‘Hook Worlds’ Dev On The Joy Of Hats And The Death Of MMOs – Developer Pop Quiz #19

Developer Pop Quiz is a weekly interview series in which we ask developers from around the industry the same 10 questions and post their responses.

Thanks to the App Store anyone can become a renowned game developer. Such is the case of Rocketcat Games’ Kepa Auwae, who, along with some friends, designed, developed and published one of last year’s App Store indie darlings, “Hook Champ.” After releasing “Super QuickHook,” the best reviewed iPhone game in 2010 (according to Metacritic) and “Hook Worlds,” Kepa and his team are hard at work on their first RPG, but he had time to answer our questions in this week’s Developer Pop Quiz.

Name: Kepa Auwae
Title: Owner/Developer
Company: Rocketcat Games
Job Description: Game and level design.
First title worked on: “Hook Champ,” October 2009
Most recent title worked on: “Hook Worlds”

What game has most influenced you, and why?
I couldn’t pick one game, you’re getting a big list. Roguelikes, for their randomized content and timelessness: “Nethack,” “Dungeon Crawl.”
Best FPS games for combat feel: “Doom,” “Half-Life 1″.
Games with great community (mod) content: “TF2,” “Quake,” “Half-Life,” “Knytt Stories.”
Favorite RPG games I want to borrow from some day: “Zelda 1,” “Secret of Mana,” “Fallout 1-2.” Games with fancy hats: “TF2,” Pixeljam’s game “Dino Run.”
Inspiration for our first game series, the grappling hook trilogy: “Bionic Commando,” “Dino Run.”

What are you playing right now?
“Doom” mod called “Aeons of Death.” It also adds so many weapons and monsters that I’m still finding new ones. It’s almost like a roguelike, since the content’s randomized and you really can’t find everything in a single game.

What was your first break in the games industry?
Just thought I’d make a game a couple years ago, got a couple friends and made a team. App Store lets anyone make and sell a game, there’s no barrier for entry. They’ll even welcome people with no design experience. I guess that’s kind of a double-edged sword, but it let us in.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
“Learn from the mistakes of others.”

Where do you look for inspiration?
Other games, especially older ones. They’re full of design lessons, unusual concepts, and cautionary tales that you can learn just from playing through them.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about game development?
People really like hat customization in games. No joke.

What has been the low point of your career?
Well, when our first big game for the iPhone, “Hook Champ,” was nominated as a finalist for that year’s IGF. The nomination itself was great, but due to a clerical error, it wasn’t put on the finalist showcase for a few days. This caused game news sites to not cover it, so it was like the game didn’t exist. That was pretty harsh.

What do you think is the biggest problem current games suffer from?
I think many games are too disposable. They’re designed with no mod content tools in mind, no community involvement, no real replay value, no updates. You play them for however long they advertise on the back of their box, then they’re designed to be thrown away until the sequel’s out. This problem is why I started making games in the first place.

What is the most important thing that has happened to gaming in the last 10 years?
Steam, easily. If it was 20 years, I’d have said “Quake.” Its popularization of server/client multiplayer, the incredible mod community that still has an impact to this day, and all the games and companies that have that one single game to thank for existing.

Where do you see gaming in 5 years?
I think developers will completely abandon MMOs and Social games, for the most part. Both genres were dead-ends, and they always allowed only one developer at a time to have any real success. Instead, most developers will make games with deep mechanics, designed for heavy replay value mixed with community content. These games will also strongly feature hat customization… top hats, bowlers, straw boaters. SO badass.