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Saturday, December 08, 2007
An interview with Messhof (Mark Essen), creator of the Punishment series and Flywrench.

Hi Messhof. Let's begin with an introduction of yourself, your tools of trade, and the creations you've released unto an unsuspecting world..

Alright. I'm a college student. I use pretty much entirely Game Maker and MSPaint for most of my games, but recently I've gotten into some sound design with old toys and homemade electronics. And I made Punishment 1, 2, and Flywrench. But before that I made Wally, Bool, and Booloid.

Old toys?

Like old toy guitars from goodwill. I just rewire them so they output to quarter inch cables then run them through pedals or software filters I design. You can get some pretty crazy stuff just by running through their demo songs in different ways. This is something I've been doing with friends though, I don't want to take all the credit for that.

Okay, I've got to ask. How did you get the idea to make games as sadistic as the Punishment series?

Well with Punishment 1 it actually started as a classroom assignment with this experimental class. I'd taken a few classes with the professor, and then he came up with this 300 level weird game design class. So me and some friends jumped at it. There were some other good projects that came out of other groups.

Everyone is talking about Flywrench at the moment, especially about the credits. Was it an original idea to implement it that way? And what's the backstory behind the, er... story?

I guess I've just been watching too much science fiction. I project for this science fiction class every week, so I'm just sitting up in that booth for three hours with my computer usually, and it just seeps in. They always have pretty funny credits. Maybe that's where I got that.

Flywrench was a love it or hate it experience for most. Were you actually expecting this sort of reaction? And were you pleased with the overall response?

I was definitely expecting that with the music, and overall yeah, that's been the case with all of my games. And I am pleased!

What can we expect from you next? What's coming up?

Next you'll probably see Flywrench 2.0 actually. I've been working on that pretty hard.. for three days or whatever.

How is that different from it's prequel? Any major changes? Storyline? Do you have a rough release date for it?

I don't want to promise too much, but I think multiplayer will be a big part. There's also a cool gravity system I'm working with where you orbit planets as you go through obstacles. There's a lot more obstacles, but the game will still move fast. Faster, hopefully. I'd say it will be done around Christmas, maybe a week or two after. And the story will expand on the first.

Tell us a bit about the multiplayer feature. Actually, why not just explain it in detail.

Well I don't know if you know about this Game Maker project Reflect Games...

Yes, I do.

Well I'd like to get in on that.

I'm not too fond of online gaming, so hopefully you would work extensively on the single player campaign as well.

I plan on doing that. Multiplayer will be mostly a test of skills, but I can see a community coming out of it. Another big feature is the level editor, which is a big part of the online aspect too.

How much have you received from donations? Why do you think most people who play freeware games never donate?

I've made $25 off donations, 20 of which was from my mom. I don't think they work really, but it's not really obtrusive to ask, so why not.

You make weird games, and cactus is a big fan of your stuff. So who's better, you or cactus?

Haha... I'm a pretty big fan of cactus. It would be cool to work together sometime. But yeah, for the most part we don't really make the same kind of games.

Name some of your favorite games from cactus.

I know nothing about shmups. Well I do appreciate Clean Asia and his new lo res one that's hard to spell. But I'm terrible at Clean Asia, and I haven't played the other one yet. But I played Arms today, and that was awesome. Brave Karma Warriors also looked interesting.

Will you be changing development tools anytime in the near future?

If they port GM to C++ next year like they say they will, I can see myself sticking with it. Even if I switch to something else, I'd probably at least prototype in GM. But I don't know any other languages.

How long have you been using GM?

Probably 6 years or so.

How many games have you released in that period? Are you planning to make a career out of developing games? (freeware or otherwise)

I think I'll keep making them. If it turns out to be a career, then I'll just go with it I think. Uh... I've released a bunch of games. I used to have them on my website, but I've since taken a lot down that embarrass me.

Which of your released games do you consider your best work so far?

Well the ones on messhof.com, so Wally, Bool, Booloid, Punishment 1, 2, Flywrench.

Favorite son? You have to throw the rest into the river for the crocs to feed.

I guess Flywrench then, he's so young and cute.

He is noisy though. (apparently)

meh. I'm suprised people don't complain more about the Punishment 2 soundtrack.

How long did you take to develop Flywrench? And how did the idea for the game came about?

Had the initial concept back in high school, in GM 5.3. But then I recoded and redrew everything in the past two or three weeks.

Do you think you can still improve after releasing something like Flywrench? Besides a sequel, of course.

Haha, yeah I hope so. I definitely have other ideas, like this plane game.

When will that be released?

That one has been in production for almost as long as Flywrench. After Flywrench 2.0. It might be a little while after that actually. I have a remake of Crystal Quest I have nearly done, so that will probably come between them.

No kidding...

Yeah it's pretty much exactly the same game, painstakingly recalled from memory. And an emulator my brother had for a while. I feel like I should contact the guys that made it first though. I don't think they ever really made much off it.

What are your thoughts about this heated discussion?

Haha yeah I had a fun time reading that. But I don't know why a lot of those guys play indie games.

They're saying you had ripped a game called Dotstream.

Haven't played it. What is similar?

Just the style really. Try watching the YouTube gameplay videos of Dotstream.

Ok. Well they are colored lines. It's not an original concept. I'm watching the video now, but I don't see a color aspect.

No one called Flywrench a Cave Story rip-off yet, so you're safe.

Haha, yeah. Man, Dotstream looks like the dullest game ever conceived.


Blogger TGOC3 said at 12/08/2007 01:00:00 PM:  
A hell of a man you have right here. Loved your silly game Flywrench, and Punishment 1 was very good too (I never beat it though :-0). Haven't got around to playing Punishment 2 yet though. Your Bool games were great. Seeeeeeeeeeeeeee ya later.
Blogger kirkjerk said at 12/08/2007 03:07:00 PM:  
(This is kind of a repost, just 'cause I'm not sure if anyone'd see it on the old post)

For no particular reason other than a bit of annoyance at the difficulty of this game
(actually I got through, because I think for some reason my home computer was playing it a bit below speed) and because I actually like "flap" mechanics (see: Joust, and Balloon Flight), I made a parody mashup of this game: Flywrench meets my own JoustPong in the thrill-a-minute world of: flywrenchpong
(You can also play it online.)

It also features a homemade electronic soundtrack! (Made by slowing down and "wa-wa'ing" an Atari 2600 Supercharger .wav)

I think if I died tomorrow, the # of people who "get" the joke because of familiarity with both indy game flywrench and atari homebrew joustpong would go down by about 33%.
Blogger messhof said at 12/08/2007 04:00:00 PM:  
kirkjerk-- that was amazing.
Blogger TGOC3 said at 12/08/2007 08:27:00 PM:  
Great job Kirkjerk. A++++++++++++++++++-
Blogger Stwelin said at 12/09/2007 08:37:00 AM:  
Bit of a stretch to enter this into the winter competition, don't you think, messhof?

Perhaps i'll paint a snowflake on the side of my shootemup and submit it as well! ( <= if you're thick, that was sarcasm! )
Blogger Paul Eres said at 12/09/2007 09:39:00 AM:  
Yeah -- Flywrench is one of the best indie games of the year but I really hope it doesn't win the winter contest, because a lot of people created games specifically for it that are winter-themed. I mean, we could have entered Fedora Spade 3 into it too, but didn't. But I feel YoYo should also have had a general contest open to any game to avoid things like this.
Blogger messhof said at 12/09/2007 01:39:00 PM:  
I felt like the theme of the contest was purposefully pretty broad, and was more for getting people inspired to make something. I made Flywrench during the contest's timeframe and gave it a story that I thought worked with the idea of winter. Yeah, like stwelin said, if you slap a snowflake onto a game and call it winter themed it seems pretty cheap, but look at the top games in the contest now. Does the winter theme really make up the core of any of them? Would garden gnome challenge not work if it used lemming sprites instead of elves and gnomes?
Blogger Paul Eres said at 12/09/2007 01:59:00 PM:  
Hmmm -- if you created it for the contest I guess that's different. My impression was that you had been working on it awhile before the contest was announced, so if that's a mistaken impression then never mind, I take back what I said.

I don't think a game has to have much to do with winter pretty deeply, but it at least should have winter in it, somewhere, or be set in winter, or something like that. It doesn't have to be in the core, but I think the idea was for it to be at least observably present.
Blogger messhof said at 12/09/2007 02:38:00 PM:  
I didn't make it specifically for the contest, but I started it after the contest was announced and the contest was a large motivation for me to finish it.
Anonymous Koji said at 12/09/2007 06:25:00 PM:  
Just chiming in to say that you guys are asses for saying that us at Select Button claimed that Flywrench is a rip-off of Dotstream. All it takes is one read-through to see that no one did. Also, Dotstream is a fantastic game. As is Flywrench. Maybe that and the black background are the only similarities.
Anonymous Kon-Tiki said at 12/10/2007 08:06:00 AM:  
Don't forget to ask them the question of all questions:
"How many months has it been since you last changed your underwear?"
That's all everybody wants to know in any interview with anybody.