Wordy Fun with Jim Crawford, creator of Frog Fractions
A relatively short time ago within the galaxy I reside in, a person named Jim Crawford released a free-to-play browser game called Frog Fractions. We actually had a D-Ported video by Alex Weiss about it. When I completed the remarkable game/fractions aid for myself, I decided that I simply must interview its creator. So I did. Here is that interview.
Eric Bailey (the interviewer, Editor-In-Chief of 1MoreCastle.com): Okay, first, I have to ask: Is The Jig Up? Is Frog Fractions 2 out there somewhere, or about to be? I have seen one or two games coming to Steam that made me say to myself, “This is totally Frog Fractions 2, I can see it.”
Jim Crawford (the interviewee, fractions professor): It’s getting to the point where I should really stop answering this question, but for now I will go ahead and say no, FF2 is not out yet.
Bailey: Seriously though, in a newfound era of Kickstarter fatigue, your fundraising effort for FF2 was a great success back in April. From your vantage point, do you have any particular insights to offer people who may be considering their own crowdfunding ventures in the future?
Crawford: My situation was so bizarrely specific that I’m not sure lessons I personally learned will help anybody. In general, do your research. People have written a ton about what makes a successful Kickstarter, and you should start reading their advice before you start planning.
Running a competent Kickstarter is basically a full-time job, and not just while it’s actually running. If you’re not putting in that sort of time investment for a couple months before you flip the switch, you’re not taking it seriously enough.
Bailey: For the record, I agree so strongly with that last part and wish more people realized it. Also — Some of our readers may not know who you are. I think, most importantly, you are quite the boxing aficionado and expert on the sport’s more-humble beginnings. I was curious: Were those first pugilists allowed to bring a book to the bouts?
Crawford: Only if they were going to read aloud from it.
Bailey: Ha, gotcha. But really, who the heck are you?
Crawford: They asked me for an author bio when I gave a talk at GDC, and I spent a bunch of time on it, so it seems like a waste to not keep using it:
“Jim Crawford has been making video games for over twenty years, but nobody noticed until he moved to the Bay Area and started making friends with game journalists. Since making Frog Fractions, he’s told day jobs to screw off and is riding the making games train until the conductor realizes that he forgot to buy a ticket.”
Bailey: The original Frog Fractions game is… brilliant, high-quality, and remarkable, for many reasons. Although I risk spoiling the experience for newcomes somewhat, I have to say, I have never seen those genres blended together so well — an economic simulator text adventure vertically scrolling shoot-’em-up educational tower defense fighting game. Great stuff. What specific classic games served as your influences? I see parts of Ecco the Dolphin, some Missile Command…
Crawford: Off of the top of my head, here are a bunch of direct influences, roughly in playthrough order: Missile Command, Panzer Dragoon, typing games in general, Bangai-O, Gradius, Banjo Kazooie, adventure games in general, Metroid, Dear Esther, Dance Dance Revolution, Lemonade Stand.
(This is not to say that I actually liked all these games, or even necessarily *played* them.)
Bailey: How long have you been playing video games, and which are/were your favorites?
Crawford: I’ve got video game memories dating to back when I started forming memories, so … hm. You know how when you’re four or five years old your brain structure changes such that you lose all your life event memories and have to start over? It’d be super interesting if that happened like once a decade. You’d keep all your skills and probably your senses of the relationships you have with other people, but all the specific events, gone.
Wait, what was the question again? Oh, favorite video games. Um, Super Mario 64, Deus Ex, Ico, The Legend of Zelda, Rock Band.
Bailey: I like old video games, and I appreciate the ways that Frog Fractions skewers many of the classic tropes and idiosyncrasies of titles we have enjoyed for decades. Can we expect the same form of critical treatment from its sequel, perhaps winking at modern traits and trends as well? I look forward to its commentary on the military FPS genre and mobile freemium models, of course.
Crawford: Dude, spoilers!(Also, I already had a tiny jab at Freemium stuff in the first game. Since I’m proud of it and everyone probably missed it, I’ll reproduce it here: “To purchase MIRV tongue, insert a twenty dollar bill into your CD-ROM drive.” Hee hee.)
Bailey: What is your favorite color?
Crawford: I decided long ago that it was red, though this has zero bearing on the colors I actually choose in my life, and as such I haven’t reexamined this question in decades. Yeah, red.
Bailey: Assuming that Frog Fractions 2 is a smashing success, can we expect more entries in the series? Will Frog Fractions 4: The Fractioning be a thing? Or are there other projects even more dear to your heart you hope to pursue? Is this a case of give the people want they want vs. do what I really want to do? Is this too many questions at once? Is this beginning to feel more like an interrogation?
Crawford: Given that “Frog Fractions 2” was just the name given to the idea in people’s minds, and the actual product will be called something else, I’m not sure how to think about this. Ask future-Jim.
Bailey: Jim (I can call you Jim?), you are obviously a super-talented, hard-working dude with a creative mind and attention to detail. What advice would you give to anyone who wants to break into game development?
Crawford: There’s never been a better time to just start making games. Twine, Unity, Game Maker, Puzzlescript, the tools are super accessible. The Golden Age is now.
Get good at that, and also make friends with other game developers. This means talking to them online, going to meetups, attending game jams.
Once you’ve demonstrated that you can make worthwhile games to a bunch of friends who are also making games, that’s where you can start thinking about reasonably trying to make money doing it.
Thanks for your time, Jim. And your games.