Ever wondered what it would be like to be a full-time indie game developer? A while ago, Adrian caught up with Paul from Flump Studios regarding the excellent Horizon Shift (available on Steam). His new project is Pester – another, all-action shoot-em-up (also available on Steam). I saw this as the perfect opportunity to catch up with him again but this time ask those hard-hitting questions that we all want to know the answers to…
Hello Paul – here we are again! A quick word on Horizon Shift, now that it’s in the public domain, how is it doing?
Hi again, thanks for having me back! It’s doing OK and amazing at the same time. The sales have been kinda average so far but that’s OK because the reviews have been AMAZING!
I’ve honestly been blown away but the reception it’s had. Magazine reviews have been mainly 8’s and 9’s and the steam user reviews are currently sitting at 100% from 70 reviews. I never thought I’d see one of my games manage that!
Tell us a bit about your “new” project “Pester” and how it came about.
Pester’s an old project, actually it was the first game I started developing for public release on XBLIG.
It was actually the second game I released, but the first I started making.
It’s basically as straight forwards a shoot em’ up as you can imagine. Full on old-school, no story, no BS, just explosions – ha ha! It was actually based on a game I made back in the early days on my C64, although that was a lot less busy. It’s really starting to show its age, especially compared to Horizon Shift but I still think there’s a lot of fun in there.
Yeah, definitely. When hard games are done right it makes everything feel so much more rewarding, like Dark Souls or Super Meat Boy. Having said that I actually thought I’d made Horizon Shift too easy when I finished it and was worried people would stomp through it…I was wrong. I actually can’t complete it now and I’ve tried a lot recently (neither can we! – Ed).
Luckily the response to the difficulty has been great, one magazine described it as “Tear Drenched Frustration Followed by Triumphant Elation” which I really liked. Shoot em’ up fans tend to have a masochistic streak.
What games are currently in the pipeline?
To be honest, nothing is too set in stone at the moment, I took a bit of a break after Horizon Shift came out, then spent some time polishing up Pester.
I’ve very recently started work on another shooter with a friend of mine, John, who I actually met through Horizon Shift testing.
So far all I know is it’s another shooter where you control two ships in two different screens, so this one is going to be pretty tricky (sounds cool! – Ed).
Also seriously contemplating a Wii U version of Horizon Shift, just trying to work out if it’s worthwhile (does anyone own a Wii-U??? We kid of course… – Ed).
A lot of our readers are aspiring Indie developers – given that a small percentage of indie games ever make it big, do you believe this to be a worthwhile full-time career?
Oooo, that’s a tricky one. Yes, if you really have the passion and dedication to keep going, but it is hard, really hard.
Also you need to be prepared to fail, A LOT! You need some kind of safety net, so if your game bombs, and there’s a good chance it will, you won’t ruin your life.
Downloads and sales are very different things (ha ha!). In total, Flump Studios games have been downloaded 1.5 million times (wow! – Ed), which still amazes me. Unfortunately the vast majority of those have been free phone games or steam giveaways.
I can’t really say regarding the Steam figures but far more than I ever expected to sell when I started out making games.
Last year I just about managed to scrape together a full time wage…just and not a good one but liveable, something I genuinely never thought would happen.
What are the pitfalls/benefits of being an indie developer?
For me the main benefit is I can do whatever I want and when I want. No boss! NO BOSS! Ha ha, best feeling in the world! I’ve only recently taken the plunge and gone full-time so at the moment the major downside is I don’t have any money and that’s just not fun. Knowing your game has to sell or you’re going to struggle for the next month or two is pretty stressful, so I think that’s the biggest pitfall, financial uncertainty…but no managers!!! (we like the sound of this… – Ed)
How many hours a day do you put into your projects?
It varies, I can go days without doing anything and then I can spend 14 or 15 hours a day on something, it depends how it’s flowing. I used to try and make myself work but that just doesn’t work, now I only work if I feel like it, seems to be more productive.
If thinking about the project counts as work I would say I work about 13 hours a day, everyday. I really have trouble shutting myself off from a project, it’s always in my mind. Probably not a healthy way to work to be honest.
I just don’t like them, I feel like too much of the development goes into the business side. I don’t seem to ever read about how we can improve gameplay in FTP or how we can make the games more fun. It always seems to focus on how to make the most money and keep the most players. Just not the way I like to think, it’s like if a painter paints something to just make money it then, in my mind, automatically becomes a piece of shit. I feel the same about games.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt since releasing your games/being an indie developer?
That it’s really easy to make games but damn hard to make good ones.
Would you ever consider developing games for one of the big corporates?
Yeah, if the money was amazing. Then I could quit a year later and make whatever I want but with financial security.
Where do you see yourself and Flump Studios in ten years’ time?
I have no idea, I imagine it will be the same as it’s always been. I’ll be making arcade games, not many people will buy them but I’ll keep making them whether they want them or not.
Thanks again Paul – valuable advice and a great interview!
You can visit Flump Studios’ Steam page here
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