Indie Games Spotlight for February 5th, 2012

By mancide, 4 years ago
BatCat studios' Andrew O'Conner sits down to discuss the development of P3 with us this week.

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First tell us about your gaming history.

I've always been a PC gamer. I never had a console growing up, but there was always a PC in the house and that was great because I was big into my space games, of which there were many. I loved Elite and the Wing Commander series, Privateer and Homeworld (my favourite game of all time ever!). Also X-Wing, and TIE Fighter, and X-Wing vs TIE Fighter. Good times! Loved my point-and-click adventure games too. I remember playing Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis from before we had a soundcard (will people think I'm old if I say the word soundcard?) In those days, screech bloop blip was the height of my aural gaming experience, but I loved it. I'm also (or used to be) mad for FPSs. I'd say I've played a ridiculously large percentage of all the FPS games ever released, but all on PC. So many happy hours.

I remember spending many hours playing X-Wing vs TIE Fighter in the back of one of my math classes in high-school. Those were indeed good times.

How long have you been developing games?

I started playing around with game programming when I was about 15. I got Andre LaMothes' Black Art of 3D Game Programming book as a present and never looked back. I guess that would make it more than 15 years. I got out of the whole scene for the last few years though, so we probably can't count those.

What events or concepts helped shape the direction for P3?

P-3 just kind of grew organically. It didn't even start off as a twin-stick shooter. I was prototyping some other game, where your character could revolve around the outside of a circle and had to shoot in towards the center to do...something. I can't even remember. After a day or two of work on that I decided that it didn't seem like fun, but I had this circle on the screen and I was like, Hmmm, what if I zoomed in a little. Yeah, that looks nice. And maybe...yeah, if I put a little ship in there...hey, that's cool. And you know, that kinda looks like a petri dish. What goes in a petri dish? And honestly that's how it went. It really didn't start to take shape properly though until Sean, BatCat's artist, started working on it. He made it look like a real game:) Everyone we show the game to agrees it looks pretty nice, and that's almost entirely down to him. Tip of the hat sir.

What was the most significant thing you took away from the development process?

Carpel tunnel syndrome. There's a few development practices around using XNA that I've learned, the biggest one being that using Visual Studio as a content manager is a pain in the knackers. Our new game uses a nice simple convention based folder approach to content management (there's a little bit about it here for any devs that want to take a look). We're still building it out and it's working well so far but I suppose only time will tell if it's actually any good.

Microsoft recently announced some changes to XBLIG. Do you feel these changes are moving the service in the right or wrong direction?

Ah, poor Microsoft. It seems to be constantly one step forwards, two steps back these days. Maybe they're all drunk there! Certainly sounds like how I walk when I'm totally binned! The new larger download limit is nice. It's not something that would have helped us with P-3 as we were nowhere near the 50meg limit for 80MSP, but maybe in the future it will be useful. But I can say that burying the indie games section under seven button clicks in the dashboard seems to have killed the flow of traffic to the service. It took us nearly two weeks to break 1000 trials. This could absolutely be down to bad box art (we think it's ok though), lack of promotion, the fact that it's January, or the phase of the moon, but from what I read around the Internets, trials are at an all time low, and we're all reasonably sure why.

If you could go back in time and change one thing about the development of P3, what would it be and what would you do different?

I really enjoyed developing this game. I'm not sure I'd change anything. Because of the rambling sort of way it was developed, we ended up writing tonnes of code that we threw away in the end (actually, it's all still in there, just switched off), but every single thing we wrote was useful as a learning experience. It's given me ideas about what to do differently on our next game, and that's really helpful.

Do you all feel, as most frequently comes up on TrueAchievements, that Indie Games would benefit from a small amount of Gamerscore?

For some games. I think a lot of the ass-ware on there would abuse the system, and you'd end up with a uselessly de-valued points economy. If Microsoft were willing to police it, it could potentially be huge, but from all indications, thats not going to happen.

Do you have any future plans for more Indie Games?

Absolutely. We've already started on our next one. I saw someone say on twitter the other day (can't remember who) that twin-stick shooters and constant runners are the hello world of game programmers, and I think he might be right, because our next game is...drum role ...a constant runner. Sort of. It does involve running. There'll be more info on our blog about it soon. You should definitely check it out, cus we think it's going to be something special. Which you'd kind of expect us to think I guess.

If you want to follow more of the development of BatCat games' upcoming title, you can follow along on their blog or find them on Twitter @BatCatGames.
Written by mancide
When not enjoying video games, our fearless newshound enjoys an nice pint of fermented barley and hops in a variety of styles. India Pale Ales, Stouts, Porters, Witbiers, Saisons, Gose, Lambics, Barleywine, you name it. If it has water, malted barley, hops and yeast in it, I'll consume it. I also enjoy all things technological, Doctor Who, wrasslin, traveling, and spending time with my family.