Creators Corner: Derelict Fleet

Derelict Fleet Hero Image

Xbox Live Creators Program empowers passionate developers everywhere to share their games with the world. In the Creators Corner series, Xbox Live Creators Program developers will share what inspires and motivates them to design and create their games, what challenges and creative solutions they pursue to bring their games to fruition, and how they leverage Xbox Live capabilities to enhance their games for Xbox. Today, we’ll be chatting with Jason Keiderling about their experience creating and bringing Derelict Fleet to the Xbox audience.

Tell us about your developer journey — what inspired you to start developing games and what continues to motivate you?

I originally had no intentions of becoming a game developer.  I was a hardcore Xbox gamer since the first console came out in 2001.  I loved games that had robust map editors like Far Cry or anything else that would let you be creative and make unique experiences you could share with other players.

A lot of people probably don’t remember this, but when the Xbox Live Indie Games Program (XBLIG) was announced for Xbox 360 it wasn’t called XBLIG, it was called Xbox Live Community Games. It was originally marketed as a program that would let players create their own games. I knew absolutely nothing about game development, but I loved Xbox so I learned XNA and got started making games. I had no intention of making money from it or turning it into a career. Most of my games were small, unique games that I wanted to share with my friends and anyone else who might enjoy them.

Derelict Fleet Screenshot

My fourth game, Conquest, was an online multiplayer strategy game with very unusual and unique gameplay. What I found playing it online is that a small number of really people loved it. The game didn’t have a huge following, but there were enough players that you could find a room open any time you went online. Since it had multiplayer with voice chat, and I played it often myself, I ended up meeting a lot of friends on it. What really got to me was meeting people, even a small number of them, who considered a game I created to be one of their favorite games on a platform like Xbox 360 that already had a ton of great titles.

I released a total of eight games on Xbox 360 while working a full-time day job. I eventually quit that job and opened my studio mainly to make a full-featured, polished version of that game. The original had programmer art and looked like it belonged on a console from the previous generation instead of Xbox; it survived on gameplay alone.

What was the first game you created, and how did that experience contribute to Derelict Fleet?

The first game I made was a video poker game. Since I had no experience at all making games I wanted my first one to be something easy but worthy of publishing. I looked over the Xbox 360 storefront to see what common staple games were absent. There was no video poker game on there so I started with that. That actually turned into a tradition for me. Whenever a new platform launched I would quickly be the first one to get a video poker game on it, including Xbox One.

Derelict Fleet Screenshot

What’s been the most rewarding part of developing and shipping your game in the Creators Program?

The most rewarding thing about shipping a game through the Creator’s Program is being able to get a game back on Xbox after the long hiatus in which it wasn’t possible. I didn’t get started in this industry to make games, I got started specifically to make Xbox games. I do have games on pretty much every other console and platform out there but that wasn’t because I wanted to expand, it’s because I couldn’t publish to Xbox and I had to pay rent.

What’s been the most frustrating roadblock/challenge you’ve faced in developing a game, and how did you solve for it?

Making games is fun and I’m passionate about it, so no matter how much work it is I never consider it hard. You can think of making a game as being comparable to maxing out a character in an MMORPG including getting a full palette of top gear. You’d have to put in an enormous amount of time and work but the whole thing would be fun so you might work on it 16 hours per day for a few months without ever feeling like it was work.

The only tedious part has been dealing with platform holders. The amount of paperwork you need to do and nuanced specifications you need to meet to publish to a platform these days can infuriating. Fortunately the, Xbox Creator’s Program lets you publish a game to Xbox One while avoiding 99.99% of that.

Derelict Fleet Screenshot

Now that the game is available in the Creators Program, what would you/team like to work on next?

I’m not a full-time developer at the moment. I once again have a day job. Since that gives me the freedom to not depend on making games for profit, what I really want to do is return to my roots and make some unique games that I’m very passionate about, even if they don’t have potential to be money makers.

What’s your favorite game, ever, and why?

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Hands down. I love Star Wars and I love RPGs, especially classic Bioware style RPGs. On top of that, everything came together perfectly in that game. It probably would have been the best RPG ever even if it wasn’t set in the Star Wars universe. Add in Star Wars and nothing else even comes close.

If you could be any character in any game, who would you be and what would be the first thing you do?

Well, he’s only been a playable character in a few games, and that’s clearly not where he’s known from, but I would have to say Admiral Ackbar. That was my gamertag since Xbox Live first launched. After all these years of making friends through Xbox Live I think people call me that almost as often as they call me Jason so I definitely feel a connection to the character.

Derelict Fleet Screenshot

On a similar note, my brother has the Conker Squirrel gamertag and it’s all anyone ever calls him. It’s strange how that works, but so many people use each other’s gamertags when they met through Xbox that even people he didn’t meet through Xbox call him that since everyone else does.

I wonder if Larry Hyrb’s friends and family call him Major Nelson?

Who is your game designer hero and why?

This is going to be an unexpected answer. In fact, you might not have even heard of them. There is a studio called Silver Dollar Games that released a ton of games on XBLIG. I don’t know the two guys who comprised that studio personally and I’ve never met them, but I’ve played a lot of their games. Some of their games are hysterical (on purpose) such as Toad Man’s Bizarre Quest. A lot of them are unappealing to me but that’s the point; they didn’t make safe games for the mass market. They made games that they personally liked and each of those games was probably loved by a very small number of people because of it. That’s difficult to do. Players don’t seem to differentiate between a bad game and a good game that’s not for them so you have to endure a lot of criticism if you publish a game that deviates from the norm like that. They took a lot of heat in their time, but they stuck with it and that’s why I consider them heroes.

Thanks so much to Jason for this interview and bringing Derelict Fleet to the Xbox community. Tune in to an exclusive interview and live-stream with Ben and Max on Mixer.com/Xbox on Thursday, May 31 at 3 p.m. PST. 

Check out all the other incredible games in the Microsoft Store or in-console within the Creators Collection and stay tuned to Xbox Wire for monthly posts featuring Creators Program developers from all around the world!