Jun 21, 2013

Posted in Editorial

20 Questions with Carmine Guida

20 Questions with Carmine Guida

by CAPT Michael D. Garcia, USS Gygax

For those of you familiar with the six-player game, Artemis, comes another starship bridge simulator game from a one-man software company in the guise of Mr. Carmine Guida. Inspired by his love of Star Trek and wanting to bridge the gap between multiple platforms, he designed and published a game that was all about friends getting together to play a game. Quintet is the result of his tireless efforts, and after a successfully-funded Kickstarter campaign, he released an Android version of the game and has been busy working on adding additional platforms. No matter what you run (Windows, OS X, iOS, Android, Linux and even through a browser!) you can take part in running a starship during a combat situation.

We reached out to Carmine and asked him to spend some time with us to discuss Quintet, his love of Star Trek, and his development process.

For more information on Quintet:

Quintet is a free-to-play multiplayer computer-based game that supports up to five players working cooperatively, published by AwesomeApps.com. It supports online/Internet functionality and works within a browser window, or a downloadable client on personal computers running Windows, OS X, or Linux, and mobile devices running iOS or Android. Future plans include support for the OUYA television gaming console.

Subspace Communicator Online: Thanks for sitting down with us! We’ll start with our first question: What inspired you to begin work on a project like Quintet?

Carmine Guida: I’ve been a Star Trek fan for a long time. I’ve been going to conventions for about two decades; I got the Christmas tree full of Trek ornaments, etc. I started programming when I was a kid because I wanted to make games. However, I’ve mostly done web backend development for the past 10 years or so. Only within the past couple of years did I get into game development. I’m actually not that great at playing games, and I’m horrible at FPS type games. I do enjoy playing with friends online (even if we’re not particularly good). I’m a super social person, and it’s just a great time to game with other people. I built Quintet with a love of Trek plus wanting to make a game plus wanting to do something that was cooperative.

SCO: What has been the biggest surprise about the development process?

CG: A couple of things. Months ago, I had a bunch of friends (and random office people) test out the game in a conference room. If you’ve ever watched anyone try out something you’ve made…. it will drive you mad. Things that seem obvious to you are really confusing to other people. I did a lot of changes to the UI after this testing. With regards to Kickstarter, what’s surprising (and quite amazing) is that 70% of the funds came from complete strangers! I figured it would mostly come from friends and family. It really shows how amazing the Internet is.

The Captain's console from within the game Quintet.  (Screenshot courtesy of Carmine Guida/Quintet.us)

The Captain’s console from within the game Quintet. (Screenshot courtesy of Carmine Guida/AwesomeApps.com)

SCO: In your opinion, how has Kickstarter changed the game publishing business?

CG: People (like myself) with quirky ideas and dreams can bring that dream to fruition. There is no way a publisher is going to spend money to make a sci fi crew game (well not yet). I think the timing is such (affordable tools + kickstarter) that we are having a renaissance of indie gaming.

SCO: What are your favorite games?

CG: I love run-jump-climb then stab type of games like Assassin’s Creed, Prince of Persia and Batman (Arkham Asylum & Arkham City). I also really like Gears of War (hey, they got a guy named Carmine!).

SCO: How modable is Quintet?

It’s not modable. I have started some work to let people create their own missions. But I don’t have a way for people to load in their own models, sounds, music, etc.

SCO: How might you compare and contrast Quintet with a similar game (Artemis)?

I’ve never played Artemis, so I’m not sure of all the differences. I’ve chatted with people who have played both (and I’ve seen the screenshots, videos, etc.) I think Artemis is really going for a simulator feel while Quintet is more of an action game. Artemis is meant to be played over a LAN where Quintet is played over the Internet with a centralized server. I have some features (that make sense for Internet playing) such as text and voice chat. Quintet also has ships that are for single players, two players, three and 5. I think both games have a lot to offer players. I’m hoping crew/bridge style games become a genre just like FPS and MMO.

SCO: As a longtime Trek fan, which of the Treks is your favorite (TOS, TNG, DS9, JJverse)?

CG: I have Amazon Prime so I re-watched every episode of DS9 recently. It’s definitely my favorite Trek, and it’s not really about the action, it’s more about the dialog between the characters and watching all of these characters grow across the seasons.

Captain Sisko's (Avery Brooks) monologue following the events of "In the Pale Moonlight" is Guida's favorite scene in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  (Video capture: CBS Television, Inc.)

Captain Sisko’s (Avery Brooks) monologue following the events of “In the Pale Moonlight” is Guida’s favorite scene in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. (Video capture: CBS Television, Inc.)

SCO: What is your favorite episode of Trek?

CG: Not sure about favorite episode… but one of my favorite moments/scenes is Sisko’s monologue from “In The Pale Moonlight.”

SCO: You mentioned earlier that you enjoy social games, does that include MMOs like Star Trek Online?

CG: Hah! I meant I’m just really a social butterfly. I talk… a lot. I did play WoW for a while and I tried out Star Trek Online… but I really prefer making games over playing them sometimes.

SCO: Is mod-ability something on the roadmap for Quintet?

Making the game modable would be a ton of work. I don’t have it in the roadmap right now.

SCO: From start to release, how long did it take for you to build and deliver Quintet?

CG: I’ve been working on Quintet for about a year.

SCO: What was the most difficult platform (Windows, iOS, etc) to develop Quintet for?

CG: I’m using Unity3D for development so being multi-platform is easy. Right now I’m working on getting Quintet to work on the OUYA. This is a really difficult task as the game is meant for mouse/touch/keyboard etc. Quintet is very UI heavy and getting all of that to work with a controller (and be intuitive) is an undertaking.

SCO: What is your favorite editor for developing? Favorite text editor?

CG: For my daytime work I use Microsoft Visual Studio and I program in C#. I really feel Microsoft has always had great developer tools. I’m developing Quintet on a Mac using Unity3D. I’m using C# for all of the scripting. On the Mac I use TextMate. It’s great!

SCO: How did you get your start in development?

CG:I had an Apple II+ when I was a kid. I got started with basic back then. I played a game called Wizardry and the Ultima series (loved Ultima IV). Those games inspired me to learn programming to eventually work on games.

What a typical helmsman will see when they carry out their duty in Quintet.  (Screenshot: Carmine Guida/SNAGEN)

What a typical helmsman will see when they carry out their duty in Quintet. (Screenshot: Carmine Guida/AwesomeApps.com)

SCO: What do you see as your next big project in this genre?

CG: When I was originally developing Quintet I wanted to make an open-world style game. I had procedurally generated planets and a sun… but this idea was way too big. I trimmed down the game into something more swallow-able that I could actually finish and launch. My next big project is to re-visit this idea and make a “long game” where there is some type of persistence and you can play for hours at a time.

SCO: Are you a one-person operation or are you looking for assistance for future projects?

CG: Right now, it’s just me. With a project like this, you really get worried about your original dream or vision being changed when you involve other people. However, after I launch this on OUYA and (release) my next batch of updates, I want to move on to the persistent universe. I’ll definitely need someone to write a story line, and I’ll need help with scenarios and ideas for things besides “Go there and blow that up.”

SCO: How far does your fandom reach with Trek? Do you delve into fanworks like fanfic or fan films? If so, what are your favorites?

CG: I haven’t delved much into fan fiction. I meet a lot of people at conventions and I always try to check out their indie film productions.

SCO: Since you mentioned an expansion of Quintet to a story-based campaign, would you solicit current writers of fanfic or films to aid you with that kind of content? If so, how might someone contact you to volunteer?

CG: I have a suggestions forum on the website. I’ve implemented a lot of user suggested features and tweaks. I’ve already poked at a person or two about writing, but haven’t found someone yet. If you want to help out in someway, feel free to contact me at carmine [at] carmine [dot] com

SCO: As a fan, would you say that Trek’s best days are behind us or yet to come? Why?

CG: I’ll tell you a little story: I wanted to see the new movie and I asked someone I was dating to see it with me. They are totally not into any of this type of stuff at all. A commercial came on one night (I didn’t say anything) and they said, “WOW what’s this new movie?!” and I said, “just watch…” and when it said “Star Trek” they were like, “What?!?!” .. we went to see the movie and they really enjoyed it. I’m hoping that by having the new movies be more (I hate to use this word.. but.. “accessible”) it will make people become “Trek Curious” and I can get them to check out some of the older series.

SCO: Finally, if someone reading this were also follow in your footsteps in developing a game, what advice would you impart?

CG: My advice… take half of your planned features and get rid of them. You really need to start small. It’s a lot of work to not only finish something, but to get it ready to be distributed. We are all dreaming of writing our own MMO…however you will end up with folder full of never finished projects if you don’t start small. Also, if this is going to be your first project. Think of something you can do start to finish within just a couple of months. A lot of life things can occur over 6 months to a year. The BEST FEELING is having others play your game. Start with something small that you can get done and into the hands of players in a short amount of time. Then, make that MMO!

SCO: Thank you so much for your time, Carmine. We look forward to seeing future updates for Quintet!

Captain Michael D. Garcia is the commanding officer of the Trek gaming-focused chapter USS Gygax. He is also the Region 4 Chief Communications Officer and the interim Editor-in-Chief of the Subspace Communicator Online. He can be reached via email at newsletter [at] region4 [dot] org.