As part of our focus on Indie games for the Xbox, we’ve been lucky enough to be in contact with upcoming debutant, Psychotic Psoftware. Run entirely by Mike, Pyschotic are developing a new side-scrolling shooter in the R-Type mould. Called Power Up, this is shaping up to be the Blood Money of this generation and to say this is entirely done in Mike’s spare time, while he holds down a day job is very impressive so far. We got the opportunity to quiz Mike about the experience so far, and how he hopes this will turn out. Enough pre-amble from me, here are the questions we put to Psychotic Psoftware’s Mike;
At the moment you’re a one man band, would you consider in the future, delegating some tasks, like the music, elsewhere?
In the future, perhaps. For now though, I really like the idea of it just being me, with my little game ideas and just me to rely on. If I succeed, it’s because I did it right and if I fail it’ll be because I did something wrong and I’ll learn. I might take some tentative steps into collaboration though, in the not too distant future, but I’d like to get a few games under my belt first.
Would you consider letting a publisher promote and help publish your game, should a suitable offer come along, even if that meant compromising on some aspects of the game?
Probably not at this stage, but then that would depend on how desperate for income I get. I had a similar offer from a small publisher recently, who wanted to publish me as a single entity development. This would have been full time and a steep drop from my current day-job salary. After I’ve proved myself with a few of my own games, I’ll consider it if it’s worth my while. At the moment I’d rather use my free time to create something that I can make a living from, that way I get to learn how to sustain myself.
What other Indie Games developers do you admire?
Being a bit of a Zombie Movie fan, I love what Indie Stone have done with Project Zomboid, it’s probably time I bought the full version. That game is a real gem. You’re going to die eventually in it, it’s just a question of when and how. It manages to instil the hopelessness and isolation of a George Romero movie. I was gutted to hear that, despite their recent efforts in securing the rights to a remake of Bad Dudes Vs DragonNinja, Pinstripe Games didn’t come close to their Kickstarter target.
What games have inspired you to create a game like Power Up?
Power Up actually began life as a coding exercise. I’ve learned to use a couple of languages so far, and one of the first things I tend to do when learning a new language is create a side scrolling space shooter. This is mainly to get a handle on building slick and reliable controls. I was recently wondering why I prefer the side perspective. I came to the conclusion that the top-down view pulls you away from the immersion a little bit. Games like Hellfire for Genesis on the Mega Drive and the Amiga’s Project X were the main inspirations for Power Up. Hellfire for its multi-directional weapons and Project X for its rich immersive audio and graphics
How much support do you get from Microsoft, are there many holes to jump through?
If I’m honest, I’ve barely heard from them. Right at the start I had a message from their Twitter account, wishing me well on my XNA journey, which I thought was nice of them. After that it was just me and visual studio. The tutorials they offer are pretty good though, they got me started. I’ve not purchased my AppHub subscription yet though. At £100, I need to be sure I’m ready to submit Power Up before I commit to buying it. The membership only lasts a year and I work at it, I might be able to release a second game in that time, so for that reason, I’m holding back.
Do you feel like Microsoft should give you more support?
From my point of view, not at all. They provide a fairly cheap portal for Indie developers to create and distribute their own console games. That in itself is great support and I’m left wondering if it’s this type of variety in their store that has given the Xbox 360 it’s longevity. That said, as I’m fairly new to the developer side of the support, I’m quite happy to be left alone to crack on with my game and deal with any support needs as they arise.
What is your view on the lack of publicity for XBLIG?
Well, it is a bit of an issue. Some would say that the Indie games are a bit tucked away. If I’m honest, I’m just happy that they are there at all. I seek them out though, so I don’t really have too much trouble finding them. I wouldn’t expect Microsoft to promote the Indie games above the bigger titles in the store though. The featured games are always going to be generally from the bigger players on the market. I like the fact that the Indies are tucked away, like some Game Store Easter Egg. It adds to the charm and if people want to play, they will seek you out.
Do you feel like there is a lot of rubbish in the XBLIG?
Of course, but I love that. Rubbish means there are people having a go, flexing their creative muscle and improving themselves. Like everybody, I get sick of sifting through the same old, bad Minecraft clones, Avatar First Person Shooters, and pad-massage apps, but it can be worth it when you hit a really good, awful game like Weapon of Choice or just a genuinely charming experience like Miner: Dig Deep, or Zombie Estate.
Is it hard to stand out from the crowd?
I’m sure it will be. I’ll just have to make Power Up as great as I can and put the work in. If I do that, maybe I can enhance it and my reputation. I intend to be quite experimental in the visuals for Power Up. I’ve differed the way I’ve textured and rendered the ships. This was partly for practical reasons and partly for the look. It was great fun doing it that way. I’m planning on doing a few things in the future that you don’t see too often on the games store. Hopefully these little visual flourishes will set the game apart at first glance. If the prospective buyer hasn’t heard about the game then perhaps I can show them something visually different in the screenshots.
Psychotic Psoftware hope to have Power Up out in 2013. In the meantime you can view the announcement trailer here.