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, Melbourne developer Finn Morgan discusses the affects of color-coded gravity in Colour Bind, out today on Steam.
What's your game called and what's it about?
It's called Colour Bind (easy to misread, I know - it's "Bind" with no "l"), and it's a world where objects of a different colour fall in a different direction. Maybe red objects fall down as normal, but green objects fall up and blue objects fall sideways. You control a car thing that has to drive to the goal of each level, overcoming various obstacles and puzzles that are made possible by the weird outcomes of the fact that gravity is pulling different objects in different directions.
What inspired you to make Colour Bind?
It's kind of a silly story. I was walking through Melbourne during a traffic jam, and it occurred to me that, viewed from above, the shapes of the long lines of cars moving and stopping in streams would make interesting shapes for a 2D platformer. The cars in this scenario would have to have gravity pulling them away from the camera, but the character in this hypothetical platformer would need to fall "down" relative to the camera.
Thinking about this situation, of different bodies being pulled by gravity in different directions depending on their "type," distracted me from that game and eventually turned into Colour Bind.
It seems you've been working on Colour Bind since at least 2008 – how has your initial idea changed since the beginning, and what has taken the most of your development time?
The idea for the game has remained remarkably solid throughout. I think that's because the game was initially developed for a competition and so it was "finished" in the first three months. Since then, there have been some major additions (level editor, co-op mode, the level count has gone from 20 to 90, etc.) but the core idea of the game was in place early.
As for the development time, it was more like two years of work spread out over four years – some of that time I was working full-time and Colour Bind was dormant. Of the time I was actually working on the game, I'd say the biggest time sink was figuring out how to do things. Since it's my first game, I was feeling my way through a lot of tech issues. I think I could make a similar game in half the time, now.
What's the coolest aspect of Colour Bind?
I can only speak as a developer watching players; from that point of view, it's when the player has a moment of clarity regarding the implications of the colour-driven gravity and simultaneously feels brilliant for understanding it, and stupid for having not understood it earlier.
It's either that or watching friends playing multiplayer (split-screen, cooperative) and yelling at each other to try to coordinate some physically challenging manoeuvre. That's equally entertaining for me, whether they manage to pull it off (in which case high-fives ensue) or not (then, it's more about reprimands, blame and despair).
Will Colour Bind be playable for people with color blindness?
Yeah. The cues might require colour blind players to pay slightly more attention in some levels, but there is a mode that makes all colours coded by pattern as well. Any colour blind players wondering if the system will work for them can read more about it here.
Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?
The usual reasons, really – if you're part of a bigger company, you have to be pretty high up to be in charge of a project creatively, and even then there are lots of other interests that you have to balance. Working independently means you can make whatever design decisions you want, which I find to be much more fun.
"There's also a slightly crazier idea that I'd love to experiment with, but it would take longer, so Colour Bind would have to do better than I'm currently assuming it will to afford such a project."
Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?
Sort of? I think when a game is developed with the goal of exploiting a particular audience or an IP or whatever, and gets designed by committee, that fact comes through pretty strongly to the player. Likewise, when a game is made by someone mostly because it's a cool thing that they wanted to make, that comes through to the player too. Whatever that difference is, it's not synonymous with being good or polished, but I think making games in that way, rather than the other way, is the larger movement I'd like to be part of. Making games that way correlates with being an indie for obvious reasons, but indies don't have a monopoly on games like that (and big studios don't have a monopoly on the other kind of games either).
Then again, I spent more time thinking about the answer to this question than the rest of them combined, so perhaps my real answer is "I'm not sure."
Sell Colour Bind in one sentence:
Colour Bind is a puzzle game about objects of different colours falling in different directions – the player will have to adjust their understanding of how the world works to see how to finish each level, then bring skills to execute the solution – it's not for everybody, but people who like the genre have really liked Colour Bind.
I'm not sure yet. I hope to work on another game, naturally, but I haven't decided 100 percent what that will be. I'd like to make something that doesn't take me years, and I've started working on a prototype for that, but it might turn out to not be much fun. There's also a slightly crazier idea that I'd love to experiment with, but it would take longer, so Colour Bind would have to do better than I'm currently assuming it will to afford such a project.
Colour Bind came out on Steam today and it's throwing a 20 percent off party in celebration. Snag it now for $8.
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.