1: If I'm not mistaken, Frozen Bubble treads in Puzzle Bobble's footsteps. When and how was the decision made to make such a game? Where did you start? How was Frozen Bubble born?
You're right, I played a game similar to Frozen-Bubble on another system I was using before the Gnu/Linux system I use now. I had a lot of fun with my sister at home, and with friends in college. A while later, when I completely switched to using Gnu/Linux on my computer, I missed this game which can be played with anyone - not just with computer people as is the case with FPS or RPG. As at that time I had just discovered the beauties of the Perl language, I was curious to explore what could be done with sdlperl, a glue between Sam Lantinga's SDL library designed for games and the Perl language. To my initial surprise, with the help of this library, the Perl language was just fine for writing games. I guess the rest is history...
2: The game is distributed as 'free software' rather then 'freeware'. Could you maybe explain the differences shortly, and why you chose for it?
Free software is basically here because some people, such as Richard Stallman in the USA for example, stood up to tell others that freedom is important in software as well. Free software allows anyone to freely use the software, learn from the sourcecode, improve it, redistribute it. It must not be mistaken with freeware, which is actually quite vague: some freeware are free software, some, where you do not have access to the sourcecode, are not.
I chose free software because I was a happy Gnu/Linux user, benefiting from all the great free software available with Gnu/Linux, and I thought it was just normal to contribute a bit back if I could. Also, I wrote Frozen-Bubble partially as part of my daily work for Mandriva (ex MandrakeSoft), a Gnu/Linux publisher, so it was logical to use a free software license.
3: The game was developed on a Mandrake Cooker Gnu/Linux distribution. What were the reasons to choose such a platform?
I was a Mandriva (ex Mandrake) employee, and I thought it was the best Gnu/Linux distribution available (I still do), so I just used what I had ready = )
4: The way the game was written is slightly special, using Perl and SDL. Was the decision to write the game like that a conscious one, made for specific reasons? Would you consider the game an experiment of sorts?
Yes, initially it was an experiment with sdlperl. I was dubious about a game written with a "slow" scripting language like Perl. But actually I was a Perl enthusiast so I really tried and it was no problem at all (except I had to contribute a few fixes to sdlperl, because it was not used widely so it still contained a few bugs).
5: There is a nice overview of the development of Frozen Bubble on your site. Could you please tell us a bit more about the development? Things that turned out exceptionally well, problems you had to work around, etc.
Actually I can not remember any big trouble. I was lucky to be joined by exceptionally talented artists, who happily worked under my guidance. As usual in software development, it took a lot of time to completely polish it. I kept the secret around the project, which is different from typical free software development where you ask for feedback from others when the product is still young, in order to get a large impact when it was released.
6: The game sports a level editor. What were your reasons to implement such a feature? Do you use the level editor yourself?
The level editor was contributed by Kim and David Joham a little while after the initial release of FB. Personally, I use it rarely as I'm not so good at creating levels, but it's a very useful tool.
7: How would you consider the game? What does it mean to you?
Honestly, I was a bit surprised to see the success of the game. I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to shape FB. It's always a pleasure when new people I meet already played FB and enjoyed it = )
8: Do you think of this game as a puzzle game rather than an arcade game (like its predecessor Puzzle Bobble)?
I consider it to be in between a puzzle game and an arcade game. It cannot be a total puzzle game when you have limited time or when you have an opponent launching bubbles at you = )
9: The game has attracted quite a bit of attention, and has been number one in the Linux Journal readers' choice awards for two years. Where do you think the success of the game comes from?
The mix between good/clever game rules (not from us), and a very clean realisation (this is from us). I was lucky to convince great artists to join the project.
10: Is the current game the final version or will there be further additions? What do you see happening in the future? And are there any plans for other games?
I considered it the final version for ages, because it was just plain satisfying for me. But under much pressure from the community and friends, I considered adding network game.
This was not released last year. Actually the artists were less motivated this time, and on my side I had a few race conditions on the network code I was unable to fix, so I lost interest. Temporarily! But I can't say when it will be released.
I originally wanted to design another game after FB, the website is at: http://www.nongnu.org/human-beings/ but I am unsure whether I will have enough time to finish this project = (
11: Supposing there will in fact be a later version, might it be possible to add a feature which allows you to have only a limited number of lives?
No, not really. I don't like this. In most modern games you don't have to restart from the beginning anymore after losing a defined amount of times, and I don't like the idea of having to restart either.
12: Finally, is there any message you would want to give to aspiring programmers?
Enjoy free software, learn from it, improve it, release software the world will admire.