After announcing our Indie Spotlight initiative last week, we’re ready to Spotlight our first independent game developer! Our first spotlight goes to the guys at PlayEveryWare who are preparing to release a new tower defense game: Power Defense. Look for it sometime in the next few months on DSiWare and 3DS eShop.
Although Power Defense qualifies as a traditional tower defense genre game, it’s got some new twists that take advantage of the dual screen offered on the Nintendo DS and 3DS. It also combines resource management by requiring you to balance power usage across units. After checking out the pre-release trailer, the game appears easy enough to use, but still challenging enough to keep things interesting. There’s also a PAX 2012 trailer available. Check it out:
PlayEveryWare is an independent development studio based in Bellevue, Washington, consisting of five gamers who are working together on their first game. They’ve got previous gaming industry experience on the major consoles and mobile platforms, and they’ve worked on such titles as Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet and Guild Wars 2. The studio was founded in 2009 after several of the developers graduated from DigiPen. After working together on a game project called Froggle, they agreed to work together to create a game of their own. They all have full-time jobs in the gaming industry, but have been working on Power Defense in their “free” time.
Starting an indie studio is generally a “moonlighting” proposition – supporting the studio by working full-time at a different company and using off-hours for game development. This is the case for PlayEveryWare. In fact, during Pax Dev 2012, Lead Developer Ryan Meyer and Programmer Tom O’Connor were on the “Surviving as a Moonlighting Indie” discussion panel. If you’re thinking of moonlighting yourself, make sure you watch the video of the panel.
Since this is the first Indie Spotlight, we’re still experimenting with the best way to really showcase the featured studio and give you some great previews of their upcoming games. After a few brief emails with Programmer Tom O’Connor, I came up with a few questions I hoped would be interesting, and Tom’s responses were great. Instead of filtering and editing, I thought I would share his responses directly with you.
SC: What’s been the best part [of building an independent studio] so far?
TO: It is really amazing to continue working with the friends you’ve had for many years in an official capacity, and also having that self-directed work that only comes with making your own game and having your own company. Sometimes it means we have to do something we’re not naturally inclined at doing or have very little experience in, like running a business or promoting our games, but having to do new and different things is good for neurogenesis and gives you more creative energy for everything else you do in life! We may not have had the wherewithal to be indie full-time yet, but at least moonlighting gives us the opportunity to follow our ambitions and still get the experience and education of working with other established developers.
SC: Do you have any advice for other indie developers?
TO: Enter into as many contests and competitions as you can and use these as external milestones so you’re giving yourself a real deadline. Or go to local industry meetups to get people to playtest your game. Putting the game in front of people and watching them play, even before you think it is ready, is unbelievably important especially when you’re trying to maximize the limited amount of time you have. It gets said a lot in our industry for good reason.
I’m going to comment on this response, and say that I’ve heard similar things when talking to other developers (both gaming and non-gaming devs actually). This is GREAT advice. There are a lot of local competitions that really do help in nearly all facets of development.
TO: Think creatively about promoting your game. We couldn’t afford an expo booth at PAX to showcase our game, so instead we walked around the conference handing out packets of Emergen-C with a sticker of our game on the back and a QR code that points to our new trailer. People loved getting schwag they could use, especially something that could help them avoid getting the famous conference contagious “nerd flu”. While the jury is still out on how effective it was, at the very least we still made a lot of contacts with media and other indie developers that will be helpful in the long run. In fact, the value of networking with other developers can never be understated.
SC: What’s been the hardest part of developing the game so far?
TO: Iterating on gameplay in a tower defense game is a huge labor in UI. That means a lot of back and forth with the programmers and artists, which in our case that means Ryan and Mike staying in touch and doing a lot of back and forth discussion over IM. And because of our mixed moonlighting schedules it sometimes meant that certain tasks could take weeks. In fact, because of that it can be hard to stay motivated on a side project when everyone also has tough day job schedules and busy personal lives. We try our best to maintain a regular schedule of working together a couple nights a week, but that can be hard to maintain when there are so many other things that have to take priority. Sometimes it might mean that weeks or even months go by without working on the game, and it is already a lot of work to catch up to what you were doing if even just a week goes by. We’ve persisted though, and while most every developer will say that their game is never finished, it is especially true with moonlighting. There is still so much more we want to do to make this a better game, but we are extremely excited for people to see it!
SC: What made you choose the 3DS for your game? Why a tower defense game?
TO: We actually started with the DS and then came up with a game that would fit perfectly with the uniqueness of the handheld. The idea was to make a game that marries to the hardware it plays on, and to showcase our unique art style and gameplay sensibilities by not getting lost in the noise of iOS development. Because we’re moonlighting, the goal wasn’t to make us rich but to do something creative and fun, and to continue working together even as we got different jobs. We choose tower defense because Ryan felt that there were still innovations to make in the genre, and him and Mike came up with a cool style and story to drive the mechanics.
SC: What ‘s left to finish before release? How long have you been developing?
TO: We have been working on Power Defense for about 3 years now and in that time the game has gone through a lot of iteration. The level art went through a lot of changes considering how tightly connected the layout is with the gameplay. Originally each level didn’t have its own unique boss, towers didn’t always have batteries, and the jeep underwent a number of major changes to get to where it is at today. Right now we are focused on polishing things like our tutorials and player feedback systems, and balancing the towers and enemies so the gameplay feels super tight.
As you can see, developing games takes not only a long term commitment, but you have to have the ability and intestinal fortitude to never give up.
SC: What’s the coolest part of the game?
TO: There’s a lot of unique gameplay elements that make this feel like more than just a “tower defense” game: the power management for towers and their special abilities, defending a mobile base, the level progression system that makes for great replayability. Together with the art style, characters, and humor we feel that Power Defense is a game that will give players something they haven’t experienced before.
SC: What are your hopes for the game and players?
TO: It’d be great to get to a point where we are working on our own games full-time, and if the game does well then there’s hope for that, but we really just wanted to make something that felt unique to our style. What we want is for the game to be memorable for those who play it, so they want to tell their friends about it. And so that they look forward to our next game, and know the kind of quality and unique experiences we believe in making.
Tom later added that it would be great to get some funding! Money makes game development easier and quicker. *grin* You can help by trying Power Defense when it’s released in the coming months. If you’re looking for more information about PlayEveryWare or Power Defense, you can contact them through their website at http://playeveryware.com/.
We’ll announce here on CheatCodes.com Extra when Power Defense has a release date, and don’t forget to check here for any tips, tricks or cheats!
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