In Conversation with Victor Agren :: The Developer Behind My Friend Pedro

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The gaming industry has almost tripled its value since its inception. We’re in a new golden age of gaming where hundreds and thousands of games are released every day for several platforms. Quite a few of these include indie titles produced by smaller studios or even a bunch of dedicated people working together. Or maybe they are projects of development by only one guy! My Friend Pedro is one such title. This year, during Devolver Digital’s E3 conference, My Friend Pedro made a decent appearance, immediately becoming a topic of discussion among the Indiannoob staff.

I happened to stumble upon Victor Agren, the sole developer behind My Friend Pedro, by chance in a Facebook group of indie game developers. The following is an Indian Noob exclusive interview, granted by Victor on our request.


EXCERPTS


. We had heard (and seen) a lot of My Friend Pedro before it got showcased during the Devolver E3 2018 conference. However, knowing the game doesn’t mean we know the awesome people who actually helped make it! Before we start discussing My Friend Pedro, give our readers a brief insight into the developer behind it.

Sure thing! So, I’m Victor Agren, the solo developer on the game-game. I do everything apart from the music and Nintendo Switch port. The music is made by a few different artists (confirmed artists so far are Navie D, Battlejuice and Nounverber).

Q. What would you say served as the inspiration to My Friend Pedro across all entertainment media?

The main seed of inspiration I would say mainly came from The Matrix films, which sparked my interest for slow motion acrobatic action. Later followed up by the Max Payne games and the film Equilibrium. Then things sort of organically grew in their own directions from there as time went along.

Q. When I first saw the gameplay, it was on the indie developers group. I must say, since the first time I saw it, I was pretty impressed with the physics of the game. What actually went into making the physics behind the game, and how much randomness does it incorporate in every run?

I’m making the game in the Unity game engine, using it’s physics engine. However, I do spend quite a bit of time working ‘against’ the physics in order to keep things controllable. When it comes to the main character, most of that is driven by some weird very specific procedural animation system I made. It’s nothing too fancy when you look at the code. In fact, it’s quite horrendous, but it gets the job done. In terms of randomness, anything you need to interact with is meant to be as predictable as possible so that you can truly master the game and plan your moves as accurate as possible.

Q. Considering the limited time people have for entertainment in general, and video games in particular, replayability isn’t a thing many developers consider very carefully while designing games. How would you rate the replayability of My Friend Pedro?

For the players who care about getting the highest rating on a level, or speed running, I think there will be plenty of reasons to replay My Friend Pedro. But even beyond that, after your first playthrough of the game you will have mastered a lot of the aspects of the game, which will make it feel fresh and entertaining to go back to earlier levels again, just to feel like a bad-ass. That said, I’m personally totally fine with people just playing through the game once and moving on to any other game (or piece of entertainment) since there are so much good stuff out there waiting to be played!

Q. Besides the physics, the “slowing down time” mechanic is an interesting addition. How do you plan to find the correct balance such that the mechanic is interesting, yet it does not make the game too easy to play?

My intention with this game is not to make it a super punishing experience. The main focus is more on giving the player the opportunity to feel bad-ass and masterful. Although the slow down mechanic allows for putting more action on the screen at once and still giving the player a chance to process it all. There is also a harder difficulty level which requires the player to really master things like dodging bullets and flipping through the air.

Q. Tell us all about the “banana”!

The banana is your friend Pedro. He’s there to look out for you and to motivate you to obliterate any baddies that might cross your path.

Q. We have seen a lot of action from the trailers, and come to the conclusion that the protagonist is ready to go to any lengths to punish the bad guys. What exactly is the motivation for his actions?

The banana told him to do it.

Q. Encouraging different play styles is something which gives more power to the player while playing the game while improving the gameplay experience. Two distinct play styles include going in guns blazin’, and going in stealthily using cover. Does My Friend Pedro encourage different playstyles, or it does It stick to one particular iconic playstyle?

I try to motivate the player to jump in with the guns blazin’ approach. In some scenarios, you can play more cautiously too, but I’m not sure why you would though.

Q. In today’s gaming industry, making it big as a small developer is quite difficult, considering a large number of people trying to do the same thing. What sort of hurdles did you face while developing the game?

An interesting aspect of making this game is having to think more about the commercial aspect. Previously I’ve only done free Flash games on my own, which doesn’t require any real marketing efforts. You just put them out on the big websites and if the game is good it spreads to loads of websites and the game sort of markets itself. But making a game you plan to sell to players is quite different and requires plenty of effort put into communicating what makes your game exciting and worth their hard earned cash. That’s why I’ve focused so heavily on sharing GIFs for a long time on as many platforms I can. And it was through this the game got discovered by Devolver Digital, and they’re brilliant at making sure your game reaches it’s audience. I recently showed the game at E3 and just got back from Gamescom and PAX, and I couldn’t be happier with the response the game has gotten. It feels good to know the game I’ve been working on for close to four years will have an audience once it’s released.

Q. Lastly, leave a few encouraging words of wisdom for some of our younger, passionate and ambitious readers, who may feel the same way you did at their age.

Start small. If you’ve got a project in mind you think is small, make it smaller. Finish that, put it out there. Then make something new, still small. Figure out your process before scaling it up to a bigger project. Finishing a game is different from making 20 prototypes. I started with making small Flash games on my own, just for fun. I later started working at a studio (luckily enough Media Molecule) which I am eternally grateful for. I stayed there for six years, learning invaluable lessons that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Plus it also allowed me to save up some money that came in real handy when I left to go solo.

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