The likes of Iwata and Newell may be the defining faces of the modern game industry, but it’s hard to find a better ambassador of the industry’s future than Terry Cavanagh.
Cavanagh went straight from university to work at a local bank. And while he was dealing out notes and coins to the punters, the currency of his ideas and dreams were dealt in pixels and code.Last year, using revolutionarily entry-level platforms such as Flash, he built a string of simple-format games. His work shot to fame this year, however, when he released to the world the fiendish and magnificent platform puzzler VVVVVV. Cavanagh is still adamant that he doesn’t work in the industry. That alone defines how sudden the democratisation of game development has become. Cavanagh is in the industry; he has an influence on the game development craft.
He is showing through his work that the proletariat of bedroom coders never went away. And, with easily accessible platforms such as Unity, his work shows that the business of videogames can still be done with a PC, a website, and a stash of ideas.
What are you working on right now, and what stage is the project at?
My plan for this year is work on a lot of short, free games, and move on to new projects every month. At the moment I’m working on my February game. It’s an RPG where you level up your arms and legs separately, and it’s about halfway done.
Which aspect of it do you think will impress players the most?
No idea! The gameplay thing I personally really like about this project is how the actual battle sequences control, which is by making lots of small half second moves instead of choosing one big action.
What was your first job in the industry – and what was the first game you worked on?
I’ve never worked ‘in the industry’. The first game I can remember working on was a text adventure on my Commodore 64. Unfortunately I’ve lost it!
What was the first video game you ever played?
Head over Heels.
What was the last game you played? Did you enjoy it?
I just played a little freeware shooter called Coptra by Jwaap, and yep, I enjoyed it quite a bit! I don’t think I’ve seen that idea of different powerups accumulating into one big powerup before, and it works really well.
What’s your favourite game ever, and why?
Final Fantasy VII. Because it made me want to make video games.
How many hours a week do you get to spend playing games?
Not as many as I’d like! I recently bought an Xbox 360 and I’m trying to catch up on modern mainstream games, but so far I haven’t had a lot of time to play it. I play pretty much everything that’s posted to TIGSource and Indiegames, though.
Of all the games you have been involved with in the past, what has been your favourite, and why?
While I think VVVVVV is the best game I’ve made, I’m really proud of Don’t Look Back. I love the basic concept of the game and how everything came together when I was working on it.
What websites do you visit most regularly?
Indiegames, TIGSource, and Twitter.
What do you do in your spare time that isn’t related to video games?
I haven’t really had a whole lot of spare time lately! I watch TV, I meet up with friends, I play music. I used to play the accordion in an Irish Trad band before I left Dublin.
What’s your favourite book, movie or TV show, and album of all time?
My favourite book is Adam Cadre’s Ready Ok!, movie is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, TV show is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and album is Therapy?’s Suicide Pact You First.
What game would you most like to have worked on?
The last game I played which really made me feel like, wow, I wish I’d made this, was Robert Fearon’s Squid Yes! Not so Octopus 2: Squid Harder.
Which other games developer do you most admire?
There are a lot of people I could name, but in particular I really admire Stephen Lavelle‘s approach to game design.