The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Rotor'scope

Being a giant, beloved video game blog has its downsides. For example, we sometimes neglect to give independent developers our coverage love (or loverage, if you will) as we get caught up in AAA, AAAA or the rare quintuple-A titles. To remedy that, we're giving indies the chance to create their own loverage and sell you, the fans, on their studios and products. This week we talk with Mauricio Garcia, one of the programmers of Nivel21, about how their game Rotor'scope proves that nothing is impossible.

How did your company get started?
Nivel21 Entertainment was born in 2005. At that time, some of us were working in software development and enterprise consultation. We were lucky to get to know each other some way or another, a group of videogame aficionados sharing the common dream of becoming professional game developers. So we decided to join forces and immediately began working together, trying to establish our own studio, or, at least, learn enough so that we could end up working in some other studio.

We never gave up hope to finally get where we are now, and we spent a lot of time and effort to learn just by ourselves everything that there is to know to make videogames. Even though it all started out as a hobby, we're pretty damn serious about it. Since our first "learning" projects, we've tried to work as professionally as we possibly can. After all these years, we finally see our dream come true in Rotor'scope.

Why did you want to make games?
Basically, because we're videogame players ourselves; we were born and grew up in the 8-bit era, "wasted" our childhood, adolescence, and almost our entire life playing everything within reach. After all these years, one just learns to appreciate all the hard work behind a good game, and if you have a creative personality, like we all have, sooner or later you end up having your own ideas and dreams of making them come to life.

You wouldn't expect these features to be on an Indie game, due to their limitations, but I tell you there's nothing impossible!

As kids, a lot of us gave our first steps with games that allowed you to create your own levels, or the first world editors that appeared for Amiga and PC. Since then, we've been dreaming of becoming professionals.

What's your game called, and what's it about?
Rotor'scope: The Secret of the Endless Energy is a puzzle game, based on an innovative technique in which the player has to bring all the color pieces together just by rotating the board. It's a gameplay mechanic that offers simple puzzles, suitable for any kind of player. Even so, the game has proven to be quite a challenge to experienced players as well, when different special kinds of pieces come into play, changing drastically the way to solve a puzzle.

There are more than 150 puzzles all wrapped up in a mystery tale set on a sci-fi universe with a certain Steampunk flavor to it. Players must help Julie and Traveller (and yes, that's his name) to discover the whereabouts of Professor Rotherbaum, a scientist kidnapped 300 years ago.

Why be independent rather than try to work for someone else?
One reason to justify our independence as a studio was for us to be able to engage in creators' communities, and offer support and guidance to young, aspiring developer teams, the same way people helped us during our long years of learning. Nivel21 Entertainment has a clearly defined communitarian aspect, and a proof of it is that we decided to offer our game engine, that we called "Tomahawk" and created during the development of Rotor'scope, as open-source, hoping it'll help other developers out there. Furthermore, we're collaborating with other indie studios interested in offering cool Facebook integration features in their own games.

Do you feel like you're making the game you always wanted to play?
Definitely! It's a fun game and Emilio L. Joyera, main puzzle designer, has kept the rest of the team looking forward to any new puzzle he was creating. I remember when the puzzle editor was fully operational and we began testing it intensively. We went nuts, trying to create puzzles that were difficult for the others to solve!

One thing that we love about games is when they manage to go beyond your expectations, and the player can find unexpected features. We've tried really hard to introduce many cool features no one in Indie Games has ever been able to include in their games, like content sharing services or Facebook integration. You wouldn't expect these features to be on an Indie game, due to their limitations, but I tell you there's nothing impossible!

How long did it take you to create?

It all started with a prototype created on his own by Emilio, and it only took him two months to design it. The rest of the team saw this first prototype and we quickly realized that it had enough potential to make it as a good puzzle game. Since then, it took eight months of hard work until the deadline for Dream.Build.Play. After that, we spent another four months polishing the game, preparing it for release; finally, by the end of January 2010, the game was ready.

So, it's been a bit over a year of development, including preparation for both contests (we also won the "Best Game Design" award in ArtFutura 2009), setting up the Facebook profile and the websites for the game and the team.

What one thing would you tell someone to convince them to get your game?

If you've ever lost a Tetris game waiting for the piece to fall down and remove a bunch of rows, then this is your game. Anybody can enjoy it, and it is really addictive. It's also a fresh experience, and it turns upside-down the puzzle genre (and the players' brains), making them think of the consequences of just turning the board. There's also a mystery tale with a shocking ending, an editor to create your own puzzles, and the possibility to play brand-new user-created puzzles on a regular basis. And if you're up for some competition, you can compare your solutions with other people through Xbox Live, and Facebook too!

What's next?
Our players are sending us some pretty interesting ideas to make Rotor'scope even better, and, right now, our priority is to answer them. We're already working on the first update, which will include some performance enhancements, and also new content for the game and the "Rotor'scope Club" in Facebook.

We have our table full with some new prototypes we're working on, and even contemplating the possibility of taking Rotor'scope to other platforms as well. Another priority for us right now is to explore the potential of Facebook integration for Indie Games; for that purpose, we're already working with other developers that have shown interest in adding social features to their own games.

If you'd like to give Rotor'scope a spin (see what we did there?) you can buy it on Xbox Live Indie games right here. If you'd like to have your own shot at converting our readers into fans, email justin aat joystiq dawt com, subject line "The Joystiq Indie Pitch." Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.