Being a giant, beloved video game site 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 Joe Lesko of Flea Circus Games about his new scaled-down arcade game collection, Totally Tiny Arcade.
How did you get started?
I grew up in the era of the Commodore 64, with favorites like M.U.L.E., Archon and Modem Wars. While I spent most of that time playing games, I dabbled with programming text games in BASIC, and learned how to do pixel art using Garry Kitchen's GameMaker.
I didn't really learn proper game development until many years later, when I started making games in BlitzBasic as a hobby. After completing about a dozen small freeware games, I saw that a few developers were having some financial success with downloadable titles, so I thought I'd give that a try. This was around 2006, right before the current indie and casual game movements gained traction, so it was a bit riskier than it might seem nowadays.
Why did you want to make games?
It's just something I've always done to some extent, and keeps pulling me back, maybe because I get to scratch so many creative itches with one medium. The combination of engineering and art, and making something people can interact with, is really cool.
Why be independent rather than try to work for someone else?
It can be very stressful, but I like the challenge of being on my own. As a solo developer, I have to do everything: programming, design, art, marketing, customer support, lumberjacking, and a variety of janitorial services. There are also a lot of interesting creative obstacles to deal with, like staying productive and figuring out what people will enjoy playing.
What's your game called, and what's it about?
Totally Tiny Arcade is a marathon of 8-bit minigames set inside a classic arcade. Think WarioWare meets MAME, with a bunch of inspiration from cheesy 80's pop culture.
Racing against a time limit, you literally jump inside game machines like Hogger, Moonwalk Patrol, and Miami Heist, to track down the Video Virus that has invaded your favorite arcade!
Do you feel like you're making the game you always wanted to play?
Totally Tiny Arcade definitely plays into my nostalgia for the games I loved as a kid.
But the overall design was very open-ended. I started with the basic idea of turning the arcade itself into a game, and just kept adding, removing, and refining ideas until everything finally locked into place. People usually assume minigames are easy to make, but it took about a year of full-time development to complete.
What are you proudest of about your game?
I really like the strategic element of the arcade itself. Because each token determines the number of levels you play, and machines are often blocked by other players, it really pays to think about which minigame you select for each round. Even with a similar set of machines, it's different every time you play.
It also has a sweet electro-pop soundtrack by Makke, the ultra-famous Commodore remixer!
What one thing would you tell someone to convince them to get your game?
If you like classic 8-bit arcade games, then you'll *love* Totally Tiny Arcade! Also, I'm holding your cat hostage!
There are still a bunch of minigames I'd love to add to TTA. But I've also been playing around with some ideas for web-based games. You can follow me on Twitter to stay in the loop!
Want to check out Totally Tiny Arcade for yourself? You can grab it 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.