Interview Published: 03/18/2016
Timothy Courtney interviews Jarrad Woods known as Farbs, an indie game developer who worked on Card Hunter and made games like Polychromatic Funk Monkey, ROM CHECK FAIL, Fishie Fishie, Captain Forever, and Captain Jameson.
Timothy Courtney: Hi Farbs. Thank you for taking time to answer my questions. Where did you grow up and how do you think it influenced you?
Jarrad Woods - Farbs: I grew up in the Northern Territory of Australia, which boasts higher beer consumption and deaths-by-crocodile than anywhere else in the world. I never felt I belonged there, and it doesn't feel like it belongs with the rest of Australia. That's probably why themes of solitude and isolation creep into my work.
What are some of your most fond memories coming up?
During the wet season we would ride storm water as it flowed through open cut drains. Thinking back, that was probably a bit stupid.
Did you like school very much? What were your favorite subjects and topics to learn about?
I loved school, especially mathematics and physics. I liked that an answer was either correct or incorrect. Unfortunately that's quite rare in the real world.
You worked on Bioshock, Card Hunter, Captain Forever. How involved were you on Bioshock? What was a typical day like for you at Irrational Games?
My credit on Bioshock was for being in the same room as people who worked on Bioshock. Irrational had a very generous approach to credits. Most days I would come in and work on a prototype for the X-COM license, and wonder when management would radically shift direction and scrap all my work. This happened many times. The people were lovely though.
At what age did you start learning to program? What attracted you to it?
I would have been about 6. Back then you could just switch on a computer and type a single line of code to write a program, so it was very easy to get started. It intersected maths and videogames, so was a very obvious fit for me.
Who do you think influenced you or supported your passion when you were a baby programmer? How did you learn?
I think the thing that helped me most was limited access. I could only make games on weekends, so I would spend weekdays reading manuals and planning the games I was going to make. I mostly learned through manuals and magazines, then university, then working in studios.
When you left Irrational Games, I think they had renamed it to 2k Australia, and you actually quit via a video game. That's kind of dramatic and kind of awesome. I like the originality, where did that idea come from? Had you been contemplating ways to leave for a while?
At the time there were a lot of articles touting indie games as a form of expression, and I hate writing so I wanted to express my goodbye to the team in some other way. I had planned to leave for a few months, but the message was more spontaneous.
Looking back, do you think you'd do it all over again, quitting via a video game?
Maybe, yeah. I'd probably put more thought into it though, since quitting via video game isn't particularly interesting anymore.
Did you come from a big family or anything? Did you have siblings, and what kind of things were you interested in back then?
I have four sisters, and for a while I also had two step brothers. I don't think my step brothers ever met my younger sisters, but we have all been obsessed with various video games throughout the years.
In the future, do you think there will be more coders with a rock star status like 'Notch' has attained? Don't you think programmers could use that and maybe deserve more spotlight?
I'd prefer that each game was judged on the work itself, rather than who created it. Of course, that's easier to say now that my own star has faded a bit.
I know programming languages sometimes get chosen depending on the project, but what is your favorite general programming language? Do you have a favorite language for web development too?
Rom Check Fail seems like it may have started as a mod experiment. What was going on when you made that? Did you just want to have fun or was it a game you always intended to release and maybe based on nostalgic mechanics / retro mash up?
I made ROM CHECK FAIL as an entry to the TIGSource VGNG competition. I was supposed to make a game using a title from a Video Game Name Generator, but made a Video Game Generator instead. The idea came from thoughts about remixing as a form of content generation, which I was pondering after grinding out all the levels for Fishie Fishie.
Do you find when you're coding, you find this magical zone like a pitcher who's been pitching a no-hitter for 6 or 7 innings, and you're just doing some incredible stuff?
Yep. I find this happens when I know what I'm doing and how to do it. But often I don't.
It seems inevitable that VR gaming, once prices become more affordable, will be a big thing? Do you agree or is it just a fad or a lot of hype?
I want VR to succeed, but I can't imagine enough people strapping goggles to their faces for entertainment. AR will take off when businesses realize they can shrink desks by supplying glasses instead of monitors.
How much fun was it working on Card Hunter? Could you tell it was going to be so well-received when you were working on it, and what role did you play in its development?
Work is always work, but hanging out with the Card Hunter community has been fantastic. Since Jon Chey runs the project I knew it would be well received, because that's just what he does. Mostly I wrote gameplay code, was a sounding board for Jon, and sent Jon rambling 3am diatribes about whatever part of the design had kept me awake.
What's your favorite movie?
My favourite movie is Top Enders. My sister played a lead role, but is embarrassed by it now. Hi Benny!
Do you have plans or anything for any more developmental tools like Pycap?
No, other people are doing a much better job of this than I ever did. I occasionally create tools for rapid development, like a wordpress plugin that lets you code a game as a blog post, but they're just for my own use.
Are you superstitious, and if so, can you give me some examples?
My only superstition is that I believe I am lucky. I mean, I'm incredibly privileged by global standards so of course I'm lucky, but I believe my luck is ongoing. I also believe that this is ridiculous, but that believing it makes me happy so hey why not.
How can people follow you and your work?
💘 Interview by Timothy Courtney
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