Chris Skaggs, founder, CTO, and game designer at Soma Games, is a man on a mission to bring rich storytelling experiences to the casual games sector. We at Gamesauce recently sat with him for a discussion about heart-stirring narratives in a busy, busy world.
In The Beginning…
Gamesauce: What attracted you to the video game industry?
Chris Skaggs: Honestly, my real passion is storytelling, and video games make for a challenging and exciting medium in which to tell compelling stories about deep topics – topics like life, death, spirituality, and moral ambiguity.
GS: That’s pretty heavy subject matter!
Well, story is the language of the heart, and the heart can be very complicated. A good story embraces all of those elements and engages the player at an emotional level. That connection can lead to the kind of affection and joy that makes someone want to tell their friends.
GS: What was your favorite game of all time?
That would have to be Adventure Construction Set by Electronic Arts. It was a great game – a game before it’s time even – that allowed the user to create tile-based graphic adventures. I played it on the old Commodore 64. That title, more than anything else I encountered at the time, lit a fire in my heart and showed me what a videogame could be, and that I could contribute a line or two to that ongoing narrative.
GS: And now you’re contributing to that narrative through your work at Soma Games.
Right. Soma Games has always been more “mission” than business. We’re a group of people who are motivated to influence the culture around us in positive ways. On the one hand, that makes for a clear and concise mission statement. On the other hand, it’s not always easy to monetize (laughs).
GS: Tell me one of the main concepts a developer should remember when attempting to create a casual game.
“Casual” is not the same thing as “shallow”. Not at all. As a guy motivated to tell deep stories, casual games may seem like an odd career choice, but there really is a great opportunity to go deeper with the storyline while keeping the experience and investment casual.
GS: So you’re saying a “casual” has more to do with how the experience is delivered to the player.
I think so. Casual games allow for an experience to come to us in bite-sized pieces. This is often reflective of the way life feels in the busy world that we inhabit. Using that dynamic to engage with a player wherever they happen to be is a very rewarding challenge.
GS: What are some other factors that can hinder a game’s acceptance?
Poor graphics, confusing directions, and a steep difficulty curve can all contribute to a player abandoning a game in the early stages.
Touching on the Future
GS: What tips can you offer up-and-coming developers concerning the creation of engaging games?
I would tell them to study “Sid’s Rules of Game Design” by Sid Meier, and, of course, never make the mistake of assuming the game is fun to play just because you had fun designing it.
GS: Finally, what are Soma Games’ plans for the future?
We’re very excited about tablets as a form factor and multi-touch as an interface element. Moving more into those technologies and unlocking their potential will keep us very busy for a while.