Interview with the developers of Inklings

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We are super happy to be able to talk with the developers of Inklings. Inklings pays a huge tribute to the critically acclaimed Lemmings.

0. Tell me a bit about yourself and team.

We’re Zak and Max Nelson, two brothers from Washington State and we make up Applepine Games. We both come from computer science backgrounds and before this we were working respectable jobs at Adobe and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. We’re programmers at heart, something that should be readily apparent when you see the art in the early levels (although we use that to our advantage and call it Kid Art).

1. Tell us where you came up with the idea for this game. What were your inspirations?

inklings_screenshot1We’ve been playing with the core ideas in Inklings for decades. The gameplay is Lemmings-esque, one of our favorite games growing up. To honor that, we named our first level, Just Dig (also the name of Lemmings’ first level). We also got inspiration from The Incredible Machine, Portal, VVVVVV, and more. We knew we had something interesting when we could hand each other a paper and pencil version of a level and it couldn’t be solved in 5 minutes.

2. What version of Cocos2d-x did you use?

We started with 3.3 and then upgraded to 3.6 a few months later.

3. How did you decide to use Cocos2d-x instead of Unity, Unreal Engine or SDL?

We knew we wanted to make a 2D game and Cocos seemed like the only major engine which put 2D first. Cocos also puts a big emphasis on mobile, so we knew it’d be lightweight and performant. Being free and open source were big perks too.

4. What features did the engine offer you that made development easy? What do you wish the engine did better?

Creating the project from scratch was super easy. Adding to the scene, actions, all that basic stuff was intuitive and easy to pick up. On the whole, we were pretty happy with Cocos development, but we wish the engine would flesh out its desktop support: full screen toggling, better sound support, etc. That said, the fact that Cocos is open source allowed us to get in and change a few of these things ourselves.

5. What tools did you use besides the engine?

inklings_screenshot2Audacity, git, Photoshop, Ruby, Sublime Text, vim, Visual Studio, XCode

6. What 3rd party libraries did you need to use?

We used Box2D for physics, Google Protobuf for all things file related (save games, levels), math libraries like Clipper, and Google’s LiquidFun for the liquid physics.

7. Did you create the art yourself? What tools?

Yes and no! We created the characters and other sprites using Photoshop. However, a lot of the levels come from public domain art pieces by famous artists like Van Gogh or Monet. Other levels we handmade using finger-paints, charcoal, pipe cleaners, and other random tools to give Inklings its art theme. In fact, our mom painted two of the watercolor levels.

8. Did you create the music yourself? What tools?

No, we didn’t create the music ourselves. The main reasons why we didn’t are time and lack of talent. Instead we browsed around on SoundCloud for something we liked and thought fit with our game. We ended up going with some synth songs by an independent musician from Portugal, João Lobato. Check him out on SoundCloud!

9. Will you continue to make games in the future?

inklings_screenshot3Yes! Everyone knows that indie game development isn’t the most lucrative venture, but even if we make no money, we enjoy the process enough that we plan on doing it again.

10. Do you use SDKBOX? If so, what plugins are you currently using?

No, we didn’t use SDKBOX. Our game doesn’t have in-app purchases, ads, or social features, so we felt it wasn’t necessary.

11. Lastly, any advice for those also making games on how to get to a release point?

It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating: limiting the scope of your game is the best way to finish it. When we started making Inklings, we had a massive list of items and concepts that we considered putting in the game. By the end of development, we used less than 5% of that list. This of course doesn’t mean you should release an unfinished product, just be smart about what you can and can’t do in a reasonable amount of time!

You can play Inklings on the App Store, Mac App Store and Steam

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