This time I chucked some questions at Sean Butler of Happy Little Aliens, creators of iOS title Indigo Bunny: Homeward Bound and the upcoming Meteor Storm Escape. Here's what he had to say!
G.S: If you had to explain why Meteor Storm Escape is awesome in one paragraph, what would you say?
S.B: Ride 500kph Jet Powered Hover Craft and do Awesome Stunts! Spin, twist and turn in mid air stunts that will have you wishing for an extra nanosecond from that hangtime as you try to squeeze in every last flip before you slam into the ground below. Ride the always fresh and always changing undulating 3D spline track at breakneck speeds as you escape the coming cataclysm. Our procedural approach creates a unique and challenging experience every time you play. With clean and crisp retro aesthetic Meteor Storm Escape has one foot in the past and one foot in the future. From the beginning and at every stage along the way we as gamers aimed to create a game that we love to play, and we hope you do too.
|"With clean and crisp retro aesthetic Meteor Storm Escape has one foot in the past and one foot in the future." - Sean Butler|
G.S: Visibility on the iOS App Store is an oft-talked-about problem for developers. Is this a worrying prospect for you, and how do you intend to combat this?
S.B: Yes visibility is an issue for developers. With little or no budget it can be challenging to find your audience.
There is nothing like the power of a personal recommendation from a friend. The direct "hey play this... its awesome!" kind of messages between friends are more powerful than any advertising. We believe if your game is genuinely fun, makes a good first impression and strikes an emotional chord, then people will want to play it and talk about their experiences to their friends. Fingers Crossed.
We have a dev blog up where you can read about Meteor Storm as its being developed. Of course readers can make comments and ask questions. you can find us on facebook and twitter too. Happy Little Aliens will answer questions whenever we can.
Also I would like to point out that Meteor Storm Escape is going to be free on the iOS App Store so everyone can give it a go!!
G.S: Your previous title, Indigo Bunny: Homeward Bound was more of a child-focussed game. Presumably Meteor Storm Escape will be more of a so-called ‘gamer’s game’?
S.B: Definitely, Indigo Bunny was a result of a deliberate decision to be inclusive. We made a fun little game that EVERYONE can play. My 3 year old son and his grandma can have fun together with its accessible bouncyness. It has one touch controls, no violence, cartoon visuals and is easy to understand.
Meteor Storm Escape is very different its a "gamer's game" as you say, dramatic, fast paced and incessant . However, Meteor Storm also has no player violence, despite the apocalypse scenario there are no guns so its still a game that kids or those who don't like shooting can enjoy. Happy Little Aliens likes the idea that games don't have to be about violence against others and we think you will too.
G.S: As I understand, Meteor Storm Escape will be available for iOS, PC and Mac. Which of these versions do you anticipate will achieve the most commercial success?
S.B: The iOS version will be free with adverts and you can buy more ships and extra missions in game. For the Win/OSX versions you will be able to play a demo version before buying the complete package. Honestly we don't know which will be most appreciated by gamers. The gameplay is being tuned for the kind of play duration and interface that is easy to handle on an iPod/iPad. Though we suspect the iOS audience is more ready and willing to purchase this game.
G.S: Is game development something which you’ve always wanted to pursue, or was there one particularly pivotal moment in your life when you made the decision you wanted to be a game developer?
S.B: When I was a kid I used to type in and make up little arcade games on a Sinclair ZX81 in BASIC. It had a 16k RAM expansion, a cassette tape interface and a really very terrible plastic membrane keyboard. Its hard to remember a time when i didn't make video games of some sort or another.
There was a moment when i was making a little Robot in a maze game on a BBC Micro and stored the maze itself separately from the code to draw it. The small R2D2 style robot could move around it and i could draw one page at a time flipping when it got near to the edge of the screen. There was a bit of a epiffany. I could make a game with an enormous number of screens of maze to explore. Each square in the data could be much larger in the grid of squares on screen and the robot could still move and collide. It probably wasnt as awesome as it seemed at the time.
G.S: What games were most inspirational to you during the development of both Indigo Bunny and Meteor Storm Escape?
S.B: I was playing a lot of Stacking and Super Meat Boy when making Indigo Bunny, but they were hardly influences. With Meteor Storm I had two games I've made in the past in mind. Firstly I wanted to implement and expand on features that couldn't be put in a game I designed called Rango iOS. Secondly My Sims Racing on DS had a stunting gameplay i designed that was overlooked by reviewers, I wanted to give this a second outing because i enjoyed it so much.
G.S: Who are your favourite indie developers at the moment? Have any of their games or development philosophies directly influenced your own games?
S.B: Guillaume over at Roof Dog Games in montreal is doing well with his stuff. His next games are going to be fun too. Guillaume's business model is free to play and that definitely helped make our decision to go free too.
Jackson31 looks like he/she is making something cute with Little Dragon. It’s all happening in public with regular playable builds and updates, which is admirable and a constant reminder that I should get a playable demo out as soon as possible.
DESHORI is looking really interesting; they have a Kickstarter up too. I dreamed of exploration games with exotic landscapes like this when I was a teenager.
G.S: What advice would you give to aspiring developers?
S.B: Hmm, Indie or Corporate? I'll tackle them separately as they are very different beasts.
First corporate. Set your sights high, join the best company you can to make something you would love to play. There is a lot to learn and a lot of very intelligent and knowledgable people in the industry who really know their stuff. Work out who they are, stay near them. As a designer, make sure you have something from outside of video games to bring to the table.
Second Indie. Make a game, if you have never made one before, make a small game. Set your design so it is within your team's capabilities, and finish that game. Then, make another slightly more ambitions re-using as much as you can. Join a community. Do it in public and get the support of the other developers around you. There are lots of them, they know lots and are happy to help with details and encouragement. Don't sweat the nay-sayers they just don't want YOU to succeed. The internet is a big place, somebody will appreciate what you are doing, find them. And Good Luck!
Many thanks to Sean Butler for his participation in the series. Keep an eye out for more indie developer interviews coming up soon!