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The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Smuggle Truck


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 Alex Schwartz, founder of Owlchemy Labs about his driving game, Smuggle Truck.

What's your game about?
We're working on a game called Smuggle Truck. It's an over the top physics-based driving game for iOS, Mac and PC, which was created to poke fun at the woefully inadequate legal immigration system in place in the United States. You can choose to wait 19 years for your visa in the "Legal Immigration Mode," or you can take the truck and try to deliver all passengers safely over the border. The main gameplay involves stunt driving, tilting, rocketing, catching babies, and collecting medals to unlock future levels.

Who's the greatest smuggler of all time? It's gotta be Han Solo, right?
Han Solo is high up in my list, but the greatest smuggler(s) of all time would go to the Greek delivery crew who dropped off the Trojan Horse. Pushing the Trojan Horse; that's a win in my book.

How did you or your company get started?
Myself and co-founder Yilmaz attended college together and had blabbed for a long while about making games together as a full-time endeavor. I was working at a salaried triple-A gig while Yilmaz was jumping around from contract to contract. The catalyst that kicked our asses into gear was the weekend prototype of Smuggle Truck, created at a Boston Indies game jam. With an idea to work off of and it being a prime opportunity in our careers, we decided to kick our jobs and form Owlchemy Labs together. Thus began the 60-plus hour work weeks, not due to publisher deadlines or external pressures, but for the passion of creating games.

Why did you want to make games?
Games are what come naturally to us. Having enjoyed all types of games growing up, we knew that we wanted to author our own game experiences and share them with others. It's kind of the gamer dream. When we decided that it was time to launch a startup, it wasn't a question of what market segment was showing the greatest margins. We knew exactly what our plan was: Make a living creating what we love. Any success over and above what would sustain us would just be icing on the cake.

Do you feel like you're making the game you always wanted to play?
When we were prototyping the game, we weren't thinking, "This shall embody the culmination of our life long goals and summarize all joy and happiness that exists in this world." We wanted to build something remarkable in the sense that we wanted something the world would 'remark' on and discuss. Once we had a working prototype, we did some play-testing and found out that we had stumbled upon a fun formula. The combination of the timing needed for the baby mechanic coupled with the jostling visual of the passengers in the truck while driving at breakneck speeds made for gameplay that we actually enjoyed playing. This was a great moment, and it gave us much needed validation that we had a prototype in our hands that was worth iterating over.

How long did it take you to create?
We began development by prototyping the game during a weekend. We started working full-time on the game in November, so it's about 5 months from prototype to a shippable v1.0.

What's next for you? Will you start a real-life smuggling service?
"Smuggle Truckin' Professional Smuggling Services" was too long of a name so we scrapped the idea. For reals, next up we'll be working with a local indie game developer to create a sequel to one of their popular games and bring it to new platforms. We view it less as a contract gig and more as a collaboration with awesome people, which is one of our major goals as a company; team up with great people and make cool stuff. After that, we'll probably revisit the trucking service again and see if it's become a more viable option.

Smuggle Truck is expected to go live on the App Store this month.

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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