Indie developers are the starving artists of the video-game world, often brilliant and innovative, but also misunderstood, underfunded and more prone to writing free-form poetry on their LiveJournals. We believe they deserve a wider audience with the Joystiq Indie Pitch: This week, Norway's Rock Pocket Games explores the universe in different dimensions through the eyes of a boy and his dog, with Oliver&Spike: Dimension Jumpers.
The game is called Oliver&Spike: Dimension Jumpers and it's, well, about Oliver and Spike (who is Oliver's loyal companion, a little British bull terrier) and dimension jumping. I can't really go into too much detail story wise, because the main objective is to help Oliver and Spike uncover the actual storyline, what happened in the past, what's going on right now and trying to influence the future. Describing it as a blend between old-school adventure and platform gameplay is probably the easiest way to answer your question.
What inspired you to make Oliver&Spike?
A documentary called Parallel Universes created in 2001 by BBC. The documentary has to do with parallel universes, string theory, super gravity and other theoretical physics concepts. It featured Michio Kaku, Paul Steinhardt and other physicists talking about gravity and physical laws and how gravity might not have originated on our planet, but might in fact be something that "leaked" through from another universe. This whole idea just lends itself perfectly to an exploration game with creative dimension-jumping gameplay mechanics. What's the coolest aspect of Oliver&Spike: Dimension Jumpers?
In Oliver&Spike: Dimension Jumpers you don't only have one world to explore, but a whole multiverse. Each world (or "cluster" like we call it) has three or even more alternate dimensions which all exist in the same space but on different frequencies. These dimensions have the same basic shape but are otherwise very different. The Firma Dimension, for example, enables Oliver to bounce and jump higher, while the Aqual Dimension is submerged in water. With Oliver's special ability, he can switch between available dimensions at any given time if a few pre-requisites are met.
These dimensions, however, don't just serve as a fast go-to point to get along on the main world. The alternate dimensions have their own look and feel and characters with side quests, collectibles and secrets to uncover and explore. While you can fast switch to the Aqual Dimension to swim up to an otherwise inaccessible ledge on Firma or Terra, you will on top of this encounter Aqual's quirky and fun inhabitants. Each dimension is a living, breathing world on its own.
For us, these game mechanics are amazingly fun because there is literally no limit to what we can do creatively with new worlds and their unique physical laws. We already have a plethora of concepts for additional worlds we will introduce throughout the storyline but it also makes it really easy for us to create and add new ones for future updates.
We want to share the Oliver&Spike story on multiple platforms. For us, that doesn't mean just porting the core game from console to PC or Mac but instead using the advantages of each platform to give you a fun and exciting overall experience. This means mini-games on smartphones, or social games on Facebook. These mini-games will further immerse you into the world of Oliver&Spike, explain about characters and give your more insight on the actual storyline.
Oliver&Spike looks highly polished. How important are these visual standards to your development?
Extremely important! However, quality is something we really focus on for all aspects of a game we develop. We just want to make sure that whatever we release is of the highest possible quality and that we can look back and be proud of what we created. It helps to have very experienced members on the team which is of course easiest to notice in the graphics department.
To find a great balance between gameplay and graphics is very important. Since we hope to create an IP with Oliver&Spike we are also working very hard on creating our own look and feel for the game. Going with a realistic style was never an option because of the quirky and fun nature of all the characters and NPCs involved.
How's the indie scene doing in Norway? Have there been any breakthroughs in the industry recently?
The great thing about the indie scene here in Norway is that it's very fruitful. Developers are working together more and more and are very active when it comes to organizing events to gather. We see local delegations form and help each other with knowledge sharing. More and more indie studios spring up but that is also widely due to the ease of developing and publishing for iOS or mobile devices in general. Unity3D is another reason we see a lot of indie studios. Affordable, easy-to-get-into engines are really leading the way for indies, obviously not only in Norway though.
The Norwegian government also recently doubled the funds available for game development, which is of course a big help. On the other hand the tax system in Norway makes it very hard for small indie studios, and concentrating on the Norwegian market very uninteresting. That's the reason most studios concentrate on international development unless they have big, well-known Norwegian or Scandinavian franchises to work with.
Sell Oliver&Spike in one sentence:
It's a mix between old-school adventure and platform gameplay that takes a lot of inspiration from the storytelling in the Uncharted series, the gameplay of the Zelda games and the funny characters in Ratchet and Clank, while adding the unique dimension-jumping gameplay.
We are looking for funding and publishing opportunities. We were part of the Game Connection and GDC in San Francisco, where we showed a prototype of a specially created example level. Since uncovering the storyline is very important we did not want to have an actual episode part spoiled during showcasing. We were also very flattered to be one of the 15 selected games to be featured at Game Connection.
On the development side are we of course adding content, levels and more dimensions and share progress and information on our development blog.
Oliver&Spike will come to PC, Mac and console, with mini-games planned for Android and iOS devices.
If you'd like to have your own shot at converting our readers into fans, email jess [at] joystiq [dawt] com, subject line "The Joystiq Indie Pitch." Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.