Carmel Games: Interview

Moti and Or from Carmel Games have been kind enough to take time out of their busy development schedules to tell us a little bit about their company and to give us some details about their development process. For those not familiar with Carmel Games, they are developers of excellent point and click adventure games that are playable in your browser. 

Carmel Games Logo

GameFools: First I want to thank you for this chance to interview. I have played many of your games and consider myself a fan. Could you please introduce yourselves and explain how Carmel Games initially came to exist?

Or: Our first interaction took place almost 8 years ago, back in 2008. Moti had just been kicked out of art school. I was still doing  military service and was looking for a side job to do in my free time so I could earn more money. Moti replied to a message that I left two months earlier on a game development message board, and we decided to give it a go and try building our own games.
We started with platform and arcade games, along with some games and apps for Facebook. We both still had day-jobs, so it took us a very long time to work on each game. Our first point and click adventure game, named Max Strong, was released in December 2011. A year later, we both decided to quit our jobs, and form Carmel Games.

Max Strong
Max Strong

GF: Before we get into discussing the games you’ve developed I would like to talk a little bit about the games that inspired you to get into adventure game development in the first place. Do you remember your first experience with an adventure game?

Moti: My first adventure game was Sam & Max Hit the Road. Though I have encountered several adventure games such as Loom and King Quest, it was Sam & Max that got me into the business. The lovely animations, great graphics and hilarious jokes made me think – ‘Hey, I want to do something like that’ – And I did, using Klik&Play (but it didn’t go very well).

Or: My first experience with an adventure game was Simon the Sorcerer (1) and right away I knew I loved it. I was very young at the time and barely knew any English, so I had to learn some English by the playing the game itself. The minute I finished it I could not wait for the next day to go and buy the sequel.

GF: What are some of your favorite developers and games from the golden age of PC adventure games?

Moti: Lucasarts obviously, with their crazy humor, and also Cyan, the developers of Myst, who created something so unique and original that inspired a lot of developers around the world.

Sierra also gave us a lot of good time back in the days.

Or: Lucasarts with Monkey Island 1-3, Psygnosis with Discworld 1-2, the Broken Sword series, Coktel Vision with the Goblins series, Sierra with King’s Quest, Torin’s Passage and more, many of Humongous Entertainment’s games.

GF: What types of games do you currently play for inspiration?

Moti: I mostly play point and click games, and sometimes simple arcade games, which also can give some ideas, but most of my inspiration comes from books.

Or: I do not get much inspiration for games by playing other games, as weird as it may sound. I do get some of it from playing other point and click adventure of course, but mostly from films, TV series and the everyday life.

GF: Outside of adventure games, what other types of games do you enjoy playing?

Or: Many types of games. RPG, RTS, Action, Adventure, FPS, Puzzles, Idle, Escape, and many many indie games which can be of any genre.

GF: Now that we know a little bit about what inspires you, I’d like to move the conversation to your specific development process. You have made a lot of games and continue to release them and surprisingly quick rates. Can you please give a brief summary of what the development cycle looks like for Carmel Games?

Or: It all starts with an idea for a plot. Sometimes it takes five minutes to write the general plot. Sometimes it can take two days. Once we have a plot ready, we draw sketches for the game’s backgrounds and characters. Then we draw the actual backgrounds and characters and when we have all of them ready, we build the game’s file in Flash, all while writing the Game Design Document. Then, the finished Flash file, which contains all of the game’s assets, along with the GDD, goes to coding. Once we have the code done and the basic version of the game is working, we add music and sound effects and send the game’s transcript to our voice actors.

Last but not least – we do testing of the game and bug fixing before its release.

GF: How much time would a typical development take from beginning to end?

Or: In order to stay profitable, we try to keep most of our games development time to 10-12 days.

This limitation obviously results in shorter games, which not ideal, but as part of our business constraints, we must do it if we want to also keep developing the longer games. That’s because if we would only create the bigger games we would just not earn enough revenue to allow us to develop anything. Our recent game Love Chase for example, has taken us almost two months of work.

Love Chase
Love Chase

GF: What is your favorite part of the development process?

Moti: The backgrounds and characters drawings. It gives us a first glimpse on what the game is going to look like.

Or: Well, as the programmer I obviously enjoy mostly of the programming phase of the development. Seeing all of the game’s different parts fall into the right place and how they all integrate to each other is like magic.

GF: In contrast, what is your least favorite part of the development process?

Or: Testing. It can really be a real drag. We’re playing the game again, and again, and again, trying every option to see if we got all the bugs out, it’s very repetitive and sometimes can become boring.

GF: Adventure games contain a lot of puzzles and balancing the difficulty can be crucial to a player’s enjoyment of the game. Can you discuss how you go about creating the game puzzles and how you go about balancing their difficulty?

Or: It’s pretty difficult to achieve the right balance. After the release of almost all of our games we can find comments saying it was too easy, while others say it was a bit difficult. We consider our games to be on the easier side of point and click adventures

If we need to choose (and we do), we prefer to have the game easier, rather than making people frustrated.

When we do have a too-easy game, we try to make up for it with an interesting or a funny plot.

GF: Now that we know a little bit about the process. Let’s discuss the games themselves. Which of the games and characters that you have developed are your favorite?

Or: Tales of Carmelot had a special charm, and we are currently working on a much longer game that will have the same magical feeling.

Jason from A Night in Crazytown is a likable character: he poisons little girls, electrocutes people, burns their faces and yet somehow everyone is cool with that. We should really bring him back for another round. Of course there’s also the Vortex Point crew, which somehow always gets our best plots.

A Night in Crazytown
A Night in Crazytown

GF: Once you have released a game, how much does the response from the actual gamers affect how your own opinion of the game?

Or: First we must say we read almost every comment we see for each of our games, whether it’s on Newgrounds, Kongregate, our own website, where we also reply on almost every comment or somewhere else.

These comments usually help us improve ourselves and future games.

Nonetheless, the response from the players usually does not affect our opinion of the game. Not all of our games are a success and we usually know if a game is good or not when it’s finished and ready for release.

GF: Some of your games such as Vortex Point get many sequels associated with them, and some only have a single game. How do you determine which games get sequels?

Or: This mostly depends on how easy it is for us to get inspiration for a sequel and come up with more ideas. If we finish creating a game and right away we know the character has more stuff he or she could do, then we will have a sequel. In Vortex Point we can always find more paranormal mysteries, and CrazyDad can always get crazier.

GF: What other types of factors do you look at when deciding whether or not a game was successful or not?

Or: The number of plays, the comments and the game’s rating on various websites as well as the ads revenue from the game helps us understanding whether the game did well or not.

GF: You’ve been creating Flash games for a while now. How have you seen the Flash development community change since you’ve been involved?

Or: We think that if you look inside the Flash market, the specific sub-market of Flash games has hardly changed. There are some HTML5 games, but at the moment they are less than a fraction of the number of Flash games, they’re also still far from what Flash is capable of technology wise. Flash’s only real problem right now is the mobile market because it doesn’t work on mobile browsers (at least not out of the box). But today the Flash SDK can also export to native mobile applications (the development process itself is different), so we can still use it, even for mobile. That being said, Flash is hardly being used for the mobile market and it’s possible that it will eventually not be used for that market anymore.

GF: Where do you see Carmel Games 5 years from now?

Or: We hope we’ll be able to release several full-length (hours of gameplay) games by then, improve our graphic abilities and add more people to our team. We also hope to spread to the mobile market and even other genres outside of the point and click adventure genre.

GF: Thank you for giving us a behind the scenes look at your Carmel Games development process. I am a fan of your games and very much look forward to what you come up with in the future!