It's not that there are too many indie games; it's that there aren't enough hours in a day to play all of them. The Joystiq Indie Pitch curates the best indies to play now and watch out for in the future.
What's your game called and what's it about?
My game is called Tower of Guns and it's an old school, fast-paced FPS with a ton of roguelike-ish elements. It's not a true roguelike, of course, but it plays kind of like a mashup of Doom 2 and the Binding of Isaac. You can pre-order the game now for $5 and you'll get access to all the development builds. It also just got accepted into IndieCade's E3 Showcase, so you if you want to meet me in person and will be at E3, please swing by!
What's the coolest aspect of Tower of Guns?
While the game is certainly a return to the fast-paced shooters of yesteryear, I feel what's really making it special is that the combination of random loot, random rooms and twitch gameplay lead to a lot of "surprises" for the player. I try and maintain a no-limit attitude toward development and I try to treat that "delight of surprise" as an actual mechanic, continually throwing crazier things at the player. As a solo developer I obviously can't get too ambitious with visuals or AI, but I hope I can still deliver something to players that they've never seen before.
Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?
I used to work for established companies actually. I spent a few years at Ironlore working on Titan Quest and its expansion, and then went to 38 Studios to work on the look/feel/art technologies of the Amalur MMO. Watching that studio fall apart left me with a distinct exhaustion. I'd spent years working on something that no one would ever see and, well, afterward I felt the need to step away from the big leagues and find a more intimate development experience.
I wanted to make something that could be made by a single person for a single player. And I want to develop it as openly as possible, logging my progress every day – you can follow the dev blog at Tower of Guns. The whole experience is about as far away from a secretive, big-budget MMO as you can get.
Hand-in-hand with that sentiment is my love for the FPS genre. I grew up on Thief, System Shock, and Deus Ex. I made god-awful custom levels for Dark Forces. I could sketch maps of every level from Knee-Deep in the Dead from memory and I spent months searching for a copy of Faceball 2000 on GameBoy (this was pre-internet days). I'm not touting any great FPS gamer skill, mind you – just a deep-rooted adoration for the genre, and after years of working on action-RPGs and MMOs, the obvious question hit me: Why hadn't I ever worked on an FPS? And, if I was going to make an FPS, what would I make?
Talk about Tower of Guns' replay value – how important is it in your development strategy that people can own this game for years and still enjoy playing it?
It's extremely important, but I should curb expectations a little. It's not a procedurally generated game. It's randomly composited. That means you will eventually see the same rooms again. I'll build as many as I can cram in (hundreds, likely) and I'll offset the room repetition by adding layers of randomization on top in the form of enemy configurations, shop locations, loot drops, etc.
At the rate I'm going I should be able to build enough content that players can clock more playtime than most single-player FPS games and still feel like it's a fresh experience each run, but I won't mislead you; you won't be sinking Skyrim-style hours into the game unless you're obsessed with unlocking everything or finding secrets.
However, I also won't be asking for AAA prices for the game, either. And my primary goal will be to make it fun and replayable enough that players feel it was worth their money.
Are sales of your ebook, The Armpit of Evil, generating enough income to fund Tower of Guns?
Nope! It does help pay for lunches though. And it was fun to write and taught me many humbling lessons on storytelling. It's also indicative of my weird sense of humor and in general people seem to enjoy the book, so if you'd like to purchase it, you can do so here.
Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?
I think so. There may come a time when I feel the pull to return to a high-profile, big-budget project again, but I like to work on fresh things and the risk-aversion of larger companies isn't going away any time soon.
Well, I've got to finish the game! It's about a quarter complete, though most of the riskier parts are finished. From here on out it's a matter of rinse-and-repeat until I have enough levels, items and enemies. This is the fun and exciting part of development. Anyway, you can pre-order the game right now at Tower of Guns, and pre-ordering gets you access to all the developer builds, so you can follow along as I continue work on the game. If Tower of Gunsever gets on Steam, then I'll happily hand Steam keys to early adopters as well.
Tower of Guns has a page on Steam Greenlight and is available for pre-order – with access to an early version of the game right now – via Tower of Guns.