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The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Pot Smash


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, brothers Ben and Punya from Australian studio MiniMega break some pots and some rules. Ok, maybe just some pots. Their game is called Pot Smash, after all.

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

Pot Smash is a collection of simple minigames that all involve cracking and smashing pots. Basically it piggybacks on the fundamental human truth that we all love smashing stuff. It's wholesome and fun – a timewaster that currently has three game modes: A "match three" game, a typing game and a word game. We're currently creating additional game modes to be added to future updates.

What's it like developing with family?

Working together as a brother team is great. We've grown up playing games together so there's a bit of ESP going on when it comes to decisions about game design. Our first system was a Sega master system. Seeing how quickly we became obsessed, our uncle jigged it up so that it would only play for one hour each day. That was always our favorite hour of the day. We were hooked, and have never stopped playing.

We're both very much on the same page with our ideas and style so decision-making is easy and we are yet to have major disagreement. We're very lucky to be able to work together like this.

Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?

We first started developing games while working at M&C SAATCHI, an advertising agency in Sydney. The experience gave us a great working knowledge of the advertising and gaming industries, but we were always keen to work independently. Since we were little kids we've been making games together. Sounds cheesy but it really is a lifelong dream of ours to do this, so when the opportunity presented itself we jumped at the chance.

Working independently means we're able to make fast-thinking decisions. As a small team, our style, vision and taste are uncompromised – we can make decisions and stick to them. Larger companies have more stakeholders which can sometimes make it hard to keep things single-minded. We're able to "trim the fat" and keep precisely what we want. It allows us to develop more rapidly and also to be more flexible with the development schedule. We had always wanted to make a game for mobile. We really just needed the time to do it.

What inspired you to make Pot Smash?

We inspired each other with this one. Ben was formerly an art director and I worked in a development role. So the two halves were there and we wanted to see how far we could go as a team, using our areas of expertise to produce something original.

We've always been about fun – the aim was to create a game that we ourselves would want to pick up and play (hopefully time and time again!).

Social gaming is another big interest of ours – bringing a group together to play and compete with each other rather than having isolated gamers playing solo. Our friends and family have been a massive inspiration – the encouragement we've received from them and others in the games industry has been really inspiring and made the process even more exciting.

What's the coolest aspect of Pot Smash?

There's something about smashing things that everybody seems to gets a kick out of – it's almost like a universal impulse. It's great to be able to translate that tactility and destruction into a mobile game.

We like that it's not just brainless destruction; users are required to think and be challenged at the same time. The combination of smooth-flowing thought processes associated with typing and word games is reinforced with that satisfying feeling of smashing stuff.

People have said it's great stress relief. But really the coolest part, for us, is the fact that we made it. It's still a bit surreal seeing it sitting there on the app store.

Why did you decide to use pots, instead of glass, plates, teddy bears or anything else?

There's something inherently satisfying about smashing pots in particular. Probably years of playing Zelda affected our decision.

If there were a battle between mobile word games and shooter games, which side would you fight on?

Shooting words.

Anything you'd do differently?

Of course, but the great thing about being agile is that we can do things differently whenever we want. We can ask our audiences what they think and release an update – developing for mobile platforms is so uniquely flexible and adaptive; it's great.

Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?
The amazing thing about this indie-game-development community is the amount of support and encouragement we've received in taking this leap.

There is a real buzz in Brisbane around the indie-game-development movement. The developer direct-to-marketplace structure of the industry means there are more and more indie teams popping up all over the place, while the big studios are shutting down. I guess it's a type of evolution and things never stay the same.

A lot of our contacts in Brisbane are former big-studio guys, who have much preferred going out on their own and creating indie-style games with a much faster turnaround. The success of fellow Brisbane developers Half Brick, Defiant and 3 Blokes Studios gives a spark of hope for the rest of us.

The amazing thing about this indie-game-development community is the amount of support and encouragement we've received in taking this leap. Everyone has been so generous with their advice, it's a great environment to be in because we're all knowledge-sharing and learning as we go. But yes, indie is massive now and will only get bigger -- until indie becomes mainstream!

Sell Pot Smash in one sentence:

If you like breaking stuff (which you do), you will like this game. If you need therapy (which you do), it's very therapeutic.

What's next?

We've got Project 2 in the planning stages for release mid-2012, and we're definitely continuing to make games for the iPhone and Android. We also have plans to broaden our publishing platforms to devices like the Nook. Definitely keeping a close eye on non-mobile emerging platforms like Google+. The inherent social aspect to all of these platforms appeals to us.

Pot Smash is available on the Android Market and App Store -- hurry and download it now to release some of that stress that's making your forehead do that thing it's doing right now. Yeah, that. Get rid of it with some pot smashing.

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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