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The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Soldiers are Dreamers


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, Peter Willington makes the transition from game critic to developer with Soldiers are Dreamers.

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

The title of my game is Soldiers Are Dreamers, taken from the poem "Dreamers" by Siegfried Sassoon, a celebrated World War I poet. It's inspired by war but I've tried to be as ambiguous as possible when it comes to the actual message and meaning. I really want those that experience it to make their own interpretations on what the narrative itself is.

How did you get started in development?

Without a doubt the first thing I should point out is that I'm not a developer by trade, I'm a games critic. The reason for getting involved in game creation rose from a project called Pause:Continue over on my podcast label InRetroSpect Podcast. I realised that while I was happy to pick apart games, I didn't know the process of putting them together, so for the first series of Pause:Continue I decided I'd make a game themed around the concept of war.

Why did you want to make games?

To better understand the mindset of a game developer and to experience a small taste of what it's like to pour your heart and soul into making games. The piece itself is an experimental form of games criticism in a lot of ways, the end product is the culmination of that.

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

Good question! I could have applied to work at an already established studio instead of create my own title. The problem of course is that that's easier said than done and no one's going to take a risk in hiring you if you have no experience.

I was also keen to turn my hand to every aspect of the project: Art, sound, engine, marketing, script and so on, which is something you don't get as part of a big company.

On every level, being independent was really the only way to go.

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

I really enjoy games that try something a little different and I can't think of too many games out there that actively go out of their way to tell the player as little as possible, encouraging them to interpret the events on screen to such an extent. That said, I'm not the biggest fan of adventure titles, so it's not exactly my perfect game.

How long did it take you to create?

From conception to end product, about 5 months, though in terms of man hours -- as I was doing this in my spare time -- and the fact that I also had podcasts to accompany each month of development, that figure is probably a little misleading.

What are you proudest of about Soldiers are Dreamers?

The fact that it's finished. As the whole point was to see if I could actually realise an idea in the form of interactive entertainment, just reaching the end of this endeavour with something to show makes me feel pretty happy.

Anything you'd do differently?

I would really liked to have included filmed sequences and inserted them within specific sections of the title. To realise that would have probably added an extra month on development to cast actors, find a location to shoot and work out how the game engine handles video sequences. The idea was scrapped pretty early on, but I really think there's some untapped potential that arose out of the FMV games of the mid-90s, so it would have been cool to experiment in that field too.

What one thing would you tell someone to convince them to get Soldiers are Dreamers?
That doesn't really sell it too well does it? Uh... because playing it will make you richer, more attractive and super intelligent.

The investment in the player is so minimal as it's free, takes less than ten minutes to see everything and is a fairly small download, that it's really accessible and bite sized. Even if you end up disliking the game – and I think a lot of people will have that reaction – you've not really lost much to it, save maybe 15 minutes of your day.

That doesn't really sell it too well does it? Uh... because playing it will make you richer, more attractive and super intelligent.

What's next?

I go back to writing about vidjagamez for any outlet that'll take me. I'd like to say that there's another game in the pipeline but having this one experience has served its purpose and I'm happy to move on to other weird and wonderful projects to further explore the medium. That said, I do have this one idea for a game kicking about, so maybe a year down the line I'll think about doing another.

Download Soldiers are Dreamers for free now, if you have 15 minutes to spare.

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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