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Road to the IGF: Arcane Kids' Zineth Exclusive

March 20, 2013 | By John Polson

March 20, 2013 | By John Polson
More: Console/PC, Indie, Programming, Design, Production, Exclusive, Video, GDC

As part of our Road to the IGF series, Gamasutra is speaking to each of the student finalists in the 2013 Independent Games Festival to find out the story behind the games.

Today we speak to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute student and Arcane Kids developer Russell Honor about his team's project, Zineth, which celebrates "speed, movement, and Twitter." Honor discusses what social media integration worked and what did not, along with most of the mystery that players seem to overlook.

What development tools did you use?

The game was developed in Unity.

How long did you work on your game?

The game entered development in late March and was released early August for Windows and Mac.

How did you come up with the concept?

The concept was a simplification of a previously abandoned project that was a purely momentum based first person platformer. We had started working on Zineth the week before last year's GDC. What we knew at that point was that we wanted to make a game about the mechanic of movement.

So it is really awesome to be in the student showcase since a lot of inspiration and ideas developed from hanging around the IGF, stressing out about making something as cool as what we saw there, and drunkenly yelling at each other in an alley behind the Minecraft party. When we settled on what we would do, one of us smeared blood all over their face and wandered the streets of San Francisco searching for olives.

Should I ask?

That isn't how video games are made?

The actual explanation isn't that interesting. Canned olives at a bodega were the only vegan thing I could find to eat at that hour. It was also a time in my life when I would randomly start bleeding from under my fingernails. Both these things played into the "stomping" around of San Francisco, where we did a lot of thinking and experimentation about movement.

How does your school prepare students for independent game development (compared to grooming for AAA work)?

The program focused on having us work in small teams with relatively short development periods, and fostered intense rivalry. We were rewarded well for always trying to do something a bit different, and after having a lot of freedom in what we did, it's hard to give it up.

What made you decide to get into making games?

Some of us were introduced to game development in middle or high school after messing around with tools like RPG Maker 2k3, motivating them to aim for JRPG stardom. One person originally went to school for architecture but during a critique was told they should make games instead; he took this as a dare.

Can you talk about how you celebrated speed, movement and twitter in your game?

We let the player experiment with speed and movement with very little restriction, and enabled them to live the fast paced Twitter Lifestyle in-game.

Why not Facebook or other social media?

Facebook required a phone number to make a fake account so we gave up immediately. We did try experimenting with alternative social media outlets like dating sites when one of our OkCupid profiles was "erroneously" included in the game's readme text file. The results were predictable. There is some Deviant Art integration in the game, but it's currently not accessible to the gaming public.

What are some of the finer details of Zineth that reviewers and players may have overlooked or haven't even discovered?

A good part of the content in Zineth falls under the mysterious category. What was shocking as hell was that anyone got to the moon at all, especially in the days after release when it still required esoteric knowledge of the exact mechanical implications of rail grinding. When we saw how many people actually wanted to get there, we made it a bit easier. But other things that go unknown to most: you can skate backwards, the glam stat's true purpose, the underground city, the "number math" cellphone game, and that you can import custom levels through the multiplayer.

Do you have any future plans for the game?

There's been some talk of a critter ranch, and maybe a theme park constructed from trash. We are doing some minor revisions for our own sake, for when we watch people playing at the IGF. Someday we may revisit the idea. First game beamed into outer space? There is also a working Android port that may be released someday, and we still need to finish the Player's Guide.

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