It's not that there are too many indie games; it's that there aren't enough hours in a day to play all of them. The Joystiq Indie Pitch curates the best indies to play now and watch out for in the future.
What's your game called and what's it about?
Dungeon Smash is about being a heroic champion, surviving insurmountable odds, rescuing the princesses, vengeance, love, duty, lust for power, forgiveness and bringing peace to the kingdoms.
The story begins with our champions accompanying their wards, the princesses of the war-torn five kingdoms, to the neutral city of Overkalix to sign a peace treaty. On the eve of the signing of the treaty, Overkalix is attacked by demons and the princesses are abducted. The players take on the roles of the princesses' champions and set off toward the Dark Isles to rescue the princesses. Each player is presented with an individual back-story which may influence how they play the game.
Why develop for Xbox Live Indie Games, rather than PC or other platforms?
It's relatively easy to get published to a potentially massive market and the hardware is fixed so you only really have to cater for two screen resolutions. Dungeon Smash is a twin-stick shooter and you really need a controller for that. However, development has been stopped on XNA and Microsoft is being coy about self-publishing on the Xbox One80, whereas Unity on the PlayStation 4 is sounding pretty attractive.
How have your previous games done on Xbox Live Indie Games? Did they sell as much as you needed or expected?
We really hoped AvaGlide would be the game that would make enough for us to continue as a partnership. I think it did pretty well for an XBLIG game, selling about 2,500 copies in the first week, but it wasn't enough to pay for the work we'd done on it, never mind keep us fed and housed. Space Police on SuperHighway 9 started as a two-day project that spiraled into two months – after that I think we calculated we would need to produce a game every two weeks to be a viable business, and this just wasn't possible or desirable.
What inspired you to make Dungeon Smash?
Initially the game was intended to be a very quick money-making project somewhere between Gauntlet and I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES 1NIT!!!1. As development progressed, I started reading Jesse Schell's The Art of Game Design, which challenged me to make something more complete. The initial story idea came from the illustrator, Stuart Beel, and was fleshed out by myself and my brother.
Freud would probably say there's some analogy with my own life, but that's another story.
What's the coolest aspect of Dungeon Smash?
In play-tests I've found that there is a lot of competition between players to pick up the gold that allows them to upgrade their characters between levels. The players have the option to share the gold and it's interesting to see how players respond to that as their survival may depend on help from their companions. One of the endings may change a player's behavior on a second play-through.
That and the interactive music, the illustrations, the voice-over, the dynamic 2D shadows from Catalin Zima and the use of Perlin noise for procedural textures and level layouts.
How do all of the players come together to determine the ending of Dungeon Smash? How many different endings are there?
Spoiler: The responses given to the encounters with the rescued princesses are taken as an indication of players' attitudes toward the antagonist, which determines the antagonist's attitude to the players.
There are three possible endings although only two are available in the singleplayer game.
Does Dungeon Smash have to be played by four players? Is there online co-op?
Dungeon Smash is 1 - 4 player co-op. There isn't any online co-op, but there are global shared high scores which will be kept up-to-date by me keeping my Xbox running 24-7 for at least the first month after release.
Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?
I worked for nine years for a few established companies and I learned a lot and really enjoyed it. Developing independently I have the freedom to explore ideas and learn new skills that I wouldn't have in a company. For example, I've done animation, (technical) artwork, sound editing and sound recording on each of the XBLIG games.
NDAs mean that you can't talk about games in development in a company, whereas I was able to take Dungeon Smash out and hold public play-tests.
Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?
To me the indie movement is about variety and new ideas, and I've been very impressed with what has come out of independent developers over the last few years. Given that – with the exception of Crate Expectations – all the Haiku Interactive games are re-makes of old games, I feel like I am a quarter indie and three-quarters retro.
Sell Dungeon Smash in one sentence:
Dungeon Smash is the twin-stick RPG-shooter you and your mates need for post-pub carnage; go on, smash the dungeon!
I've got a stability issue with AvaGlide 2 that's about a year overdue, then it's AvaGlide + Kinect + Oculus Rift for the PC.
Dungeon Smash launches tomorrow – Monday, July 1 – on XBLIG.