Hello videogame afficionados, and welcome to this week’s Sunday Sidebar. With next week being Electronic Entertainment Expo 2012, VGW towers are set to be a veritable hive of activity. This could be your last chance for a quiet break to soak up some longer-form journalism. If you feel tense, that’s okay. Take this opportunity to treat yourself, and to learn about yetanother indie developer from Boston. This time it is the turn of Fire Hose Games, and more specifically their founder Eitan Glinert. Fire Hose Games, among other things, are responsible for the wonderfully unique Slam Bolt Scrappers on PlayStation Network. Read on!
Hey Eitan! So, who are you guys?
Hi! I’m the founder and ringleader of the Fire Hose circus. We’re a small Boston-based indie studio, and are behind the games Slam Bolt Scrappers and the upcoming Go Home Dinosaurs. Sweet! We’ve also worked on a bunch of other games you may know and love, including Dance Central, Ms. Splosion Man, and the upcoming Rock Band Blitz.
What led you to come up with the name ‘Fire Hose Games’?
There’s a saying at MIT that ‘learning at MIT is like drinking from a fire hose’. When we started working onSlam Bolt Scrappers it was just me and two other MIT guys. We wanted a name that would identify us as a MIT start-up to people familiar with the school, and would just sound like a cool name otherwise. That’s why we chose it! Also it lets us wear fire chief hats around the office.
How did you personally get into game design, and when?
I got into game development by accident back in 2005. I was doing biotech at the time and was applying to different jobs, one of which turned out to be a programmer for an educational game about immunology. They wanted someone with a strong bio background that could help with content as well, so that was me! Within a few months the team got shuffled around and suddenly instead of coding I was doing project management and design. Awesome! I loved it so much that I switched careers and have been making video games ever since.
Is your background more in programming, or storytelling?
I love the false dichotomy. Either you’re a programmer or someone who does narrative. Hilarious!
Now that I’ve made fun of your totally reasonable question, I’ll answer that my background is in programming (and biology!). Nowadays I don’t code much at all. There are much smarter people on the team than me who do that. I tend to focus more on design, production, and business type stuff.
“It rarely feels like you’re alone while making games on your own in Boston.”
Boston seems to have a thriving independent developer community. Do you have any idea why that is?
Yeah! It’s really awesome how big and well-integrated our indie dev scene is. I think that if you want to make indie games this may be the best city in the world to do it in! (except for maybe Toronto, they have a great scene too).
And why? It’s because we have so many awesome universities around. The greater Boston area has half a million college students in it. It’s only natural that a lot of them will want to make games, and that some of them will actually go and do it. Plus we have a lot of meet-ups where we help each other on a regular basis. It rarely feels like you’re alone while making games on your own in Boston.
Do you think it is an exciting time to be an indie developer? What sort of challenges do you face because of it?
I think it’s always an exciting time to do what you love and make a living off it. It’s exciting to be an indie dev because there’s such a great awareness of these games now, there are fans out there who are actively looking for this stuff and huge online communities supporting these types of games. The biggest challenges are actually making a complete game that people will want, and obscurity. It’s tough to get everything done and get noticed when you’re only a one or two person shop!
Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on at the moment?
Sure, thanks for the softball pitch! Our latest game is Go Home Dinosaurs, the most realistic BBQ defense simulator ever designed. You take the role of a card-collecting gopher who is trying to defend his BBQ from a group of invading dinos. It’s fun, colorful, and very easy to jump in to – we can’t wait until it comes out! We’ll be doing an alpha launch this summer of the game on Chrome, so keep an eye out for it!
Why would anyone say ‘Go Home Dinosaurs! ‘ Surely we want to keep them around?!
You might feel differently if that dinosaur was coming straight for your burger!
Perhaps I might! This is your second title after Slam Bolt Scrappers, which I was sad to see not show up on XBLA. Is GHD set to be a PSN exclusive also?
Nope, Go Home Dinosaurs is not coming out on PSN. In fact, we may be skipping consoles all together with this title. The alpha launch will be on Chrome this summer, though we don’t have a definitive launch date yet.
How did Fire Hose Games wind up landing their mercenary work on Dance Central? What was like for you guys?
We’re friends with the Harmonix guys and they’re just up the street from us, so we talk to them a bunch. Back in early 2009, long before Kinect or Dance Central, we chatted with Eran (Egozy, co-founder) and Eric (Brosius, one of the technical leads) about an idea they had for a dancing game. They wanted some help coming up with a prototype and were wondering if we were interested in helping out! The project was a ton of fun, and working with Harmonix was great. In fact it was so much fun that we wound up working with them again on Rock Band Blitz, coming out later this summer.
One last thing, Eitan: What is your prized geek possession? I’m on a quest to find out what developers get sentimental over…
Hmm, well I have a copy of Earthbound and a still-working SNES that I bought with money from my paper route when I was younger, and a copy of Final Fantasy 12 signed by the creative director. I treasure these more than my kneecaps.
Yikes! Thanks for your time Eitan.