Creative pioneers or mere indie developers?
This is the second part of the two-part interview we had conducted with Soma Games a few days ago. If you thought the first part was interesting, this second one adds five barrels of inspiration and a dose of innovation to kickstart your morning. Chris Skaggs, founder of Soma Games, continues to converse on how Soma Games came to be, lists their Top 5 need-to-say-to-the-public mantras, and also provides their most anticipated games of 2009.
For those that may be wondering who Soma Games are, or how you originally started, what can you tell us about Soma Games for those who haven’t read the unique conception of the company?
- That’s a pretty long story...the short version goes something like this: Back in 2005 you might remember when GTA San Andreas was in the news for the Hot Coffee mod and even went in front of Congress. Well as I was reading that story I saw a sidebar story about the ‘rise’ of Christian/Family-friendly video games and it so happened that the CGDC was being held that same weekend and just up the street from me. Since I’d never heard of anything like that I decided to attend and see what was up. Next thing you know I’m on a TV show out of Boston as the representative of that entire niche (memo to self: wear less head makeup). It was then that I really felt inspired to start Soma Games to step into a market that was being totally neglected.
- Right from the beginning I had a plan to do something very different from what was already out there (as little as that was) and I took a page from CS Lewis’ playbook. Lewis’ fiction is all targeted at a totally mainstream audience. He said is was meant to speak to those who would never go to church, but who would be brought to consider eternal things. Stories like Prince Caspian are plainly allegorical...but only for the folks who care to look behind the veil. At no point are you compelled to think about who Aslan might be except a big talking lion. For the folks who care though...there is so much richness in those stories beyond a series of children’s fairy tales. I want Soma’s games to be like that.
There are some that surprisingly oppose your Christian-value based company, let’s ignore them for a second. What are the Top Five statements that you, as collective developers, feel would need to be told to the ever expansive community that is the internet?
- Wow – that’s a big question...I’ll take a stab though:
- Cutting edge technology is no replacement for good content. I saw a demo for Epic’s game engine from Gears of War 2 and they were showing off how a giant meat cube acted in the game world. I know that’s not a real game feature, but it made me think, ‘just because I can program something doesn’t mean I should.’
- There’s nothing new under the sun. We have gained so much at Soma from recognizing that we are just part of a continuum and really nothing we do can be truly original. But that’s a good thought – not a bad one. When we recognize our past and embrace its victories while learning from its failures, we can produce something that is excellent AND integrated with all the things that went before it. That can be so powerful and Soma is unashamedly referential to the things that we draw from.
- The fool cares nothing for wisdom, only that his own mind be heard. As a company trying to produce something for a broad audience, that audience is critical. Seek and integrate the feedback that only your customers and fans can give you. Don’t just push your stuff out there and ignore the people who want to se you improve...and that takes no small amount of humility.
- Illegitimi non carborundum. Anytime you try to do something outside the box, you better grow a think skin fast.
- Never answer a fool according to his folly. Connected to number 4, often the best thing to do when somebody on a forum goes ballistic is just to ignore it. But we are very, very grateful for the people who pick up those threads and stand by us against the completely absurd rants that can stem from my unmitigated gall to say ‘Jesus’ and ‘video game’ in the same sentence...look I just did it again! ;)
Do you think the App Store is a strong platform for developers to release their creativity? In what ways have you, as a developer, benefited from this?
- In hindsight – a definite yes. But to be honest I wasn’t sure at first. Our original plan was to build console games but that is such a hard barrier to break and when the economy went off the cliff it got very hard to find a half mil. But once we started working on it it was a joy. Apple has done such a great job with the SDK, the hardware, the App Store. Sure there is always room to complain, but overall it’s an extremely friendly platform to work on and G went a month over schedule because we were discovering how much we were able to do and just kept adding features. It was very fun. What we’ve gained is a toehold in a business that has generally resisted indie developers until very recently and we found a way to tap an exceptionally wide market without ever having to pay for a jewel case – that is awesome!
Last but not least – everyone usually discusses their most anticipated games amongst themselves. What are the Top Five games that Soma Games are anticipating, and what reasons do you have for anticipating these games?
- Too Human: I know that game has been out for a while but I haven’t had a chance to play it and I really want to. My wife is a Swede so the whole Norse god thing really catches my eye.
- Halo Recon: we never get enough of that franchise!
- Mass Effect 2: really loved the first one.
- Dyson: I LOVE the visual aesthetic for this game.
- Ghost: ...yeah, I know that title got nuked by Blizzard but I SO wanted to play it...maybe we can resurrect it like they did with Joss Whedon and Serenity...
Thank you for taking the time to talk to AppGamer guys, we look forward to future projects and updates to G that Soma Games may be releasing soon.
- Stand by for an update to G that will allow players to post scores and build custom levels that they can share online. After that, another iPhone game and this time we’ll be in 3D.
You've read what inspires them, you've read what they love, and you've read what they loath. For a creative company such as this one; there's really no reason to ignore their games. If you're still on the fence and haven't taken the leap of faith, we'll have our review of G this week so you can make the jump to greener grass.
To read the first part of this two-part interview, please click here.
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