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The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Blackish Games

Justin McElroy

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. This week we talk with Markus Hofer of Blackish Games. His studio's feeding that dirty little addiction you know you developed during the Winter Olympics with Age of Curling.

Joystiq: How did you or your company get started?

Markus Hofer: I had a pretty good job as a graphic artist, but I always rather wanted to work on my own stuff. I figured it would take me about a year to make my first game and so I saved as much money as I could. I looked into all sorts of tools, talked to a lot of people and once I was confident I had found everything and everyone I needed, I quit and got going ...

Why did you want to make games?

I've always been creative and I've always tried to escape the real world.

And since I've never been able to narrow down my fields of interest, I'm lucky to have found the one job where I get to do a bit of everything. Which is not to say that that doesn't get me dangerously close to blowing my mind on a regular basis - having to think about everything from database-programming to sound-design at the same time can be challenging, to say the least ... But it's worth it and I love it.

"Having done a game about curling has undeniably made us the coolest kids in indie-town, so how do we top that?"

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

If you have a job in the games industry, you're most likely an enthusiast. You're not in it for the money, because you could be earning more in pretty much any other field. The people who hired you know that as well, and will be trying to push you as hard as they can. But sooner or later you'll be sick of working crunch-time in crammed offices and get a better-paid job in another field -- don't get me wrong, working in the games industry can be great, but the working conditions usually aren't.

Being independent is no picnic either, but having full creative control makes it all worth it! Being small requires a different approach than those of the big studios, it means we've got to pick our battles very carefully -- we can't compete with companies whose marketing-budget for a single game is a hundred times the worth of our entire company. But that's okay with us, we don't need big budgets. Big budgets mean worried investors who want minimal risk and thus leave minimal creative freedom. We're happy being tiny but self-funded and have much more fun doing niche titles and creative experiments anyway.

Oh, and we do take on external projects as well, but only if they're interesting to us and only if we have a certain degree of freedom ... or if we're out of funds.

What's your game called, and what's it about?

Age of Curling is a game about the highly underrated sport of curling. It hints at the long history of the sport by taking you through different epochs and places. It currently includes five unique venues set over several centuries (from an ancient Scottish castle's moat to a modern stadium). There are 3 play-modes (PvP, PvAI, Tournament) and it's got exquisite menu music done by part-time ambient-god Photophob.

While originally developed for the iPhone and iPod Touch we have just released versions for PC and Mac (higher resolution graphics and a fullscreen mode) as well as an OS X Dashboard Widget and a web version that you can play in your browser at

What's next?

Having done a game about curling has undeniably made us the coolest kids in indie-town, so how do we top that?

Well, we've been working on a futuristic speed-racing game called Speedlap Red. It's been in development for about a year now and it's going to be great fun!

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." Can't get enough indie? Check out the Pitch archives.

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