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 believe they deserve a wider audience with the Joystiq Indie Pitch: This week, Strange Loop Games explain how Fluros flourish in Vessel, a liquid-physics puzzler for PC.
What's your game called and what's it about?
Our game is called Vessel. It's about a man with the power to create life, and all the consequences that ensue. As far as gameplay, it's a liquid-physics puzzle platformer.
How would you describe the style of Vessel – steampunk? – and why did you decide to use that template?
It's a mechanical world. Steampunk is the closest pop culture reference, but we don't really call it that because steampunk brings to mind so many other connotations that aren't accurate for our game. We wanted to create a world where the machinery of the world was very exposed, meaning you could see the inner workings of all the machines, how things tick, grind and whir. The goal was to put the Fluros in this nice little mid-point, a contrast between Arkwright, the main character, and the machines of the world. Fluros are the bridge between them.
What inspired you to make Vessel?
The original seed of the idea for Vessel was the physics engine I was working on in my spare time. I was interested in experimenting with liquid physics and seeing what can really be done with it with the latest CPUs, and eventually the development got to the point where we realized this could be a really great game.
Do you see the Fluro technology as something viable for real-life use? Can video games impact the science and technology industries with the same force as movies or sci-fi books?
I don't really see them being literal enough for that. However, I think in our case, there's a powerful metaphor there, not just for technology but our relationship to technology, and vice versa.
What's the coolest aspect of Vessel?
The liquid creatures are definitely the most unique aspect of the game. All of the creatures in the game have bodies that are made of simulated liquid, which means they are very versatile in how they're used. They're able to melt, reform, regrow a lost limb, pass through barriers – all stuff that just naturally happens because they're made out of simulated liquid. It's that ability to bring ordinary liquid to life (and return it to ordinary liquid) that is the core of all our puzzles and is what makes the gameplay of Vessel interesting.
How important was M. Arkwright's backstory to the overall development process of Vessel?
It was all part of the puzzle we were putting together. We wanted this game to be a cohesive whole, from the story to the gameplay to the visuals to the music, so each is built up simultaneously to fill its role and complement the others. We gave Arkwright a backstory so that the game can open at a critical plot point – when these invented machines start to really surprise their creator.
Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?
Everyone on our team was interested in taking on a larger challenge – making a more challenging, innovative game. Larger companies can't take the time or easily risk trying something totally new. There's also a larger risk/reward at stake. If we succeed, we keep everything we earn. If we fail, we get nothing. At a larger company you have much more safety, which can be a good thing, but not what we wanted.
Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?
I see so many awesome games being made by other indies; it's definitely a group we're proud to be a part of. I think indies are defining what games will become in the years ahead. We are still at the beginning of video games as an art form, becoming culturally significant, and being at the forefront of that is really thrilling.
Sell Vessel in one sentence:
Living liquid machines have overrun this world of unstoppable progress, and it is the role of their inventor, Arkwright, to stop the chaos they are causing.
The road ahead is wide open. It's a good feeling. We're going to take a break for a bit, then get this game out on consoles (it shipped on PC first). After that we're going to take some time, really figure out what we want to do and what's the best direction considering the market. We're considering something else with liquid physics, since we have this nice little engine we built. I think touch functionality plus liquid physics has huge potential.
Vessel is available via Steam and through Strange Loop's website. Remember to always drink (and play with) plenty of fluids!
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.