Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

GDC Austin 09: Gaijin Games: Holistic Indie Game Design

12:58 PM on 09.15.2009 // Ashley Davis

Many eyes have been upon Bit.Trip developers Gaijin Games recently. They are just barely a year old, but within the span of six months, they've already made three fantastic games. Not only that, but more is still to come mere months down the road. They are already a huge inspiration to game  developers everywhere, and loved by those who love to play awesome games.

How have they managed to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time? It seems they do have a different approach than most other developers. In the first talk of GDC Austin's Independent Games Summit, Mike Roush, one third of the Gaijin team, unveiled the secrets behind their success. Indie developers, take note of what this man has to say.

Hit the jump to read a summary of his talk.

After a little bit of a general introduction to the Indie Games Summit itself, Mike Roush introduced himself to the crowd. After alluding to a lonely trip to a Hooters restaurant the night before (he was the only member of Gaijin at GDC Austin), he began his talk with a simple question: how can holistic philosophies be applied to game design?

First, he defined the word "holistic"; it is simply emphasizing the relation between parts and the whole. In the case of game design, the parts are the individuals within a developer, and the whole is the game that they create. Using a slide of a simple vinn diagram, he explained how Gaijin is formed of three separate parts: programming (Alex Neuse), sound (Chris Osbourne), and visual art (himself). The section of the diagram where these three parts overlapped, which was labeled "HOLY SHIT!", represents the sum of their parts: the Bit.Trip series.

The next slide he pulled up showed a pixel-drawn image created to include elements of almost every game imaginable. After a huge red X was drawn across this visual aid, Mike joked that it was wrong because the game Klax was not rightfully represented. Of course, he then went into the real reason for the slide. The image was used to stress the point that it is unrealistic to try and fit every single idea into one game.

After they were picked up by Aksys Games, Gaijin was given only three months to develop Bit.Trip. This was a bit of a problem, as they originally planned for it to be a big 1000 point WiiWare game. Essentially, it would have been the series we have now compiled into one game. But due to the time constraints, Gaijin decided to divide the game into six parts. Mike believes that they are much better off for making the decision not to try and cram all of their ideas into something singular.

The next point that he made concerned the players' place in holistic game design. He explained that Gaijin tries to put a lot of consideration into how their games engage the player. Not only should controller input make things happen on the television screen, but the game itself should make things happen within the player. The Wii's motion controls a big role in how they seek to accomplish this. "Bit.Trip Beat would not exist if there were no Wii," he told the audience.

What are the benefits of developing games holistically? "It allows deeper products to be made, more input from each individual team member, and a more meaningful experience," he explained. He went on to recognize the fact that this way may not be the best for everyone. These benefits could be detractors, especially if a developer does not want to water down their vision with a lot of additional input or make a deep gameplay experience.

He then took some questions from the audience, the first of which concerned the small size of the Bit.Trip games. "We made what we expected a six dollar game to be," he explained.

The next question was about how Gaijin got all their members on board, and how they deal with all the different ideas from each person. Each member came on with a different specialty, and the ideas do clash at times. Each person just thinks in the terms that the sum is greater than its parts, which makes it easier for individuals to make small sacrifices to their personal vision if needed.

Next, someone asked whether or not holistics could potentially slow down the creative process. "Each member is a master of their discipline. It's about getting the ideas out and being open to input."

The following question asked how Gaijin Games found their publisher. Mike responds that they wanted to work with someone who gave them creative freedom. They pitched Bit.Trip to several publishers, but the response from Aksys helped them make the final decision. He said that the CEO approached the game not as if it were money to be made, but just as a great game that he wanted to get out there.

The following question was about outsourcing music with a limited budget. Mike explained that they told their musicians right off the at that they would  not be able to pay them for their work. He found that payment wasn't too big of a problem, because everyone that he spoke to just wanted their music to be in a game and get out there.

An audience member then asked a question about how to motivate other team members into brainstorming. "The more you put into it, the more you get," he responded. In his opinion, if someone puts nothing on the table but complains about the lack of ideas, they're not too valuable an asset.

The last question was about having a unified vision. Are there any problems doing so, and how could one improve at it? Mike responded that the limited amount of time they have to work on their games lessens any problems the team has meshing their ideas.

Mike summed up his talk with a quote from The Wrath of Khan: "Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." A member of the crowd called him out on quoting Spock, but the phrase applies perfectly to the holistic game design vision. Every member of the team will have his or her own ideas as to what the game they're working on should end up being, but they need to be cohesive in order to work. Team members do not necessarily have to get along with one another, but their ideas do.

Ashley Davis,
 Follow Blog + disclosure

This blog submitted to our editor via our Community Blogs, and then it made it to the home page! You can follow community members and vote up their blogs - support each other so we can promote a more diverse and deep content mix on our home page.

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

Status updates from C-bloggers

FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
What youtubers y'all watch? I need more.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
Playing For Glory earlier today, some guy beat me and changed his name to "ifukdu_up". I won next round and he changed it to "ILETUWIN". I then 2-0ed the little sucker, and he left the lobby. I took great pride from this incident.
Dalek Sex avatarDalek Sex
Henshin into a person with a larger disposable income.
The Dyslexic Laywer avatarThe Dyslexic Laywer
Why the hell are we suddenly accepting micro transactions in fully priced games? It used to be only acceptable in free-to-play games but its sickening that even AAA developers like microsoft are on the bandwagon.
OrochiLeona avatarOrochiLeona
If you're ever writing about something from the heart, and you stop and think "I don't know how people will react to me if I write this" then you absolutely should go ahead. Passionate conviction is often the only voice you'll have.
VeryImportantQuestion avatarVeryImportantQuestion
Wait a second...has the blog editor been changed with the idea being that the formatting be done in Word or something and then pasted in? Have I been using it wrong these last few posts?
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
guys I'm standing in a Target looking at a Xenoblade X special edition what do I do
Zer0t0nin avatarZer0t0nin
Dear Dortmund Zoo: how's it possible for people to steal 3 monkeys, 3 squirrels and 2 penguins while killing a manatee and another penguin since April and you still have no clue how to stop this?
WryGuy avatarWryGuy
We got Xbone! We got Xbone! We got Xbone! We got Xbone! We got Xbone! [img][/img]
Flegma avatarFlegma
Two more reasons not to preorder: the game might appear in stores before release day (Hello, Xenoblade Chronicles X for 60EUR at my local mall) or the mail workers may be on strike (well, they were until Monday).
Rad Party God avatarRad Party God
ModDb's MOTY (Mod of the Year) votes are up, there's quite a TON of interesting mods this year, give it a look and vote for your favorite! ---
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
Hey, US Pokemon fans! Apparently if you just rename your SSID to Mcdonalds Free Wifi, you don't even need to go anywhere to get your Hoopas. Seems like they could've just made this one a normal download.
Archelon avatarArchelon
It may have been a war of attrition, but I just took out a Snowspeeder on foot in Battlefront. Aww, yeah.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Last night, for one reason or another I watched the endings of bloodborne via vaatividya, and in so doing made myself sad that I will never get to play it. Still cool that they seem to have really nailed that lovecraftian exestential horror and despair.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
[img][/img] やらないか?
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
If I were a rhino, I'd be horny.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
I don't want DOAX, but it does make me realize... There aren't actually a lot of volleyball games out there, are there? Or tennis, even? At least golf has a little competition, but still. That's golf.
LinkSlayer64 avatarLinkSlayer64
Well, everyone is throwing in their opinion on women and games, and here I am... writing a blog about being aroused by female characters in games as a kid... Perhaps I should hold off, I have a feeling it may just be taken the wrong way.
Agent9 avatarAgent9
Thinking about getting my sister yokai watch or animal crossing Happy Home designer(comes with nfc reader). I already got a copy of Tales of xillia for her ps3, this is just a bonus for when she's on the road or at someones house. any suggestions?
Dalek Sex avatarDalek Sex
Dark Souls 2. Dem builds.
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -