Developer Interview Series: Clariz Mariano and Meloy Taa

In this interview we chat with Clariz Mariano and Meloy Taa, two of the key Game Designers that worked on our latest release – Antique Road Trip: American Dreamin’. 
1. What do you exactly do for Boomzap?

Clariz: In a nutshell, I add data to the game, help the artists add their artworks to the build, and talk to the programmers so they could tame the data to behave as expected.

Meloy: I try to make sure that these quests guide the players without being demanding, and I also balance the quest objectives so they aren’t too hard or boring.
2. What made Boomzap decide to go into developing free to play games?

Clariz: It started with an opportunity from Big Fish Games (BFG) to develop a free to play game. At first, we were reluctant towards the F2P method. But at the same time, we also felt the need to respond to the gaming market where In-App-Purchases (IAPs) have become the norm.

Meloy: The video game industry is always changing, and we need to adapt constantly. Boomzap has been making Hidden Object Puzzle Adventures (HOPAs) for a long time and F2P is a bit outside our comfort zone, but when Big Fish Games decided to work on a F2P with us we decided to take this opportunity to grow.

3. Antique Road Trip American Dreamin’ is a new type of game style since it is ‘free to play’ – What were some of the challenges you encountered while working on this type of game?

Clariz: Our main challenge has always been, how to keep the game entertaining for the players since it’s not a traditional game where there is just one story line to follow.  It took us awhile, but I think we created game loops, value propositions, and long/medium/short goals that would keep our players engaged.

Meloy: Most of our experience has come from creating HOPAs. We had to change our mindset when it came to how Antique Road Trip: American Dreamin’ should be designed, because F2Ps are on the opposite spectrum as HOPAs. For example, HOPAs are linear e.g. they present the player with a list of goals they need to achieve to get from point A to point B. On the other hand, F2Ps should encourage different modes of play so that players don’t get bored and keep coming back to the game. To use an analogy, adjusting from HOPA to F2P is like being a sprint runner preparing to run a marathon.
4. What are your favorite parts/features about Antique Road Trip: American Dreamin’ and why?

Clariz: I have a lot of favorites, actually. I like building my town and customizing it to funny themes. I also like completing all collections because I have completist tendencies.

Meloy: I know this sounds cliche, but I really, really like the Hidden Object (HO) scenes. They’re very colorful and pleasant and is actually very relaxing to play. I can just lose myself in those scenes all afternoon!

5. What course/degree did you take up in College? Did you always want to become a Game Designer?

Clariz: I studied Information Technology in St. Scholastica’s College. I didn’t really know what profession I wanted, but I wanted a job that uses creativity and logic.

Meloy: I graduated with a BS in Computer Science. As an avid gamer, of course there has always been a part of me that wanted to be involved in game development. In fact, that’s the reason why I took Computer Science in the first place! But in general, I just really want to help create things that will make people happy.
6. Which games have most influenced you as a game developer?

Clariz: Actually, I didn’t grow up thinking that I would one day be a game developer. But, my brother and I were exposed to computers and games at an early age. We used floppy disks and MS-Dos to play a racing game, a Mickey Mouse adventures game, Wolfenstein, and a text-based dungeon game in an antiquated Windows machine. When we got a Nintendo, we spent hours playing Mario and Duck Hunt with fond memories of having to blow into the cartridges and rebooting the machine to make it work. When we got Sega Genesis, we spent hours playing Sonic the Hedgehog, Lion King, Street Fighter and Mortal Combat. When we had a Play Station, we’d spend nights playing Final Fantasy 7 (FF7), Front Mission 3, Metal Gear Solid, Tomb Raider, and Tomba.
I’ll never forgot the day when Aeris died in FF7. I didn’t realize then that story and music could engage and make players care so much. When I had to study in Manila while living in Cavite, I spent so much time commuting, and so I used mobile games to entertain me (Snakes and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time).  I was not a good reader when I was in grade school, but games made me care about the story. And as there are words I do not understand, I would often look them up in a dictionary. I learned about social classes from RPGs, and about World War I and II from Red Alert.
I guess, the thing that stuck to me is that, games can expand your world. And I’d like to make games that would expand my players worlds too.

Meloy: I played tons of F2P games to help me design the quests of ART: AD. There is not really any specific games that influences me, but I do want to make as many different types of games as possible so I can try out lots of different things from all the games I like.
7. What do you think are the necessary skills for doing game design well? What do you have to say to those who are asipiring to be game designers?

Clariz: I got this from Iris Lim, who said she got it from Chris Natsuume, who got it from Bruce Lee, who probably got it from the Tao Te Ching:
“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”

Meloy: Creativity is important, but the ability to work on a team is essential. Unless you are going to design, code, and make art for a game all by yourself, you must learn to work with and adapt to other people. You must be willing to listen other people’s ideas, and to try and analyze what makes other games fun to play and learn from it.
8. What do you do in your spare time when you’re not designing games for Boomzap?

Clariz: Recently, I spent 2 weeks in Phuket, Thailand to train Muay Thai with a few other ‘Zappers a.k.a.  the Boomzap Fight Club. My personal goal is to fight in Phuket in 1 year. Aside from that, I go to bookstores and on food trips with my friends/cousins/sister. I’d like to go back to painting mandalas again, and climbing mountains because I’ve stopped, unfortunately. I also enjoy playing Cards Against Humanity with Meloy and the other ‘Zappers, and whoever actually.

Meloy: I play other people’s games! I also enjoy reading, writing, and spending time with my dog. I’m also a frustrated figure skater and skate as much as I can!