About Benjamin Soulé
Benjamin Soulé is an indie game developer based in France, also the one-man studio behind game Tower of Archeos, which is a very solid rougelike + match-3 game. He has said that he is an itinerant game designer. By itinerant he means that he is still looking for the holy grail of game design.
You can check his website here: http://benjaminsoule.fr/
I have explored your website for a while and had a great time there. It’s hard-working of you to create so many game prototypes, especially considering most of those are very solid and juicy. We have known that you are a talented and skillful indie game developer, but don't know any other information about you yet, so could you share with us and our readers a little bit about yourself? (Such as which city are you based? how long has your team been working on Tower of Archeos? How long have you been an indie game developer? When did you decide that you wanted to be a game developer? What are the ups and downs being an indie game developer?)
I live in Lacanau a small city near the atlantic ocean in France. When I was a child I was spending my school time drawing levels in my notebooks (for Golden Axe, New Zealand Story or Wonderboy). Then when I was 19-20 years old I met some talented friends and built a videogame company with them. I spent 10 years working on web-based games. Then five years ago I decided to go on my own and spent some time working on solo projects. I think that the good side of being an indie is the total freedom of creation. The downside is the lack of money :) I used to earn more money when I was working with a team.
As a player, what are your favorite video games by far? Could you share some names with our readers?
For mainstream games I think my favoritess are Unholy War for PS1 or Ico/Shadow of the Colossus for PS2. My favorite indiegames are Iji, DoomRL or Hydorah. It's really difficult to choose.
I noticed that PICO-8 is one of your favorite development tools, how would you evaluate this retro game engine?
Pico8 is a fast game making tool. Really fast. This is a very important thing about it, because I spent 15 years making small but also very long and never-ending projects. Pico8 keep me away from spending too much time on a single project.
Any interesting orfun stories you met while developing Tower of Archeos? Where did the inspiration for Tower of Archeos come from?
As you may already know, I started Tower of Archeos as a pico8 project. My main inspiration source is a previous unfinished game I was working on (a kind of minesweeper-roguelike game https://vimeo.com/87343912
). When I started, I was suspicious about making a puzzle with no mouse control but in the end I was happy with the result. When I worked on the steam version, I could use the mouse, but I somehow lost the arcade feeling of the pico8 version. I was a bit sad about it.
Tower of Archeos is based on match-3, cards games and roguelike, with a blend of various elements. Why did you choose to make such a game with mixed styles?
I don’t see myself as a very creative person. But I have a solid videogames knowledge (consoles and PC games) and most of my games are about mixing two or three already existing concepts into a new one. The snake game is a very basic base; I mixed it with TCG (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gF3oRacyNYo
) or with a jackpot bonus system (https://benjamin-soul.itch.io/serpentes
). I think there's still a lot to discover by just mixing existing mechanics together.
I have to say that I was very impressed by your game for its unique, deep and well-designed game mechanism. How did you achieve that?
I'm kind of obsessed with replayability. I always add options, classes or bonuses to make sure each game session is unique. It usually makes the balancing time task very long, but I enjoy spending time on all that tweaking.
As we know, Tower of Archeos is very fast paced and takes not long to beat, and some players also point out that most interactions in this game only require some clicks of the mouse, so they think that this game will be very suitable for mobile game market after some limited changes, such as reducing the size and numbers of map grids, adjusting the level of difficult and so on. Do you have any plan about mobile market of your game?
Adapting the control would be the hardest part especially because player would have no access to rollover hints on a mobile game. I think I could achieve that but the problem is I only sold about 300 units on steam and I'm not sure I could do better on the mobile market. I also feel like I spent too much time on this game and want to try other concepts. I'm not so good at spending a lot of time on a single game...
I know that you got some positive feedbacks at least on a small scale, but the unfortunate reality is that this amazing game has sold very poorly according to steamspy.com. Perhaps because of lack of publicity, but one of the most important reason may be the high price. For some guys enjoy this game very much such as me, it is not really expensive and very worthy. But why did you choose such a price much higher than most game of this sort?
To be honest, I was expecting that the game would not sell very well - if you don't want to spend a lot of time or money on publicity there's no other miracle cure. Knowing that I will rely on a very small but strong fan base I asked them to pay a bit more that the usual market price, so I would not lose too much money working on this. I'm suspicious about the fact that dividing the price by two would have send me twice more players. But I'm far from being an expert, I may be wrong about that.
You are very hardworking and have been working on your new project. What is your plans for the future as a indie developer?
I'm looking forward to releasing another Steam game and maybe trying to Kickstart a board game. I'm still interested in game jams too, even if I failed to finish my december ludumdare game in time. I have a lot (maybe 8-10) unfinished projects I still want to work on and not so much time to work on them : I'm a father of a 8 month little girl and it's really time consuming :)
You said that the Chinese indie game scene seems a lot wider than you expected, very kind words. The indie game developers in China face a lot of tough and unique challenges, but we are trying hard to make a way through the darkness. One of my colleagues, Luis Wong, wrote an article in KillScreen about it, you can check it here
, what did you think of the game market in China since it not only holds tremendous potential but also has many diffcults for the overseas developers?
Thanks for the article, I found it really interesting, I never heard about China's console ban before that. It explains the rise of free-to-play games in China, but I was thinking it could also make Chinese people more sensible to retro game aesthetic: If console game history really ended up in 2000, it must result in a very strong nostalgia feeling. I'm working a lot on this side of videogames.
My first experience with China's market was strange: in 2009 I worked on a game called mybrute.com. The game was a good international success but a chinese studio built a ripoff called tuitui8. I always claimed I didn’t believe in intellectual property but having to actually deal with this problem almost made me change my mind. In the end I decided it was no problem for me, especially because we had no intention to translate it for the Chinese market.
I think the article is totally right about the fact that most Western people think that the Chinese game market is all about piracy, I also used to think this way. But the fact is: easy/free access to videogames makes more people playing/enjoying videogames. It will then result in a lot of people creating videogames when gamemaker tools become more accessible.
In 2013 I was traveling in India and decided to go to kazakhstan through Nepal and China. During my stay in China I was trying to work on a voice recognition program for a game and I had to do a lot of internet research because it was way outside of my scope. Most of this research ended up on censored pages and I was finally unable to finish my game. It must be hard for all the Chinese indie dev to work in this condition.