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, Johannes, Anders, Martin, Poi and the Coilworks team discuss going Greenlight and modern-retro challenges with Cloudbuilt.
What's your game called and what's it about?
Our game is called Cloudbuilt, and at its core it is all about challenging high-speed action and platforming. We are borrowing inspiration from old-school games, combining it with modern elements and adding some unique twists. We really think that we have brought booster powers to a whole new level with this game.
So what will Cloudbuilt bring in terms of challenge?
We want there to be plenty of room for the player to improve. We don't want to make Cloudbuilt challenging in the sense of simply killing the player. Sure, there are parts of the game where people tend to die a lot, but we make sure it's not because of unfair design. Our goal is to make you feel in control, thus should you fail, it would be due to your own fault. That makes it truly rewarding and when you clear a level, you'll feel like you've improved and mastered something.
Doing several easy tasks at once quickly becomes challenging. Wall-running on its own is not that hard, but wall-running while dodging mines and shooting at enemies, all while preparing to jump onto a new wall, is a little bit harder.
Because we are giving the player access to all abilities from the start, we will be focusing on the player's development instead of a character's. There is no difference in what a player can do in the beginning compared with the end. But there will most likely be a big difference in play style and the player's way of thinking.
We all grew up with and love old-school games like Mario, Mega Man and Sonic, but we do not feel that the good old-school platform shooters made a graceful transition to 3D. That served as our single greatest source of inspiration; to make a truly good platform shooter in 3D.
We are also inspired by how games back then had game mechanics that the player needed to experiment with and master. They were not made to be beaten in one go. There is still a desire for these kinds of challenging games, which has been proven by the reception of games like Dark Souls and Super Meat Boy. Both games have received a lot of praise for their difficulty level; there's a market for great, challenging games out there and we're aiming to join it.
What's the coolest aspect of Cloudbuilt?
The coolest aspect of Cloudbuilt is the freedom you get. You can pretty much run on or climb anything, combine moves and experiment to your heart's content. When you get familiar with the abilities, you always feel in control no matter what you are doing. We have gotten so spoiled by this, that some of us sometimes feel limited when playing other games.
Do you ever get overwhelmed with the scope of Cloudbuilt or your own ambition with the game?
Like most developers, we set out with a scope vastly bigger than what we've finally settled on. Actually when we sat down to map out the broad strokes for Cloudbuilt, after over-scoping another project that's been put on hold for now, our guidelines were "focused and less ambitious." Our conclusion was that the focus for Cloudbuilt should be on gameplay; the sensation of speed, freedom of interaction with the world and the combination of platforming and action. Seeing all the pieces come together makes us confident we made a good choice.
Cloudbuilt is on Steam Greenlight: How large of an opportunity is Greenlight for indie developers?
Greenlight is still rough around the edges, but we think it is a great opportunity and a great initiative from Valve. Now the process is much more transparent, but we can no longer rely on just having a great game. To reach Steam we now have to market the game much harder earlier in the process. But we also get the opportunity to reach our player base and interact with our fans much earlier.
What marketing strategies are you using for Cloudbuilt? Why those?
We are mostly relying on word of mouth. We try to reach out to gamers and communities and show them what we got. Our goal is to communicate with them and to be open to what they have to say. We are glad and thankful for everyone helping us to spread the word.
Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?
We did not want to just make another game in an established franchise; we hope to be able to bring something new to gamers.
Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?
Yeah, in some ways we do feel like we are a part of a bigger movement, but at the same time we have not yet really gotten in touch with other indies that much. We are so busy working all the time. Maybe that can change once we have released our first game.
Sell Cloudbuilt in one sentence:
It is a challenging, high-speed action-platformer in 3D with its roots in 16-bit jump-and-shoot games.
We will release and then maintain and further develop Cloudbuilt. Toward the end of that, we will have figured out what the next game will be. We all have a lot of ideas all the time, so we don't think that there will be any real problem finding the next project.
Cloudbuilt is still in alpha, but is gearing up for takeoff on Steam Greenlight.
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.