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The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Wizard's Castle


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, we ask the father and son duo behind Wizard's Castle how working with family can help (or hurt) a fledgling indie title.

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

Wizard's Castle -- for iPhone 4 and HD for iPad 2 -- is a match and remove game for all ages. The player enters the castle to find that the friendly Wizard has cast a spell and colored, magic balls are raining down from the ceiling. The goal of the game is to prevent the room from filling up with balls during each three-minute round. Players match and remove balls by touching groups of two or more balls of the same color. While manageable at the lowest levels, the game quickly presents a difficult challenge to both hand-eye coordination and finding a winning strategy.

How did you get started in development?

Randy (father): Early in my career, a co-worker and I started a venture to make computer games for the new market in home computers, but the partner drifted away, life interrupted and the venture ended. Fast forward about 20 years and my teenage son expressed an interest in digital art and computer game design.

Was that nature or nurture?

Of course, he had a keyboard in his hand from age 2 and we took him to art museums, and he and I played video games together.

Good question. My wife was also interested in art when she was young. Her parents discouraged her. We had not actively guided my son in this direction. Of course, he had a keyboard in his hand from age 2 and we took him to art museums, and he and I played video games together. So maybe it was nature and nurture that led him to his interests.

Now seven years later he and I are working together to make games on nights and weekends. He is doing the 3D art and game design and I am doing the programming.

How does the father/son dynamic affect your working relationship?

Randy: I really love working with Raymond and passing on my software development experience to him. However, it is hard to stop thinking of him as my son and think of him instead as my partner. But we have a good relationship and the time working together on the game has been a lot of fun.

Raymond (son): The hardest part of about building the game with my dad has been getting him to remember I am not a child any more.

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

Randy: For 30 years, I have worked on the software that someone else wanted me to create. Now with our games, I have a chance to create the software I want. Also, I want to be the one to make the hard decisions instead of someone else. And it gives me a chance to work closely with my son.

Raymond: I want to be an independent in order to create the games I want to play and so that the design is under my control.

What are you proudest of about your game?

Randy: I'm really happy that everyone that plays the game has said they love playing it, and they also praise the game for how good it looks.

Raymond: I'm glad we were able to actually get our game made and approved by Apple.

Anything you'd do differently?

Randy: We decided early in the process to upgrade to the beta version of Unity 3. One of the first problems we ran into during the game's development was an issue with EZ GUI and the Unity 3 beta. In retrospect, I should have known better than to introduce a beta product into our development cycle, but I just could not wait to get my hands on Unity 3.

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

Both Wizard's Castle HD and Wizard's Castle are fun, addicting games that both kids and adults love to play.

What's next?

We will continue to make updates to improve both versions of the Wizard's Castle. Also, we are working on a new bigger game that will have 50 levels. Hopefully we will have it out in about a year.

Check out Wizard's Castle and Wizard's Castle HD for iPhone and iPad, now available through iTunes!

If you'd like to have your own shot at converting our readers into fans, email jess [at] joystiq [dawt] com, subject line "The Joystiq Indie Pitch." Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.

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