The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Zombie Cow Studios

Justin McElroy
J. McElroy|02.16.10

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Justin McElroy
February 16th, 2010
The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Zombie Cow Studios
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. To kick things off we're, unsurprisingly, turning to one of our favorite indie developers: Dan Marshall of Zombie Cow Studios.

How did you get started?

I started my career working in TV, and making games was my naughty little hobby on the side -- a way of expressing my creativity when my 9-to-5 was making terrible reality shows. When Time Gentlemen, Please! started to get great reviews, I took a good long look at TV and where it was likely to go over the next 30 years (with the death of the traditional broadcaster, and people on YouTube being exponentially more entertaining than most of the grot I'd been involved in) and took a good long look at where gaming's going ... and it's a pretty easy decision to leap from boat-to-boat.

Besides, with the tools indies have these days and the spread of digital downloads and an instant market of near-as-dammit six billion people, making your own games isn't the same stupid, reckless idea it was five years ago.

Why did you want to make games?

Games are awesome. Everyone loves games, especially me. Making teeny little indie games really scratches this creative itch I have. I can't sit playing someone else's game without thinking "Ooh, I want to be making my own game." It's addictive and brilliant and fun.

Why be independent rather than try to work for someone else?

Every morning I get up and stand at the window with a cup of coffee in my hand and watch people trudge towards crammed commuter trains in the drizzle. Some of them are wailing and crying, others seem to have given up all hope entirely, all sense of joy drained from their faces. That's motivation enough to work 12 hour days out of my trendy little South London flat.

Also, my coding sucks and my art pretty much sucks. I'm 95% sure no one would ever hire me.

What are your games called, and what are they about?

We're currently working on a game called Privates. It's an action-platformer about a squad of teeny-tiny Space Marines rummaging around peoples' vaginas and bumholes and stuff, shooting things. It's pretty nuts. I don't think there's anything else quite like it.

There's also another episode of Dan and Ben on the way, the first in what will hopefully be a series of short, sharp, bite-size adventures. We're still planning out how it's going to work, and it's taken some time to get right, but it finally looks like Revenge of the Balloon-Headed Mexican will be a worthy successor to Ben There, Dan That! and Time Gentlemen, Please!

Do you feel like you're making the games you always wanted to play?

Always. It's often such a shame, seeing games grow from absolutely nothing and experiencing every minutiae of development that you never really get to experience the final product in the same way other people do. Hopefully in the future some crafty bastard will invent some sort of extravagant mind wiping hat - so I can sit in front of one of my own games, a single tear rolling down my cheek at its sheer brilliance. Here's hoping.

How long do your games take to create?

We're still in development with Privates – looks like it'll wind up being about a year's work, from initial development to final line of code.

Time Gentlemen, Please! was about nine months, but that was all done part-time in stolen snippets around my day job. Hopefully when development on Revenge of the Balloon-Headed Mexican starts proper, it'll be a few months, tops.

What are you proudest of about Privates?

For the first time in Zombie Cow Studios' history I've got other people working on the art and the code. Proper, professional people who know what they're doing called Chris Simpson and Andy Hodgetts. They've done proper AAA games ... so with every passing day it's looking more and more gorgeous in a way I could never possibly do myself.

Also it has some pretty grotty dialogue in it. I did that bit.

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

Privates will be free on PC, and if it gets an Xbox Indie Games release, some of the cash will go to charity. Hopefully that's enough to win most people over.

Revenge of the Balloon-Headed Mexican has a puzzle in it that was so borderline 'too much' that we had to run the idea past my girlfriend and judge by her expression whether or not it was going to make people call the police on us. I *think* we're alright, but it's touch and go.

What's next?

After Privates and Revenge of the Balloon-Headed Mexican? I'm not sure, exactly. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. If Balloon-Head does well, there'll be more short Dan and Ben games in a similar vein, and I hope so because they're a complete joy to develop.

You can find all of Zombie Cow's games on its official site. 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."
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