The Joystiq Indie Pitch: PaintScape

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, Jon Powell of Jonathan Powell Productions (wonder if he's related...) explains the strokes of genius behind the brush strokes in his stylized iOS sidescroller, PaintScape.

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

Our game is called PaintScape and is a hyper-artistic take on the 2D-sidecroller shooter. You play as a feisty girl in a shoe tasked with wiping out the ever-bland black-and-white world! It's out right now on all iOS devices.

PaintScape seems as if it was a major collaboration, between you, an artist, photographer, programmer and some musicians -- were all of these people friends of yours or did you seek out their talents?

They were all people I'd met over the years and we've shared many a drink. The artist, Meghan Meier, is actually my tattoo artist going on almost a decade, and my band, Prepare the Joust, did the soundtrack. I was really fortunate to have known such a pool of talent and they were all so fun to work with. It's great because what starts as an idea at a BBQ can become a reality, and that's a truly awesome thing.

Was it extra worth the work to make PaintScape a stylized, artistic sidescroller?

It was absolutely worth it. When it comes down to it, there are a lot of sidescrollers out there so taking the extra time and effort to make PaintScape unique was the fundamental vision of ours from the start. We definitely want the gameplay to be fun and engaging, but at the end of the day we'd like our users to come away saying, "Wow, that's something I've never seen before."

What inspired you to make PaintScape?

At its core, PaintScape revolves around unique art and music. We are huge fans of street art and screen printing so our goal was to convert those mediums into an interactive experience and expose new audiences to the style of art we love so much. That and some kick-ass music of course.

What's the coolest aspect of PaintScape?

Hands down the art. It's all hand-painted, and we actually photographed it to get it in the game, as opposed to redrawing it digitally. This results in a very unique aesthetic which accompanies the indie soundtrack seamlessly. Even the enemy paths were all hand drawn on an iPad to sync with the music.

Anything you'd do differently?

There are always things that could be better, and we are constantly listening to feedback to help hone the experience. Ultimately we want anyone who plays PaintScape to not only have a memorable experience, but a fun one as well.

Do you prefer the tilt controls or the virtual joystick?

The tilt controls make the game a bit harder, so I try to hang with those as long as I can, but in the later levels I usually switch to joystick mode. We're still waiting for the video of some awesome kid ripping through world 7 with tilt. He or she will be my personal hero!

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

We knew exactly what we wanted to do and instead of spending a huge amount of effort on pitching the idea to a company, we figured that energy would be better spent just making it happen on our own.

For us it was just a matter of viability. We knew exactly what we wanted to do and instead of spending a huge amount of effort on pitching the idea to a company, we figured that energy would be better spent just making it happen on our own. There are obviously huge perks to working with established developers and publishers, but for our first project this seemed like the best way to go.

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

Personally, I think there is an astonishing amount of very creative game creation happening right now -- which is both amazing and humbling. And although we have the utmost respect for the AAA franchises and what they do for the industry, it is great to see such a lively and ambitious small development scene taking place alongside them. I wouldn't consider us part of any kind of "movement" per se -- more of just the result of lower barriers to entry for people who are passionate about making games.

Sell PaintScape in one sentence:

PaintScape will make sweet love to your eyes and ears only to make your heart a sandwich after.

Any plans for Android or other devices?

Yes, absolutely. Android and Steam are our main targets for porting right now. The biggest challenge for us, being a small team and all, is funding. But we are bound and determined to get PaintScape onto as many platforms as we can -- even if we have to sell a kidney or two.

What's next?

We are working on polishing up the experience even further through patches and providing the content our users would like to see in the game. This is obviously super important to us. We'd also love to get PaintScape on some more platforms so more people can enjoy it.

PaintScape is available now for $0.99 in the App Store -- try buying another piece of interactive art for that cheap. Just try.

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.