Interview: Mark Jackson (Games artist & promoter)

I Interviewed games artist and promoter Mark Jackson to learn about his current projects, and his experiences in the games industry.
How did you get involved with game development?

I started out with warcraft 3 custom level designed maps and worked on them for years being very well received as a terrain designer especially on the European shard. I also worked on mount & blade mods and custom models and maps for medal of honour,call of duty and battlefield before they closed of their mapping scene. Unreal 03/04 also took up a large chunk of my time on invasion and onslaught maps.

What projects have you previously worked on?

In terms of involvement in the visual novel scene in question I’ve been involved in the promotion of :
  • Fastermind Games: Icebound
  • Lupiesoft’s titles The Menagerie & Toko: The reject demon
  • Invert Mouse Cursed Sight
  • Sekai Project/Key planetarian
There is to much to really name in terms of mod/custom maps although popular games that I’d like to say are influenced by my direct work are Dota & Red Solstice having worked on the original Notd aftermath map & dota Pre Icefrog. There have been a few unfinished projects over the years also these are normally caused by poor funding or high expenses required for development whilst many of these teams might have great talent but they can fall apart very quickly.
What was your favourite studio to work with and what are you currently promoting?
My favourite studio I’ve worked with is lupiesoft.  Right now I’m promoting Toko & Cursed Sight.  I am developing two other titles that are visual novel like titles with additional gameplay mechanics one has animated action gameplay like Time and Eternity. Whilst the other has chess/netrunnner like gameplay. The artist  Edalie is assisting me on the animated project, I’m doing art for the 2nd project. & The lead artist that worked on Huniepop Kopian is helping out on background art, & some additional Cg/Character art on an rpg.
2014 saw a burst of new Indie visual novels on Steam. Do you think the demand for the genre is growing?
I think the awareness for the visual novel scene is growing and more people are trying it out. I think we’re still in a little of a grey area for sites covering it with many people still of the stance that Visual Novels are not games.
What effect do you feel Kickstarter and Patreon are having on Western visual novel development?
Kickstarter has the mentality of a make it or break it approach but most kickstarter goals are never really the real funds to make the game. The problem with the kickstarter route is normally because the money even if above the goal is not enough for a normal person to develop full time, issues arise regardless of success. Most development teams can never really expect an indie title to be their main source of income unless its a very small team. So even if you say “we can make a game by this time” most people are still only working part time. If a dev team say lives in Thailand or Indonesia then they can afford maybe a 1/5th of the amount another team has raised. Values are very hard to analyse.
Quite often in addition to all this the artists working on a project tend to have rates that are much higher then the team can naturally afford anyway so post kickstarter they find they might not be able to afford it all. This issue then comes to the type of team that you are and how interconnected you are. If you are all the best of friends then you might let a bit of money go to work together and finish things. But if you are that one guy on a team that works for 5-6 other teams to make a living I can see how people end up leaving when the flow drys up. When those circumstances happen you end up with the one unfortunate guy at the top mostly being blamed cause the other employed members have left.
Lets take a weird line to put thought into perspective. If I rent an apartment with a friend both of us are liable to damages to the apartment. When a visual novel team or any other indie team makes a kickstarter most people only end up seeing the Project Lead or guy that started development as the liable party. But each member in their own way is responsible for success or collapse. Its a tricky field. I could talk more about this as I have worked on a crazy amounts of projects and witnessed this first hand.
What do you think of fan-translated Japanese visual novels?
I think they let me play games I would of never bought before cause there was no english version :D? Clannad & the kira kira series are ones I’ve played that have had fan translations. Though I’ve bought both.Otherwise I don’t mind waiting for eventual translations although I’m studying Japanese myself so I’d rather learn then read (:

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