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The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Against the Wall


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, Michael Consoli helps players grasp the concepts of infinity, vulnerability and self-reliance with his Kickstarter-funded title, Against the Wall.

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

I'm working on a puzzle platformer called Against the Wall. The point of the game is to explore a world that is one infinite, flat vertical surface. Players use a device that lets them pull bricks out of the wall and form ledges, letting them hop from place to place without falling off the side.

You raised more than $8,000 for Against the Wall in your Kickstarter campaign -- more than your goal. What do you think made your campaign so successful?

I had a playable demo of the game available. Most of the people on Kickstarter seek funding with only the germ of an idea rather than anything concrete. My message was that I have this great thing, and it works, but I need the resources to expand it and make something extraordinary. I didn't need to offer t-shirts or other rewards, I just let the game speak for itself.

Against the Wall seems based in a philosophical, quasi-existential premise -- is there more behind the idea of an infinite, life-bearing wall than a game?

That's for players to interpret. I'm focusing on creating a fun and immersive gameplay experience. I want people to feel lonely and vulnerable while traversing this vertical cliff face, yet at the same time empowered by their ability to climb onward. I won't force any message into the game or provide an explicit narrative. People will have to figure out what is going on for themselves.

What inspired you to make Against the Wall?

I started the game back in May as a part of the Ludum Dare, a competition to make a game from scratch in 48 hours, solo. Back in college I wrote a story about people climbing an infinite wall (inspired by Borges' Library of Babel). While brainstorming, I took my old idea and decided to make it into a game. The theme for the competition was "It's Dangerous to Go Alone, Take This." I didn't have enough time to create a convincing quest giver, so I modeled a scarecrow, pinned a warning to it, and put the brick manipulation device at its base. I also built the world out of several thousand bricks, coded some basic functionality and movement controls, and managed to submit it right before time ran out. It was a rough prototype, but I saw a lot of potential in it.

What's the coolest aspect of Against the Wall?

The wall is infinite; it's procedurally generated by the game as the player moves through it. If you make a false move you'll be falling through the sky forever.

Anything you'd do differently?

I had this summer job that prevented me from working on the game for a while. It was a volunteer position that could have led to a full-time gig. I eventually quit to follow my dream, but I still lost a couple months of development time.

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

I've seen small teams and individuals make names for themselves by creating and releasing their own games. This has inspired me to take a shot at indie development myself. So far, I've been able to code Against the Wall effectively and create an environment that people seem to enjoy. I know that I can do this, and that there isn't any real need to become attached to a publisher.

Plus, I want to retain creative control over the game, something I would probably have to give up while working under a publisher.

Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?
I still feel as though I need to earn my stripes.... This is what drives me, the desire to ship a game and find a place in this community.

I still feel as though I need to earn my stripes. There are some very smart, interesting, and talented people in the world of indie game development. I'm in the same boat as many of them, trying to prove myself by making something great. This is what drives me, the desire to ship a game and find a place in this community.

Sell Against the Wall in one sentence:

Against the Wall is a journey through a dangerous and beautiful world, where everyone and everything is steps away from plunging into an endless sky.

What's next?

The game is still just an alpha. It works and it's playable on the game's site, but it is an unfinished product. There's a whole world for me to create. I've started building several cities, forests, castles, and so forth for people to climb through and explore.

I also have a number of brick types that act differently than the common white bricks. This variation adds more of a puzzle element to the gameplay, and forces players to think creatively about how different bricks work and interact with the player. A final game will also include more events, encounters, vehicle shortcuts and alternate paths upwards. Before that happens there will be a closed beta period for me to test and tweak the game into shape. It should be released a year from now through digital distribution. I'm selling pre-orders of the game on my site for the time being.

Against the Wall is available for PC and Mac in its alpha build right now, and possibly for all of eternity, 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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