For fans of the first game, today's news will come as a welcome relief. Runic Games have leaked the release date, ahead of their official announcement at PAX Prime, of their follow-up dungeon crawler Torchlight 2: September 20th 2012.
Good afternoon everyone, welcome to this week’s Sunday Sidebar. I’m really excited to present to you an interview I conducted with Kelly Wallick, the superbrain behind the ever-wonderful Indie Megabooth. My pledge before was a sneaky one, you see. The PAX East interviews are now finished, but that leaves only one option: to go forward and progress onto PAX Prime’s sequel to the Indie Megabooth! At next week’s PAX in Seattle, attendees will be able to visit any of the 30 independent studios who will be showcasing their work as part of the Megabooth. It’s awesome to see it grow like this, but it made me wonder: just how does one go about organizing 30 developers? The cat-herding has been well documented in the series already, so this week I present the cat shepherd herself: Kelly Wallick: Organizer of the Indie Megabooth! /applause I know!
This week’s Sunday Sidebar is a quieter one. As you read this, I am otherwise indisposed and unable to use a computer. Everything ought to return to normal in the near future. As for now, there is nothing to see here.
Take a seat, youngling, and be welcomed unto this week’s Sunday Sidebar. Today marks a momentous occasion: the final instalment of the PAX East Indie Megabooth developer interview series. I’m surprised and pleased to say that I managed to get speaking to every team involved. It’s been a pleasure and a truly insightful few months. I’ve learned a whole lot about independent game development that I had never expected to glean from the series. I hope it was as valuable for you as it was for me. This week I got speaking to Nathan Vella, co-founder and president of Capy, an independent developer based in Toronto, Canada.
Meet Nathan Vella, as he stares off into the middle distance.
Who is Capy?
Capy is an independent studio from Toronto, Canada. We’re the team behind Critter Crunch,Might & Magic Clash of Heroes and most recently we collaborated on Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. Right now we’re working on Super TIME Forcefor XBLA.
You originally went by ‘Capybara Games’. What caused the reduction to ‘Capy’?
It’s sort of a long story: Way back at the inception of the studio we were a collective of a whole bunch of people and ‘Capybara’ was just one of a host of name suggestions. In the end, ‘Capybara Games’ was voted through because it was everyone’s second choice; nobody really loved it… and nobody really hated it. The meaning of the name was fitting, though: The Capybara is the world’s largest rodent, which, to us, felt like a fitting mascot at the time–the biggest of the small. We started off making small, cool mobile games and we never really set out to become a giant AAA developer. We just wanted to be a quality studio in the space we worked in, and we’re still following that philosophy. Over time, many of the original collective fell away, and we eventually starting making downloadable games and focusing on being more and more independent, so along with that change came a much needed update to our cumbersome studio name: CAPY is nice and simple. Only our parents really call us Capybara anymore.
What led you to game design?
A few of us actually started in film and new media, and several of us actually met in film school. The common denominator was that we were all gamers. Eventually we all moved off to less-than-satisfying day jobs, but finally came to our senses and said “Let’s make games!” Most of the studio had no prior game development experience, but we came together, worked as a team and managed to make some pretty cool things together.
How is it to be an independent developer in 2012?
It’s an exciting time to be in videogames, and especially on the independent side. There’s so many opportunities for creating interesting games, and independent developers seem to be the ones really providing vastly different experiences – from JS Joust to Spelunky, BaraBariBallto Spelltower, and so on.
There are definitely still a great many challenges, but they vary a lot from project to project. Some projects have a tough time on promotion, competing against games with much larger budgets. Others have issues convincing distributors that their weird, crazy thing will find an audience. Perhaps the biggest challenge lies in sticking to your guns and finishing your project your way, despite all of the challenges throughout development.
The Capy offices further support my theory that indie game development takes place primarily in exposed brick offices the world over.
As a successful indie operation, how was the Indie Megabooth for you and your team? Did you take on more of a mentor role?
While we have definitely seen some success, up until PAX East 2012 our entire exhibiting experience was at other people’s booths – for example, showing Critter Crunch at E3 in Sony’s PSN area. Because of our limited experience, we’re definitely not the mentors. We just do our best to help all of our Megabooth friends and ensure the PAX attendees get a chance to play our stuff.
Will you be taking part in future Megabooths?
Our hope is that the Megabooth becomes a core component of PAX – something that gamers in Boston or Seattle can expect and rely on for quality independent gaming experiences at the show. In a perfect world, the megabooth would also grow in size, and encompass a huge portion of PAX. Fingers crossed!
Your current project is Super TIME Force. Tell us more about its origins.
The fact that we’re even making Super TIME Force I think speaks to the nimbleness of independent developers; how we have the freedom to switch course based on what we believe in. Super TIME Force started as a little prototype that a small team of the Capy guys banged out at a TOJam event one weekend. It was Ken Yeung , our Lead Programmer, and Mike and Vic Nguyen, twin brothers who also happen to be the raddest pixel artists this side of 1987. They brought the ‘prototype’ back to work on the Monday after the jam, showed it to the whole office, and we all just flipped for it. We asked them if they wanted to keep working on it and they were like “Hell yeah”. Capy designer Greg Georgiadis immediately started making amazing levels and now the game is on our slate as the next Capy title. It’s extremely exciting to have that freedom.
As for the creative drive behind it, the gameplay hook is just so compelling to us, and the chance to dress it up in jokes and hilarious pixel madness makes us smile.
Will the game be single-player only?
It’s too early to tell. There’s a great many things we want to try during development. Some will work, others will fall flat. If some flavor of multiplayer works perfectly, that would be great. If it breaks the design of the game or isn’t fun, we’ll swap it out for something better.
Right now we’re working on one of the more ‘ancient’ settings for the game, while simultaneously adding in a couple of very unique character classes.
What engine is being used to develop it?
We’re using our own completely home-grown 2D pixel game engine. It’s got Mode 7andblast processing, because we’re always trying to push the envelope… Or something. It also has pixel art ragdoll physics.
The game is coming to XBLA. Are there any other releases in the pipeline?
Right now we’re squarely focused on XBLA and making sure that Xbox 360 gamers are getting the best experience possible. Beyond that, who knows!
Are you anywhere closer to a release date?
We’re still exploring the game mechanic, adding crazy character classes and most of all, having fun. We’ll sort out a date in the coming months, but for now our focus is on seeing how far we can bend space and time in a run-and-gun platformer.
Finally, what is your prized geek possession? Is there anything you’re still holding onto from way back when?
I still have a copy of the original Nintendo Power Final Fantasy strategy guide hiding somewhere at Capy. It’s a masterpiece.
Super TIME Force is currently in development for XBLA.
I good you bid evening, fellow traveler, and welcome to this week’s edition of Sunday Sidebar. The Indie Megabooth interviews continue unabated! This week I made some time to catch up all over again with James and Michelle from Ska Studios. It’s been around nine months since we last spoke, and it felt like the right time to hear about how the development process forCharlie Murder has been coming along. If you’re curious to read the first instalment, you can find it all here. It hasn’t all been development, though, as you shall soon find out. Read on to find out more!
O’Rly’s sounds like a wonderful place for a pint. Rough area of town, though.
It’s been a fair few months since we last spoke. How is Charlie Murdercoming along?
James: Charlie Murder is coming along great! It keeps getting bigger and better, but there’s still much to do. I’ve joked about it becoming “Scope Creep:The Game” because every week or so I’ll be trying out some random new gameplay mechanic to see how it can make the general flow more interesting (the latest is beercrafting!)
And I don’t think there’s any shame in scope creep (for the uninitiated, ‘scope creep’ refers to a project’s ambitions expanding beyond the initial design — if a project’s ambitions expand faster than the developer can address them, the project is never finished!). The organic development process is a big part of why it’s great to be indie: we get to implement exactly what we want whenever we want, and there’s no red tape, scheduling, or contracting to sort out, we just do it.
“The Megabooth gave us strength in numbers.”
How was the Indie Megabooth for Ska Studios?
J: Megabooth was fun! It was nice to offset a bit of the scariness of exhibiting at a convention by being part of a like-minded community.
We got some great exposure and met a bunch of cool people! For the PAX prior to this, we were totally in the shadow of Firefall – their sheer size, lighting, and audio totally dominated the area and our booth felt like one of those little noodle shops that Deckard visits in Blade Runner. The Megabooth gave us strength in numbers.
Were there any difficulties?
J: Planning was maybe a little frustrating; a bit of creative collaboration was required. What indie dev doesn’t view him or herself as the absolute bottom line in creative vision? Indie collaboration is a little bit oxymoronic, right? But it couldn’t have been that bad, because at the end of the day, we pulled it off! (well, the Megabooth’s PR guru Kelly Wallick pulled it off, and for that we are all forever in her debt).
Despite the cat-herding, will you be taking part in future Megabooths, if they happen?
J: Quite possibly!
The art style of Charlie Murder looks to have subtly improved over the last few months.
Are you any closer to a release date for Charlie Murder, beyond the Ska Studios classic ‘next April’?
J: Also possible. But for several reasons, I can’t promise anything.
With Michelle making up half of the team, how has the development process changed for you, James?
J: I have a lot more developer accountability! For several years I’ve been making game development tools for just me, and now I have to make sure they work for other people. You don’t know how many times Michelle’s had an issue with an editor or something where my response has been an embarrassed “Oh, right, that button doesn’t work. Don’t press that button.”
It has been awesome to put Michelle to work with those editors! She’s been making new clothes (using my sprite sheet editor and clothes metadata editor), and has made a few animated characters (character editor) and maps (map editor). Everything looks perfect. I think our styles were a tiny bit disparate at first, but now everything just looks like it fits. Probably a consequence of tying the knot.
‘Well if you love working together so much, why don’t you just get married!!’ ‘Okay, sure.’
Yes, congratulations on that, you two. How has it been for you, Michelle, to get used to working in a small team, and to move from your previous work at AreaNet to just you and James?
Michelle: I’ve had a year and a half to get used to it now and I do still miss the larger environment where you could just stop by the coffee machines and shoot the shat with coworkers. Here, I just have James, the cats, and the occasional delivery person. The delivery guys sure do get freaked out when you want to chat about how the latest build is going. You’d think I would get sick of working and living next to the same person every hour of the day but it’s honestly been great. Lack of socializing aside, I have much more freedom as well as a lot more responsibility. We’re pretty much always working and always busy. That also, I do not mind. I am starting to feel I am leaving my mark, which to me, is the meaning of life!
Thanks for your time. You two make a lovely couple!