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The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Choplifter HD

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 inXile president Brian Fargo about his company's reboot of a familiar franchise, Choplifter HD.

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

Our big project for 2011 is Choplifter HD for PSN, XBLA and PC. We are taking a fresh approach to the classic helicopter rescue game Choplifter that was a huge hits in the '80s. People in the industry have really fond memories of the game and we intended to do it justice. In fact I brought the original creator Dan Gorlin on as a consultant he said it looks like the best adaption he had seen yet. It will be a very entertaining game.

Gallery: Choplifter HD (E3 2011) | 11 Photos

How did you or your company get started?

My status of becoming an "indie" developer is fairly unique in that I used to own Interplay which was one of the bigger publishers in the industry. Some people love the business variables of the industry but I have always loved the game development. Interplay had become a big company and I was not involved with development at all. Starting inXile allowed me to get back closer to making the games and to experiment creatively. Today's environment for indie developers reminds me of the industry in the late '80s. The AAA game business is owned by the large publishers but the digital world is a free for all.

Why did you want to make games?

How could anyone not want to make games? I think like most people I started off as a player of games and then eventually hit the point where you start to think you can do better than the games you are playing. Making games is all I have done for nearly 30 years. Thankfully I have kept fluid in my thinking and continue to work with young talented people to keep relevant.

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

I am just happiest when I am doing things my way. I use my instincts and run very fast and I really enjoy putting teams together of talented and motivated people.

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

I really do. The team here at inXile has so many fond memories of playing the original Choplifter and really wanted to take that timeless rescue mission gameplay design and present in a way that only today's technology could make possible. The beauty of embarking on this project as a digital game for PlayStation Network and PC is that even though we are a small developer, we can do it the way we want to or "make the game we always wanted to play", as you say. We get to call all the shots from big things like mission designs and how the physics of each of the helicopters work to small touches that will give the game its own charm like the chickens that I find endlessly amusing. That's the stuff that can really set a game apart for gamers. There is a special magic to small development teams.

How long did it take you to create?

We came up with the original idea and started work in late 2010. It is still in development but it looks to be about a 10 month dev cycle. The most important thing is that we build enough time in for re-iteration on the game play. NO planning in the world can replace re-iteration play design.

What are you proudest of about your game?

The thing that makes me the proudest is making a game that is entertaining even if you aren't finishing missions. You pick up the controls and it feels good, looks good, and the sheer act of flying around blowing things up and rescuing people is entertaining without you needing to even solve the many missions. Once you can accomplish that the game itself will fall right into place.

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

The thing that should stick out is the love we put into the game. We really care about every nuance and whether it looks and feels right. Plus there is nothing more fun than sending a missile into a large flock of chickens. That just never gets old.

What's next?

Even though inXile has been in business since 2002 and I've been making games for more years than I care to admit, I feel like we are just getting started. Digital gaming is opening a lot of doors for really talented developers to make amazing gaming experiences and bring them to consumers on their own terms. Whether it's a project for PlayStation Network or Xbox Live Arcade or Android or iPad, people who simply love playing games can expect a lot of great content from us in the future. In the near term, we are focused on making Choplifter HD the best that it can be.

Choplifter HD is due for release on XBLA, PSN and PC this fall.

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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