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The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Auralux

Justin McElroy

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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 E McNeill about his trimmed-down RTS: Auralux.

How did you get started?

If you want to go waaaay back, I started out by playtesting educational games for my mom, a teacher who wanted to use games in the classroom. JumpStart and Mecc games turned out to be the perfect gateway drugs to Command & Conquer and Starcraft. It's been a slippery slope from there, and I've been making games ever since my first programming course in high school.

Why did you want to make games?

Maybe I was born this way. It's more of a compulsion than a choice. I have to make games. I'd like to say that it stems from a desire to bring more joy into the world, but it's probably something nefarious and sinister like a subconscious need to steal people's free time.

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

Indie is the default when you're unemployed! Plus, the indie game scene right now is so full of enthusiasm that it's hard to avoid jumping in. Also, complete artistic control is a huge bonus for OCD nerds like me.

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

It's called Auralux, and it's about stars hitting other stars to make more stars. Kind of.

Essentially, I tried to take the real-time strategy format and reduce it to its most basic elements. You have one type of production building and one type of unit, and that's it. It turns out that you can get all sorts of interesting strategic situations just from those elements. That's what Auralux tries to show: Underneath all the complexity, there's a very compelling common core.

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

Absolutely. I was inspired by Eufloria, an excellent ambient RTS that everybody ought to play. Eufloria was slow and meditative, which suited me, but of course there were things I could imagine doing differently. So I did!

Auralux is the perfect RTS for me. It's all macro. There's no focus on base rushing, build orders, Actions Per Minute, or micromanagement. It turns out that this formula works for a lot of other people too, especially those who get put off by the increasing complexity in the genre.

What are you proudest of about your game?

I'd have to say the aesthetics. I had a very specific feeling in mind for the game, and I think I got it right. The units float around the screen perfectly. The stars pulse to the beat of the music. The battles evoke soft sounds that coalesce into melody. I've been working on this game for over a year, and I still wax poetic talking about it, which probably reflects very poorly on me.

How long did it take you to create?

Auralux was created over the course of a year and a half, but only a few intermittent months of those were hardcore development time. That said, I think there's a huge advantage to putting a game away for a few months before looking at it again. You come back and all the rough edges are obvious again, so you iterate, iterate, iterate, and eventually it turns into something that keeps people playing until 5AM.

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

Auralux is a game in which your choices matter. It's small and simple, but it's also dense and thoughtful and compelling. You don't have to deal with any fluff, but instead only the core strategic choices of attacking, defending or investing.

It is, as I have said, a small game. And yet there are those who love it.

What's next?

The game got a great response online when it was released, and that included a bunch of requests for new features and offers to help develop it further. I'm not ready to talk about the exact plans yet, but I'll definitely say that you'll get your next fix of Auralux soon enough.

Want to check out Auralux for yourself? You can buy it for $5 on

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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