Submitted By:
Lazy 8 Studios

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Rob Jagnow

Team Leader

Brendan Mauro


Luke Gilbert

Sound and Music

Professional Grand Prize Winner
Game Title:

Lazy 8 Studio’s Indie
Game Challenge Experience
What was the IGC experience like for Lazy 8 Studios?

The Indie Game Challenge was an amazing experience on so many levels. Not
only did we have a great time meeting all of the other indie developers, but
it was also an unparalleled opportunity to mingle with some of the most
influential names in the gaming industry. To be perfectly honest, the idea
of attending D.I.C.E. was a little intimidating to me. But by the time I
left, I felt very comfortable with the crowd and made some great personal
and professional connections.

What advice would you give to 2011 IGC entrants?

Go for it! Even if you don’t get nominated as a finalist, the IGC deadline
will help drive your game development with a hard deadline. If you get a
chance, beta test your game with friends several weeks before you submit it
to give yourself time to make some changes. As developers in small teams,
we sometimes get tunnel vision and lose sight of the big picture. Beta
testing is a good way to balance the difficulty of a game and see how
first-time players really interact with it.

What unexpected benefits can finalists expect?

The opportunity to network with the other IGC finalists and D.I.C.E.
attendees is amazingly valuable. You’ll come away from the experience with
plenty of new professional connections and friendships.

As players yourself, which 2010 finalist game did you enjoy most?

Wow. So many great games to choose from. I’m a big fan of
AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!!!! from Dejoban Studios and Miegakure by Marc
Ten Bosch. From the student category, I love Gear. I really hope they turn
it into a full commercial game.

What is the latest news from Lazy 8 Studios?

We’ve spent a lot of time porting Cogs to other platforms. We had great
success on the iPhone and iPad with other ports to OSX and Android in the
early stages.

I’m just starting to prototype the next big game idea, which takes Lazy 8
Studios in a very different direction. If we can make it a reality, I think
players will agree that it’s something completely new. But for now, that’s
all the secrets I’m willing to share.

Game Background
Game Description:

Cogs is a puzzle game where players build machines from sliding tiles. Players can choose from 50 levels and 3 gameplay modes. New puzzles are unlocked by building contraptions quickly and efficiently.

  • Inventor Mode: Starting with simple puzzles, players are introduced to the widgets that are used to build machines — gears, pipes, balloons, chimes, hammers, wheels, props, and more.
  • Time Challenge Mode: If you finish a puzzle in Inventor Mode, it will be unlocked here. This time, it will take fewer moves to reach a solution, but you only have 30 seconds to find it.
  • Move Challenge Mode: Take your time and plan ahead. Every click counts when you only get ten moves to find a solution.

What was your inspiration for making the game?

I’ve always loved machines.  With computers, most of what goes on behind the scenes is invisible, but with steam-powered machines, you can look inside, see how all the parts are moving and understand how it works.  I wanted to build a game around that concept — something that feels totally real, like you could reach out and grab the steampunk contraption you just built and hang onto it a little longer before it flies away.

How is your game unique from others out there?

When we started building Cogs, we decided early on that we really wanted to raise the bar for the quality and appearance of puzzle games.  Even my grandma has a graphics accelerator in her PC, but there aren’t any good puzzle games out there that leverage that hardware.  We wanted to change that.  Puzzle gamers deserve the same polish and quality that you find in AAA titles.

We didn’t want anything to break the illusion of interacting with a massive steam-driven machine, so we made every aspect of the user interface with analog widgets from the odometer-style counters to the revolving puzzle descriptions to the massive iris in the background that opens to reveal each new puzzle.  The result is a surprisingly compelling and immersive experience.

How long did it take you to make your game?

From conception to completion, it took more than five years of part-time work to make Cogs.  At the start, it was basically just a hobby — an idea bouncing around in my head and some experimental code I’d play with on the weekends.  But by the time we released the game in April, 2009, it had become my full-time job.

What was the hardest part about making it?

I always wanted to have at least 40 different puzzles but I didn’t want the game to feel repetitive.  I expected that the biggest hurdle would be designing challenging puzzles, but as it turns out, designing a hard puzzle is easy.  The hard part is making easy puzzles that don’t feel repetitive.

Any other unique or interesting facts about your game we should know about?

People are often surprised to learn that Cogs was created by just one programmer, one artist and one musician.  While you’re playing it, I encourage you to keep an eye out for some of the details.  For instance, during the fraction of a second when UI widgets are flipping over or entering the screen, you can see gears and springs sandwiched inside of them.  Brendan, who did all of the artwork, designed amazingly complex mechanisms, many of which could operate in real life.

How did you pick the name of your game?  Did you have any others in mind?

From the very beginning, I wanted to name the game Cogs.  The whole game revolves around the idea of these little pipes and cogs that work together to form surprisingly complicated machines.

Questions for the Team Leader

Los Alamos, New Mexico.


I’m an academic junkie.  I got two Bachelor’s degrees at Texas Tech University plus a Master’s and Ph.D. at MIT.  Total nerd.

What is your gaming background?

That depends on what you mean.  In game development, I learned the ropes at Demiurge Studios in Cambridge, MA.  During the year that I spent there, I was lucky enough to work on some high-profile titles, including Medal of Honor: Airborne, Frontlines: Fuel of War, and Brothers in Arms.

A for my game-playing background, I grew up on the classics, from Pac-Man on the Atari 2600 to Mario and Zelda.  But some of my favorites were puzzle games like Lemmings and The Incredible Machine.

How long have you and your teammates known each other?  What’s the story behind how your team got together?

I met Brendan, the Cogs artist, at a game developer’s postmortem in San Francisco.  That’s one of the great things in living in a vibrant game-development community — there are always other indies to help you out.  After describing my game to him for a few minutes, Brendan almost immediately came aboard as the artist.  As for Luke, who did all of the audio work, I met him handing out business cards one afternoon at GDC in 2008.  That turned out to be a fortuitous meeting.

What game or games are you playing right now?

I’ve unlocked most of the jumps in AAAaaaaaAAAAaaaaAa! and recently finished Machinarium.  Oh, and I just bought Muscle March for the Wii.

What is your favorite all-time game?

Wow, so many games to choose from.  I’ve gotta say that The Incredible Machine is still one of my favorites.  For those of you who are familiar with it, it was clearly influential in the design of Cogs.

What is your least favorite all-time game?

Minesweeper… Oh minesweeper…  So many late nights together.  I don’t blame you.  And I must admit that you inspired me to make something better.  But I want my time back.

First video game system you owned?

Atari 2600, complete with the “paddles” so we could play Circus Atari.  Am I dating myself?

Current system you spend the most time playing?

PC.  But I’ll hop on the Wii and Xbox 360 every now and then.

When you and your team aren’t making awesome games, what other hobbies are you involved in?

I’m sort of crazy into sports.  I’ve climbed some of the world’s highest mountains (past 22,800 feet) and I love adventure racing, which usually involves mountain biking, trail running, kayaking and orienteering for 6+ hours.  Brendan is crazy about Legos.  If he had to choose between a big video game convention and a Lego convention, that would be a seriously tough decision for him.  As for Luke, he’s done some pretty cool experimental music projects.