Updated 10/11/04

WWB Interview


WWB GameZone presents....

Mark Robichek, President, Actual Entertainment

Mark is the president of Actual Entertainment, the force behind that lovable arcade treat Gubble! It has been amassing a huge following, among those looking for a fun and challenging family oriented game!

GCS Grey: Welcome Mark, great to have you here tonight!

GCS Grey: Where did you get the idea for Gubble?
robichek: The idea for Gubble... It all started in the mind of my long-time best friend and co-founder, Franz Lanzinger. Back in the early 80's, he created a game called Crystal Castles for Atari. In a way, Gubble is Crystal Castles brought to Windows 95 (and Mac, too). My favorite description of Gubble comes from an on-line reviewer who described it as "3D Pacman" but with much better graphics.

Gubble4Ever!!!: Mark, why didn't you just make Crystal Castles for Windows? Why come up with a new character?
robichek: Good question, Gub. In this industry, one will often find that old games (even really old ones) are often owned by companies who do not want to give up the rights. That was true with Atari and Crystal Castles.

Peter Cohen: Mark- What's the "Skil" connection? Did you get the trademark licensed? Were they cool about it? Did they even know? :-) robichek: Yes, Peter. When we got the idea to have an alien using tools to remove things, we decided to chat with all the major tool companies. Sears Craftsman, Black & Decker and Skil. Skil thought that it sounded like a great idea and gave us the rights to use their tools in the game. Plus, it's nice to know that a video game has some element of "skil" in it!

Weedy: Can you play Gubble on a Windows nt?
robichek: Well, Weedy. To be honest, we have never tried that. I have heard rumors that some people have been able to "modify" their NT system to make it work. If anyone does get this to work, please let us know how you did it!

Peter Creath: From experience I know that making the game is only a small part of selling software. How did you forge distribution arrangements and get noticed by the media at large?
robichek: That was my job, Peter. Right from the start, we decided to come across as a "real" publisher. We had our own booth at E3, and that was the true beginning for all of our international relationships. We also hired a nationally recognized PR agency. It was great to have virtually every meeting with the media go so well!

Peter Cohen: What will it take to bring Gubble II to the Mac? I've played the alpha on my work PC and it is FABULOUS.
robichek: Ah, the ol' Gubble II for the Mac question! With the original Gubble, we created it solely for the PC and had a consultant do the Mac port for us (for royalties only, no up front money). For Gubble II, we plan to wait a bit and see how the Mac sales go.

GCS Grey: For those of us without the benefit of PC's, what new surprises are included in it?
robichek: In Gubble II, the little guy "comes out of his shell!" He now walks, runs, flys, jumps and has all new enemies and bigger levels to work through.

Gubble4Ever!!!: What does the future hold for Gubble? Will he make it to any home videogame consoles?
robichek: We have long felt that Gubble would be perfect as either an arcade game or as a console game (particularly PSX, Nintendo and GameBoy). We are now talking with some possible partners about just that very thing!

Peter Creath: What one piece of advice would you give someone who wanted to start a (game) company?
robichek: Only one piece? ;-) I would say that you should maintain a positive attitude. It may be tough if publisher after publisher rejects you, but... ...success comes to those who are talented and positive.

BrooklynBums: is there a demo?
robichek: Yes, there is a playable demo for both the PC and the Mac. A list of FTP sites is at: http://www.gubble.com/gubdemo.htm

Peter Creath: Why did you decide to venture out and start your own company? Was it the hot game idea, or was there something more behind it?
robichek: My colleagues (and co-founders) have been in the industry for over 10 years apiece, while I have only been involved up 'til now as a player. We all wanted to become a "real" publisher and maintain all the intellectual property rights to our new games.

GCS Grey: 150 levels is an awful lot, does it become hard thinking them all up?
robichek: Actually, we had many, many people helping out on level design, even people who weren't even working for us! We ended up with nearly 200 levels, but some weren't "good enough" to make it. (I decided about 15 of the levels myself!)

icee 2: What types of games are you planning for the future? Have you considered getting a copy of Rhapsody so you could kill all birds with a single stone?
robichek: We are planning other games in the Gubble family, and we are even working on the sequel as we speak. After Gubble, we also have a realtime 3D game in the works. Beyond that...who knows?!

Timelord 2: Do you have any plans on making games other than Gubble? How long does it take you to come up with a good idea for a game? (and work out all the kinks)
robichek: In a small company, coming up with a game is a very long process. With Gubble, we didn't even know how it would turn out until it was done! It probably takes a few weeks to get a basic concept down. Then after you have something playable, you let people try it and see what they think. Having random kids try the game really molded the game into what it is today.

GCS Grey: What is your opinion about Apple's Game Sprockets and Microsofts' DirectX?
robichek: Our technical guys really like DirectX. Except for the fact that many computer need to update their video drivers, it makes game design much simpler than anything before on the PC. Our Apple consultants seem to like Sprockets, but I have no idea personally on that end of things.

Peter Creath: How long did it take you to go from concept to playable version? And from then to final testing? And from then to release? When did you start the publicity blitz?
robichek: Here is a rough time line...
1/96 Concept
5/96 Playable alpha
9/96 Final beta
10/96 product completed
3/97 product released (box design took almost 5 months!)
The publicity blitz started in December and went through March.

Timelord 2: I probably missed this when I was booted, but is Gubble available through retail outlets, or just by mail-order with your company?
robichek: Gubble is available at many (if not most) software retailers, although because it has een out since May, some stores may not have it any more (like CompUSA). About 99.8% of our sales are through retail stores. No one (except Doom makers) can do it my mail order alone.

Weedy: I love thePuzzler, but it's not often enough.
robichek: Ah, the Puzzler...my little pet. For those who haven't visited our website, the Puzzler is a trivia quiz contest that runs every 2-3 weeks and scores all of your answers instantly. The subjects range from word puzzles to music to TV to random fun. I can't do too many puzzlers, because I'd run out of material!

Peter Cohen: Has distribution on the Mac end been more of an uphill battle for you than for the PC version? What have you done/do you think can be done to improve the situation?
robichek: The Mac distribution picture is a mess. Most software retailers have reduced their Mac sections down to either very small or non-existent! We have been able to get into stores that carried the PC version (such as Micro Center). But we expect that most of our Mac sales will come from mail-order catalogs. Actually, our relationships with the Mac catalogs are through our US distribution partner. RandomSoft handles all of the "sales" end of the business in North America.

Peter Creath: How many copies have you sold, and at what rate? Did it start off selling fast? If not, how long did it take to pick up? Has it been pretty steady since? (It's hard to remain positive when your game is selling only a few copies a day!) Finally, about what percentage of the retail price do you receive (as a company)?
robichek: Well, I can tell you that over 17,000 have sold into the channel as of Nov. 1. It is more difficult to find out how many have actually sold, but it is probably about 75% of that number. It has been selling amazingly steadily since May. Word of mouth is a wonderful sales tool! Out of the retail price, the stores take about 30%. The distributor takes another 6% or so. What's left is split between ourselves and our US partner.

Bethie: robichek what one game is your favorite? and is there only one?
robichek: Nice question, Bethie! My favorite game of all time is Pengo. Heard of it?

Peter Cohen: Mark- ever seen Bubble Trouble on the Mac?
robichek: I haven't seen Bubble Trouble, but then again, I don't have access to a Mac anyway! I do still play Pengo nearly every week on my PC.

GCS Cys 2: Mark, in your opinion what makes a really great game? Sound, art, playability? Marketing?
robichek: IMHO, the number one factor for making a great game is that it is fun! That is, of course, a rather vague term. Certainly, sound plays a major role, and so does the art. In the case of Gubble, simplicity certainly helps. Simplicity doesn't necessarily mean easy, either.

GCS Cys 2: Where will the game industry be in 5 years, any thoughts?
robichek: In 5 years, there will probably be only two game publishers left...EA and CUC Software. (Just kidding!) Seriously, though... There has been a lot of consolidation, and that will continue for a while until some good business models develop. On-line gaming is everyone's favorite buzz-word, but nobody seems to have figured out how to make money at it. On-line gaming will certainly advance in the next 5 years, possibly even becoming profitable!

DaveR: What is on the development horizon for Actual Entertainment?
robichek: Well, Dave. Besides Gubble II, we've also got a realtime 3D game coming up. (It's a secret for now, though.)

GCS Grey 2: Mark, we are about out of time, any last comments you'd like to make?
robichek: Okay, I'll tell you about our new secret game. The theme is: This amazing djflskjd;ajf skd (darn cat sat on the keyboard...oh well!) Final comments? If you haven't tried Gubble, try it! It seems that almost anyone who does likes it! We haven't figured out why yet. If we did, we'd be marketing geniuses. And if you do like Gubble and you've got a PC, try our sneak preview of Gubble II. And to quote a grocery store ad...Tell a Friend!

GCS Grey 2: Thanks for coming tonight, Mark!

Be sure to check out the Gubble website for ordering info! http://www.gubble.com

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