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Dream.Build.Play Spotlight: Rotor'scope
Rotor’scope: The Secret Of The Endless Energy placed third in the 2009 Dream.Build.Play Challenge. We chatted with the Creators about their experience competing in Dream.Build.Play, and the making of their game, Rotor’scope.

How would you describe Rotor’scope for anyone who hasn’t seen or played it, yet?
Rotor'scope is an original puzzle game. Using an innovative rotating board interface, the player will have to anticipate the effect of gravity on the board pieces in order to get them together and make them disappear. By solving these mind-blowing puzzles, you will be helping Julie and Traveller solve an intriguing mystery set in a fantastic universe.

The game includes more than 150 puzzles, and if that's not enough, it also includes a simple editor so you can create your own puzzles and share them with other players through Xbox LIVE. You will be able to see their solutions and you can try to beat them using less board movements. Of course, you can also play other players' puzzles as well.

And if you like to share your progress with your friends, Rotor'scope includes a new system that lets you publish your scores on Facebook and access exclusive content, like wallpapers or the game's original sound track.

What made you want to make Rotor'scope?
We've been chasing this dream of making videogames for as long as we can remember. Rotor'scope is our first commercially purposed game, a possibility that would have never been real if it weren't for the existence of Xbox LIVE Indie Games as a platform, or XNA Game Studio for that matter. Our first motivation behind this project was to achieve a professional look in every aspect of the game; artistic-wise, but also in terms of design and gameplay.

What games influenced or inspired this game?
It's hard to tell, simply because Rotor'scope tries to be something completely different in the first place. But one might say that it looks like other classic puzzle games like Tetris, Columns, or Bejeweled, and he will be right about it. During the concept stage, when we first realized that we wanted to create a rotary puzzle game, we couldn't quite see how the pieces would actually move. We studied the possibility of manipulating them like in Bejeweled, or to make them appear on one side and then fall to the other side, like Tetris or Columns. Finally, we decided to move away from those patterns and created a completely different approach, to offer the player a refreshing but equally challenging new kind of puzzle game.

Is this the first game you’ve made? If not, can you tell us more about the other things you’ve worked on?
Our first indie game was a table football game called Xtreme Table Soccer. We submitted it to the first edition of the Dream.Build.Play contest, but it didn't get too far in the competition. Actually, we weren't very surprised because we didn't have a polished gameplay and it was really hard to even score a goal. Even though we eventually gave up the development of this game (the gameplay wasn't very promising), the experience of creating it encouraged us to continue creating games using XNA Game Studio, and two years later we completed the development of Rotor'scope.

What games are you playing now (other than your game!)?
Currently I'm about to beat Brütal Legend; what a great game! This month there was a lot of talking about new games in our team meetings, it seems that after so much hard work everyone is playing their favourite games real hard. Some of the titles they're playing are: Dragon Age, Mass EffectAssassin's Creed 2, and Forza MotorSport 3.

Where did you hear about Dream.Build.Play, and what made you decide to enter?
We have previously entered the contest with a foosball game called Xtreme Table Soccer, in the first edition in 2007. We didn't win at the time, mainly because our lack of experience back in the day. However, the contest ended up being a kind of breaking point for some of us who were able to get a job in a videogames development team and became professional.

Later on, in the beginning of 2009, we learned a new edition of Dream.Build.Play was about to take place, and this time we had a puzzle game prototype that looked very promising. So we decided to go for it and planned the rest of the development so that the game would make it to the deadline.

Why did you decide to participate in the Dream.Build.Play Challenge?
There are many reasons why we did it. I for one believe (the) cash prizes at stake are attractive enough to get anyone interested. Also, just competing against other people is an incentive of its own, it keeps team motivation high, and makes each individual give 100 percent to create the best possible game.

Finally, the contest has built a certain fame within the world of indie development. That's why the benefits of participating and making it to the finalists are beyond any material prize: a standout position in the Xbox LIVE Indie Game Marketplace, a lot of media presence, etc. Amazing resources for a small development team taking its first steps in the industry, as in our case.

How long did it take to develop Rotor’scope?
Lead designer Emilio José L. Joyera invested a couple of months to create the first rotating puzzle prototype. Afterwards, production took place for eight months, up until the contest deadline. From that time onward, we've been polishing and optimizing the game for another two months. All in all, it has taken almost a whole year to complete Rotor'scope.

How was the experience of competing in DBP?
Exciting! We knew the competition would be intense, so we did our best to create a good game. Right after the deadline, videos of other games in the contest started to pop up. Most of them were great, some of them were truly outstanding. To tell you the truth, we were overwhelmed by the quality of the competition, and we gave up our hopes of even making it to the finals.

Finally, when the top six was announced at [Penny Arcade Expo] (PAX) and Rotor'scope was among them, we almost couldn't believe it! Soon after, hundreds of pages all over the internet were talking about us, and suddenly we kind of became famous.

So for us, Dream.Build.Play has represented the opportunity that any aspiring group dreams of having, to find the motivation and reward to make you wake up each day and do your job with real passion.

Would you participate in the contest again?
Of course! In this very moment our designers are already bombing me with ideas for new projects! The whole Dream.Build.Play experience has been one of the most rewarding things to ever happen to us, so we're doing our best to make it happen again in the future. We had to skip entering this year's, because we were very busy working to bring Rotor'scope to the Marketplace, but we'll surely do it next time!

Did you playtest your game through XNA Creators Club Online (CCO)? Did it help?
Yes, absolutely! Although we handled most of the quality control internally, while playtesting we noticed a severe problem with a certain model of HDD on which the game was taking really long to load. Lots of small bugs and typos were corrected during the playtest process as well.

How was your experience with Peer Review?
We entered the process three times. The first one, the game was rejected because of a rare crash found by one of the CCO members. The next time it all went fine, and the game went live about a week after. It's a bit annoying not knowing exactly how much time the process is going to take, but if you're an active member of the community it usually doesn't take too long.
 
Have you helped to Playtest and Peer Review other games?
Of course! No less than four people in our team have a Creators account, and all of us love to participate in playtests and reviews to help other Creators in the community. Personally, I really enjoy watching what other Creators are doing, it's a great way to have some fun helping other people out.

How was your experience using XNA Game Studio to make your game?
XNA Game Studio is a really stable and mature technology. It is very productive and easy to use. It'll be with you from the first to the last development day. Did I mention it's free? XNA Game Studio has been a major breakthrough for amateur game creators. I started working as an application programmer (web, databases, and all those things) eight hours a day. After that, it becomes harder and harder to spend your time studying game programming techniques. Before XNA Game Studio, there were just a few alternatives to learn. Some of them were clumsy and unproductive (such as C++ -based game engines). Others weren't professional enough (Game Maker, Dark Basic, and others). In my opinion, XNA Game Studio hit the bullseye by being productive as well as professional and versatile, and suited for complex developments. When it comes to advise newcomers on how to begin making games, I always recommend XNA Game Studio, since it requires little to no previous experience to begin developing your own games.

What other tools/programs did you use to help you make your game?
One of the tools that we used the most is NVidia's FX Composer 2. We have integrated this tool into our engine's pipeline in a way that it has become our basic material editor. We use this tool to create real-time materials that we later apply to the meshes in the game. The engine reads the Collada format used by FX Composer for storing material collections. This allows us to render materials in the same way as in FX Composer preview window.

Then all the artists use their tools of choice to create assets, but mainly Adobe Photoshop and 3DSMax.

How many people are on your team, and what are their roles?
The core team:
    Mauricio García: project management, production issues, and logic programming
    Carlos López: technology programming
    Juan San Miguel: logic programming
    Emilio José L. Joyera: game design, puzzle design, writing, scripting, and some art
    Enrique Cabeza: game design, interface art, adventure art
    Álvaro Rico: character design
    Carlos Viola: music composer

Also we arranged the external services, as contractors, of the following individuals and companies:
    Juan Miguel Lopez: 3D modeling and texturing
    Fernando Román (Sonogames): Audio FX design
    Alexander Guillén: Digital Painting
    Logic-Lingo: English localization

Can you walk us through a usual day for you and your team?
I wake up early in the morning, have some breakfast and get to the tiny room I use as office. There I read my email and some videogame-related media. After that, I take a look at my schedule. There are usually lots of things to do so I start working on them, one at a time, until the sun comes down or everything's finished, whatever comes first. In the afternoon the rest of the team joins me. They have their own daily jobs, which they will have to leave some time soon so they can dedicate full-time to our future projects. Anyway, once a week we have a meeting through Skype to decide what to do for the next week. I also have a good time playing the game that has me hooked at that time at least half an hour before each meal. To sum up, I wake up and spend the day doing what I enjoy the most, making games!

Any plans to release more games for Xbox LIVE Indie Games (XBLIG)?
XBLIG is a great platform, for many reasons. Firstly, it allows you to create and sell games in your favorite console. Secondly, all the required tools are free, with the exception of the XNA Creators Club Online membership, which is not required during most of the development cycle. In addition to this, there are plenty of additional online resources to help you in the creation of your game. Finally, you can submit your creation to a great competition such as Dream.Build.Play.

We are really interested in getting the best out of this platform. We want to explore new types of entertainment and to create fun and fresh games. We have lots of ideas that we want to explore in our future releases for XBLIG, and we hope they will be as good as "Rotor'scope".

What’s next for you?
Rotor'scope’s success in Dream.Build.Play finally encouraged us to start our own game studio. Starting a game studio and developing our own games has been our dream from the very beginning. Now thanks to Dream.Build.Play, this dream is beginning to come true. Our studio will be focused on developing games for XBLIG, although we are considering using also other platforms that allow self-publishing. Also, our staff has grown quite a bit, enabling us to work on other lines of business that will ensure funding future developments.


Help Julie and Traveller discover clues and solve puzzles in Rotor'scope. Download the game today from Xbox LIVE Marketplace.
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