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Anti-Geek: Interviewing the Contre Jour Developer Maksym Hryniv

Loie Favre (translation)
1

You've probably already noticed that there are more and more quality and high-grade games for Android. One of these is Contre Jour, a lovingly made puzzle game that has already reached cult status on the iOS platform. This game was also made available for Android a few months ago. We talked with the developer Maksym Hryniv (aka ''Mokus''), which resulted in a fascinating interview about stereotypes, indie developers, future projects and more!


Despite his success, Mokus has stayed true to the Ukrainian city Lemberg by living and working there.

Brain and puzzle game fans definitely have Contre Jour in their vocabulary. The game was originally published for iOAS and was quickly celebrated by critics and fans alike. During the E3 Game Conference (Electronic Entertainment Expo), it was even select as the best iPad game for 2011. I would describe the game creator, Ukrainian Maksym Hryniv, as being anti-geek. His work ethic is: ''if you want something done well, then do it yourself.'' You won't catch him spending the whole day in front of the computer with a huge bottle of Coke and a super-sized bag of chips. Maksym doesn't fulfil the stereotypical image of a programmer. Instead you'll catch him travelling a lot and taking part in sports (he even teaches breakdancing!).

We were able to talk to him about the evolution of his game Contre Jour and the future of mobile gaming.

Thanks for having taken time for us. Let's get right to the first question: The iOS version of Contre Jour appeared as early as 2011. How come it took so long to transfer the game to Android?

We work as a small team. I collaborate with the artist Andrey Shvryrev. He's a brilliant guy! He taught himself how to draw. I'm responsible for the technical aspect and Gameplay and sometimes share my opinion about his artistic work. Had I began with the Android transferring in the beginning, I'm sure we would've been done significantly faster. However, I hired a third developer and simply lost track of time. I eventually completed the work myself. But I promise that future games will appear simultaneously for Android, iOAS and Windows Phone.

Do you already have plans for future games?

At the moment I'm working on a brand-new game. It's going to be a unique multi-player strategy compellation. Every strategy round is a music piece that the players will have to ''compose''. The music changes with every version. We want to create something original and new: a game that stimulates as many human senses as possible.

What can you tell us about transferring Contre Jour to the Android platform? Were there any particular problems?

It actually wasn't that difficult. There were of course a few problems that were caused by the Android fragmentation, but it wasn't anything tragic like we feared at the beginning. Tests performed on various Android devices wasn't too bad either. That's my job. I even enjoy breaking through barriers. Every platform has its advantages and disadvantages.


Thanks to Contre Jour, the developer Maksym Hryniv scored a big hit.

I heard that you developed the new version of Contre Jour completely by yourself, without any outside help. Is this true?

Yes and no. An artist worked on it for about a month. I myself spent seven months working on the development. It's always amusing to read reports about bigger game studios, like Ubisoft for example. They like bragging that they merely had five people working on one game during their early stages. I always think: ''what could we have achieved, if we had had all of those people!?''


Contre Jour is a very popular iOS game that excited many Android fans after its transfer to this system.

Working alone has many advantages, but it's certainly also difficult to remain impartial. Were you ever afraid that the ''normal'' player wouldn't be able to find their way around Contre Jour and because of this, it would disappear into the abyss of apps?

Everyone told me that it would become a niche game, but I sold much more than I had anticipated. Sometimes when I look at my own game, I ask myself ''how did I ever manage that?!'' That doesn’t' mean though that from now on I will only develop sequels. The deal for this game is closed. Contre Jour was an experiment with graphics (the graphic style was at that time very unusual). My next title will take the form of another experiment, above all with music.

Do you have a secret recipe for the perfect game? You once said ''Gameplay is everything.''

That's true, however every game is a mosaic comprised of many different parts. Every piece must fit with the other parts. Gameplay is the fundamental aspect that allows the creation of a good game. A game might have a good idea, excellent music, graphics and stories, but without a good gameplay, no one will want to buy it. And vice versa: if you only have an outstanding gameplay, the game will find some followers. However it is certainly better, if the rest fits too. All the elements complement each other.

One more question: Mobile games are often criticized for inconvenient steering. Do you think that they are still disadvantaged in comparison with Console or PC titles?

Console games have been around for a long time, unlike those belonging to the mobile sector, which have only gained popularity through the efficiency of smartphones and tablets. Now some well-known titles are being transferred with virtually no adaptation with standard gameplay. This is certainly not ideal for the player. We should explore new possibilities that touchscreens offers us. New interactive possibilities for the player need to be discovered. This would allow for us to develop a new way to play that would otherwise never have existed. We need to seize the chance and move away from the established schemes. There are way to many successful series that in the last 20 years have virtually stayed the same and still apply a traditional gameplay to the mobile sector too. Developers should really take all aspects into consideration, from the size of the device to the control elements, from the duration to the way it's used.


In Contre Jour you have to reach the level exit (the blue light in the bottom left corner)

What can you tell us about the future of mobile games? How long will the gaming boom last?

To tell you the truth, we haven't even reached the peak. It actually isn't a boom. There are still so many users in the mobile sector who would rather take care of things on to the go. People have switched from the desktop computer to the notebook and now they are moving to tablets and smartphones. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Let's not forgot the new possibilities arising from digital distribution! Gamers can completely digitally download new titles and can use the same account on many devices.

In contrast, the console industry is still banking on the classic chain of distribution. But when you scratch a game DVD, you've pretty much thrown the actual console title price of 50 to 60 Euros out the window. But all of that is changing: We have new users with totally different needs and new distribution channels. It's my opinion that the biggest changes are still to come. In one or two years we will know more.

I too am a part of these changes. Five years ago I never would've been able to do the work I do today.

Thank you very much for the Interview. We are already looking forward to your new game!

You're very welcome. It was nice chatting with you!