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Joystiq Indie Pitch: Scarlett and the Spark of Life

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 Tim Knauf and Tristan Clark of Launching Pad Games about their royal adventure, Scarlett and the Spark of Life.

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

Tim Knauf: Scarlett and the Spark of Life is a bona fide, designed-for-iPhone adventure game, in the tradition of classics like Monkey Island but with a modern streamlined interface. It's the first episode in a series of four games: The Scarlett Adventures.

Tristan Clark: Scarlett's a princess - the kind with a crowbar and a penchant for rescuing herself when kidnapped. The first episode sees her stranded in a remote alpine village, with her only chance of escape being a grumpy, egotistical mechanical horse. Hilarious hijinks ensue.

How did Launching Pad Games get started?

Tristan: It was at a birthday party for a flatmate. I had already drank more beer, wine, tequila and rum than was good for me, when a friend brings one of their friends over. This hazy-looking person shouted something like, "Hi, I like making games." I shouted back something eloquent like, "Great! Fantastic! Me too!" For some reason, the rest is all a blur, but that friend of a friend and I ended up going into business together.

Tim: Yep, that's pretty much exactly how it happened. Since then, we've made some well-received Flash puzzle games (The Pretender Part One and Two) as well as a little iPhone action game called Zoo Lasso. Oh, one thing missing from Tristan's party story: some of the shouting was about wanting to make games with interesting stories. That's why I'm glad we've made Scarlett, even if it did take four times longer than we thought it would. Ahem.

On that note, how long did Scarlett take to create?

Tim: In a hilarious bout of optimism, we actually thought we could create an iPhone adventure in two months. A rewrite, a ton of late nights and a complete graphical revamp later, the game is finally ready - eight months after we started. I like to think that it's been worth the wait, though.

Why did you want to make games?

Tristan: For me, it's all about creating worlds that people want to inhabit. It could be a puzzle game, an RPG, whatever - the thought of being able to conjure up a narrative or an experience that a player gets sucked into is absolutely amazing.
Tim: Making games - especially games with stories - brings together so many things I love: writing, design, audio, programming, music ... I can honestly say that this is my dream job!

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

Tim: Like I said, I love almost every aspect of game development. It's hard to imagine feeling satisfied at a large studio where the tasks are necessarily segregated. Retaining ownership of our intellectual property is very nice, too.
Tristan: When it comes to games, my skill set has always been ... vague. I didn't believe I'd fit into a normal studio structure - I would have to create my own opportunities if I wanted to get anywhere. And now, of course, we're used to being our own bosses, even if it does mean the paychecks are kind of irregular.

What are you proudest of about Scarlett and the Spark of Life?

Tristan: The writing. It was the single most important element that we wanted to get right. I'm not sure if we succeeded, but the whole process has been hugely satisfying.

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

Tim: We've made the iPhone adventure game that was missing from my life, at least! I enjoyed Hector: Badge of Carnage, but other than that, there haven't been a whole lot of non-shoehorned, original adventure games in the App Store.

What one thing would you tell someone to convince them to get your game?
: We've got some amazing bee jokes in Scarlett. Seriously, they're off the hook, go check them out.

What's next?
Tristan: Scarlett Adventures Episode 2, we hope! If people like the first episode, we'll be knuckling down and making a sequel that will be at least 10,000 times more awesome.

Want to check out Scarlett's first adventure for yourself? Look for it on the App Store this Thursday! 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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