Hotline Miami designer Jonatan Söderström – perhaps better known by his prickly development alias, Cactus – began his career in freeware, developing smaller, experimental games that anyone with the appropriate hardware could download and play at any time, game-development hippie-communism style. Some of his games include Norrland, Shotgun Ninja, Psychosomnium, Minubeat, Clean Asia! and Keyboard Drumset Fucking Werewolf. That last one, created in three weeks in October 2011, features art by Hotline Miami co-creator Dennis Wedin.
Together, Wedin and Söderström form Dennaton Games, and they are part of the rising cult of indie superstars. But the draw of fame and fortune wasn't why Söderström stopped making freeware games.
"I didn't want to become homeless," Söderström told Joystiq at GDC. By February of this year, Hotline Miami clocked 300,000 PC sales, and PS3 and Vita ports by Abstraction Games are currently "pretty much done," expected to hit in May, Wedin said. Söderström isn't in danger of being homeless right now. Still, reverting to freeware development poses an interesting challenge.
"I kind of want to start doing freeware games again, but when you put so much work into something that turns out really good, it feels hard to do smaller things that won't be as good," Söderström said. It's all about "finding the inspiration to do something that seems worthwhile," he continued. "When you work on a big game for a long while, you start thinking in ideas that only work if they are big. It's difficult to turn to the other mindset, especially when you are still working on the next big thing."
Dennaton is digging into development on the sequel to Hotline Miami, a large game with parallel plots taking place in the early 90s, and after that Wedin and Söderström have ideas for fresh IPs. They'll probably be bigger games, even if Dennaton doesn't intend for them to be.
"Hotline Miami wasn't meant to be big," Wedin said.