Small Arms interview: Don Wurster

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A couple months ago, we asked the question, "Small Arms, where's the big press?" It took Don Wurster of Gastronaut Studios -- the team building Small Arms -- to remind 360 Fanboy that we are the press. As such we managed to score a little chat with Gastronaut Don and ask all the burning questions. We cover the team at Gastronaut (4 guys made this?!), Small Arms game modes, Xbox Live Arcade, downloadable content, and we even get to kill one more kitten in the name of 360 Fanboy. As an added bonus, we've even snagged some new character renders. Zoë is sitting comfortably at the top of this post, and you can catch a glimpse of Unit 51 after the break.

Introduce yourself, what are your responsibilities at Gastronaut?

Hello, I'm Don Wurster and my official title at Gastronaut is 'Other Guy'. We all do a little bit of everything at Gastronaut since there are only a few of us, but my primary functions are collaborating with Jacob (founder) on design, programming, and general business running.

Do you have a Gamertag you'd like to share with our readers?

We have a gamertag we all use when playing at the office which is 'gastronauts'. If you've been paying attention, you will know when/how to use it. ;) We will have more info on how/when to find us on-line when the game launches.

Tell us about some of the people working on Small Arms. Where did the idea come from? What made you choose Live Arcade?

At Gastronaut there have been a total of 4 people working on Small Arms. Jacob Van Wingen and I take up the programming front, while two artists Misael Armendariz and Scott Thunelius split the art tasks. Additionally we have been working with a local sound firm to do the audio for the game.

Jacob and I started talking about the game while I was still living in Boston. From opposite ends of the country we threw around a lot of ideas. The idea of a run-and-gun/platforming fighter was just too good to resist.

You've had some experience developing for the original Xbox Live Arcade. How has it been working with Microsoft and the Xbox Live Arcade Team?

The arcade team has been really great to work with. We are grateful for the opportunity to get our game out there. For a team our size there used to be no way to get a game on a console. Microsoft has not only made that possible with Xbox Live Arcade, but their staff has been very supportive of small independent developers like us.

We <3 them.

Some people have compared Small Arms to Super Smash Bros. Others say it looks like Metal Slug. Give us a
rundown of what Small Arms is all about.

Small Arms is hybrid platformer, run-and-gun shooter, and fighting game. The characters use interchangeable 'gun arms' and can switch weapons throughout the match. In the single player progression, you will fight against a series of enemies in 1v1, 1v2, and 1v3 matches. There is a challenge mode where you just fight as many enemies as you can handle. There are also some cool little mini games thrown in. For the multiplayer side, we support both ranked and unranked matches, as well as 4 player local multiplayer. The game setup and play is almost identical whether playing on the couch, or over Xbox Live. We are currently planning to ship with 12 characters, and 8 – 10 levels. Additional characters and levels will be for sale in the future on Marketplace.
Over all, it's quite a lot of game in such a small package 

So, it does have local multiplayer (unlike some games)?

Oh, it will absolutely support local multiplayer! We hate split screen with a passion, and the game's design shows that. The experience of playing over Xbox Live is almost identical to that of playing with friends on the couch.

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There's been a low quality video of Small Arms floating around for a while. Do you have any plans to release an official trailer, maybe on Marketplace? Speaking of Marketplace, can we expect any additional content like gamer pictures, or themes?

I'm not sure about the trailer, but there will certainly be gamer pics and themes in addition to the characters and levels listed above. As we get close to launch, we will be finding more time to update the Small Arms website. Since it's an Arcade title, the demo will of course be available at the same time the game launches.

Microsoft recently announced that its XNA development platform will be available to just about everyone. Keeping this in mind, where do you see the Live Arcade platform going? Are you excited about XNA?

We know very little about the XNA development platform right now. From what we've seen of XNA Express, it is aimed primarily at hobbyists. We aren't sure if this will alter much about the Live Arcade platform in the immediate future. We're very excited about the opportunities it allows hobbyists -- and might try out a few small games with it ourselves.

When we interviewed John Nielson from NinjaBee (Cloning Clyde) he told us that what he really wants to see on Arcade is original content. How about you? Are there any retro classics or indie PC games you'd like to see ported over to Arcade? For that matter, what's your favorite Live Arcade game right now?

Absolutely! Not only is it what we want, but it's what gamers are saying they want. I'm glad that the retro games are there, but Arcade wouldn't be the success it is without the great original games it has.

I was super excited to see Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers coming to Arcade, we look up to the guys at The Behemoth quite a bit.

I'm a big fan of Smash TV, and obviously Geo Wars. I've also been playing a lot of Texas Hold'em since it came out.

So, what's next for Gastronaut? Would you consider doing a retail 360 game, or are you happy with the Arcade?

We plan to focus on the downloadable angle as it greatly reduces the number of barriers for a small team like ours. Some of the huge benefits for us: smaller team, smaller budget, no inventory, longer shelf life. I think it's starting to become obvious to everyone that downloadable content is going to be a huge part of the future for consoles, and we've been doing it since the beginning with the first Xbox Live Arcade.

Finally, I don't want to kill any kittens, but lots of people want to know when this game is coming out. The current lineup ends with Scramble on September 6th, and Lumines is nowhere in sight. So, September 13th is open. I mean, it's available, is what I'm saying. Care to comment?

/me tosses a kitten on the pile.

All I'm really at liberty to say is that it's getting closer (though not *quite* that close). It's hard to nail down a date with the wildcard of the testing/bug fixing process and with the holiday releases coming. What I can say, is that it's looking really good and we can see the end of the tunnel. Rest assured we are missing a lot of sleep wrapping things up.

We'd like to thank Don for taking the time to speak with us and can't wait to get our hands on Small Arms. Stay tuned to X360F for more. And, if you'd like to ask Don a question yourself, hit him up over at the Gastronaut forums. Thanks again, Don. And take it easy on the kittens.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.