To begin our journey across the landscapes of independent gaming,
I’d like to focus on one (of many) developer that I have soft spot for. Dejobaan Games has been making games for around 13 years (or 75 years if you believe everything you hear from the developer). Since then, they’ve been making bizarre games with a knack for style. Man of you may know them from their popular Steam titles, “AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!!- A Reckless Disregard for Gravity”, “1…2…2… KICK IT! (Drop That Beat Like an Ugly Baby)”, and “A Wonderful End of the World” .If you’ve ever played these games, you’ll know this developer is unashamed to make the exact game they want. Games from Dejobaan are silly, random, and downright fun. They’ve also had a hand in the handheld market, before it was cool, with several PalmOS titles under their belts.
Unfortunately, a lot of Dejobaan’s earlier works, especially the PalmOS titles, are difficult to get a hold of. Their games made after 2007 are all available on Steam, but earlier titles require a bit of hunting, and may only be available as demos. I did get a chance to try “Marble Zone”, their first title. It’s a simple and fun puzzle game where you try to connect path to get marbles across the screen. “Inago Rage” has the player flying around platforms, battling abstract enemies. It’s got a pretty funny story about colonists living in space designing a virtual death chamber for the enjoyment of the masses. That and a mutual dislike for soy-based products. “Epidemic Groove” is a fairly simple tower defense game. There you protect a brain from invading cells, while building walls and turrets to keep them out.
I recently had the opportunity to ask some questions of the “Chief Lead Person” of Dejobaan, Ichiro Lambe.
Can you give us an introduction to your development team?
“Okay… Dejobaan started out as a tiny hobby business in 1999. It was me, sitting on a tuffet, just like Little Miss Muffet. You know the tale. Incidentally, Wikipedia says of it:
The rhyme first appeared in print in 1805, in a book titled Songs for the Nursery. Like many such rhymes, its origins are unclear. Some claim it was written by Dr. Thomas Muffet (d.1604), a seventeenth-century English entomologist, regarding his stepdaughter Patience; others claim it refers to Mary, Queen of Scots (1543–87), who was said to have been frightened by religious reformer John Knox (1510–72).
So, the rhyme about Little Miss Muffet was about Queen Mary being afraid of John Knox. Weird.
“Anyway, over the years, I created more games and bootstrapped the company to the point where we could/should/would have multiple contributors. Typically, we form dream teams of individual indie developers, who get together for the duration of a project, then go off into the Universe to do their own things. A friend and colleague I like to work with (and have, on and off, since 1993) is Dan Brainerd — he’s usually on as creative consultant. Dan and I will sit in a filthy, used tub that is out in the back yard, and just scream things at each other. That’s where a lot of the humor and backstory come from. Nebin, for example, came from such a situation, though in the tub was also our then level designer, Tam (Tamlyn for short). Since Tamlyn did the VO for Nebin [the hilarious “news guy” from Aah!], and is a good writer, he helped come up with that material. Also, Amy, who has a fish face.”
Where was I?”
How about John Polson and Leo?
“I’m glad you asked. John Polson (JP for short) handles community, so among other things, he gets the news out (e.g. on our blog), and Leo helps with business strategy and marketing. Both of them, for example, will review a press release before we send one out.”
Where did the name Dejobaan come from?
“In high school, the word “Dejobaan” ticked into my brain, and in the late ’90s, when VC money was flowing ridiculously (you know, the whole Dotcom era), and new companies would go on week-long retreats simply to come up with “the perfect www.whateverrandomcompanyname.com,” I made a bet with myself that I could build a successful game development studio whatever the hell I called it.
They’re not here anymore. I am!”
What would you say are your inspirations?
“When I was 7, my father sat me down in front of a TI 99/4A instead of tossing a softball at me, so I started there. So: everything from that point on! I had a ‘Pong’ set, back in the day. I loved Danielle Bunten Berry’s ‘M.U.L.E’. and ‘Koronis Rift’ on my Atari 800. I still remember playing ‘Brataccas’ and ‘Temple of Apshai’ on my Atari ST, and ‘Ultima Underworld’, ‘Doom’, and ‘Tribes’ on my PC.
So: all that stuff. Plus, I was always inspired by confident starship captains and men of industry. And people who can braid hair.”
So tell us about the first Dejobaan game.
” ‘Marblezone’ was one of the first games that I, as a human, ever finished. I always started games, but never finished them, losing interest and going onto the next thing. It was awful. So, I finished ‘Marblezone’, and started my company. One of my favorite stories about the game was that a woman, who had (previously) suffered neurological damage started playing the game, and e-mailed us to say that she was using it to “wake up” the parts of her brain that were “sleeping.” This was awesome. Games have healing powers!”
What can you tell us about you involvement in the Potato sack ARG?
“…We got a phone call from Valve. I remember it like it were yesterday. It went like this:
Ichiro: Hello, this is Ichiro.
Valve: Yes, this is Valve. Ichiro?
Ichiro: Valve. Hey, how’s it been?
Valve: Good! So, we got something interesting, and we want you guys to come up and meet with us and a handful of other indies.
Valve: Like, next week or so.
Ichiro: I have to meet my future wife’s parents in Florida!
Valve: Yeah, but it’s going to be awesome. We are being mysterious, but it has stuff to do with Portal 2, and you should be here.
Ichiro: Hells yeah.
So, I actually ended up sending Dan and our then-artist, Ryan up for the first meeting. They got to meet with Gabe Newell and a bunch of the Portal 2 dudes. Dan and Ryan came back and said, ‘Okay, so like, this is super-secret classified, and we shouldn’t talk about this outside of closed doors, but…’ and told us the plan.”
Wow. Then what?
“We spent the next several months talking to Valve and aaaaaaaaaall the other developers about all the neat things we could do. What lines could we get Ellen Mclain (GlaDOS) to record for us to put into our games? (A: lots!) What about the ARG portion of things? (A: Valve said, “Go nuts!”, so we did.)”
What can you say about your history as a portable games developer?
“I did that from about 2000-2002, until the Palm Pilot wasn’t really a viable thing anymore. It was really fun, but eventually, people stopped owning them. I said to myself that I’d start up again when cell phones started integrating that technology. I always pat myself on the back for figuring all that out, but everyone knew it was going to happen eventually.”
Any plans to revisit that market?
“Yes; we just launched AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! (F=ma) for iOS. It’s one of the highest-rated iOS titles on Metacritic right now. Woo! [It should also be noted that Ugly Baby has been announced for the iOS ]”
Tell us about your new game Drunken Robot Pornography.
“Yeah! We haven’t released this info yet, but we’re thinking about it thusly:
Drunken Robot Pornography is a first-person shooter about demolishing titanic, flying robots, piece-by-piece. In it:
- You’re a small, fleshy human with a jetpack and a gun, and your opponent is a robot centerfold that dwarfs a city block.
- The robot — called a Titan — tries to cut you apart with lasers and missiles powerful enough power to crumble the buildings you’re standing on.
- Pick off the Titan’s cannons, fry away its carbon fiber armor, target a joint, and tear off a claw, leaving it writhing.
- Your furious opponent spews raw plasma at you, so you [shoot up] a force field and duck behind it. Who will win? The crowd cheers your intimate-yet-deadly dance.”
Is this a continuation of the ideas explored in Inago Rage? Is it a sequel?
“Call it a spiritual successor!”
Well, there you have it folks. If you attended PAX this year, you may have already got a taste of DRP. I missed out on that chance, but thanks to the magic of the internet, the trailer is available for all to see. I, for one, cannot wait to get my hands on this game. If you haven;t seen the trailer already, here’s a taste…