Martin Grider has been making video games since 2006. He is an organizer for the IGDA Twin Cities chapter, and writes about mobile game development and game design on his blog at http://chesstris.com/.
To meet Martin and learn more about his work in person, be sure to stop by the upcoming Minneapolis/St. Paul Mini Maker Faire at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds Grandstand on June 3rd, 2017.
Talk about the beginnings of Abstract Puzzle. What inspired you to begin this endeavor?
I had been making games for a few years, since at least 2006, when I quit my day job in 2012 to do freelance (contract) iOS development. Some of that contract development was making games, but I also decided to take making games as a business more seriously at the same time. I created the Abstract Puzzle LLC, and used it for both purposes. It was actually like starting two businesses at once, but I didn't look at it that way at the time.
Have you always been creative? Do you remember the first game you created?
I have always made games, for sure! I do think of computer programming as a creative endeavor, and that's what I spend the majority of my time doing. The "coming up with an idea for a game" part is really a minor part of the effort, and the majority of my game designs are combinations of other games I think are fun. I like to imagine mashing up Tetris and Chess, or other board games with other video games. Often when I get into the details of how such a mashup might work, it really starts to become something totally unique.
In terms of living and making in Minnesota, do you feel connected to this place?
Yes. I'm from here. It's definitely the most connected I feel to any place. But I also don't feel like my games are particularly "from here" or "of here". I like to imagine they are timeless (placeless?) or hold some kind of universal appeal, but that may be wishful thinking. Certainly we are all influenced by our environments in ways that are entirely subconscious.
Do you have some insight into game development in the Twin Cities? What can you say about it?
Game development here is incredibly fractured and multifaceted. I help run the local chapter of the International Game Developer's Association (http://igdatc.org/), and when I first started attending the group in 2007, it was definitely the only place I knew of to connect with other game developers. But then I may have just not been as connected then as I am now. It certainly feels like the game development "scene" has grown since that time, but it may just be that the group has grown in that time, and that's my only metric. We have very little game development activity in comparison with larger hubs like San Francisco, Boston, LA, New York, or even Toronto or Montreal.
What is your mission with Abstract Puzzle?
My mission has always been to make games that I want to play. Those tend to be "puzzling" or "thinking" games, (my website says "unique, thought-provoking games"). Secondary missions are to release my games on as many platforms as possible, and to make a living in software development on my own terms.
What do you see for the future of your business?
I have intentionally been doing as many Virtual Reality projects as possible in the last year or so. I think we are going to see more and more adoption of the technology and hardware it requires in the coming years. I have yet to release a VR project on my own, but Puzzle Prison isn't too far off from that goal. I have some other VR ideas I'd also like to release in the near-future, specifically for the HTC Vive.
What do you find fulfilling in making unique, thought-provoking games?
I place inherent value in thinking in new ways and analytical problem solving. I believe these are skills that you can improve with practice, and that have direct impact on your ability to thrive in our complex society. I try and make games that exercise your ability to think. This can be a tough market, because almost nobody wants to be playing games to practice a skill or feel like they are learning something, but it's where I like to imagine I'm operating.
Have you participated in MSP Mini Maker Faire before? What will you be sharing there on June 3rd?
I've only visited the faire as a spectator once previously, and I knew within minutes that I'd like to be more involved in the future. I'll have three things on my table: 1. A VR headset (or two) showing my game Puzzle Prison, which is a puzzle game where the game is all around you. 2. a prototype board game I'm calling Eigenstate, and 3. An iPad (or two) loaded up with a bunch of my iOS games on it.
Can you talk about your latest VR puzzle game, Puzzle Prison?
Puzzle Prison is at its heart a block-breaking game. You simply select a group of 3 or more blocks of the same color, and they are removed from the gameboard. There are blocks falling from the ceiling, and if they pile up too high, the game is over. The key difficulty lies in the fact that the game is played in 360-degrees all around the player. You have to constantly rotate your body to make sure you're not missing something that's happening behind you. It also features a unique soundtrack by local electronic dance musician DR00. It's had a pretty positive reception so far, and I can't wait to put it in the various app stores. (This will be my first Abstract Puzzle release with both an iOS and Android version.)