We’re lucky enough to have some talented, interesting people in our happy valley, and the Valley Nerd Watch wants to introduce you to as many of them as possible.
That’s starting today, with an interview of local video-game developer and artist Jesse Bemben of Pioneer Valley Games!
James Olchowski: So first of all, why start your own studio instead of getting into the industry?
Jesse Bemben: That’s mostly because… even if I were offered to work with EA or Blizzard or something I wouldn’t do it. I spend a lot of time watching online lectures and stuff, I recently finished a lecture series by Warren Spector, and he had a bunch of people come in and talk for hours at a time, Richard Garriot and a bunch of others.
Hearing people talk about it just completely turns me off of working in the industry. The reason I’m working independently is because I want to make my story. It’s selfish but I think most people want to tell their story. If you work for a company, you’re never going to make your story. You’re always going to be working on someone else’s idea. And some people might like that but… I just am not interested. It’s also an extremely tumultuous industry.
JO: So do you do this for a day job?
JB: I actually do graphics, I’m working for a guy who does mobile games. So I put a contracted amount of hours into that each week based on my own schedule. I wake up whenever I want and work the hours that work for me. Everything else is just working on my own projects.
JO: Is there a reason you chose to make your company Pioneer Valley Games? Why you chose to specifically highlight the area?
JB: No, I mean I’m from the area and I love the area and it started in the area… so it seemed natural to me.
JO: The Valley has really built up a community of craft and artisans, have you found that it’s a good community for something digital?
JB: I haven’t had a huge amount of interaction with artists in the community. I only know a few to be honest, many of them in this building [Eastworks] itself, and one of the people I worked with was an artist, but that’s pretty much the extent of it. I think I found it more inspirational when I was a writer, actually.
You could go up to the mountain and sit down and write and it was awesome. Digital work is a bit different, I spend a lot of time hanging out at my house with my dog, I’m not connected to many people face-to-face.
JO: Interesting. Part of the reason I started the Nerd Watch, and something I’ve found as I’ve spoken to people, is that if people in the same area are doing something similar and it’s amenable to the internet you just don’t meet each other.
JB: Yeah, I’d say this area has a lot of… real artists I guess. Sculptors, painters, and they’re great and there’s just a difference between the physical and the digital mediums and how they interact.
JO: So did you get this position in part or in whole because of the Pioneer Valley Games work that you’ve been doing, and the RPG Maker assets you have for sale on Steam?
JB: Yeah, he saw that I had some stuff for sale on Steam and got in touch with me.
JO: Have you had a lot of success selling asset packs on Steam?
JB: Enough success that I don’t need a job so *laughs*, yeah.
JO: Do you think that the 3D-rendered models you’ve made [link] have something to do with your success? They don’t look much like other RPG Maker stuff.
JB: Yeah, when I started doing this about two and a half years ago there was only one additional pack that you could buy. RPG Maker came with a base set of very cartoony looking graphics. Then, they released another completely different set that was just graphics, from someone just in the community, not on staff. When I saw that I figured well if this person can do it why can’t other people do it?
So I sent a message to one of their staff asking if they’d be interested in selling something if I made something. The 3D rendering stuff I had was the fastest to work with at the time, and I was into experimenting with it so that’s where I wound up making most of the assets. And for whatever reason, no one else has been really making RPG Maker stuff in that style.