Multitalented game designer Luke Schneider has been releasing a new title every month on Microsoft's Xbox Live Indie Games channel as part of his Radiangames series.

The independently financed game creator handles all aspects of development, from gameplay implementation and art design to music composition. When it comes to the distinctive look of the games, he says he gets a lot of inspiration from viewing abstract art.

At the Game Developers Conference taking place in San Francisco next month, the game maker will share a panel with Brian Provinciano of Vblank Entertainment, Dajana Dimovska of Copenhagen Game Productions, and Jeff Hull of Nonchalance. Titled "The Next Steps of Indie: Four Perspectives," the Radiangames portion of the session will serve as a brief postmortem, offering full sales numbers and a breakdown of what aspects of prior titles might have been improved upon.

The panel will also cover key points of Radiangames' strategy of monthly releases, centering on strict scope control, reusing code, and finding an overall art style that's distinct but not too time-consuming to create. We caught up with the designer of Radiangames Ballistic, out this week, to hear about the requirements of the studio's prodigious output.

Were you interested in choosing the Xbox Live Indie Games platform because it would allow you control over the content you were self-publishing?

Luke Schneider: Definitely. Being able to create console games with no approval process is definitely one of the big reasons I went with Xbox Live Indie Games. I also knew that with my initial plan of making lots of small, high-quality arcade games, any major approval process would be a significant risk, so XBLIG was one good way to reduce that risk.

What are your impressions of the process of patching a game if there's a bug that needs to be addressed?

It's straightforward, but it's slow. You have to wait a week from the time the game was first published, and there's a peer review process that takes at least two days to get through. Once you do get it approved, I've had problems with the update going live.

For Inferno and Fireball's updates, there's been a timeframe where you could not actually buy the game because of the update. In the case of Crossfire 2, I've actually done two updates because I accidentally turned off online scoreboards. Because of that, the game's scoreboards didn't update for about 13 days. The fix was made in a day, but the waiting period and approval process mean it was more than just a blip.

How would you rate the peer review system?

Overall it works, but there are a few details that bother me. After you put in a review, if you find something that would have failed the review, you can't then go back and change your review. You have to contact the creator of the game to tell them about it. For my purposes it's worked pretty well because I've gotten to the point where people review my games quickly.


Radiangames Inferno

Are you feeling confident at this time about the reception of the Radiangames series now that you are looking to expand to PC and iOS devices?

I think the reception is fairly consistent. Unless I do something that's a little more appealing to a broad audience, I don't see sales numbers greatly expanding. Based on the progression that I saw over the release of the first three games, I would have expected Crossfire 2 to do better, but the brand may be maxed out a little. Crossfire lends itself better both to the PC and iOS platforms, and I have plenty of other ideas for games that would work better on the iOS devices. I don't really like twin stick shooters on the iOS devices, so I'm not starting with those.

You've also been taking advantage of online services. Has posting the soundtracks for streaming online helped interest audiophiles in the game series?

That may be the case for a small part of the audience. It's kind of a hidden feature for people who really like the game. A lot of people have mentioned the music to Inferno. That was one where I promoted the soundtrack pretty heavily. With Fluid, I changed the style up quite a bit, and one response I got was that it didn't "sound like a Radiangames game." It's funny because another reviewer of Inferno (the game previous to Fluid) commented that all my soundtracks sounded the same... so you can't please everyone.

What software are you using for sound design?

I use a program called Stomper for all the sound effects. For music I've been using Reason, although the next game in the series [Radiangames Ballistic] will be using ReBirth.

Have you been developing your skill set (the coding, art design, music composition) in previous work, or did you have to pick anything up in transitioning to independent development?

The area where I had to grow the most was the programming side. I'd done some programming before and actually majored in computer science, but I wasn't a really good programmer.

Do you prefer for there to be an established style that is recognizable from title to title? For instance there appears to be a resemblance between the various game covers.

Aside from shared code for loading and saving and online scoreboards, covers are one area where I get some help. My brother has provided three of those along with feedback on the others. He gets my style but also pushes me to do more with it. The art style for Fireball was inspired by laundry detergent boxes. But not showing the gameplay on the cover was a bit of a mistake because people have no idea what Fireball is until they play it, and even then they might not get that it's inspired by Geometry Wars 2's Pacifism Mode.

Overall, I use the same process for the art on the games, and the shaders on Fireball, Fluid, and Inferno (as well as Ballistic and Crossfire 2) all came from the same core idea. I've heard some people say I need to branch out more and do more pixel art, but I've also had really good comments about my games being distinct.

How do you go about developing a gameplay system for games? Do you start there, or is it more determined by the other elements of the design?

I usually start with a general idea of what I want to do. With Crossfire I knew I wanted a Space Invaders-type game where you could flip the top and bottom. For the art style, I wanted there to be no circles. I'd already used a lot of circles in JoyJoy and my wife had sort of been making fun of me for that.


Radiangames Ballistic

You're responsible for creating all of the design elements of your games and also getting the word out. Is it a challenge to be handling both development and promotion of the Radiangames series by yourself?

It can be. At the same time, I'm not running into problems with there being too much promotion to do. I try to do interviews whenever I can, but people don't want to hear from me that frequently. I focus on it when I release a game. G4 featured Fluid for one of its segments and the sales jumped as a consequence. Getting onto Kotaku for Inferno was helpful.

Attention from large websites is the most helpful, but it's not something that I have a lot of control over. I try to make the best games I can and hope that people cover them. I have to say I do feel fortunate that sites like IndieGames.com, DIYGamer, GamerBytes and GameSetWatch have been consistently covering my games.

Radiangames Crossfire 2 was a part of a grassroots promotion called the Indie Games Winter Uprising, organized by the developers themselves. The promotion was selected by Microsoft to appear on the Xbox Live Dashboard. Has it been beneficial for introducing Crossfire 2 to a broader audience?

I'd have to say: not yet. The initial download numbers for the first few days were not as good as for either Inferno or Fluid, even though those games were released on their own and not part of any promotion. Inferno has had the highest conversion rate and it's also the highest rated. It's easier for more people to get into than the other games so far.

Microsoft's dashboard promotion of the Winter Uprising did help some, as that caused Crossfire 2's download numbers to approximately triple during the seven days the promotion was running. Overall I was hoping for a more dramatic effect from the Uprising, but I was happy to be part of it and would definitely do it again if the timing makes sense for a future game.

This article is also available in Italian on Gamesource.it. To find out more about Radiangames, visit the official website.