Steve Hoogendyk on Lilly Looking Through

Steve Hoogendyk on Lilly Looking Through


Lilly Looking Through is a gorgeous looking point-and-click adventure. We sat down with Steve Hoogendyk from Geeta Games to talk about it.

Hello! Can you please tell us who you are and what your role(s) in Lilly Looking Through project is (are)?

Hello I’m Steve Hoogendyk and I’m the Creative Director on Lilly Looking Through. This basically means I’m in charge of maintaining the overall vision for the game. As well, I create the puzzles in the game, and on Mondays take out the trash. You could say I do a little bit of everything.

Geeta Games was officially founded this year (2012). Where did you get the idea for the name and does it mean anything?

The name Geeta actually came from our youngest daughter. She was just starting to babble and speak, and for a week or so she crawled around the house saying "geeta geeta." The way she said it reminded us of something an Ewok from Star Wars would say. It stuck, and we became Geeta Games.

Does working with your wife cause extra tension or does it make the cooperation easier?

Jessica and I first met at a Salsa dance lesson, and afterwards I was looking for a way to spend more time with her. I got the idea to ask her if she wanted to enter a dance competition with me. For the next four weeks we spent quite a bit of time together learning 5 different dance styles. One of the first things you learn in dance is the importance of tension when holding your partner. Too little tension and it’s like dancing with a wet noodle. Too much tension and it’s like moving in molasses. A certain amount of tension can be good, as long as it is in the spirit creating the best end result. In our case all the practicing paid off, and we were lucky enough to win the dance competition.

From dancing together we also learned very quickly that if you don’t cooperate in dance, somebody is going to get their foot stepped on. Since then I think we have gotten much better at cooperating.

I know in there somewhere, is something witty to say about how life is like a dance. I think I may have just said it! 

Jessica and I have a very positive tension working on the game together. We both see the final goal, and are able to divide up the work accordingly to focus on creating the best game possible. We have also found that it’s important to try to separate work from the rest of life as well. This is something we are still working on.

Both you and Jessica have experience in the filming industry. Is that industry very different from the gaming industry?

In many ways the actual process of making movies and games are very similar. We use some of the same tools we used when we worked on movies.

However, the end product between a film and a game is very different. As well, the amount of people who work on a single film can be in the thousands as opposed to a few people on an indie game.

In a movie, the director never asks the audience to physically touch the screen and or drive the plot forward. So for me the key difference when making a game is you have to seriously think about how the player will be actively experiencing, interacting, and driving the game forward.

Do you wish you could combine the two or are you happy with the choice you made leaving films for games?

We are very happy with the choice we made to leave film and work on Lilly Looking Through. Every day we get to see more and more of Lilly’s world come to life, and it is just an absolute pleasure. We feel very fortunate to be able to pursue our passion and work on this game.

When we decided to work on Lilly Looking Through full time, we also decided to move close to family. The previous 6 years we had spent moving all over the planet while working on movies. It’s been wonderful to see our little girls get to know Grandpa and Grandma better, and see those relationships grow.
How tough was it to leave a paid job to start your own company?

It was an incredibly risky thing to do, but at the same time immensely rewarding.

When I was working at Disney the famous writer Ray Bradbury (Who just recently passed away on June 06, 2012) came to give a talk. One of the things he said that really resonated with me was “Whatever you do, never forget your first love.” When you have a passion for doing something you love, it just shows up in your work.

We are really passionate about Lilly Looking Through, and hopefully when people play it they will enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it.

Who is doing the programming and how difficult (or not) was it to learn to program for games?

I am responsible for programming the DEMO that is currently available to download and play from our website. I think your question comes back to finding your passion and the thing you just have to do. I hadn’t programmed before, but really wanted to do a prototype for this game. So I read many tutorials online on how to program for games. I would say looking back that it was difficult, but at the same time I enjoyed learning something new, and creating a DEMO that people could play.

Before the DEMO was released we had some doubts as to whether or not people would want to play an animated adventure game like Lilly Looking Through. It was great to get such positive feedback when we released the DEMO. That was the first time we felt like this was really going to happen. Learning to program was definitely a hurdle, but a necessary one in making our game idea a reality.

After the DEMO was released and our Kickstarter campaign was a success, we were contacted by Mark Deforest who I worked with at Cyan (Creators of Myst and Riven). Mark is very talented programmer and has been working in games industry for over 17 years.

Mark is now our lead programmer at Geeta Games, and doing the majority of the programming on Lilly Looking Through.

Lilly Looking Through is a gorgeous looking point-and-click adventure. Was it ever anything else or did you want to create this type of game right from the start?

Thank you for the kind words!

When Jessica and I first began dating, we found out fairly quickly that we both loved playing adventure games. Sunday afternoons would always be our time to play these games. There is something about adventure games that celebrate a sense of wonder and exploration.

Lilly Looking Through is the adventure game we would be first in line to buy, if somebody else made it. Lilly Looking Through contains everything we love most about adventure gaming including exploration of worlds filled with magic, mystery, and marvelous machines.

Who came up with the idea of the goggles that changes Lilly’s view of the world?

It was actually our oldest daughter who was the initial inspiration for Lilly. She used to love to wear hats, glasses, scarves, bowls, anything and everything on her head. One particular week she was wearing swimming goggles on top of her head every day. Jessica took a picture of her with the goggles on her head, and sent it to me. When I saw the picture, I instantly thought that would be a perfect character in an adventure game. Pretty soon after, I started thinking of these wonderful possibilities of Lilly’s world changing when she looked through these magical goggles. It goes to show you just never know when or where inspiration will strike first.

Puzzles in adventure games can be very tough, or too easy. How do you find the right balance so the game stays enjoyable for both experienced and casual gamers?

It’s a balancing act of design inspiration and perspiration (plain old hard work).

We’re always game play testing to see how players solve the puzzles. This gives us valuable insight on how to tweak a puzzle to the fullest extent and hopefully find the “golden mean.”

We’ve also created a safety net where the player can hit the “? ” button and receive a hint to help if they get stuck in a particular area . We also have found many of our puzzles are solved best by playing with someone else or as a family.

And how do you know when the player is ready for the next level of difficulty during gameplay?

The puzzles in “Lilly Looking Through” are designed in a specific order to be building blocks for more advanced puzzles that appear later in the game. Observation is critical to solving these puzzles, and like any good primer, we are defining the rules of Lilly’s world. Lilly and the player will learn from the initial puzzles, and build on them to solve the more advanced puzzles discovered later in the game.

I also try to look at it from the player’s perspective, and try to see how they will experience the world looking at it for the first time. It’s a big responsibility to ask the player to agree to suspend their disbelief and go along on this ride. It takes time to build the trust between the designer and player and it’s something I take pretty seriously. This game is entertainment after all, and if people don’t enjoy it we have failed.

You went far beyond your original goal on Kickstarter to fund Lilly Looking Through, but missed just under 3,000 dollars to create the game for tablets as well as PC, MAC and Linux. Are you still planning on porting the game to tablets once the game is finished, or will you be focusing on the next game?

We really would love to have Lilly Looking Through on tablets. Lilly Looking Through would be very intuitive and a perfect fit for tablets devices. I’d say getting Lilly Looking Through to work on tablets will be a major focus for us.

Anything else you’d like to tell us that you haven’t already above? Go wild, this is your chance you tell everyone why they should buy Lilly Looking Through when it’s released :)

If you like adventure games and want to help support indie game developers like ourselves, we would love to have you try out our free DEMO for Lilly Looking Through.

If you’ve played the Lilly Looking Through demo and enjoyed it, please feel free to tell your friends, tweet, blog, and share the link to our DEMO and maybe even like us on [url=]Facebook.

Being a very small startup adventure gaming studio, we really rely on the gaming community. We know we wouldn’t be able to pursue our dream of creating this adventure game without you. Thank you for taking the time to read this interview and possibly buying a copy of Lilly Looking Through when it comes out sometime in 2013.

Thank you for the interview!

Thank you for the interview it was a pleasure!