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Interview with Mr. Bigshot

The Independent Games Festival was established in 1998 as a forum for independent developers to exhibit their work, receive recognition, and meet with commercial publishers. Finalists to this event attend the GDC and compete for several awards and cash prizes. This year¹s Seumas McNally grand prize is $15,000.

This interview I got to have a chat with two of the developers behind Mr. Bigshot, a game where you trade actual stocks from years past and try to turn a profit, based upon a board game of the same name. We talked about everything from the conversion of board game to PC, to the surprise behind the game's development platform. Unfortunately Courtney Tudor, the original vision behind Mr. Bigshot (the board game and all), couldn't join us, but we'll be doing a follow-up when we meet up with him at the GDC.

who are you and what do you do?
Jon: My name is Jon Alexander, and I did art direction and programming. I also have a design company called Supercar as my real job. I only get to do cool video game stuff with Wilson every once in a while.
Mike: I'm Michael Wilson, CEO of NO.2 Games, Inc. I was tapped by Mr. Bigshot as the Designer and Producer of Mr. Bigshot the board game. I also did some of the DirectX development for the game.

is your team localized or are you spread out?
Mike: We're all in Cincinnati, OH.
Jon: the 513. It's where all the best games are getting started.
Mike: As for the team, there's lot's of other people who worked on the game: Ed Brown, 3D Animation, Jody Bunn, 2D Animation…
Jon: and the crew at Envoi Design. They did some sweet stuff for us.
Mike: …Envoi Design, Illustration, Peter Williams, 2D Animation
Jon: jepetaman…

what is the gameplay idea behind Mr. Bigshot?
Mike: We took the basic gameplay concept from a "Mr. Bigshot" board game that was already developed, and tweaked it to fit an interactive experience. Basically, you start with $100,000 and try to work your way to 1,000,000 by buying and selling actual stocks from various years. All the data is 100% accurate for each company, but the trick is that you don't know the name of the company you are investing in until the end of the round (a year). So, you might invest in a fast food company and find out that its McDonalds -- or worst case, Rax :)

Any plans to rewards players who play the stocks well?
Mike: We're toying with online play as an option. But it would take a publisher to sign on. "Big Stuff" (on the website) is where you can buy T-Shirts, Mugs, etc...
Jon: no swag for you.
Mike: I didn't even get any swag... :)
Jon: I had to make my own.

Was the board game produced by you guys?
Jon: non.
Mike: No. That was done by a completely different staff and company. The two games are very different in design and presentation

What kind of platform was Mr. Bigshot programmed in?
Jon: the game was basically programmed in Flash™ for the most part, but Wilson built this sweet player that runs the thing full screen at different resolutions and saves variables to the registry. That's great for people like me who don't know a whole lot of programming and can only do Flash™ stuff. I'm more an animation and graphics guy who does a little programming on the side - in Flash™. So for me to be able to make something this cool and this polished that looks like way more than a web game is great. I was blown away with the presentation we were able to get. It's pretty cool because if we didn't have to put the 'made with Flash' logo up front, you wouldn't know. Anyway, it looks really good, but its dark little secret is that it was actually done with Flash™. It's good news for designers like me who would love to break into the world of video game stuff.

how long was Mr. Bigshot in development?
Mike: About 6 Months from concept to CD-ROM
Jon: we were rushing for Christmas.
Mike: Most of that time was spent in graphic design...
Jon: c'mon Envoi, where's my stuff?
Mike: …It was available first on the web site on 11/20/01, barely missing the IGF last year

Were you aiming for the IGF as well last year?
Mike: Sort of. We wanted to submit something, but just ran out of time. We were all pretty surprised that we were selected for this year

Did you ever consider the IGF for any of your previous games? Why Mr. Bigshot?
Mike: NO.2 Games entered the IGF in 1999 with Miniverse Minigolf, but it was pretty early on, and we were not selected for any awards. All of our other games (Except for Mr. B) were publisher funded. We're still pretty much as independent as it gets ;)

How do you feel working with publishers as indies?
Mike: We got Miniverse Minigolf published in 2000, and that opened the door for us to do a few more games that were "paid for" but, that doesn't always mean you make money on them ;)

So you haven't had any bad publisher experiences? Sometimes they can really fake out people with the fine print
Mike: We've had our issues. I don't know how much we can go into, but we were a developer for eGames, Inc. in 2000 - 2002. There's a lot that went down in the whole industry this year, but on a whole, the whole experience was one that I wouldn't trade. There's a lot to learn about the game business when you deal with publishers for financing

The concept came from a board game, what spurred the idea to transform the board game into a computer game?
Mike: Courtney Tudor (CEO of Mr. Bigshot Inc.) wanted a CD-ROM, and contacted us to develop it. I hired "SuperCar Design" to help out with the graphics and programming
Jon: he had a little web version of the game that he thought could go a lot bigger. It consisted of some stock info and 2 buttons for either of 2 stocks. We took the basic one stock or another concept and tried to make it a lot more fun.
Mike: Courtney is kind of the "idea guy", and had spent a lot of time and money making the character and board game. So, Courtney had decided to increase sales of his board game (which is an independent game as well) by developing a CD-ROM game and he came to us with his idea. The CD version grew into a much larger project than he imagined, and now the CD gets a majority of the press

So who will be attending the IGF at the GDC?
Mike: Courtney and myself
Jon: I can't make it.
Mike: We'll all be at E3 though

Unfortunately we don't cover E3 :) But we will be at the GDC to meet you guys. Thanks for taking the time to do the interview
Jon: thanks.
Mike: Thanks!

Interview conducted by Drew "Gaiiden" Sikora.

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