Wyvern Interactive Interview: Jonathan Wine and David Dollard (pt. 3)

This story is a direct continuation of the last interview. We got into a bit of a side conversation about games we were currently playing through as well as catching up on our personal lives before coming together and getting back to business, asking the questions that people who have approached me have been wanting to hear.

 

NERISSA: Specifically, because Aiòn is the project that’s coming up the soonest, tell me more about that project.
GarthDAVID: Let me reset…We found out through Garth that we really liked making these quick and easy games to make- quick as in they’re not these big, bodacious projects.
PAUSE: A little bit of context before we continue. The game that David just referred to is a project that a few of our team members made a while back called “Garth Who Grapples”. It’s a very indie-PC sort of game and it was initially made as a class project, but the game play mechanics are so interesting and the feel reminds me of a more tech-type megaman game, that we’re planning on making it a full release in a few years. AND UNPAUSE.
DAVID: Every game takes longer than expected because the idea is that you want to push it further. I got the idea for Aiòn one day and said to myself, “You know, I play a lot of these fast-paced, visceral games and it’d be fun to make something like that. And it’s probably not too difficult to make. I bet it’s feasible.” So I talked to a couple of our engineers and asked if it would be feasible to do this and they said it was absolutely feasible to do. My intent behind it was A. To make a fun game that I myself would enjoy and B. To get the team working on something that is…Is…
JONATHAN: That is feasible.
DAVID: Yeah!
How many times can we fit feasible into a conversation before we realize what we just did? Answer: 4.
JONATHAN: And one thing that’s great is that it’s a complete game. Not just a trailer or a snapshot of what we could be later on. I was really happy when he came and brought this idea to me because the thing about this is that with the size we are now, we can do this. It’s so important, because that’s another way we balance each other out- he comes in with a new idea-
DAVID: Ehren is pointing to me, by the way-
As soon as Jonathan started talking about “new ideas”, Ehren’s hand flew up to point at David. We all know each other well enough that we can tease each other a bit and since David is one of the people regularly bringing ideas to the table, Ehren knew exactly what direction the conversation was about to take.
JONATHAN: And he says, “Hey!” Because I will always be the one to stand up on a soapbox and say “GUYS, WE ARE GONNA DO THIS!” And everyone cheers! And then they all go home.

IMG_9864
If there had been a caricature artist, I would have loved to see them sketch this out really quickly as he talked. Jonathan is much moreso the big picture kind of guy and with David’s more level headed ideas, they build each other up while still managing to keep things scheduled out and under control.
JONATHAN: So it was great when David brought this idea because he was not only saying, “It’s fun and hits these demographics and these mechanics we’re trying to go for, but we can give this to the team.” I was actually just talking to a bunch of the team and they were saying, “We can see this being made, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s close.” And when we put this thing out in, what, I’d imagine a couple months…?
DAVID: A couple months, yeah.
JONATHAN: Once we have this out, I can almost guarantee you there is going to be a fervor in this studio, because it will not just be something we’re talking about anymore. It’s like, “One down. Let’s do this.” That’s going to be an incredible achievement and starting landmark for us.
I can absolutely agree with this. I know several of us have talked in the past about it, but having that first release under our belts…that is absolutely going to be something to be proud of. No matter what artistic field you are pursuing, it’s one thing to say a writer. It’s another to show someone, “I wrote this pretty cool series. You may have heard of it. It’s called Harry Potter.” I think the same thing applies for any artist. If an actor finally has a video of their work, if an artist finally gets their work into a gallery, if a musician releases an EP, it’s something concrete that they have as evidence of their quality and drive to put themselves out there. Having a game on my phone that our company made, then being able to show it to people and say, “I work on this team. Wyvern made this.” I know that for everyone on the team, that is going to be a huge badge of honor.
DAVID: It’s just about timing. We’re at the point where we’ve got into a groove, with these people who are all more than willing to work together on projects and separately when we can. There’s obviously things we’re still ironing out, but everyone’s come together and has been really excited about the game. We’ve seen multiple builds come out, poster art, and it’s fun to really see this team make progress. It’s very low stress.
Sidenote: If you want to see some of this art, the games page of our website has a little teaser description as well as the wallpaper art a little lower on this post. It’s actually the wallpaper on my laptop, too.
JONATHAN: Everybody who is on the team has this dream of their own that they’re working towards. I mean, I had a dream and that’s how Wyvern came to be. Everyone always has those things that they’re always working toward, but to actually be able to take a little chunk out of the covering of it and see what’s glowing behind that cover is unreal. And every time we work on this and get closer to that release, it’s going to hit that this isn’t just talk anymore. It’s not just a couple of students who got together and after they graduated went separate ways…This is plausible. That’s what I think Aiòn has done for us and represents to all of us in the end. I don’t think it’s something we’re going to look back and be able to say, “We got game of the year for Aiòn,” but it’s our start and it’ll be important for us and a great mobile, fun game.
DAVID: It’s the type of game that, by dumb luck, could catch on.
JONATHAN: Even if we get 100 downloads and they’re from our aunts and uncles who said, “We knew you could do it!” (in his best little old lady voice, which was hilarious to hear, might I add), we’ll still be able to say to each other, “Guys, we got one. Now, let’s do it again.” I’ve said for years now, “I always want to be Naughty Dog, but we have to keep the mentality of Rovio at the start. We’ll probably put 49 games out until something profitable comes out of it.” But we’ll keep taking it step by step. If this is step one and we have a whole team of people in there who are dedicated and excited, blasting music, and as soon as we’re done with this they’ll keep working on the next project with us…That’s great. That puts us in a fantastic position for a starting company.

Aion Background
NERISSA: Specifically, for the game play and story of Aiòn, what is Aiòn about? Or can you disclose that yet?
DAVID: Yeah, we can say some stuff. Aiòn is a fast paced, endless runner where you navigate through obstacles and last as long as you can. The main goal of the game is to stay alive. We have plans for multiplayer where you and your friends will play the same level and whoever lasts the longest will win. There is a bit of story that is incorporated into it and it’s a reward-based story where you unlock panels of the story the longer you survive. It’s a simple but fun structure and we’re trying to use it to establish this mood as you play it, like dot wave or super hexagon where your palms are shaking and you don’t know why they’re shaking to this simple game, but it’s because it’s fast and requires a lot of adaptive skill and quick reaction times. You’ll die a lot, it’ll be frustrating, I guarantee it, but people will keep playing it because the more they play, the better they get and the more seconds they clock in. It’s…It’s about torture, really.
All of us absolutely lost it. Jonathan couldn’t stop laughing for a solid minute and I was giggling ridiculously hard while clapping my hands together like a beached seal. When I finally regained my composure, the first game I thought about just as far as frustration levels was the impossible game, which you basically figure out and get better at by dying thousands of times.
NERISSA: Sounds like a trial by death game, honestly.
DAVID: Exactly. I’m the kind of guy that likes to wake up in the morning and play games that make me hate myself so the rest of the day seems easier and I just want to share that with the world.
Cue side splitting laughter that hurt so much that I was sent into a coughing fit and everyone else was dying too, in one way or another.
NERISSA: That quote needs to go on all of our posters. “A game that makes you hate yourself! I just want to share that with people!”
JONATHAN: Put that right next to the quote, “Dark Souls is easy.”
If you haven’t played Dark Souls, you cannot possibly imagine the level of frustration we’re talking about. If you have played Dark Souls, this joke will probably resonate all too well with you. This hit me in the way that an all-too-real joke hits. First, it’s insanely funny. Then, it sets in how tragically accurate the statement is, which either just makes you depressed or even more angry.
DAVID: I also would like people to be excited when they play this game.
NERISSA: After they get over hating themselves?
DAVID: Exactly. We have Brian Thacker, who we mentioned before, is our own personal Beethoven and he’s doing the score and soundtrack for the levels and it’s this very techno-ey vibe that I just want to get people really hyped so they go, “Man, the music was fun! The game was cool! The lights were going! That was fast! Let’s do it again! I got energy now, my adrenaline is pumping…That’s a good game. I’m gonna tell my friend about it.”
I will say that I have one of the early builds on my phone and Brian’s music constantly gets stuck in my head after I play the game.
JONATHAN: It’s also great because there’s a difference with our people between priority and passion. The priority has to be the same across the board, to make a fantastic game. The passion, however, can be individualized from person to person. My passion is always putting in a great story. That’s what I fight for. David’s passion is making sure that the art is phenomenal. Brian’s passion is writing really good music. Ehren’s passion is making sure that no Team members die in the development process.
NERISSA: That’s a good passion to have!
EHREN: You say it’s my passion, I say it’s become my responsibility.
DAVID: His passion is to shave out the BS.
JONATHAN: Aiòn is a great shout out for each person to show their colors and through this game, say “We are here.”
When I first conducted this interview, I was still relatively new to the team, getting to know everyone, treading lightly, and excited about being a part, but still feeling somewhat like an outsider. You know the feeling when you start a job that you’ve always wanted, but feel under qualified for? It was that feeling. In the beginning, I was nervous that I would get booted at some point when they realized that I didn’t know anything about actually making games.
Now, I have become more deeply engrained into the lifeblood of the team than I could have possibly imagined. I designed our website which is now live, I’m working on writing the script for one of our upcoming games as well as assembling a team for it, I’m helping Jonathan with writing the games he is the lead on, I’ve taken over a majority of the duties as far as social media presence are concerned, and I am very proud to say that over the past few months, in order to more fully understand what goes into the work of making a game so I can help contribute more later on down the line, I have started learning about Python coding by sitting in on classes over the weekends and following along as well as using a bunch of my spare time going through unity tutorials and experimenting with a small Bamboo tablet I have in photoshop to get better at digital art (I still don’t fully have the hang of it, but I’m getting a little bit better). I have begun understanding more and more of what it takes to be a part of this insane digitally driven world and I am very proud to say that I fully intend to drive the rest of my career with the work I do here at Wyvern. As Jonathan said, all of us has a dream we’re pursuing through Wyvern. I love performing, directing, and writing, and my dream that I fully intend to push for through this company has become to write and perform in the games we make down the line.
This concludes the three part interview with our Creative Director and Artistic Team Lead! Check here for more interviews, blog posts, photos, and updates on the work we’re doing.
-Jonathan Wine, David Dollard, Ehren Burns, and Nerissa Hart, Wyvern Interactive LLC.

Written by Nerissa Hart

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