Indie developers are the starving artists of the video-game world, often brilliant and innovative, but also misunderstood, underfunded and more prone to writing free-form poetry on their LiveJournals. We at Joystiq believe no one deserves to starve, and many indie developers are entitled to a fridge full of tasty, fulfilling media coverage, right here. This week, Fish Factory Games' Paul Fisch describes the fun of designing with a gravity gun, in Defy Gravity Extended.
Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?
There are a lot of reasons to work independently. You have much more freedom to create your own vision and take big risks developing an independent game. Defy Gravity Extended is a pretty unique game, and probably too radical of a design for a large established company to implement.
I think that you should always try to bring your idea to life with the minimal amount of people necessary. Braid and Cave Story were made by basically one guy. World of Goo was made by two. The more people involved in a project, the less flexibility you have.
I've talked to designers who've worked on games with $10 million budgets, and they complain about the fact that they're often locked into their designs once production starts. Once you start to actually play-test your work, you realize that there are a million things that you'd like to change, but by that point there are 40 coders working on implementation, the level designers are already half done, and the high-poly models have already been received from Singapore and paid for. So you can't just pull the breaks and do a redesign, and your game ends up being worse off for it.
So I say, if you can create your dream game with one or two people working in their living rooms, then by all means do it.
What's your game called and what's it about?
Our game is called Defy Gravity Extended. It's an action platformer that really pushes the format in a unique direction. Our heroine, Kara, uses a gravity gun to manipulate the world around her by altering the laws of physics.
We tried to really do something new with the genre rather than doing a throwback to 1990's style gameplay -- not that there's anything wrong with games whose appeal rests on that, but we wanted to create both a novel and fun platforming experience. You'll definitely need your platforming skills to get through Defy Gravity, but you will also need to be able to master the unique physics altering characteristics of the gravity gun to be able to get through the game.
Now we know the game -- who are you?
It's crazy to me that a game like Demon's Souls makes tons of headlines for actually being hard to beat. Why should every game hold your hand all the way through? Why should every complicated maneuver in a game be handled by a context-sensitive tap of the A button or a quick time event?
I'm Paul Fisch, CEO and lead developer of Fish Factory Games based out of New Orleans, Louisiana. Our company is made up of three people who share programming, art, and sound duties. Defy Gravity Extended is our debut title. We all have a background in Engineering and one member, Ian Fisch, also has a background in game development. Our goal is to create successful and innovative games that push the boundaries of their genre.
What inspired you to make Defy Gravity?
As a kid I played a lot of Team Fortress 1 (on the Quake 1 engine), and later Team Fortress Classic. I spent a lot of time in the game using rockets, pipe bombs and concussion grenades to heighten my jumps. This was a key strategy for serious TF players because it often let you bypass the enemy team's defenses and get right into their base. So when we started developing our first game, I really wanted to bring that feeling to a platformer.
There are a lot of games out there that really keep the focus on physics, sometimes to the detriment of gameplay. With Defy Gravity, I wanted to really focus on action and platforming, and use the physics to complement the gameplay. For example, in Defy Gravity you might be trying to outrun an enemy, and you'll throw down an antigravity well at your feet to boost your jump, getting you over a wall, or use the gravity well to push the enemy away from you. It's a fast-paced game. There are no slow box stacking puzzles in Defy Gravity. The best way to get an idea of what Defy Gravity Extended is like is to watch one of the fan-made gameplay videos.
Is it more difficult to make a good puzzle or a good platforming scene?
I think the most difficult thing to do is to make a good platforming scene that also makes you think. Some of the most fun sections, in my opinion, are the ones where you have to experiment with the gravity gun to figure out how to get through the obstacles, and then once you figure it out you must perform the required maneuvers in mid air, preferably with a laser bearing down on you at the same time. Of course not all challenges in the game are this difficult, but in the later levels when the player is more comfortable with the controls the difficulty does ramp up, so the player is able to face some of the more unique and interesting challenges the game has to offer.
Your protagonist is clad in a concealing spacesuit -- why did you chose to make her female?
Despite characters like Lara Croft, female protagonists are still underrepresented in videogames. Besides, someone had to pick up the ball after Nintendo dropped it with Metroid: Other M.
Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?
I think the indie game movement brings a fresh perspective. It allows gamers who are jaded by the constant stream of Call of Duty clones to keep on playing unique and interesting games.
Absolutely. the game has been a big success because of digital distribution networks like Steam. This game would not have been possible five years ago. Digital distribution is a huge game changer in terms of cost of development and ease of access to huge audiences.
I think gamers are getting tired of mainstream big-budget titles. Mainstream games these days are starting to become like Hollywood movies. They're so expensive to make that their creators don't want to offend any potential customers. It's crazy to me that a game like Demon's Souls makes tons of headlines for actually being hard to beat. Why should every game hold your hand all the way through? Why should every complicated maneuver in a game be handled by a context-sensitive tap of the A button or a quick time event?
I think the indie game movement brings a fresh perspective. It allows gamers who are jaded by the constant stream of Call of Duty clones to keep on playing unique and interesting games. Games like Terraria, Minecraft, Gish and Braid would never be released by a mainstream studio.
Sell Defy Gravity in one sentence:
The most fun a gamer can have for $3.
We're going to stick to the action platformer genre, but the next game will be larger in scope, and if you can believe it, even more fun.
Defy Gravity Extended is available now on Steam for just $3. Check it out if you have the guts to Defy Gravity.
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