Joystiq Interview: Binary Tweed talks 'Clover' file size problems, Community Games

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Joystiq Interview: Binary Tweed talks 'Clover' file size problems, Community Games

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Indie developer Binary Tweed revealed that it has hit the Community Games size limit ceiling for its upcoming game, Clover. First on the strike list? Unlockable art; however, the developer mentions it may "have to make some compromises on the audio side too." Unlike the murky size-limit waters that surround Xbox Live Arcade titles, Community Games are stuck in a strict 150MB sized pool.

We wondered if this meant Clover's Q1 2009 release would change and where the developer hopes to go once its freshman entry is available to play -- so we asked. Joystiq talked with Binary Tweed's managing director, Daniel "Deejay" Jones, and picked his brain about the recent file size issues, the Community Games platform and how the industry is reacting to the indie game push.
Is it frustrating as a developer to adhere to such a small file size limit? (Community Games are limited to 150 MB)

The 150 Mb restriction on Community Games is a frustration, albeit a necessary one. I'd be interested to see if Microsoft would consider upping the limit in certain cases. Given that we're trying to differentiate Clover by cramming in as much artwork and content into the experience as possible, it's certainly going to have an impact on what we aimed to achieve.

Are there plans to release Clover "Uncut" on the PC?

I'm currently in discussions regarding ports to other platforms, and a PC release would seem a sensible choice. If enough gamers ask for it, I can't see why it shouldn't be on the cards.

Given the recent bump in the road, will Binary Tweed continue to develop Community Games?

The 150 MB limit is going to impact what we aimed to achieve.

The ideal progression for Binary Tweed would be to 'graduate' from Community Games into the Live Arcade arena. Whether this is possible depends largely on the commercial performance of Clover, and at the moment the community is still in the dark regarding the sales of existing [Community Games] titles so planning is rather tricky. Of the two designs that I'm eying up for our follow-up title, one would certainly fall foul of the size restriction again.

How has the size limit changed your release schedule, if at all?

The size restriction has luckily had no impact on the schedule, as the code and concept art for the now-canned Artwork Gallery had already been produced. We're going to try and squeeze in some of the lovely-looking pencil sketches into other places where possible, but it's a shame that gamers won't be able to get the satisfaction from unlocking the goodies, especially in the absence of Achievements and Gamerpoints: another restriction placed upon Community Games.

As part of an independent development team, do you feel Community Games is a good avenue for indie game releases?

Xbox Live Community Games is a fantastic initiative in terms of lowering the barriers of entry to console development. Whether it should be favored over other platforms remains to be seen -- until we get sales figures, it's going to be impossible to say. There are difficulties inherent in the service though, such as the difficulty we have making our titles available to reviewers. Some kind of automatic PartnerNet stage in the release process would help the gaming press get access to games before the general public.

Do you feel Microsoft is doing enough to spotlight the Community Games? Is the industry doing enough?

The press seem reluctant to treat Community Games even remotely comparably with Arcade titles.

Microsoft and the games industry at large could do a lot more to promote Community Games. I get the feeling that Microsoft are playing a "wait and see" game with CGs, which isn't going to help it take root. Looking at the massive publicity Apple have given the iPhone as a games platform, if Microsoft promoted Xbox Live Arcade in a similar way I'm sure we'd see a huge impact in Community Games. Major Nelson's highlighting of novelty titles really hasn't helped establish the service as a quality offering to consumers. The press seem reluctant to treat Community Games even remotely comparably with Arcade titles, which is understandable given the average CG developer's lack of marketing spend. I suspect that we're in a minority in that Clover has been featured in several print publications, online magazines, and literally hundreds of websites.

All that said, we developers can't sit back and complain about the lack of publicity. It's our responsibility to firstly make news-worthy games, and then to promote them accordingly. We're fortunate that Clover has garnered a lot of press attention, and hopefully it will do its part in convincing the average Live user that there are worthwhile ways to spend their hard-earned points in Community Games. I've been talking to other developers in the community about combining marketing spend to try and promote Community Games in the mainstream gaming press, and it would be beneficial for all involved if Microsoft considered part-funding marketing for proven CG titles.

So when can gamers expect to play Clover?

Pinpointing Community Games release dates is a little tricky, due to the peer review process. Clover should be going into public playtest today, although we still have some content work to do. All going well, expect to hear "It's out!" announcement from Binary Tweed at the very end of March.
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