Who are you, and what do you do?
I'm Sam Barlow. I've been making video games for about fifteen years -- as a Lead Designer, Writer and Game Director. I was previously best known for the 2009 Wii game Silent Hill: Shattered Memories or the 1999 text game Aisle, depending on who you spoke to. Last year I released my first independent game, Her Story. The game has done really well -- great reviews, great sales and it won awards at Indiecade, The Golden Joysticks and The Game Awards, amongst others!
What hardware do you use?
Her Story is a low-fi game in many ways, and that's probably true of my development setup too! I made the game in Unity on my MacBook Air. I shot the video on a cheap Sony Handycam and then piped it to a couple of second hand VCR players via a Proxima Direct PC VGA to TV Composite Video RGB Converter. I recorded and copied the footage back and forth a few times to introduce a little generation loss and then sucked it back into the Mac using a VIDBOX for Mac. The video setup was magic -- I lost several hours copying modern movies and games footage over onto VHS and enjoying the weird anachronistic sensation of seeing something from 2015 looking like it existed in the 90s. I felt it would be easier and more authentic to get the 'VHS' look from the real deal, rather than relying on post process effects.
For the game's sound effects I mixed up stuff downloaded from Freesound.org (a fabulous resource!) and bits that I captured myself with a Zoom H1 -- such as the sound of an old desktop PC fan, the key sounds of an ancient keyboard, etc. The Zoom H1 also helped as a productivity aid as I could give it to my kids to go play with and win myself a bit more dev time when I was being a house-husband.
And what software?
As I said, the game was developed in Unity -- which has its quirks, but is probably pound-for-pound the best option for indie game development! The footage was all edited in Final Cut Pro on the Macbook. That's a great piece of software and it sometimes felt like I was bringing a very large hammer to bear on a very small pin.
I had some huge spreadsheets that I used to help balance the game and I switched between Excel, Google Docs and Pages depending on which crashed the most recently -- those spreadsheets were huge. I tracked all my tasks in Trello, which has the advantage of allowing me to check in on my phone and remind myself of all the work left to do at any time of the day, wherever I am.
The script for the game was written in Fade In -- previously I'd used Movie Magic Screenwriter, but going indie I was forced to ask whether it was worth the asking price. Fade In is a slicker piece of software and at a fraction of the price.
What would be your dream setup?
My needs are simple. What I've got, but with more memory and more hard-drive space. (My insistence of trying to dev off my Macbook saw me juggling several external hard-drives, one of which would insist on failing from time to time which helped keep things interesting.) To be honest, my dream setup would be more people -- grabbing a couple of coders to help me out when things get too technical would be worth any number of gadgets! Maybe a better coffee machine too :)