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The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Beat Hazard

Justin McElroy

Being a giant, beloved video game site 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 Steve Hunt, half of the team behind the music-fueled dual stick shooter action of Beat Hazard.

How did you get started in game design?

I first started making games when I was about 10 on an Atari 800. I remember I made a grave robbing game (unpublished!) where you had to break into a cemetery and drag out corpses without getting seen by the guards or caught by ghosts. I'm not sure if my parents though I was clever or messed up in the head.

I've been doing game design pretty much ever since.

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

Well, I've now gone full circle from writing games at home to working for the big boys all the way back to making games back in my bedroom.

I had plenty of experience working for mainstream developers and publishers for the last 15 years (DID, Rage, Warthog, Juice). Over that time I've found as budgets have got bigger that's it become harder and harder to take creative risks. Job security has gone out of the window too. I've always wanted to go indie so I would have the freedom to try all the wacky ideas I've had and to experience being my own boss. So when I was made redundant from Juice Games I thought it was time to give going indie a go ... I've not looked back since.

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

Beat Hazard
is a nuts-out music driven twin stick shooter – (Asteroids on steroids). The selling point is that it takes any one of your own music tracks and turns it into a level. Every part of the game is derived from your music in some way. So it's an intense shooter where you blast away at spaceships while rocking out to your favorite tunes all combined with eye-bleeding visuals. What more could you want?

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

Yes, definitely. That's not to say I didn't want to play the games I worked on during my studio days, but now I can really push things that would never have got passed the execs at the other companies.

How long did it take you to create?

The Xbox version took about 9 months with a further 3 months to convert to the PC. That's pretty quick I guess, but I've got used to writing code pretty quickly. As it's just me it's a lot quicker to make exactly what I want without having to consult with anyone else. I've also been doing regular updates since release to fix any problems and add extra content.

What are you proudest of about your game?

Firstly, I think the response from the fans. I've had some amazing emails, especially the ones thanking me for making their eyes bleed and giving them migraines! It seems the concept has really connected with the players. That sort of feedback it just great to read.

Secondly, is that the game has made enough money for me to continue being an Indie developer. This is just the best as it's been a dream of mine for many years to do my own thing. It's great to have some security and to have the funds to go on to make more games.

What are you working on for your next project?

Here's a scoop for you as I've not spoken in any detail about this yet; I'm currently working on an extension to Beat Hazard called Beat Hazard Ultra. It will have a ton more bad guys, power ups and game modes. It'll also have the most requested feature which is online play. I'm really excited about it. I think it's really going to push Beat Hazard to the next level.

Want to check out Beat Hazard for yourself? Buy it 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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