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The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Armor 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 Armor Games' Daniel McNeely (Founder) and John Cooney (Head of Game Development), who converted a love of medieval Flash games into a full-on gaming hub.

How did Armor Games get started?

DM: Armor Games got started out of the desire to make quality Flash games available to just about anyone. There're so many out there, we wanted to be consistently great.

We initially launched as 'GamesofGondor,' with the intent of focusing on medieval games. I'm a big fan of Tolkien, CS Lewis, Robin Hood, King Arthur and pretty much anything representative of chivalry, so it was a natural choice. Anyway, I quickly found out that the word 'Gondor' was protected by one of Tolkien's law firms, and so I searched for another domain name that would keep it Medieval. I found, and went from there. I worked from my bedroom for a year before bringing on my first full-time employee (John Cooney, our game development lead). Being independent and supporting indie game development has always been important to us, so I'm glad we can continue to fund and sponsor Flash games in the long-term.

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

DM: Being independent allows us to foster a work environment for other independent developers. We have a lot of fun together (company trips, golf tournaments, etc.) and I'd never want to lose that freedom. Being a force to unite independent Flash developers under one roof allows them to operate under the Armor Games label at a much larger economic scale than they would be on their own. That said, I've never forced anyone to make a game. All of our developers bring their unique talent and ideas to life and I simply encourage and help them realize those ideas.

Why did you want to make games?

JC: There're few more creative (and complex) ways to express yourself than in game design. No two development processes are ever the same, and it never fails to be fun or exciting.

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

JC: Yes – that's definitely one of the perks of working for a small production studio. The process is a lot more intimate with all aspects of our game production so we have plenty to say into what games become. I find it hard to be part of a project that I don't have much interest in. To continually work on games that I enjoy playing (and producing) keeps me happy.

How long do you take to make each game on

JC: I've personally made games in just a few hours, but with our teams, and our quality-control processes, it typically takes about a month per game. Mine might be shorter, as I focus on smaller experiences that involve simple mechanics and gameplay. Naturally, they're a lot of fun.

What are you proudest of out of your games?

JC: I take pride in taking the "simple yet creative" approach to game design. Players enjoy new, interesting experiences but don't want to be locked up on the pause screen reading an instruction manual. I try to make interesting things in the simplest packages possible ... make the UI clean and don't over-complicate the controls and gameplay.

What one thing would you tell someone to convince them to play your titles?

JC: People love animals, which is where I hedge all of our success over Achievement Unlocked and This Is The Only Level (Too). I tell people my game has an animal in it, and they instantly want to play it. "Oh, it's a llama text-based adventure? That sounds like fun! A narrative entirely made up of ducks talking? Sold!" Animals make good characters...especially cute ones. Cute ones with guns.

What's next?

JC: I really love photography, and I've been dying to make another photography game like Pokemon Snap or Afrika.

If you'd like to give any of Armor Games' releases a try, you can find them all at their site right here. 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." Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.

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