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The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Mr. Condyle's Escape


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, Shawn Pierre of Origaminc is playing with time, luck and platforms in Mr. Condyle's Escape.

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

The name of the game is Mr. Condyle's Escape. The game is about a misunderstood scientist who is was trapped in a virtual world and must escape by getting past the world's defense systems. Players must choose the moves for Mr. Condyle in advance, before the world is set in motion. Once the game world moves, Mr. Condyle will need to avoid wonderful traps, such as Death Balls or Spore Chambers, while also navigating though constantly shifting environments, in hopes of reaching the goal or surviving for a certain period of time.

What inspired you to make Mr. Condyle's Escape?

Inspiration came from a number of sources, and sometimes it feels like everything around me inspires me to move forward with MCE. Other games, both indie and non-, have inspired me and have helped pushed me toward creating this game. Another place where I can find inspiration is the actual developmental processes of other indie game developers. Reading about their work, or talking directly to others really helps in pushing me forward as a developer.

Other, more specific, inspiration came from a different game idea that I want to pursue in the future. MCE is close to the simplest form of an element from that game.

What's the coolest aspect of Mr. Condyle's Escape?

I really like the simplicity that masks the complexity. The very basic premise of the game is very simple. You have a few number of options to choose from for Mr. Condyle -- move left, move right, jump, pause -- but when they are strung together, and placed in the game world, Mr. Condyle's situation gets much more complicated. Do you move right first, then pause, or vice-versa? Will this platform disappear before I have time to grab that key? What if I pause, jump, jump, move left, jump, pause, move right instead of jump, jump, pause, pause, jump, move left?

Outside of the actual game, one of the coolest aspects for me is watching other people actually play the game, and make progress. It's always nice watching and thinking "Hey, other people can actually play this game!"

How did the timed-move gameplay come about? Did you plan it all along, or was it a stroke of genius during development?

I have another game that I've been working on, mostly the concept, for quite some time. However, one of the features of that game is where the idea for Mr. Condyle's Escape spawned from. MCE started as a very simple version of that game's specific feature, ant it eventually was modified and became a completely different adventure.

Are you nervous about your submissions to indie festivals? Describe that process from a first-time developer's standpoint.

Submitting my game to various indie competitions was actually great. I had clear goals that were established by someone else, which helped me get work done. Setting your own goals requires a lot of discipline. If you miss your own personal deadline, there may not really be any sort of crucial punishment, or negative consequence. It's dangerously easy to say "I'll just do that tomorrow" when you set your own goals and lack discipline.

However, goals set by another mostly requires you to adhere to their rules. If you do not, then you can miss your chance at something potentially great. By having these competitions as deadline goals, I was able to focus more, and actually create smaller goals which all had a consequence if one was not followed through on timely, with the main negative consequence being missing the submission date for a competition.

How important is the story in Mr. Condyle's Escape?

To be honest, the story is not central to the gameplay. You don't need to know why Mr. Condyle was trapped, what he did, nor where he plans on going. That being said, the story is not something that I want to fall completely by the wayside. I have a few more elements related to the story that I want to add to the game!

Anything you'd do differently?

I probably wouldn't change anything that I've done. This is definitely not my last game. Everything that I'm doing now is not only for MCE, but it will help me with future projects. Each success and failure will have me thinking, "How can I emulate that?" or "How can I avoid that at all cost?" Even concepts that I had to remove from the game can be the basis for a future game. Because of that, I'd like to think of this process as something extremely beneficial.

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

I'm impatient. I did not want to wait to get hired by an established company. If I waited to get hired by a company, it's possible that the wait could have been very long. Furthermore, if I did get hired, I may not be able to develop any of the game ideas that I have currently. Most of my games would need to be put on the backburner. Plus, there are too many tools out there in the world where any excuse for me not working a game would have been extremely poor.

However, I am not against working for an established company at all! They seem like great places to learn a lot more about development, as well as meet people in places where I would love to be in the future. If someone wanted to hire me, I would definitely consider the possibility, depending on my current situation.

Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?

Indie developers are awesome. I think all game developers are great, but indies in a different way. I would really like to be considered as part of the indie movement. There are so many great games and ideas, and I would love to experience them all. Everyone should really take advantage of indie projects. It seems like the indie gaming scene is getting bigger every day, and rightfully so.

Sell Mr. Condyle's Escape in one sentence:

Choose your moves, press play, reach the goal or survive.... and (most likely) die a lot.

What's next?

There are a ton of elements that I want to continue to add to Mr. Condyle's Escape; new traps, levels, environmental tools, etc. Also, I'm planning making this game available on PC!

Mr. Condyle's Escape is in production now, but you can play a demo right here!

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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