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Interview: Jesse Venbrux (Karoshi)

JANUARY 11, 2008


Jesse Venbrux had recently won YoYo Games Winter competition with his entry Frozzd (direct download link), and was richer by USD 1,000 in the process. In this interview, we attempt to find out if it's true that he attends the same school as the students involved in the development of the upcoming Wii release, de Blob (IGF 2006 Student Showcase Winner).


Hi Jesse, let's begin with a little introduction of yourself.

Well, I'm Jesse Venbrux, 20 years old, and a student of Game Design & Development from the Netherlands. I have been making 2D games for a few years now.


Congratulations on your YoYo Games Winter competition win. Has YoYo Games contacted you about the prize yet?

Thanks! Yeah, they asked if a check was ok, haha.


Can you tell us a bit about Frozzd (the winning entry for YoYo Games Winter competition), for those who had not played it yet.

In Frozzd you play as an astronaut, jumping from planet to planet much like in Mario Galaxy. You help free the Mubblies (the cute orange creatures) who follow you and attack enemies. You guide them, make strategic decisions and explore the different levels...


How long did it take you to create Frozzd? Were there any inspirations?

It took me about 4 or 5 weeks to make the game, 2 of which were needed for the engine. I don't know exactly where I get my inspiration all the time but for this game it was obviously Mario Galaxy.


Did you expect to win the YoYo Games Winter competition at all? How did you rate your chances before the results were announced?

I was sure I had a very good chance of winning, since Frozzd received good ratings and in my opinion is just very original and pick-up and play. But I had no idea who exactly were going to judge the games so I was still a little nervous.


How did the name Frozzd came about? And are you going to make a specific website for it? (e.g. www.frozzd.com)

The name Frozzd is weird, and came about when I was in the train. I was writing down words, and wanted to have something original. At first I tried things like "Frozen Galaxy" which explain the game but are dull. "Frozzd" comes from the word "frost".

I don't plan on making a special website for just one game, but I recently finished my personal site: http://www.venbrux.com


Is it true that you're studying in the same school as the students who made de Blob? Have you met them?

Haha, you make it sound like that's a rumor going around. That is true, and the main programmer of the game is a teacher and teached me some C++.


Made any plans on how to use the prize money from your win?

I don't really have an idea yet. I may either buy a PS3, which I was planning to do this year (mostly for Little Big Planet), but I may also save it and use it in the summer for a trip.


Are you participating in the next YoYo Games competition as well? While we're at it, how about IGF 2009?

Depending on the theme of the competition I may very well join. As for the IGF, I'm still looking for someone to work with, and unsure whether I will do that at all.

It does sound very interesting, but I would want it (the game) to be very good before I submit something to the IGF.


Any favorites (games) from the recent YoYo Games Winter competition?

Good question. I really like Garden Gnome Carnage, so I'm glad it got second place. The controls are simple yet very challenging because you don't have direct control. You control a gnome on a bungee cord after all..


What was the best and worst comments you've received for Frozzd so far?

I'm not sure, most comments have been very positive. Many people complain that the ending is anti-climactic, which I agree with. I should've put more time in it, but when you work on a game so hard for a few days straight you just want to finish it already. Of course, because of the deadline I didn't have enough time to put in everything I had in mind.


What are your favorite indie games? Played anything lately?

I've tried some GM games through YoYo Games and would like to try Everyday Shooter, but I don't play much games as of late.


Are you developing anything new at the moment? How much of it is already done? Do you have a date for your next release? And are you working on a sequel to Frozzd? Can you provide us a screenshot or two from your upcoming project?

Haha. A sequel to Frozzd. I may do something with that but it won't be anything big. I have a couple of ideas for games "lying around", and one idea which is kind of far along. I can't say when my next game will finish, I never can. And I would love to provide a screenshot but it would reveal the gameplay. That is especially true in the case of the game I'm working on.


Alright, in general - what do you think of the YoYo Games web site, and their 'play now' feature?

I think it's great. You can quickly and easily try out new games. I was a little wary of it, and didn't want to install anything but now I use it all the time.


Anything negative to say about them at all?

No not really. The site is a bit slow however, and the way they handle comments isn't very useful.


Since you have some experience in C++, are you going to stick with Game Maker for the next five or ten years?

Ha, I may have learned some things but I'm very inexperienced. In fact, I think programming is a barrier for your creativity (though at the same time a limitation can make you focus). I like Game Maker because you can quickly prototype ideas and make any 2D game you want.


Are you planning to pursue a career in game development? Freeware or commercial?

I would like to work at a small studio and be able to do anything I want. I think the market for downloadable games (on consoles) will grow and hopefully I can do something with that.



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UBM TechWeb (producer of Game Developer magazine, Gamasutra.com, and the Game Developers Conference) established the Independent Games Festival in 1998 to encourage innovation in game development and to recognize the best independent game developers.

The competition, now in its 13th year, awarded a total of nearly $50,000 in prizes to deserving indie creators in Main Competition and Student Competition categories at the IGF Awards Ceremony, held in March 2010 at the Moscone Center, San Francisco, CA, as one of the highlights of the Game Developers Conference.

The Independent Games Festival will return in March 2011 at GDC in San Francisco - look for more information soon. [More information...]

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UBM TechWeb (which curates the IGF and runs GDC) plans to continue and grow the Independent Games Summit in subsequent years. [More information...]