Australia has a rich indie games development community and there’s plenty of great titles worth highlighting. Around Australia In Eighty Indies is going to be a recurring feature here at Resident Entertainment where we catch up with local developers to talk about what they’re working on and how they broke into the industry. For our first interview, we sat down with Jared Hahn to talk about his recently released mobile game Mori.
Fergus: So I think a good place to start is Mori? Tell me about Mori? How’s it doing now that it’s been set free on the Appstore?
Jared: It’s doing okay. Like it’s better than I’d expect from my first release [and one where] where I kinda botched marketing [and] left it to the last minute. It’s been really cool though – I’ve actually had people e-mail me and say how great it is and how much they’re enjoying it so that’s a really cool thing to see for a first release.
Fergus: Where did it come from? What did you hope to achieve by making it?
Jared: I was in a very dark spot mentally in my life and I wasn’t working with great people and I realised that if I wanted anything to change I needed to change something. So I took one of my lunch breaks, went out, and made a game in an hour. And I decided I’d show people and got some really positive feedback. So I worked on it a bit more, made it a bit better and the feedback decreased the more time I spent on it. And it became this thing that over six months I polished and made as tight and focused as I could. And it’s actually something that’s positively turned me around.
Fergus: Do you have any good development stories you’d be happy to share from Mori?
Jared: With major development, people spend months and months playing their game but I put this game out after an hour having spent working on it and [already] had people come back to me saying they’d played it for two hours. So, [I put] an hour in and [people were getting] more out of that than I had put in – and that’s not something I had ever really heard of before.
So I thought, ‘this core concept is great’ and then I found this group of core players and when I started adding new things I had these core players tell me when stuff was [getting] too hard. There’s been a few really close friends [who] have been happy to tell me “yeah, no, that’s not a good plan”, “that’s not a good plan” and “that one’s cool though, can you do more of that”?
It hasn’t just been me working on it, put it that way – there’s a lot of networks I’ve built that have helped me.
Fergus: How did you get into games development? Did you study or are you self-taught?
Jared: I did an apprenticeship in high school, then a different apprenticeship after school. In the second year, I wasn’t really enjoying that job and I thought “why not do this short course at AIE? It’s only an evening a week, I can give an evening a week easy” and so I did that course and after the course finished I plodded around using the skills I was taught there for a bit.
And I decided that I was going to do a games study course at a TAFE in the city and it taught me a lot of things that I just really didn’t think of before in terms of design and in terms of tech. Before then I used to want to use specific things but when I got in there, I learned to use what I’m comfortable with and can work with really fast. It became another confidence building thing as well – games saved my life, it’s great.
Fergus: Do you have any sort of dream game you’d like to try and make?
Jared: Yeah I have a few. They’re games that I want to create that are feelings. Like Mori was a game about winding a clock and I just tried to keep everything that was added to it focused on that concept. A lot of these [new] games are possibly somewhat-generic combat games but I’m really attuned to the story and want to make it just super-juicy. Like Vlambeer, just super-feedback and make every action feel good when you do it. That’s something I’ve really enjoyed from their games and I want to try and take that into mine.
Fergus: What’s on the horizon for you now? Do you have side-projects you’re working on?
Jared: I have two possible new projects that are in the works. One of them I’m working on in lunch-breaks at work again but it’s a bit bigger than Mori. It’s a bit more in-depth and so progress is slower than Mori was. The other one’s a bit of a more mind-bending puzzle game that I’m already getting good feedback for because it was another HourJam game.
I also have this other thing in the works – which is a big Mori update. I don’t want to give a date but it should be out in November and what it does is double the content in Mori.
Fergus: How do you feel about the state of Australia’s local gaming scene these days?
Jared: It’s funny because it’s actually been picking up. There are jobs going in the games industry now. There’s a strong focus on mobile in Australia [though] because it’s got a shorter development cycle, faster turnaround and… everyone has a mobile phone.
There’s a really interesting shift going on right-now because there are people looking at games funding again and [implementing] proper funding systems again. Yeah, I reckon Australia’s looking up. It was doom and gloom a few months ago but in my opinion it’s getting better. You just have to stick at it.
Fergus: Finally, is there an Australian indie game that you think is really cool and deserves more attention?
Jared: The one I know is Daniel Linssen. He’s won Ludum Dare a couple of times and made some really awesome experimental things and my favourite game of his is Garden.
Mori is available on iOS for $4.49 Check it out and watch this space for the next installment of Around Australia in Eighty Indies.