Over the years, Bart Bonte of Bonte Games has stood out as one of our favorite developers, and for good reason! Not only are his games super-adorable and infinitely playable (and replayable!), but they are perfectly identifiable as well. You know a Bonte Game when you see one, and you know you are in for a treat. Bart’s humor and care shine through loud and clear.
Bart was gracious enough to answer some questions for us about his game-designing life. Enjoy!
How did you get into designing games?
My first game dates from 2005. I was a frequent visitor of sites like Jayisgames and Lazylaces who featured a lot of point and click games and I wanted to make one of those ‘escape the room’ myself.
I was a daytime Java developer at that time but I had no experience in Flash so I decided to learn Flash and made “the Bonte room”.
I really enjoyed the experience and the game got a warm welcome. There wasn’t much of a publishing strategy behind my first games, I made them in my spare time and I just wanted people to enjoy them. Only later I figured out I could make a living out of game making.
You give us so many free games–do you make any or all of your living from making games, or do you make games for love or art or fun?
I went full-time indie four years ago and I make a living out of my games.
It’s possible to give away my browser games for free thanks to ads in and around the games. My mobile games are paid and there’s also a lot of work the public does not see: I sell special versions of my games with the branding of clients and fully customised versions of my games with completely new graphics.
But I always make the games I would love to play and that I feel like making at that moment: at times something very casual like “factory balls”, at other times something with a more arty feel like “off to work we go”.
The browser is my playgarden where I can try out new things reasonably fast. For the paid mobile games I put a lot of effort into bringing something that feels like it was designed for mobile; that means completely reworking the games from the ground up, with more levels and higher definition graphics.
What’s the hardest part of game design? What do you enjoy the most about it?
The hardest part is probably finding enough and interesting levels for a game without repetition. Ideally you don’t want to repeat variations on a certain level, but in every level introduce new elements or new ways to interpret the rules of the game.
I mostly enjoy the initial creation proces, the blank canvas and the creation of something new. That’s why I enjoy participation in game jams with a theme or with restrictions, it usually results in things I would never have tried otherwise.
Your artwork is very distinctive, we always know a Bonte game when we see one. Are you a graphic designer or artist outside of games?
No I’m not a graphic designer, I learned everything by practice. Maybe the fact that all my graphics are vector based and not pixeled and the abstract nature of my puzzle games define that distinct style.
Very often I’m using simple shapes and abstract puzzle logic, but underneath the abstract layer I try to give the game a warm heart.
Where do your ideas come from?
Often the initial idea I have for a game isn’t a game mechanic or a storyline but purely a visual image in my head that I want to use and build a game around.
Like in my latest game “In Drmzzz“ that was an image of worms peeping out of holes in a planet. After that visual image I start looking for gameplay possibilities.
Also I find that restricting myself to use a limited number of elements for one particular game and build a complete game around these elements drives creativity.
What games have inspired you?
In the early days I was enjoying all those classic escape the room games like MOTAS, Crimson Room, Viridian Room. They brought me the appetite to start creating point and click games.
I admire prolific game designer like Yoshio Ishii. Yoshio is a Japanese game designer who started around the same time I started and most known for his Hoshi Saga series. I admire how he’s not afraid to release very small games exploring new ideas or new art styles besides his success series.
Another prolific designer is Mateusz Skutnik who is always expanding his ever growing point and click universe and perfecting his drawing style.
Which of your own games are your favorites?
From my casual games my own favorite is “Sugar, sugar”. I think I captured the fun aspect of a casual game there very well, while on the technical side it has taken a lot of effort to get thousands of sugar particles flow smoothly even on older mobile devices like the iPad 1.
From the arty games my personal favorite is “Off to work we go”. I like how the aesthetics and atmosphere of the game turned out and it was the first time I tried to introduce a real narrative into a game.
But I found it interesting that by keeping things abstract it allowed the player to make up his own story about what was going on. In the end you are spit out by a corporation’s merciless machinations? Or maybe those space invaders are a universal symbol for video games and that orange dotted line through the building is a predefined lineair path you have to follow? Or maybe the game is dealing with ecology in a Soylent Green kind of way? You can decide.
Do you have any new projects we should be watching for?
I often give in to interesting game ideas that come up while working on larger projects, so it’s a bit hard to predict what my next game will be.
I have this drive in me to produce 5 or 6 new games a year now since many years so new games are definitely coming, and following me on twitter is perhaps the best way to find out what’s coming next as I tend to start sharing as soon as I feel one of the things I’m working on is growing into a game.