Along with Special Reserve Games recent announcement that a special physical edition pre-order will be opening soon for My Friend Pedro, the publisher has also published a newsletter containing an exclusive interview with the game’s creator.
My Friend Pedro, a somewhat violent action sidescroller, was created by solely by DeadToast Entertainment’s Victor Ågren, a one-man band of an indie developer. On this exclusive interview, the creator talked about the origins of the project as well as the upcoming Special Reserve Games release.
Read on below for the details:
Special Reserve Games: I was playing My Friend Pedro last week and I noticed that you hid your portrait on the wall of Denny’s office! It’s a great little Easter-egg cameo.
Victor Ågren: Ha! Yes. That’s actually more than just ego, it’s a reference to the original Flash game version of My Friend Pedro. The final boss in that earlier game is basically that picture, a big version of me sort of bumps in and fights against the player, who has turned into a butterfly.
SRG: How did that come about?
Victor: The story of why I ended up putting myself into the first game as a boss was that originally I had some picture from some really old, black-and-white commercial, some sort of gentleman fellow that I wanted to be the final boss.
But then I thought maybe there would be some sort of copyright or legal issue with that, so I had to quickly swap it out with something else. I ended up using myself just because that was safe. I knew I wasn’t going to sue myself!
SRG: Are there other details in My Friend Pedro that you’re particularly proud of or just think are neat that maybe people don’t notice as much?
Victor: The faces in the background of Pedro’s world, the ones with big googly eyes. Originally, that was based on my face as well. When I was mucking about in the first year or so of development, the playable character was basically that head, had that face but without the googly eyes.
Later, that model was laying around and I thought it would be funny to put that in the background with googly eyes, since I wanted the Pedro’s World portion of the game to be different from the rest of the levels and look as weird as possible.
SRG: When did you hit on the idea of moving away from that face toward having the character wear a mask?
Victor: That was in connection to signing with Devolver Digital. Before, I wasn’t sure about the scale of the project. I was just sort of making it. I thought it was just going to be a fun little game. But once Devolver was interested, and I started seeing there was more interest from fans online, I felt like this could be something bigger if I put the work in.
I also started to feel like the original design was a bit too generic. I started to feel like I had an opportunity to go all-in on the game and craft a more unique visual style. So, then the character design needed to be cooler and more iconic.
SRG: You spent a long time perfecting this game, and as you note a very different game, an early Flash version, is still available online. What was the key element that moved the game fundamentally toward what it is now from those earlier versions?
Victor: Since the original game was made in Flash and then I moved over to Unity, I remember one of the things that I was really excited about was that I could finally use the right mouse button. That fed into the whole idea of split aim, for example.
That was one of those things I experimented with right away. At first, to split aim you just mirrored the direction you were aiming the other hand. But that wasn’t fun enough, so I tried locking on to where you clicked the right mouse button. And that just felt really good. That was a temporary idea but when I saw people playing the game, I saw that people seem to get it, so I stuck with it.
SRG: After I first tried split aim, I thought, “Why isn’t this in every game?” It really opens up the gameplay a lot, especially in My Friend Pedro where you have such emphasis on doing things in a cool and stylized way. The focus mode of moving in slow-motion plays into that too. How did you hit on the idea of trying to do that?
Victor: That was a core idea, even before the Flash version, always the core feeling I wanted with this whole project. Even before the released Flash version there were a couple of iterations that had spinning in the air and slow motion.
But the original prototype was too messy to play. It was too uncontrollable, and so I scaled it down and made it more traditional, like running left and right. But still trying to incorporate spinning in the air in slow motion. I always wanted that and was so happy to finally get it, that Matrix bullet-time vibe.
SRG: Along those lines, of moving from a prototype to a final version, do you have advice to new developers, people who are just starting with their first games?
Victor: The best advice is to start very, very small. Whenever I learn a new tool or a new engine or something, the first thing I do is make some version of something like Pong. First, you want to learn how to move something on the screen, and read the position of an object and things like that. Start super simple, and keep making super short things and release them. Just keep doing that until you find your process.
You have to find what you’re excited about, and figure out if you could do it on your own or if you need people to work with. And then maybe find those people and make really small projects with them, until you figure out your process as a team.
You want to make sure you are confident in your abilities, not just your final abilities but your ability to learn. You need confidence in the core idea of the project as well. Things can evolve from there. Work from a point where you feel like you have worked through the hurdles on a few small projects before you attempt something bigger I think.
It obviously takes a long time if you’re going to make a bigger, more serious commercial project. There are a lot of costs that you don’t really consider at the start, beyond money, like your soul cost.
SRG: On My Friend Pedro you were basically doing pretty much everything yourself other than the music, working alone, but now this is a massive amount of people who are interested in this game. What has been the weirdest moment in all of that for you?
Victor: When I originally released the trailer and started showing the game on Twitter and things like that, before I signed with Devolver, just having people like Devolver and other publishers coming to me and saying, “Hey, let’s talk.” That was pretty weird. It was a strange mental shift, like, “Wow, okay, I guess maybe this could work.”
Also, somebody got a tattoo with Pedro somewhere on their body. That was pretty weird. And a few other things that just recently happened that I can’t really talk about yet. Just blowing my mind. I don’t know, it’s all pretty weird.
SRG: I guess there’s a pretty high bar for weird when you’ve got a talking banana leading you to murder.
Victor: Life is pretty weird, if you think about it.
SRG: Why is having a physical release important to you?
Victor: First off, it’s just cool to have made something that is worth making a physical copy. I am very excited about that. You spend five years sitting and doing something at the computer, and it’s amazing that people enjoy it and so on, but you still can’t really touch anything so it’s strange and unreal.
Once I have a physical copy it will be easier to understand a bit more what happened! Maybe I will feel like I’m finally finished working on the game. I still haven’t quite had that feeling. I think it’s going to be really cool.