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, Enrique Corts of the Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team talks international development dreams and drama in the iOS darling Pro Zombie Soccer.
What's the story here?
In Pro Zombie Soccer you control Jax, a soccer player who destroys his professional career due to hardcore partying. When suddenly he finds himself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and he is bitten by the best undead soccer player in the world, he gains his powers and decides it's time to take some of those nasty zombies with him before he transforms into one of them, with only the help of his trusty soccer ball and the ability to control a mass-destruction super-powerful military satellite. Phew.
The story is just as surreal as it gets. No intention here whatsoever of winning a Nebula Prize for best script, but players had a lot of fun with it and it's deeply integrated into the gameplay, which is exactly what we wanted.
What's your game called and how does it work on iOS systems?
Our game is called Pro Zombie Soccer on iPhone and Pro Zombie Soccer Apocalypse Edition on iPad and Mac, which is an enhanced version of the iPhone game.
This is a pure arcade game with a touch-based control system that works wonderfully on the iPhone and iPad -- no awful virtual control pads here, thank you very much. We really wanted a touch-control system that just worked without any mistakes or grey areas, simply because we believe that you cannot play a game that you cannot control properly. I mean, respect for other devs who use virtual pads, but we really think that's not the way to go for a touch-based platform at all.
What inspired you to make this game?
I have always been a huge zombie and Captain Tsubasa -- a soccer manga -- fan, so I guess that's why the crazy idea of mixing two of the coolest things on earth came to me naturally for our first game as a team.
Also, we've been playing games since Pong, so as you´ll see Pro Zombie Soccer has a bit of a retro flavor all over it, together with a fair amount of homages to true classics that people will enjoy finding along the way. Just take a look to the tank bonus or the zombie-space-invaders level. Good fun!
How long did it take to create?
The original iPhone version took around 9 months to make in our free time while we were working daily 9-5 jobs. We were devoting pretty much all of our holidays and after-work hours to make this game, so I honestly think that the fact we actually finished it is nothing less than a miracle. Lots of drama, trust me on this. We were even thinking about putting together a script and sending it to some Hollywood guys. It'd be a good movie for sure.
After the iPhone version came out and started to sell well, we decided we could leave our day jobs and focus on our own projects. We are still penniless but happier than ever.
What kind of drama did your team encounter while developing Pro Zombie Soccer?
Each member of the team was living and working in different parts of the globe. Our programmer and audio guys were based in Spain, our designer was in Canada, our localization producer was in Japan, I was in Singapore... you get the idea. So our daily routine involved having a meeting through Skype at a time when we all could be present to discuss the game's issues. It was madness! Actually, it still is because we are currently working from home like that, although we are all based at least in the same country now, thankfully.
What's the coolest aspect of your game?
I think the simple pick-up-and-play gameplay mechanic gets the number one. It's so simple that a 4-year-old kid has held 5th place on the Top 10 Spanish high-score ranking. Kids just love our game, even with all that gore (thank you, naughty parents of the world!). We even had an email from an American kid who dressed as Jax for Halloween! So full of win.
We are quite proud as well that we implemented in the game every little detail and mad ideas we thought were cool without cutting or leaving anything behind. Pro Zombie Soccer was a labor of love and we didn´t worry much about how long it would take to add this or that. Another fantastic feature is the awesome symphonic rock soundtrack made by the Badolato Brothers, the audio guys behind Vin Diesel´s The Wheelman OST.
And also, of course graphics have a lot to say within the game's personality. People usually tell us that Pro Zombie Soccer looks very similar to Plants vs. Zombies and it does, simply because I worked on that game doing in-game backgrounds and some concept art. I cannot escape from my own style! Sorry!
Anything you'd do differently?
Yep. Maybe, just maybe, we should not have done stuff like including blood and gore, or using the word "Pro" in our title when we were developing a game for a mainly casual platform, but as I said we were always making the game we wanted to make, regardless of the platform or the people willing to buy it. Thankfully it's selling quite well, we had fun making it, and the press together with Apple placed us up there with the best games of the year in both iPhone and iPad, so it all worked out pretty well.
Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?
I personally have worked for a bunch of game companies around the world... and I have to say, nothing beats the fun and challenge of making your games and starting your own company.
Been there, done that, not for me anymore. I personally have worked for a bunch of game companies around the world over 10 years, working on very different projects (some good, some bad, some awesome) getting very different salaries (some good, some bad, some awesome) and I have to say, nothing beats the fun and challenge of making your games and starting your own company.
Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?
It's true that due to the almost weekly closings of big game development studios, suddenly a lot of smaller indie adventures are starting to pop out, which is awesome, and some of the best and most innovative games of the recent years come from these people. We truly want to be part of this with all of our games, putting a lot of care into every project we work on. The tools and stores to make and sell your own games are there and no longer unreachable, so as a gamer and developer myself I believe it's a great time to be out there and make some noise!
Sell your game in one sentence:
You can shot zombies in their zombie nuts with your soccer ball! Oh, and Pro Zombie Soccer is available for iPhone, iPad and Mac on the App Store now! It's been Game of the Week twice and it's fantastic fun.
We are working really hard on our next project for iPhone, iPad and Mac and it's looking fantastic so far. We are having a blast making this one too and hopefully we'll show it to you guys very soon!
Pro Zombie Soccer is available now for iOS devices and the Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team promise to have a new game soon!
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.