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, the team at tinyBuild take the time to describe their rollercoaster of crowdfunding before it was cool and being Greenlit, with No Time To Explain.
What's your game called and what's it about?
It's called No Time To Explain and is about giant enemy crabs, time paradoxes and jetpack guns. We're fans of the whole wacky concept of time travel and wanted to make a game where we can get away with pretty much anything and make that funny.
How did you find out about being Greenlit and how did you react?
I was obsessively refreshing our Greenlight page for a couple of hours until finally the big green sign, "This game has been Greenlit," appeared. I had tears in my eyes at that point. We were losing hope to get onto Steam, and this felt like winning the lottery. You know the moment where you realize something great just happened and you don't entirely believe it? I called Tom, who apparently threw his dog out of happiness (the dog is fine).
What inspired you to make No Time To Explain?
It started off as a small web game that's about 2 percent the size of No Time To Explain as it is now. The whole idea was that there's you from the future busting into your room, and he has No Time To Explain what's happening since he gets dragged away by a giant crab monster. He drops his gun and has ribs in his eyes (according to the shouting!).
This is how the idea for a full-on downloadable game came to life, since people loved the wacky premise. We just expanded that into what turned out to be a two-year project. There's a lot of creative inspiration from movies like Back to the Future and the whole idea that a game has to be funny. Portal 2 came out just around the time we were developing the main part of the game, so that was also an inspiration to the comedy aspect.
Describe your unique experience with crowdfunding and going viral. What do you think made No Time To Explain stand out in these situations?
It was very scary! At that time there were no real game success stories on Kickstarter; it was primarily focused on board games and movies. We had no idea what to expect when coming in. We set a modest target of $7,000, which we reached in less than a day, and then Notch pledged and stuff went up really fast.
We believe the biggest difference between No Time To Explain and other game projects is that we focus on making people laugh. Laughter makes people happy. Within five seconds you start laughing, which is the core success of our Kickstarter campaign. We created a vision for the game within our video, without even getting featured in it or talking.
Do you expect being on Steam will affect how you develop games in the future?
Being on Steam is a major thing for us and will definitely affect how we develop games in the future. If we're super successful on the platform, it means we have the resources to realize more/bigger projects, and hopefully help us realize the whole indie publishing idea as well. You would be surprised at how many gems there are that haven't been noticed for various reasons - lack of recognizable characters, marketing issues, or sometimes very obvious things like a wrong business model. So we feel it opens up a world of opportunities if No Time To Explain succeeds on Steam.
What's the coolest aspect of No Time To Explain?
The setup: When you fire up the game, within 20 seconds you're laughing. That's the greatest feeling No Time To Explain delivers. We're really proud that we were able to take that ridiculous setup, make it more ridiculous as it goes, and then (sort of) make sense of the whole thing. So there is an actual story that does come to a conclusion. People shouldn't take the game too seriously, since it's not meant to be - it's meant to make you laugh.
Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?
If we were to do market research in a larger company to judge the potential ROI and scalability of the business model, I'm not sure if we'd get funding for a comedy platformer game that has no reference to a previous game like that, has really wacky ideas in it, and no prior distribution agreements. A bigger publisher typically forces their own ideas, processes and guidelines that really kill creativity.
Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?
Definitely! We've had a Kickstarter project before Double Fine's adventure and saw how the whole thing was evolving really fast and in multiple directions. It's great to be part of that. The indie scene is getting more and more recognition, and being part of the whole process is really exciting. Greenlight is a fine example of how companies are recognizing the potential of independent games that have brave ideas, so if the community thinks it's great, it needs to have a chance.
Sell No Time To Explain in one sentence:
MY RIBS ARE IN MY EYES, WHY?!?!??!
There's so much talent out there that needs recognition. So we're actually thinking of getting into publishing indie games, not in the traditional publisher sense of the word, more like helping people who don't want to deal with the business aspects of making games and take that over. We've gotten a lot of inquiries about help from other indie developers, and there's a huge opportunity to make a difference - help games get noticed, share what we learned (about adding really small things that make a big difference, balancing out games, making them "sellable").
So, in other words, we want to become a publisher/production/marketing indie studio thingy that helps indie developers get noticed.
Obviously we're also looking at mobile platforms, and fun fact: We've prototyped a mobile several times already but just didn't have the resources to properly bring it to market.
No Time To Explain is in beta for PC now, and it was recently voted in by the community on Steam Greenlight. We'd explain precisely why you should be excited about this game, but that's something you should discover on your own. Besides, we don't have that kind of time.