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Developer interview with Joni Kittaka

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This post is part of day five of itch.io week. We'll be interviewing developers all week. Learn more here: https://itch.io/week

Joni Kittaka

Joni Kittaka is a game maker and artist whose work includes Secrets Agent, minkomora, how do you Do It, Anodyne and the upcoming @EventheOcean

View on itch.io: https://kittakaj.itch.io/
Follow on Twitter: @jonikitsu

When did you first start making games? What's the first game you can remember making?

My brother Daniel and I were very into video games for as long as I can remember. But as kids, we were only allowed to go buy a game from a store occasionally--it was sort of a big event. So we engaged with video games in other ways: we'd draw video game maps, pretend ads for game ideas we had, spreadsheets showing our RPG characters' equipment and movesets, etc. And once we had the internet, we found free downloadable games, often through the communities surrounding certain programs like GameMaker and OHRRPGCE. I started tons of projects as a child but usually only made a bit of art and simple mechanics before giving up. I guess one of the earliest games I remember making was Happy Game (2003, maybe?) with my friend, Mike. It was very straightforward top-down perspective game where you move a yellow smiley face through the level to the exit, avoiding blue sad faces.

Got any interesting stories from any of the first people that played one of your games?

You can still read an earnest and detailed review of a small OHRRPGCE game demo that my brother and I made in 2003! Our demo wasn't good (and the review rightfully says so) but the ending words of the review are quite nice, and I'd like to think that they've come true: "The Kittaka [siblings] have made a mediocre experience at best. However, I get the feeling that future projects will fare much better just from little touches I've seen in this demo."

Link: http://www.castleparadox.com/review-display.php?re...

How did you first hear about and start using itch.io?

I don't remember the details of how I learned about itch.io, but definitely somehow through twitter. A couple years ago, while working on Even the Ocean, I was really itching (hah) to release a small game that people could play easily in-browser. I didn't want it to be on an intimidating ad-filled website, and I didn't want to create a site of my own just for a small game project. Itch.io was a more perfect solution than I could have hoped for! I released Secrets Agent on itch.io in 2014 and was able to make some really wonderful connections through that game.

https://kittakaj.itch.io/secrets-agent

What are some of your favorite features of itch.io?

I most appreciate the openness and simplicity of it all. There are so many steps to the process of just making a game, that it gives me such peace of mind to know I can just pop it on itch.io when I'm done and be able to link people to it.

If you could do your own take on another developer's game, what would it be?

I used to always think so much about how I would do things if I were making the games I played. But now... it's hard for me to think of an example. Partly because I'm so embedded in Even the Ocean development, and partly because when I'm done with that I want to make things that are really different than anything I've played before. But I guess I could answer the question in a roundabout way: my work on Even the Ocean was definitely rooted in a sort of reworking of Megaman X4 and Final Fantasy 9 and 7, some of my most formative games.

What's the last game you played?

Duelyst, a collectible card strategy game.


Over the last few years you've worked on games both solo and in collaborations. How did you find developers to collaborate with that shared the same vision as you? What do you think is the most important thing when first trying to figure out who to collaborate with?

I've had such truly extraordinary luck in the people I've been able to collaborate with. Some I've met through mutual friends, some through twitter. This is maybe obvious, but engaging with someone's past work and having some sort of resonance with it and respect for it is a good sign for collaboration. Having complementary skill sets is also really helpful. Different projects have different stakes, so keep that in mind. Sean and I have a very rare and special alignment in vision and skillset, which makes our years-long projects go smoothly. But it's also great to collaborate with a range of other people on small projects like game jams!

A few years ago, I interviewed you about open game development. How do you feel open game dev (TIG Source, Twitter, etc.) has changed the way people market (and develop) their games?

I haven't really thought that much about the effects of open game development. Personally, I need to sort of sequester myself in order to not get overwhelmed while working on something. I appreciate people who follow our games closely, and have tried to stay active on TIGSource and stream my art process sometimes. But ultimately I keep defaulting to being pretty quiet. I certainly appreciate others sharing their process more though. Since we're all a part of a shared climate of game-making, building on each others ideas... open development can perhaps speed that process along. The chains of influence stretching out and (hopefully) expanding our spheres to be more exciting, inclusive, divergent, etc.

PS Sean's better at streaming, and has started doing it regularly Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 4-5 PM CDT (21-22 UTC). So go follow him on twitch and hang out while Even the Ocean is coded! https://www.twitch.tv/seagaia2


Anything else?

Please visit Even the Ocean's website and sign up for a monthly newsletter: http://www.eventheocean.com/

And watch our new animated trailer, Even the Ocean: Balance:

You can also wishlist the game on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/265470

Or add it to a collection here on itch.io https://kittakaj.itch.io/even-the-ocean

Finally, please check out Sean's upcoming interactive music project, Perfect https://seanhogan.itch.io/perfect

Thanks!

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