A GAME DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY TO HELP YOU COMPLETE YOUR GAMES
Foundat.io/n was recently fortunate enough to chat with Alec from Renegade Sector Games about one of his most recent releases, a game called “And All Would Cry Beware!“. Before we jump into the interview, let’s first watch the game’s trailer below.
First, thanks for chatting with our audience of indie game devs about your own work as a game maker. Let’s kick off the interview by talking a little bit about Renegade Sector Games. Your studio focuses on creating Low-Poly Pulp-Games. Tell me a little bit more about this aesthetic decision. What inspires you to keep your work in this art style?
Thanks for reaching out! So, there are two parts to that, the first being Low-Poly, and the second being Pulp. As for why I make Low-Poly games, there are a few reasons for that. First of all, it’s what I grew up with. My first console was the N64, and so that informed a lot about the way I see games, and that style has always appealed to me.
But it goes a bit further than that. I like game art styles that embrace the “game-ness,” rather than trying to emulate something else (whether it be real life, or an existing art style). Things like pixel-art, vector art, ascii art, and, of course, Low-Poly 3D all fit the bill of being art styles which first and foremost serve the purposes of the games rather than trying to aim for realism.
I see it in a lot of ways as being similar to miniatures in a tabletop game: they are clearly representational, but not in a way to try to fool you into thinking its real, but rather in a way to give your imagination something to latch on to. Also, I think there’s a lot of space to explore with Low-Poly 3D. Pixel Art has basically had an unbroken tradition from the start of games, through early consoles, on handhelds like the Gameboy and Gameboy Advance, and eventually being picked up and built on by indie games. Low-Poly 3D really only had about 5-10 years as its own art-style and was seen by many as an awkward stepping stone towards high-fidelity graphics attempting photo-realism. But I think there’s a lot of potential in treating Low-Poly 3D as it’s own aesthetic and leaning into what’s interesting about it and building off of what works.
As for Pulp, my games take a lot of influence from pulp science-fiction and fantasy, as well as from low-budget B movies and the like. I think when people make media quickly and cheaply, you often get some of the most interesting work, because they have more chances to experiment and try things, and not worry about a weird idea tanking an expensive project. One of my favorite fantasy authors, Michael Moorcock, wrote some of his classic fantasy novels in just 3 days. He came in with an outline, characters, and loose ideas for interesting imagery, and in 3 days would turn it into a ~120 page novel. And those novels, while a little rough, would be weird, colorful and full of interesting ideas, and they’d influence fantasy media for decades to come.
Who are some other game developers (or indie game companies) that are working within the poly / low poly aesthetic that you feel are doing a great job of pushing the limits within this style?
The Low-Poly aesthetic has really been picking up steam recently. Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the excellent work Ethan Redd is doing, as well as the team behind Paratopic. Sean Han Tani and Marina Kittaka are making a gorgeous-looking Low-Poly 3D followup to their excellent Zelda-like Anodyne. Also Kenny Backus’s Sky Rogue from a few years back did a really good job of showing people what a bright, clean and appealing aesthetic you could achieve with low-poly art.
What game engine do you use to develop your games? Why is it your game engine of choice?
I use Unity. When I started using it, it seemed like the best/most affordable option for the sorts of games I wanted to make, and now my workflow is basically built around it, so I’d be unlikely to switch engines unless I for whatever reason had to.
Tell us a little bit more about the day to day development process for And All Would Cry Beware! How long were you in development for? How long is the game-play? How many people were involved? What did a typical development day look like?
I made the initial prototype over the course of a week last year. Then there was a gap where I was working on other projects (Thunder Kid and Pilgrims in Purple Moss). I started back in on And All Would Cry Beware in April of this year, working on it in parallel with another game called Diorama Dungeoncrawl (which I’m now planning on returning to and releasing later this year). In May I started working full-time on AAWCB, and got it finished in June. So all told the development time was around 3 months. The game was a solo project. I’d generally more or less plan out my month in advance that way I know what I’m doing each day, and I know how it fits into the bigger picture. A day might include doing a first-pass on a section of level design and modeling and animating an enemy type, it might include modeling and texturing multiple enemies, it might be spent mostly working on a single boss, or what have you.
How did you learn how to make video games? Did you take a game development course or are you self taught?
A little of both. I started trying to learn how to make videogames pretty young. Around third of fourth grade I started learning coding through a combination of summer camps and self-teaching from learn-to-code books. Eventually I did study Interactive Entertainment at USC, where I got a lot of experience with rapid prototyping. It was also there that I got introduced to the burgeoning indie scene.
And All Would Cry Beware! is not your studio’s first title. You have many other titles including Venusian Vengeance, Ninja Outbreak, Thunder Kid and many others. You’re a very busy game developer. Tell us a little bit more about your approach to time management. Do you give each game strict limits in terms of development time? I’m sure a big part of your ability to create such an impressive portfolio of games is due to your ability to properly plan your games during the pre-production process. Tell us a little bit more about your approach to development from a time management standpoint.
Yeah, a lot of it is in planning and keeping the scope simple. Usually when I start a project, my goal is to make the game within a month. It rarely works out like that, but even then, if you plan for a month, you end up taking 2-3 months, which is still good. Thunder Kid was probably the game where I came closest. I started by making a prototype in a week (during the same month I made the initial prototype for And All Would Cry Beware). Then I made a plan to try to get the game finished within a month. I already knew what the basic gameplay was, since I had the prototype, so most of it was just building on that, creating enemies and levels, and so on. So I broke down how many levels I needed, how many enemies I needed, how many bosses there would be, and then broke that down into a day-by-day schedule for the month. While the game wasn’t completely finished by the end of the month, it was ostensibly in a beta state, so during the next month, I could put the finishing touches on it while I got it ready for release. In addition to all that, a big part of my ability to make games this quickly comes from the fact that I’ve already got a number of games under my belt, and have a base of reusable code that grows from project to project. If I’ve done something before, I don’t have to do it again from scratch, I can take advantage of what I’ve already done. This lets me prototype projects a lot more quickly, it lets me finish projects a lot more quickly, and it lets me implement ideas more quickly.
Video game marketing is another big responsibility for indie game studios. How do you go about marketing your video games to the public? Are there some platforms or strategies that you feel work better than others for indie game developers?
Honestly, I’m probably not the best person to ask about marketing. I’ve been doing this for years, and And All Would Cry Beware is probably the first game I’ve made that could reasonably be called a financial success (and this is largely due to the low budget and quick development time). Most of my marketing amounts to having a social media presence where I post a lot of animated gifs of my games, and talk about game design in general. The only advice I can really give is have something to show off as soon as you can, show stuff off often, and have a place where people can go to wishlist your game as soon as you can, so that if a gif you post takes off, you can convert that excitement into potential future-sales.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today about the work you do at Renegade Sector Games. To our audience, if you’d like to get a copy of And All Would Cry Beware, you can do so over at Steam here.