This is a follow up to my other article on Arcadecraft, please take look at that if you have the chance. Since the time it was published, I reached out to Matthew Leigh who founded Firebase Industries which developed Arcadecraft and he was able to get back to me and answered several of my questions. As the Arcadecraft article was already very long, I have separated the Q&A into its own mini article. Please enjoy!
1.) You have had a long career in video games starting back in the late 1990s. What made you decide to venture into the video game industry? Was it something that occurred without really thinking about it or was it something you always wanted to do?
Matthew: Yeah I started in games at Radical Entertainment back in 1996 and continued in game studios until 2010, ending at Capcom Vancouver. Game development was always a career I aspired to. I had neighbors who had learned to program and I loved seeing their experiments using BASIC come to life. I learned to code over the years but I hit a wall when the math that was required went far above my head. I decided to focus on art and design instead.
2.) Were you a gamer yourself before becoming part of the industry? Any games come to mind you have fond memories of?
Matthew: I had been a gamer since the Colecovision days and I was sort of lucky to be around during the personal computer boom of the early 80s. I think the first arcade game I ever loved was Sega’s Carnival and I would have been around 6 years old at the time. I have really fond memories of the mid to late 80s with the arrival of Double Dragon, Operation Wolf, Jackal, Twin Cobra, Rush n’ Attack, Time Soldiers, and Black Tiger.
3.) Arcadecraft has a very specific theme and genre as an arcade business management simulator, what made you decide to go that route and what was your inspiration?
Matthew: Arcadecraft was inspired by an older iPhone sim called GameDev Story. There you would start a small game development company and steward it through a good 20 years of the industry. I loved that game and wanted to try something similar, but of course not copy what they did. I knew I wanted to do something with Xbox Live Avatars and have them pick up items and move them. As soon as I thought that it was arcade machines being picked up the entire game design for Arcadecraft was figured out in about 15 minutes. That’s the wonderful thing with simulations, you take the reality of the thing you want to emulate and simply implement all the mechanics that would exist in the real world, and throw away what isn’t fun about it. It helped that I thought no one else had attempted the idea before.
4.) Its been over six years since the game was released back in 2013, do you have any lasting feelings about the game now?
Matthew: I ’m really proud of the game. It sold extremely well and was very casual to make.
5.) What were some of the biggest challenges in developing Arcadecraft?
Matthew: The biggest challenge was simply adding content. Every machine required a model, marquee artwork, a pixel art screen, purchase UI graphic, etc. It would take about a day to make a single machine so with the 100 or so machines in there that was a good 5 months of labor. I think this content problem is why you don’t see many people trying to copy Arcadecraft. It is really labor intensive doing what we did and the work making the machines is very much like a factory line. The other challenge was that we kept hitting a memory ceiling. Any more than 30 or so machines in the arcade and the game would crash, which is why it was capped.
6.) Any aspects of the game you enjoy the most? What would you improve now looking back on the game years later?
Matthew: For a long time the arcade machines emptied themselves. As soon as we added the mechanic to empty them by pressing and holding on the machines, the entire game came alive. I’d say that was the thing I most enjoyed about it, collecting the money! My next favorite thing was smashing the machines against the ground to un-jam them. In terms of improvements, I have a laundry list of things I’d love to do to make the game more engaging. There were elements in the design we never got around to that I think would have made a pretty big difference.
7.) At this point, are there any future plans or content for Arcadecraft?
Matthew: Like I say, I’d love to but Sam and I are off doing other things at the moment.
8.) On the twitter page for Firebase Industries, there was a poll asking for feedback if people would like to see the game released on the Nintendo Switch. Are there any current plans to do that as of now?
Matthew: I’d love to see it on Switch. It would be possible but the way I’d like to do it is by moving the entire game to Unity and continue building it in there. There is an iPhone version of the game that is pretty different and that one is all done in Unity, but it is only about ½ that game that is available on PC and Xbox 360.
9.) On your twitter page, one of your titles now reads “Ex-Indie Game Developer”. For clarity, are you no longer part of the video game industry entirely or just your company Firebase is no longer active?
Matthew: I’m not currently engaged in gaming. About ½ of my career in games was directing cinematic sequences in the games I worked on. I’ve since made cinematography and film-making my full time passion.
10.) After developing, publishing and marketing three video games in your career, what has that taught you about the industry and do you have any comments you would like to share about running your independent game studio?
Matthew: It’s a difficult question to answer. Game development between 2011 and 2015 was seriously disrupted on all levels so as we tried to sail through that we found that what worked for a developer one quarter was old news by the next. The first comment I can make to anyone who wants to make a game and run a company is to figure your design out as well as all the elements that the mechanics will rely on. Get that written down and imagine playing that game in your mind. If it is fun up top it should be fun on screen. Don’t immediately jump to having to do 90 degree changes in direction just because you don’t feel its working, as sometimes it’s a matter of a single small change that makes it come alive. The second comment is to hire someone full time on the business side. That person should have their hands full all the time chasing down grant money, talking to press, publishers, running your socials, etc. We could have been far more successful with this kind of person discovering all the ways to make Firebase more visible. It is really invaluable.
11.) So what are you up to now in 2019?
Matthew: I’m doing prep of a feature film that I’ve written. I’m hoping to start rolling camera on it this fall/winter.
12.) Since this is a website about vaporwave-themed video games, have you ever listened to any of the music or have any experience with it?
Matthew: I’ve listed to very small amounts of the music, only because a forum post suggested to check it out. I’ve always been an unironic fan of the vaporwave aesthetic.
Thank you so much Matthew for answering my questions and I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. Please follow him on twitter if you want to see any of his future projects.