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The Joystiq Indie Pitch: DB42


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, Tim Scott explains what happens when the robots get sick and tired of picking up your garbage with his Android title, DB42.

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

My game is called DB42 and is available for Android phones and tablets. It's about a little service droid named Deeby that knows there's more to life than sorting through trash. He begs and pleads and is finally given permission to show his true worth in the Cynobotic Army's Advanced Robotic Training grounds. There's a catch though! He starts off with his gear stripped and his articulated arm completely disabled. Along the way he picks up upgrades to help him out.These upgrades allow him to scope out his environment, levitate objects, push objects away and teleport between two points. With these abilities, he's then got to use his wits to reach the exit on each level.

The game itself is a platformer that takes the form of level challenges. Levels include obstacles like zero-gravity fields, object field suppressors, water hazards, spatial constraints and physics-related puzzles. The lite version of the game has a single stage with 20 training levels and over 20 achievements the player can earn. The full, paid version of the game has five stages, 100 levels and nearly 60 achievements to earn. Some levels are extremely casual. Other levels can be real head scratchers.

Sell DB42 in one sentence:

If you've never used the words "kick-ass" and "puzzle" in the same sentence, you've never played DB42.

How important is an engaging story in creating indie games, your own included?

It really is dependent upon the type of game and the platform you are addressing. I don't think story is as important for the mobile gaming market. People are looking to play something just to kill time -- what's the point in a drawn-out story? From a strictly gamer perspective, I can't skip over cut-scenes fast enough. As I've watched people play my game, I've seen the same attitude -- they tend to skip over the help screens that appear and want to try and figure out stuff on their own.

What inspired you to make DB42?

I recently got into Android development as a hobby. After writing a couple of simple apps, I discovered libgdx, a cross-development game framework. It includes a port of the really cool 2-dimensional rigid-body physics engine called Box2D -- the engine behind Angry Birds. Anyhow, I got hooked playing around with physics and started having ideas on ways I could apply it to a game. DB42 is the end result.

You mentioned Portal as an influence on DB42, but are there other games that sparked some features of your game? How do you make DB42 different from those original influences?

Portal is definitely an influence in terms of some of the mechanics. One area that I think I improved on was the puzzle element. As I played through those games, there were times where I was really wishing the puzzles were more difficult or could have been altered to provide more of a challenge. I tried to nail that challenge in DB42.

Star Wars, while not a game, was another big influence. I really wanted to have an effect that was like the Force. Incorporating the "Junk Buddy" and "Repugnicator" upgrades fill that role. The Junk Buddy lets you pull an object to you. The Repugnicator pushes objects away from you. Being able to manipulate objects and game elements from a distance is a neat effect.

Finally, Super Mario Bros. also was an influence. DB42 is a platformer after all, and the whole moving platforms, jumping, running, etc. are present on pretty much every level.

What's the coolest aspect of DB42?

As far as gameplay goes, the ability to teleport around a level is extremely fun and cool. This feature makes for some really interesting puzzles!

On the technical/usability side of things, the cloud storage feature I added recently via the social gaming SDK Swarm is extremely cool. Your scores follow you from device to device and are able to survive totally uninstalling the app. You don't need to worry about backing things up -- it's all handled automatically, behind the scenes.

Anything you'd do differently?

I'd do my art assets differently. I solicited several different artists that I discovered on the forum. I opted for a guy that was willing to piece-meal things, but unfortunately he wasn't able to provide me with a cohesive art design. He was a good artist, but didn't have the investment in the project that I needed. I ended up having to toss 90 percent of the stuff I paid him to do and had to come up with art assets on my own.

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

Working on game development for me is a labor of love. As an indie, you get to learn all facets of the business, from design, programming, sound effects and artwork to PR, accounting and general project management. With an established company, you're restricted to a more limited role.

How is it handling all of those new roles you've taken on in developing DB42?

It's been extremely time consuming! When I'm not at my day job, I'm working on something related to the game. As the game designer, of course, you worry about whether the gameplay will appeal to anyone besides yourself. As the art director, you want to come up with something that looks cool and makes people want to play your game. As sound designer, you want the effect to be just right but not overwhelm the player with noise. As web designer, you want to develop something that showcases your game and gives players a place to congregate. As PR person, you need to make contacts to help promote your game and let people know it's out there.

I started off just wanting to make a game that I enjoy and hope other people will have fun playing. With all of the other roles you have to take on, it's morphed into a lot more than what I realized it would be.

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

Android is a nice development platform. With relatively low start-up costs, anyone with an Android based phone or tablet, a computer and some dedication can pull this off. That's the very definition of indie, right? So, yeah, I do see myself as part of the indie movement.

What's next?

There were a bunch of ideas as I was developing this that either didn't make it into the game or just simply didn't fit in. I'm either going to look at doing a sequel or start developing a new concept. I haven't quite decided which direction to go. It all depends on how well the game does in the market and if there is any interest for more.

DB42 is available now on the Android market in diet and full form. Go ahead; splurge a little.

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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