give me bad quality in 20 minutes!” Then you just execute your task in 20 minutes, as bad as it shall get. As soon as there is something appearing on your screen, you will find it easy to make improvements from there. Don’t believe me? Here is the first version of Mr. Blowfish for you:
Anything else you would like to add?
Thanks to GameRamble for reviewing Blowy Fish and conducting this interview!
Our sincere thanks to Peter for taking part in the interview and for providing us with copies of Blowy Fish to give away. Check out the widget below for a chance at winning.