Interview - A Princess to Save Me with Andrey and Sandra

andrey and sandra

The Defective Inspector gets a couple of likely suspects in for questioning as he looks at the gaming kickstarter for A Princess to Save Me...

While skulking in the internet and trawling through game news I find the occasional indie project which catches me eye, this time it is the project “A Princess to Save Me”. Flipping the norms by making the damsel in distress the center of attention this project has interested me greatly. Fortunately the creators were kind enough to be interrogated by me speak to me.

First of all how did the two of you come together to make this game? Could you tell us a little about yourselves?

Andrey: My name is Andrey I was born in Moscow and I've been crazy about games since I was 5 when I got my first NES. I wrote a small rogue-like text rpg "Villages And Dragons" when I was 12 on Basic. It was fun enough to be featured on one of the Russian video games magazine.

Two major things happened when I was 23 - I finished my Computer Science master program and met Sandra. We didn't come together to make games. In fact, at that time Sandra was not interested in games that much, she's been in the middle of her BA in Drama program.

Two years later I've been employed by Microsoft and we moved to US.

Sandra: That's true. I played GTA a lot because it let me drive a motorcycle, but that was about it. I thought video games were for teenage boys who didn't have a girlfriend. It wasn't until Skyrim when I realized how addictive a world of a game can be; and it wasn't until Last Express when I saw that a game can have a story worthy of a literature prize. After that there was no going back :)

I've been screenwriting for life before among other things, and I'm happy to use these skills to write a game. It's like screenwriting in multiple parallel universes: every time a hero makes a choice another version is created.

I have a degree in Drama so the writing part came naturally. As for the code (I wrote the AI for A Princess To Save Me), when we moved to the U.S. I was on a non-working visa, didn't know many people around and was mostly staying at home. I had plenty of free time and decided to learn programming cause it seemed complicated enough for me to not have mental recourses left to be scared and homesick :). I ended up getting a tech job and a tiny obsession with Artificial Intelligence.

Princess
 
As long as the obsession remains tiny we’ll all remain safe! But let’s talk about the game itself, I love the concept how did you come up with it?

There's been a lot of talking about representation of women in games lately and the fact that sometimes a girl is just there to provide a hero motivation for all that shooting, but there's never been a game that would feature her a as protagonist.

We want to give her a voice, a personality. What kind of person is she? How does she feel being trapped in that tower?

We want to force her out of her victim position: there's no one to help. You want to live - you figure it out on your own.

The player has a lot of freedom to go from there. You can be a princess who just struggles through all this and finally gets home to safety, or you can grow to appreciate the strength and skills you've acquired; and see what the medieval world thinks about a "helpless girl" with a sword.

A noble goal with a sword wielding end, I love it! It couldn’t of been easy making the game though, what sort of challenges have you encountered?

Andrey: Making game itself is not a big challenge if you've been doing any software development :) It's all those nasty things like mysterious bugs that reproduce on extremely rare conditions, finding out game engine weird behaviors, etc. In an RPG that we're making it is also a lot about thinking about all the choices that a player might make. Permutations just make your head explode sometimes!

Anyway, developing a game is a fun part. There's much more that needs to be done to make game successful and that is not so exciting (see the answer to the next question).

Sandra: In terms of writing a story - keeping track of all the character agendas throughout the game branches. As a player you might ask a member of your party if they want to come with you right now, and I need to track that five scenes before you made a choice which led to a conflict between that character and his family. This makes him hesitate if he should go make things right with them instead. Three scenes ago, however, you invited his love interest to the party, and he wants to spend time with her. Is she coming? What will he choose if she is?

Gameplay

I must admit I envy your skills in coding and writing, I can barely string together a sentence… What about other people like you? What sort of advice would you give to other ambitious game makers?

Andrey: If you love what you do - go for it! But before you start your project be sure to know what is special about it. As sad as it is, if you're going to make a living making games you need to know how you'll sell them. If you're indie like us and don’t have huge marketing budget there's got to be something special about your game to get attention.

And I would never advise anyone to come to gamedev if your sole purpose is money. It's a lot of work and it's rarely a guaranteed result. You'll make much more doing just plain software development. At the end of the day we're here because we love games so much we are still making them despite all of that.

Sandra: Show your work to someone! At some point you get so used to it, it's easy to miss mistakes.

Also, some things might give people an impression that is very different from what you have anticipated.

Our demo starts with a princess in a tower waiting for a prince to save her. As she moves around she interacts with objects in the room and says what she thinks of them. When she first looks at a bed there (and old rusty bed, her servants at home have better lodging), she used to say: "Now, that's one fancy bed. Any chance the prince gets here before the nightfall?" I wrote it having in mind that the bed's a mess, the princess doesn't want to sleep there and is being sarcastic about it. She'd love to get out of there before the night comes. When people started playing, however, a lot of them thought it was suggesting her desire to spend a night with the prince when he comes! It was a total surprise to me!

Your drive and passion is something to be proud of, speaking of pride we heard you need some proud artists, there maybe a few here at /Garbage-File you know…

Thanks! We'll definitely check them out when our Kickstarter campaign is finished!

Thank you Andrey and Sandra, been great speaking with you both!

And on that self-serving note I released them they left to carry on coding and writing. Lovely people, didn’t even scream once… If you think this project is worth backing like I do or want to learn more, click here! 


All images were provided from Andrey and Sandra themselves