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 Vlado Jokic, co-founder and El Presidente of Footloose Games about his puzzle game, Munchies' Lunch.
Who are you and what do you do at Footloose Games?
I'm Vlado and I'm the president and co-founder of Footloose Games. I'm a part of a small team of very talented people and I was the producer on our recently-released puzzle game Munchies' Lunch.
Why did you want to make games in the first place?
I would say my uncontrollable need to create, coupled with unexplored potential in the gaming medium.
What's your game called, and what's it about?
The game is called Munchies' Lunch and it's a unique puzzle-adventure game. While it's very simple to learn, Munchies' Lunch will take skill and patience to master.
You play as Mrs. Munchie, the mother of a family that's been uprooted from their forest home. Your goal is to collect food for your kids while avoiding monsters in a grid-like field. The gameplay is focused on finding the best solution at your own pace, while taking advantage of foods with special abilities to gain an edge over your opponents.
What does this game mean to you? The game's story was inspired by my family's escape from the conflict in Yugoslavia during the early 90's. Mrs. Munchie, who is the game's lead character, is based on my own mother (I'm the kid with glasses). The courage, determination and unconditional love that my parents exemplified during that time of difficulty is a story worth sharing and I hope you draw as much inspiration from it as I did.
What are you proudest of about your game? I'm proud for having found a way to share my passion for games with my family. Having found a way to include my folks in the creation process and to tell our family's story is something that means more to me than all the commercial success in the world.
What one thing would you tell someone to convince them to get your game? You're playing the first of a series of games that tell inspiring stories about real people like yourself.
How did you or your company get started? My friend Bill and I started the company while in our last term at university. We worked full-time out of our own savings and out of my home following graduation. We were originally aiming for the XBLA marketplace but quickly lost interest due to the resource demands that we were facing.
Around that time Bill showed me a crude version of an abstract puzzle game he built over a decade ago while in high-school. I saw a lot of potential in the design and had my girlfriend play it and give us her unbiased opinion. She loved it and she wanted to see more levels and features, so Munchies' Lunch was born.
Shortly after, a funding opportunity came up courtesy of the Spinmaster CYBF Innovation Fund. We applied and scored a $50k loan that's kept us well-funded until the end of Munchies' Lunch's development. The funding allowed us to move into the Communitech Hub which is an amazing start-up incubator for creative and tech people. Since then, our business really took off and we continue to reside at the Hub.
Being young, everyone on the team was very inexperienced and overly ambitious, especially me. We scrapped many projects before working on Munchies' Lunch and we were poorly organized. Not having much experience in the industry, we had to learn a lot and we had to invent our own processes for doing our work.
Not knowing how big our challenge truly was, we constantly kept discovering new things that we needed to do and as a result we had to change plans on a weekly basis and miss deadlines. Working on an unstable plan gets very exhausting and we were experiencing burn-out and lack of motivation from time to time.
Working from home was horrible for me since I had no work-life separation and hit serious emotional lows along the way. This meant that I was working myself too hard and getting too attached to our game.
Once we got the CYBF funding, we got out of my home office right away and things have been fantastic since.
Why be independent rather than try to work for someone else? The experience of being an indie is an experience that forced me to learn to be self-sufficient. It also encouraged me to network with others and learn to work with those who are in a similar situation as my team was.
There's nothing better than watching a group of ambitious and talented people craft a unique game while growing together. Most importantly is that as an indie studio, we had the learning opportunity to see how the industry functions inside out. It meant that we had to make a game, coordinate a team, learn all kinds of disciplines that were outside of our expertise, negotiate distribution, balance our own lives and relationships, and have multiple plans going forward.
You won't get to have this much fun working for publishers :)
What's next? We're working on Mac and iPad ports of Munchies' Lunch as I write this. I am most interested in learning about who's playing our game so that we can take a more educated approach to our future designs.
Munchies' Lunch for the PC is currently undergoing testing with Big Fish Games and will be available for sale on their marketplace in the next month. In the meantime I'm meeting with investors who understand gaming so we can benefit from a more rewarding relationship that goes beyond financing.
In two months we will be starting work on a new project and we'll be working closely with our community during the design and development process, so connect with us on our Facebook and Twitter pages and get involved!
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.