|WWB GameZone presents....
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
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
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
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
Gubble4Ever!!!: What does the future
hold for Gubble? Will he make it to any home videogame
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
Peter Creath: What one piece of
advice would you give someone who wanted to start a
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
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
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
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...
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
GCS Grey 2: Thanks for coming tonight, Mark!
Be sure to check out the Gubble website for ordering
Transcripts provided by World Without Borders.
...seize the chat!