I sat down with Michael Miller. He is an independent game developer who has created mobile and browser based games on his website lostautumn.net. Every one of the games are puzzle type games with a very classic feel and a “cute” appearance.
I’m not the biggest fan of puzzle games, but I found myself addicted to the game Cheer Cubes. The bright colors and fast paced game play kept me occupied for awhile. I found Cheer Cubes to be a nice break from working and a welcome addition on my phone too. After spending too much time on the games, I talked to Michael about his games and the development process.
Candace: So you make mobile games but they are available on browsers too, right?
Michael: Yes they are. I try to make all my games free and available to as many people as possible.
Candace: How come you wanted to make free games?
Michael: I’ve always enjoyed creating games, and making as many as I can free of charge helps to remove the barrier so that I can reach a wider audience. I enjoy downloading free games myself as I find that most of them have a lot of charm and that adds to the experience.
Candace: How do you monetize your games by offering them for free?
Michael : I have done testing with mobile ads for revenue to help support the cost of making the games. As I continue making and releasing new gaming experiences I tweak my formula and in the future hope to find a nice balance for players to enjoy my products while still collecting revenue to keep going.
Candace : There are a lot of free games on the mobile market right now and a lot of them are either clones or just really badly done. What sets apart a good game from a bad one?
Michael : Hah, that’s a good question and if I had a specific answer for that, game design would be a lot easier! I think that originality is important, but at the end of the day it’s about fun. Games are entertainment and the core foundation of playing a video game is to enjoy yourself. Fun is also relative so it becomes an interesting challenge to try and stand out. I believe as long as you put your heart into your projects you will have some success in finding players who enjoy your product.
Candace : About your games, some of them have an older feel to them. Almost classic which seems to be a theme for indie games lately. What caused you to go that route?
Michael : Being an 80’s kid and a one-man studio, I have a lot of respect for the classics. Game design was much more difficult back then and they still managed to create amazingly entertaining games. I enjoy modern games very much but the nostalgia of the games I grew up with will always find a home in my creations. I consider it a way of keeping that little kid inside of me happy.
Candace : I mentioned before that I see a lot of indie devs going with the classic game theme. You answered about nostalgia. Do you think that’s part of why it’s popping up a lot?
Michael : I think we’re seeing more and more classic style gaming themes because of the potency of those classics. Once they got them right they become something that no one forgets and developers young and old can always find entertainment in those themes. When it works, it works. Another strong factor is that indie game development has limitations due to team size and resources and those are go-to concepts that most everyone can enjoy.
Candace : Let’s talk for a minute about your games because you have a few out right now. Are any of them a favorite for you?
Michael : Cheer Cubes is my baby. I built that game specifically for my wife to enjoy and worked with her every step of the way. I wanted to create a puzzle game that wasn’t common, something different. Match-3 games are all the rage but I didn’t want to go that route so I designed a new matching system and took it from there. I am very proud of that game and my wife loves it as well so in my eyes it is a complete success.
Candace : I love Cheer Cubes. I got stuck on it. It’s so cute. And I see that the “cute” style is through all of your games. What made you pick that art style?
Michael : I love color. I love cute. It comes naturally from me because I focus on being happy in my life and I infuse into everything I do. I sing and dance and try to remain as positive as I can in this crazy world, and being able to apply it to my games is my way of manifesting and sharing my happiness with someone else, even if it’s just for a few minutes of play.
Candace : That’s a really neat way of putting it. Well, I appreciate the cute style of the games. I also hate puzzle games (but I enjoy yours ). Why the puzzles?
Michael : There so many genres of games out there, and most of them are violent. I am a Veteran of war and I have little patience for violence anymore, I simply do not find it entertaining. Puzzles are just as challenging to create from scratch as I think they are to play and that challenge is a driving force for creating new games. If I made an FPS or RTS it would be difficult for me to infuse my creative spin, so I go the other route and try to develop concepts that I think most everyone can enjoy. Family Friendly games are huge in my house and I think the world could use more of them.
Candace : Ohh, so a loaded question. Do you think video games have an issue with violence right now? I mean, are there too many violent games?
Michael : I do not think there are too many violent games per-se, I respect all games as creative art in every category they fall into. That being said, I think that the popularity of the larger games being focused on violence is a smoke screen that hides the vast majority of amazing games that don’t need to include violence. There are an insane amount of creative developers out there who put out really clever mechanics, and I would love to see those games see some more daylight so that the general population doesn’t hold a bad perception that video games are only violent.
Candace : That’s a neat answer! Back to your stuff now! Do you have anything in development?
Michael : As a developer I am constantly designing new things that never see the light of day, so I can always keep busy. I am working on a new project that will be released this year called Dreamcakes. It is another puzzle game (surprise!) that has an interesting combination of quick thinking and item management. It’s also a bunch of cupcakes, who doesn’t like a good cupcake?
Candace : OK I’m sold because of cupcakes. Can you give us a possible release date?
Michael : The official release month is December of this year. For anyone who might show an interest in the game, some early builds may go out in November.
Candace : What platforms will it be on?
Michael : Dreamcakes is coming out on Android and Windows Phone with browser based release shortly after.
Candace : Not a question, but I want to repeat that many of your games can be played in the browser on your site.
Michael : I will always make an effort to release my games on browsers.
Candace : Which is a great thing because we can utilize it instead of working!
Michael : Work is overrated!
Candace : But, we aren’t actually telling anyone to do that. Nope. Haha. Thanks for taking some time to talk about your games with me.
Michael : It’s my pleasure.
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