A Reckless Disregard for Gravity
Game Challenge Experience
* Number 5: A conversation at the awards ceremony with colleagues about how indies can trounce the big boys at their own game (over h’ors d’oeuvres and wine and more wine — and what the heck, let’s have more h’ors d’oeuvres while we’re at it).
* Number 4: Half a dozen people telling me that my face was on loop up at Gamestop.
* Number 3: Mugging IGC winner Rob Jagnow and stealing his giant novelty check. (Oops, that didn’t really happen.)
* Number 2: Waylaying Adam Sessler at the local Beard Papa for a chat, then the whirlwind of interviewing with him up on stage that evening, and subsequently being on camera backstage. Awesome and exhilirating!
* Number 1: We have met some great people with whom we’re still in touch, and have seen since Vegas. The IGC has helped strengthen the larger indie community.
* Prepare an elevator pitch for your game. Make it quick and compelling! You’re going to be telling it to a lot of people. Our one-liner for Aaaaa! was “It’s a game where you jump off of a building, create your own stunts, and flip people off for points.” People smiled and laughed. They remembered the game.
* Seek out the other indie devs and connect with them before and at the event. These are nice guys and gals with great ideas they want to share with you.
* Get those business cards printed, and bring a fistful. No! Two fistsful. Three!
* You’re there with dozens of other independent developers who share your passion, and have thought about game development from different angles. You’ll have plenty of “eureka!” moments while talking with them.
* You’re also there with press — here’s your opportunity to get that elevator pitch out to them, make new connections, and get the word out about your game and your studio.
* The awards event is a great thing — formal recognition that we, as independents, are doing something right. Something that’s wonderful.
Look, I’ll be honest with you here — AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! was the most fun for me, because we wrote it. I can say with absolute certainty that the people who created those games up for the IGC finals had an absolute blast writing them. Game development is fun. It’s almost spiritual.
IGC actually kicked off a great year for us, with a finalist nod at the IGF and selection for the Penny Arcade Expo’s Boston Indie Showcase. Right now, we’re creating a game whose working title is ooo! ooO! oOO! OOO! — Grab a Loop and Mix a Beat. It’s a game where you use your own music and tinker with genetics to create living, breathing worlds.
The jumps you make off buildings floating above Boston, Massachusetts are all about style and timing. You perform stunts, weaving around the bustling City for points, making split-second decisions: do you snake around those girders to earn a dozen “kisses,” or glide along the side of that steel super-skyscraper for massive “hugs”?
Aaaaa! then throws in the spectators — as you fall, give fans the thumbs-up and protesters the finger. And if you’re hungry for a bit of civil disobedience, you can even ready the spraypaint and tag government buildings for points.
The game will also teach you how to debristle a pig.
Our Gameplay Architect saw this:
Falling down the sides of mountains in squirrel suits? Really!? I mean, yikes. I don’t even ski. This is insane! Let’s make a game out of it. Now, how do we capture the fun of BASE jumping without the wind and the threat of bodily injury?
Aaaaa!’s gameplay is about creating your own sequences of stunts and flipping people off. Our goal was to create a game that had some depth to it once you got good at it.
Over the course of the game, you’ll evolve an overall jumping style and come up with tactics to support that — do you impress the judges by hugging that skyscraper and making your way across three lanes of traffic? Or are you more about the lateral motion, kissing dozens of buildings and threading the needle? Either way works.
It’s also (to my knowledge) the only game with an unlockable meditation track. You know — 3 minutes of guided relaxation in case the game stresses you out too much. It also includes an unlockable anti-meditation track, if you’re getting too relaxed. Think about your ears for a moment. Are there insects crawling in, on, or around them? Probably not. We took that attitude and applied it to the rest of the game. Elevator music in the level selection screen and all that.
We had fun with it.
9 months. Like a human baby.
If we screwed this up, we wouldn’t have a company. The pressure was on, because we knew that this would be a defining game for us. It made taking chances trickier. I hate playing it safe, because it makes for a boringer game.
We used what we call the Offshoot Method to develop the game, basically taking our 2004 title, Inago Rage, and saying “Well, how can we make a completely different experience out of it?”
I always say that marketing is game development is marketing. The way we portray our games should come through when we talk to people about it. A name should be interesting, memorable, and descriptive — a game about jumping off of a perfectly good building in a flimsy wingsuit should be exciting.
We had plenty of other ideas. The working title was Low Altitude, and we considered a bunch of others:
- Screaming and Falling
- Deploy Parachute for Hot Chicks
- Jumping to Earth From Tall Buildings
- Bridge. Antenna. Span. Earth.
- Falling Toward Earth
- Your Personal Crater
- Free Fall
- Don’t Forget Your Parachute
- Remember Your Parachute
- Spicy Mountain Lion
- Freedom, Free-Fall, Freedom
- I Fell From a Building
A few of those were obviously thrown in as jokes. “Deploy Parachute for Hot Chicks” was a dig at the industry’s obsession with boobs. Spicy Mountain Lion was my personal favorite non sequitur. But when our PR/Marketing dude, Leo saw the list, he poked his finger at “AaaAaaAaa!,” and refused to let me adjourn the meeting until I agreed to go with that.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute (here in MA) for Physics.
My first gaming system was a black and white Pong console. I’ve been playing games ever since.
I love talking about myself and my team. I’ll talk about Dejobaan’s two other main guys to be brief.
I’ve known our Gameplay Architect, Dan Brainerd, since high school. My earliest memory of him was at a field trip, when he stood up and accused a Smartfood tour guide of lacing their popcorn with addictive drugs. Humor! I later worked with him at an online games company. He’s one of the most creative fellows I know.
I met our PR/Marketing guy, Leo Jaitley, at a salsa dancing class here in Cambridge, MA. He was originally an engineer, and I was into game development, which meant that this particular activity was a sometimes-embarrassing stretch. But what good things don’t come without some effort? Game marketing is the same way.
I just finished Machinarium. It’s a nice, relaxing game to sit down and play with that someone special. I’m also playing upcoming indie titles Monaco by Pocketwatch and All Heroes Die by Macguffin. Does our own upcoming 14th game count? Because I am playing it until my eyes bleed. They’re bleeding.
My first inclination, on being given only one choice, is to pick AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!!, because the darned thing was just such a joy to create. I mean, you know how game developers all say “Oh, writing games is more like work than fun”? They are lying. Barring that, I’ll go with Dan(i) Bunten’s M.U.L.E., as one of the few games I can enjoy consistently over 25 years.
Another tough question. I won’t jump on the bandwagon and cite ET. Besides, my parents never bought it for me, so I only had to endure it at friends’ houses. And here, your question just led me through a 60-minute YouTube journey down memory lane. Honestly, my least favorite game is probably some half-baked shareware atrocity that lurks safely away in some corner of my mind.
A black and white dedicated Pong set.
Leo and I are neighbors, so we share a garden.
Dan plays Dungeons and Dragons.
We throw cocktail parties for any reason up to and including a game launch.
We also still dance salsa with friends when the mood strikes.
Oct 8th, 9:50pm
Oct 8th, 2:03pm
Oct 23rd, 4:24pm