glum1.jpg[Our new series of ‘Road to the IGF’ interviews profiles the nine recently announced winners of the IGF Showcase at Austin GDC - with the local Southern U.S. indie developers to be showcased at the Texas game development show next week.]

Continuing Think Services' ‘Road to the Austin IGF’ feature, we talk to CosMind's Justin Leingang about PC action adventure title Glum Buster.

The game is yet to see a public release, and is described simply by Leingang as “a collection of my daydreams, for your daydreams”. Its IGF entrant page description is actually even more cryptic: “Cheer up, dear friend, or they may come,” it reads, “And take you where the glum is from.”

What is your background with video games?

Justin Leingang: I started designing games at the tail end of high school, but I really didn’t start video game design until a few years after that. After a couple years of college, I landed an internship at a studio where the Lead Designer split shortly after. It was a tiny studio, and as a result I had to fill that person’s role while they sought another hire for the job. However, they ended up deciding to hire me into the position.

A Lead Designer position is obviously not something that can be coupled with a college class schedule, so I had to make a choice. I chose the former and have been working professionally as a developer since then.

In early 2005, I discovered a tool set and engine that allowed me to quickly develop software on my own, without all of the extra baggage and re-invention of the wheel that’s often associated with game dev. That’s when I started creating Glum Buster as a hobby project.

When was CosMind formed?

JL: Well, I am CosMind – so I guess you can say CosMind was formed over the time period between November 27th, 1979 and today.

What inspired Glum Buster, and why did you decide to develop it?

JL: Glum Buster was primarily inspired by the initial play mechanics of the prototype that I built. From there, bizarre as it may sound, it was continually inspired by itself. I was constantly fueled by the development of each component - be it play mechanics and dynamics, graphics, sound effects, functionality, etc.

As a result, inspiration begat inspiration. It was a pretty gratifying reciprocal process, really.

Outside of that, the largest inspirations were my constant, thick-as-brick daydreams - I'm pretty much stuck in perpetual daydream - and good ol’ Mama Nature. The decision to make the game stemmed mainly from my desire to learn and work with a new tool set in my free time at home.

What were your expectations from your game, and do you feel the end product lives up to those expectations?

JL: I didn’t, and still don’t, expect much beyond an end result that is engaging and memorable for others. Hopefully, players will be able to sit down and learn a new set of play mechanics that they’ve never interacted with before. I hope that they’re deeply engaged in the learning process from start to finish and even beyond. I’m pretty confident that the game will achieve this. Shoot, I’ve been creating this puppy for years and I still enjoy playing it to this day.

What do you think the most interesting thing about your game is?

JL: The game play mechanics and dynamics, for surely. There are a good number of layers and subtleties that I believe players will find enjoyable to learn and continually improve their aptitude with. I’m even still discovering ways to better myself as a player.

How long did development take, and what was the process like?

JL: I started the very first prototype at the beginning of February, 2005. I’m pretty close to wrapping everything up, so the total dev time will land around 3.5 years. The process has been nothing but incredible. It’s been a continuous learning process for me – and I live for and feed off learning anything and everything that I can.

The project is something that I’ve had to dedicate my spare cycles to, so it took a bit longer than it would have if I were creating it full time. Basically, I was able to work on it an average of an hour and a half each weekday and about five hours each weekend day over those years.

What’s the scene in Austin like?

JL: I’m not too involved with the scene, nor do I know much about it - so I can’t really comment.

What do you think of the state of independent development, and how do you think independent games fit into the industry?

JL: I’m not too up to speed on the state of independent dev, but from the little bits and glimpses I get here and there it seems to be doing well. From my perspective, it doesn’t really “fit in” to the game dev industry, but rather it is part of it. I don’t really draw a line between the two. Everyone involved is working hard to create video games, and I don’t see either as being any better/worse than the other.

Where do you see your game going from here?

JL: To the Internet! With a download link! For you to play!

What kind of feedback have you received so far?

JL: Those who’ve played it seem to be pretty pleased.

Have you checked out any of the other Austin IGF games?

JL: Unfortunately not. I intend to make an effort to explore those games while I’m at the conference. The only free time that I get is dedicated to working on Glum Buster. Playing any other games has been a very, very, very rare activity for me over the past few years. I shall be binging hard once I wrap up my own dev, for surely. If you - or anyone else reading this - has any recommendations, please send them my way – commercial games, independently developed games, whatever. I’ll play anything that is engaging and fresh. Any platform. Even on a toaster.

Which recent indie games do you admire, and which recent mainstream titles do you admire, and why?

JL: I really haven’t seen or played much beyond prototypes and previews of games created by the crazy cats in the tiny forum community I’m a part of. But, I have a good feeling that I will admire some of those once they’re finished games. I’m not sure which games are technically ”mainstream” - but, since I really haven’t played any video games at all recently, I guess it doesn’t matter which is which.

Do you have any messages for your fellow contestants or fans of the IGF?

JL: Well, first let me apologize because I didn’t even know this was a competition until some of my buddies linked me to news that mentioned Glum Buster as a [showcase] winner. I thought I was just setting myself up to share the game in a booth at the conference. Ha! That’s what I get for not doing my research before jumping in, eh?

But, as for a message, all that I’d like to say - with a running jumping high five and smile - is, 'Be happy!'