Interview: Joe Olson on Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet

After first seeing the trailer back in July, you've no doubt spent every waking minute thinking of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, the Michel Gagné-illustrated UFO simulator from upstart FuelCell Games. We got a hold of Joe Olson at Shadow Planet Productions (a partnership between FuelCell Games and Gagné International) who graciously answered our (mostly obvious) questions. Example: "What platforms is it coming to?"
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Joystiq: How much of the trailer is actual gameplay as opposed to target renders or animated mockups?

Joe Olson: The trailer consists of either gameplay (some prototype) or interstitial animation from ITSP's storyline.

GameTrailers lists the title as "PC" and the best of other platforms. Is this title being developed for XBLA and PSN as well, regardless of publishing agreements announced or otherwise?

Which platform is always the big question. GameTrailers requires we cite some platform and not just TBD. Not a day goes by that we don't get "I sure hope you don't forget about the PC!" and "I really hope this game comes out for PSN" or "XBLA all the way!" as the case may be. The best answer we can give without having publisher is we hope to put ITSP in the hands of as many gamers and on as many platforms as possible. We really want to see this game released in an HD resolution (1080 or 720) so we've been developing in that direction. If we do down res for something like Wii we have the highest possible starting point.

Any other platforms in development? Mac OS? WiiWare? Could the game run on Wii, or does it require high definition graphics? Handhelds?

Mac, like PC, is a real possibility. Our Head of Technology here at FuelCell is an old school Apple developer and reminds us of how well this game would be received by the Mac gamer community on what seems like a daily basis. We're focusing on the main experience but we'd be open to creating handheld versions if the demand is there in the future.


Are you worried about Microsoft clamping down on indie game development for XBLA, and trying to funnel indie games through the far less-trafficked Indie Games Marketplace?

The big publishers like XBLA/PSN obviously have pros and cons for a small studio like ourselves. We've spoken with both in this case and each have their strong points whether it be retention (or not) of the IP, the percentage they take off the top, how they handle the marketing of smaller titles, and of course platform exclusivity. Being in the industry for some time now, it does worry me that bigger companies with ample cash tend to put more effort behind variations of the same type of game. One of the big reasons we struck out on our own was we were just plain sick of working on the same game year after year.

I constantly think back to PAX in 2007. Looking around the floor I saw many brown and gray first-person shooters and honestly couldn't tell them apart. In one corner of the show was Castle Crashers; its bright colors and Dan Paladin's quirky style appealed to me instantly and really stood out among the offerings. It's good to see such games sell big numbers and gives me hope it will eventually turn around. Knowing how the big companies work, they follow the money, and rightly so if they wish to survive. It will ultimately take the consumer to stop buying the clones and sequels to really affect a change.

You're looking for 'financial partners': what kind of financing are you looking for? Investment to continue independent development, or partnership with a major publisher?

At this point we're looking at our options. There's arguments for and against both large publishers and seeking out private investment. We just want to find the right fit for our project and our team. I'll admit it would be nice to get the support of a larger publisher behind us. They can bring so much to bear on a project if they get behind it. Plus it would be great to have a hit and help other indie studios get their work on major platforms. There is a lot of great talent out there not getting the exposure, and I want to play their games!

Thanks for your time!

This article was originally published on Joystiq.