In our quest to throw the limelight on the awesome indie games coming to the next generations consoles, TwinStick Gaming have been incredibly fortunate to be granted time to talk to some of the very best independent games developers out there.
After an awesome showing at e3, 2014, Axiom Verge developer Thomas Happ was kind enough to give us a little of his time and talk about the upcoming PS4 indie title, Axiom Verge and a couple of insights into life as a games developer.
Starting as simply as possible, what is Axiom Verge?
It’s a sci-fi, retro-styled action-adventure coming out for PS4 and Vita and later for PC.”
Looking at Axiom Verge in action, its clear that its 8-bit influences come from the likes of Metroid and Contra – are there any modern games that have influenced or inspired you during development?
I’d say Mass Effect, Dead Space, Metal Gear Solid are influencers, though not in the ways that you’d think.”
It’s inevitable that someone will attempt to speedrun Axiom Verge. Have you attempted to speedrun it? Is that something you were conscious of while developing, and are you interested in seeing how people fare when they attempt them?
I’m no good at speedrunning, but I end up watching a lot of speedruns just to see how a game is designed and the tricks players use to exploit them. It’s definitely my intent to make it as easy for speedrunners as possible. There will be a speedrun mode that initially just removes cutscenes and displays a timer. I’d like to have the ability to record and rank players on a leaderboard, but that might be more than I can actually handle before ship.”
The glitches and secret areas of retro games are evidently an inspiration for you. Did you begin Axiom Verge with glitches and secrets in mind as a part of the game, or were they born during development?
I didn’t add the glitch gun to my design doc until early 2011, so I might have gone for almost a year without it? I’m not sure what I was doing at the time where I decided to go forward with it. It was before I started coding, though.”
Saves, checkpoints, and passwords have always been points of discussion in older games, for better or for worse. How does Axiom Verge handle saving and progress?
It’s a normal save room. The only difference from other games is that when you die, you keep everything you acquired since your last save.”
Will there be any cheat codes or bonuses for game completion that enhance subsequent playthroughs or make them more challenging?
Yes, but you will have to figure out what they are. There are also minor variations to the ending based on completion time.”
How is development coming along? Any idea how early in 2015 we’re likely to see it?
I seem to be mostly on track. It will likely release in February or March, depending on what Sony feels is best.”
We know Axiom Verge will also come to Windows, will the game come to Xbox One?
There are some exclusivity restrictions that expire in early 2016, so, maybe, though I thought Microsoft had some clause that said they won’t allow games that were already released on another console. Is that still there?”
You’re developing an entire game by yourself. What has been the most difficult part of that? What has been the best part of that?
I think the most difficult part is marketing/PR. Sony handles big press events like E3, but I have to do the day-to-day PR on my own. I can’t afford to hire another person, or I would. The best part is just not having to wait on anyone or make feature requests or try to convince someone of something. There’s no inter-departmental politics.”
From an outsider perspective, the indie scene seems like a pretty close-knit world. Is there much in the way of rivalry between indies, or are you all quite supportive of each other?
I haven’t noticed any rivalry. Actually in the game industry in general, the rivalry is more for the people in the suits. Rank-and-file developers tend to be just sort of in awe of one another.”
Sony seem to have really come out in support of indie developers right from the start of this console generation. Can you talk about what it’s been like working with them?
Awesome? It is red carpet treatment. I mean I’ve seen benefits that even non-indies won’t get.”
With indie games finally getting more of the attention they deserve, big name developers, like Ubisoft, have recently released ‘indie-inspired’ games Child of Light or Valiant Hearts. What’s the attitude toward this in the indie community? Are big companies infringing on indie territory? Or do these games help draw more attention to the indie market?
I haven’t been paying too close attention, but, as long as the games are good and not AAA-ified clones of indie games, I’m not worried. As a gamer, I even wish it happened more often.”
You had a great e3, being awarded and nominated for Best of e3 awards. Apart from that recognition, what was the best part of e3 for you?
Just getting to meet everyone in person. Other devs, journalists, etc, who I’d only chatted with online or read about.”
Aside from Axiom Verge, what indie games are you excited to play?
Chasm, Hyper Light Drifter, Night in the Woods, Ghost Song … I just bought Shovel Knight. I hardly have time to play, though!”
Axiom Verge should hit digital stores early 2015 on PS4. We’ll be bringing you more news, in between fighting over who gets to review Axiom Verge when it hit the TwinStick Offices. A huge thank you to Tom Happ for talking to us – we know time is precious right now!