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Interview: Robert Lupinek (The Cleaner)

MAY 7, 2008

What follows is an informal chat with darthlupi, a respected indie developer in the Game Maker build your own game community - with releases such as Raging Skies, The Cleaner, Airdoo and Winter's Heart under his belt.

He also finished first in the Retro Remakes Competition (2004 edition) with his entry, Legend of Shadow - we talk to him about his releases and thoughts on the indie scene.

Hi lupi, can you introduce yourself for the benefit of our readers?

Sure. My name is Robert Lupinek. I've been making freeware video games for the last 4 or 5 years for the pure pleasure of it.

Hmmm, I like to drink dark beer and I think that ninjas do beat pirates.

Do you develop games full-time? Or supplement your hobby with a day job?

Ok first off - I work full-time during the day as a UNIX/Oracle admin. And I hate to think of game making as just a hobby - you know? Even if I have to do something else to feed the family, I hope to be able to support myself fully with game making someday. That is if I can get the art down right.

What do you do to relax?

I go camping. That is how I chill. I like to run and go camping with my wife and take pictures of nature. And I love, love, love to snorkel. If anyone wants a super happy snorkeling buddy give me a call!

Any recollections of the first game you've made?

Of course. It was called Hell Stalker! It was coded in QBasic. It was never completed because I foolishly didn't believe in backing up my hard drive. The first game anyone played was called SpoonPage. That game was so silly and awful and fun.

Game Maker

What persuaded you to use Game Maker?

Oh man, that question could piss a lot of people off. But simply put, there is so much contention over the quality of development when using a "toolset". I started using Game Maker basically because it is so damned accessible.

How long did it take to make your last game?

My last game took me probably 6 months of real development time, amounting to 2 years of indie time.

Really? You mean it took you six months to create Winter's Heart for YoYo Games' winter compo?

Oh crap, I forgot about that game. No no no...

Haha... or do you mean, you'd rather forget about that one?

Winter's Heart took me about the full time which I think was three months. Yeah I would rather forget about them all to be honest with you. I don't feel like I have made a game yet, or specifically, THE game. The game I want to make... do you know what I mean?

What's the closest thing to THE game you want to make? Is that what you're developing now?

It is always what I am working on. It's like trying to paint a painting - you have to really, really work to get what is in your head onto the canvas. It's not just talent, it's all friggin' hard work and lots of practice. So I never really will make the game I want to make. I will only get close and have fun trying? That sounds way too artsy.

OK, you've obviously made many games over the years. Which of these do you consider your best works?

Raging Skies, The Cleaner, Airdoo and Winter's Heart. I do like those games quite a bit. Which one did you like to play?

All your games are pretty good actually. I have a hard time picking a favorite.

You crazy brother. Mage Craft and The Cleaner were nutty badly programmed...

People seemed to like The Cleaner a lot - there were plenty of good parts in it. I think The Cleaner could have been your epic game.

Right, see that is what I mean. I can't stay consistent with these long winded titles. It was supposed to be THE game, but in the end it turned out to be REALLY crappily done in places and fantastic in others.

What I feel about my games, is that I really haven't got it yet. And that is what Winter's Heart taught me. I mean that it is OK to not be there yet...

Well, you're still a respected figure in the Game Maker community. And for all the right reasons.

Bah, not to brag on myself I think I can touch the nerve of the imagination and almost make the game people REALLY want to play when they are looking for a free game.

Out of all the games you've made, which is your favorite?

Hmmmm... Raging Skies. That is my favorite game that I have made. I just really had little idea of what I was doing when I made it, but it came out so naturally. You see I think there are things that exist in your subconscious that need to be made to make you happy.

third attempt at Sword Fighter Zero

YoYo Games

Will you be participating in any future competitions organized by YoYo Games?

Probably not. Not until I learn how to make games for EVERYONE. And I am not really good at that. I tried entering the first contest with an assumed name to make sure that it wasn't just my name attached to the game (that seems to matter on the internet for some reason) which prompted others to download or rate Winter's Heart. And I didn't do that good... didn't even get mentioned. So my sad little ego was hurt. And then I realised that it wasn't because I am a bad developer or the game wasn't good. I am just not really thinking about target audiences and stuff like that. Does that make sense?

Makes perfect sense to me.

There seems to be this whole marketability push for games now? I don't know. I was brought up on Faxandu, Crystalis, Guardian Legend and Mega Man. Games with meat to 'em, they had to have a backbone.

Bionic Commando on the NES is the best game ever. Well, I say that because it scared the crap out me when Hitler's head popped off from a bazooka blast.

What do you think of the Game Maker scene in the last few months, especially after the YoYo Games acquisition?

Man, YoYo Games. That is kinda scary and cool at the same time. I love it that kids like me (I am 30) can post our games in a place where the world can play, and Iove it that the creator of Game Maker can start making real money too. I am always apprehensive when there is suddenly a board of directors and investors though! Those guys scare the poo out of me!

Yeah, I love the Game Maker scene. Simply love it. I think it bothers some people that the masses can now make games. Especially the tech heads. Game making is going to become a much less exclusive sport.

Played any good games lately? Any Game Maker games which impressed you in recent months?

YES. I love the Poppenkast crew. That is the future. The people who experiment in a hive fashion and are able to create demos in hours instead of weeks. Recently I played Ad Nauseam 2 and was very, very impressed.

What web sites do you visit?

I go to about three websites. I like going to Poppenkast recently. And a bunch of boring places like and tomshardwareguide and art sites and

FORM 2 of Sword Fighter ZeroHow about

Is that real!

No, I made that up.

Oh man, you never know! And really I do check out YoYo Games, and the occasional Flash site.

Haha... really? YoYo Games?


You're kidding me, right?

Oh, they suck. Yes, most Game Maker games suck. It is true. BUT most games suck. It is just a matter of numbers - more games means more crappy games. The ratio is the same with slow produced games versus rapid development tools. Make sure you put that in. :)

I'll try. Anyway, what are your thoughts about art games? And will you ever make an art game?

Art games, hahahha... art game eh? Well, I like artistic games BUT... yeah to pick on art games. :)

Some of the first games that were strange and bizzare and artistic did come from the Game Maker community. Of the recent batch of crap populating the internet, they were basically poorly written games by people who had access to a tool to create them. I friggin' hate art games.

Well, let me put it this way. Psychonauts had some great artistic bits. Amazingly deep and meaningful parts that actually made you think. Oh yeah, Psychonauts rocked. OK... MOST of the game was tossed together, but not the gameplay mechanic! And the art direction, lovely.

How long did you take to finish Psychonauts?

About five days. The last level took me two days to complete. My point is that game had those artsy bits, but they were surrounded by a great game.

sword swinging (Sword Fighter Zero)

The Cleaner

Can you reveal some of the cheats for your games? I know there's a couple for The Cleaner.

Nooo... I don't remember them. That is what sucks. They are there! Like for The Cleaner there are a ton, but my brain doesn't store stuff like that. BUT I do remember up up down down left right left right b a select start.

Inspiration for The Cleaner?

Yes! FlapFlapFlap. And Booloid. Those games are amazing to me!! I wanted The Cleaner to be like FlapFlapFlap. I like some very strange games, and I wanted to make something with simple shapes and little color.

For the intros and stuff, I am so jealous of Messhof. That guy is my favorite. We have started on several collaborative efforts, and I really enjoy working with him. See, I want to work with messhof, cactus, jph, cosmind, and cly5m. Doing anything. That is my dream job. It would be fun to cut the grass with them.

You know what would rock my socks? Each of the names you've mentioned above coming up with one level for the same game. But messhof's level must be the last, simply because he has a tendency to make his games extremely difficult.

Yeah, I tried to do something like that in the EO community (little self egrandised community of do nothing lay abouts). Did you get to play the fake Cleaner?


Messhof made it. It wasn't the game, it was just a mockery of my game and intro stuff. Oh man, yeah that is cool. Apparently people thinks I am famous or something, which I think is silly.

Well, you are. I bet you can't think of ten developers who are really good with Game Maker, and not include your name in it.

You're on. OK, here we gooo... messhof, cactus, pug fugly, jazzuo (Sexy Hiking, Sexy Hands 2), cly5m... that is what, five? 2d cube... JW is good! Mr. Chubigans... crap, I can do this -

Did I say ten? I actually meant twenty.

Haha... OK, in the Game Maker world maybe. But that is the baby game world. We are not REALLY respected members of the development community, you know?

I don't even know what a friggin' pixel shader is, never mind what to do with it. And you can quote me on that. I am this and only this buddy, a toymaker. I make toys for people to play with.

underwater boss fight (Sword Fighter Zero)


Why hadn't you updated your site in ages?

I am REALLY busy. If I can make time to work on my site it is spent working on games. An updated site means I am not working on 5 or six things at once in the background, which is bad.

How many games are you actively working on now?

Probably 3 real games, 4 if you count experiments.

There was mention of a collaboration between you and cly5m (Velella). What's the status of that? When was the last time the both of you worked on it, and what's the progress percentage?

We last worked on Velella about 6 months ago. We are probably -90% done in another dimension?

Has the project been abandoned then?

Nope, Velella has not been abandoned. I don't think we can, the game is too damn fun to abandon.

What does Velella actually means?

Sailor by the wind. It is also a name of a jelly fish. :)

Do you think Velella will come out first? or Avaus?

Avaus! Avaus is going to rock.

When can we expect the next game from you?

I have pledged to cly5m that I would finish Sword Fighter Zero in a month and a half so we could start on Velella in a serious fashion. This interview more taxing than I thought! My wife seldom lets me ramble about video games...

Did you name your kids Link and Zelda?

Haha... no, it would probably be Atreyu and Artax from The Never Ending Story. I mean just sitting on the front porch, going "ARTAX! ARTEYU!!"

If you can collaborate with anyone, who would it be? Besides cly5m, of course...

Why can't it be cly5m. :( This guy may be an unknown indie, but his virtual name is Cosmind. People will know the name soon enough. He is about to release a serious dirty bomb on our asses with Glum Busters. Great guy, and one of my best buds.

second level boss (Sword Fighter Zero)

Sword Fighter Zero

What games are you playing now?

Nothing. I am seriously trying to finish Sword Fighter. Last game I tried to get into was Half-Life 2. I like Flash games and little games like the Game Maker games because I can do it in my time limit. I still play Katamari and Shadow of the Colossus sometimes, as gay as that is. And I have ICO tattooed on my penis because I am so indie.

Really? ICO on your penis? Are you sure you're not jerking me around?

Oh, no. It just seems like you are supposed to say you love that game and own every copy of Rez. I played it for five minutes and turned it off... put that in your interview.

Right. How long have you been working on Sword Fighter Zero?

It has been in development as the game it is now for about six months. To get to that state it has taken two and a half years, sadly. :(

Why has Sword Fighter Zero been in development for such a long time?

Well, the game started to become more and more like every platform sword adventure that ever existed. I spent so much development time trying to force it into being (which was the same mistake I made with The Cleaner), that I lost sight of making it fun. I then called my nephew for some advice (who was eleven at the time).

After a long pow wow with him we came up with a cool idea to build off of. The game opens up with two boys playing soccer and out of the sky falls a shooting star. One of the boys wishes to be the most powerful person in the universe, and BAM! He is transformed into Fak-Argle, terror of the universe! Fak-Argle's kin (who have been waiting for his rebirth) are on the scene in seconds to pick up the long lost patriarch, but little do they know that their terrible leader is indeed a young boy!

So the other little boy (my nephew) wishes to save his brother and the star whisks him off to save the day! Gives him a sword and grappling hook... to cut a long story short, my goal for the game is to make something of an exploration game that is very, very straight forward. I wanted to concentrate more on the action and adventure!

I'd love to see how you make those cutscenes.

Haha, it's fun to do! The text isn't that long, I hate text in games. Unless the text is for a text game.

How close are you to releasing the game?

The game is 80% done. I have finally figured out how to develop. Sword Fighter Zero is only a temporary name of course. Would you like to see some screenies?

Only if it's for everyone else to see. No special privileges for me.

Man, I will show them the source if they want it. I really am just making stuff for people to play. That is another mistake I make. I always post the damn editable stuff, so people can see how bad I program!

Will Sword Fighter Zero be released as freeware?

Oh yeah - probably the next couple of games too. What I was thinking was a subscription to all of my games for like a year, for a low price of like 10 bucks or something. ONE day in the future...

cutscene (Sword Fighter Zero)

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