The indie game market has flourished in the past decade. Indie games like Super Meat Boy and Binding of Isaac has shown the world you don’t need a million dollar budget to make a good game. This indie games expansion hasn’t netted impunity from the opinions of gamers, however, and we have seen indie game makers who want to be social activist auteurs of gaming but have the tact of Tommy Wisseau. Those indie game makers are trying to ram in political beliefs and teleological social messages in games that aren’t even fun.
I thought of writing an article about the sociological propagandists of indie game making, but why should I give them attention, when there’s plenty of good people who just want to make enjoyable games? So I scanned successful kickstarters of indie games that were plausible to be released. I didn’t want to cover the idealistic neophyte asking for $100 to make the next epic like Skyrim. I got led to the Demon’s Revenge page and knew this was the game to cover.
It had realistic goals of what’s possible and not possible. As you can see from the linked images below, these guys weren’t trying to be the next WETA studios on there budget. They focused on a genre that doesn’t require an enormous amount of modeling, textures and other processing needs (this is done by using the JRPG sprite style of the SNES/SATURN/PS1).
The next requirement I looked for is a game that would actually come out in playable form. There’s a demo on the kickstarter page that is quite playable from my own experience. My last requirement is looking in to the background of the developers.
The husband and wife duo (Tyrell and Whitney) aren’t idealistic manchildren using trustfund money to build a pipe dream. Whitney has taken game degree classes while Tyrell handles the art direction. They asked for a reasonable amount to start the game ($4500) and are releasing it in episodic bits.
The crew of the game (6-8 people) all have links to the RPG making community. I got in to contact with Tyrell over Twitter and sent him some questions about the game. Here is Reaxxion’s interview with the founders of Whiteguardian studio about starting an indie game studio and development of their game Demon’s Revenge:
What were your early influences for video games?
Whitney: My early influences include the likes of Tomb Raider, Suikoden 2, Metal Gear Solid, and many of the Final Fantasies. PSX era. I’m pretty sure Tomb Raider had the most impact on my life decisions. The fact that she was such a strong independent female character always had me looking up to her when the gaming market was dominated by male characters. Suikoden 2 has always held a place in my heart for it’s character development and the story itself just made me break down. I fell in love with this game and as I played it, I had my brother yapping in my ear about how awful it was, it uses pixel graphics, but who has the last laugh now? Pixel art holds up. The 3D graphics of that time… Did not. Final Fantasy 7/8 were my first RPGs and that is mainly what got the ball started on my game career future. I always found myself writing fan fiction about them, mashing them all in one story to create my own.
Tyrell: Since I grew up in the early 90’s, arcades were still a pretty big thing in America. We had such great arcade games that left a mark on me and really made me love video games. Those Konami classics like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the X-men blew my mind as a kid, and other titles were so good I though I imagined them. The arcades back then to me was a magical phenomenon. When I got a bit older, the Soul Reaver series was one that first introduced me to a more mature story something that at the time was probably better than any movie I had seen. It made me think of games in a new light and really let me understand them as a complete medium and something I really wanted to do.
What made you want to be an indie game developer?
Whitney: As a child, I used to write a lot of stories and I used to play a lot of games. I had a lot of my own characters written and I wanted to see them come to life just like I saw others in games. It’s been a lifelong dream to make it happen and here I am making it happen with my husband of all people. I’m so lucky to have him working with me. He showed me that my ideas were not only good to me and allowed me to share my dream, our dream, with everyone else.
Tyrell: I have always wanted to make videos games since I was a kid. I have always created characters as a kid and I have always experimented with free gaming software as a kid. To me it has always been a natural thing I wanted to do. I feel that when you find something that you are good at, you should pursue it. It took a bit of time to get everything right, but that time has been well spent and I believe we are on our way to having some success in this industry.
Why didn’t you give up when your kickstarters have failed multiple times?
Whitney: I wouldn’t call our earlier kickstarters failures, but more of lessons. Never giving up is something that I learned from my husband. Keep trying, be persistent and eventually you’ll make it. Each time the kickstarter didn’t make it, we gained more fans and followers. It made us happy to see that more and more people were interested in our game. That alone could have driven us to keep going, but when you throw our homegrown family into the equation… Letting them see us give up was just not an option. I was always taught to follow my dreams and I hope they do the same.
Tyrell: Because giving up is for losers! Just kidding, but we have had a lot of support from our backers from our first campaign to the last. I’m a big sports guy so I am all about not giving up and doing better, taking the good analyzing what we did wrong. Making games is not only a dream for my wife and I, but a lifestyle that we have been sharing before we even met. I believe that union is what has made us take it so seriously.
How is the kickstarter process like?
Whitney: The kickstarter process is hectic especially for me. I’m not really a people person, but it forced me to come out of that shell and socialize with people. Marketing is a HUGE thing. Without that, nobody knows about the game at all. Keeping up with updates, and most importantly having something good to show is important. On that first day when you get a bunch of new pledges it is exciting. After about the 3rd day, that starts to slow down, then you start to worry and start rallying the resources and journalists to make updates to keep people interested. Near the end, you have to just keep it up. Some backers will drop out, but most will stay. When you don’t make it, you think about all of the things you could have done better. You do more research, you improve on your craft, but in the end, you just have to chalk it up to the fact that nobody’s experience with kickstarter is going to be the same. What worked for someone else may not exactly work for you. You just have to keep learning and doing what you’re doing and move forward from there to make it all better for the next shot.
Tyrell: I believe each type of project will have a varied experience the first time on kickstarter, especially now since the rules have changed since we first started. I know you have heard this a lot but running a kickstarter is a full time job. I’m going to be beating some dead horses here, but these are the facts. I’m going to go over the less obvious thing as I think things like a good presentation and rewards are obvious. Have a solid tested email and use gmail or a paid email address because you do not want your emails to get flagged as spam. Never stop sending emails. So in a nutshell, you are going to be sending a lot of emails and you are going to need a lot of time. I can go on, but this will be a very lengthy answer.
How would you describe your game to the unknowing gaming public?
Tyrell & Whitney: Celestial Tear: Demon’s Revenge is a Sci-Fi RPG about the “Clash Of Two Races, Heroes Struggling To Bring Unity And A Mystery That Could Annihilate The World.” It is a story about a small group of people who look to change the world and unite its people, but discover behind the hate and conflict lies the truth. We use comic book elements to tell the story and the game has an engaging battle system that we hope will keep you running into battles. Plenty of puzzles and lots of to discover. Explore the world of Hasphal and unlock its secrets.
What are the struggles of raising a child and being an Indie Game Developer?
Whitney: I don’t think there is a struggle really. It’s the best of both worlds. Even in our twitch streams, we tried to make sure that all three of them were asleep before hand, but that never works. It came to the point where we just accepted our daughter as part of the stream team. Nobody really minds and we get to share the experience with our children.
Tyrell: Well, we make it fun for our kids and we feel getting them involved helps give them a step in the right direction if they would like to do something like this in the future. I think the hardest part is taking my oldest son to school in the morning as I would like to pull a few all nighters to get some more work done. This would become a problem, but we have managed to work on a pretty consistent development schedule.
What’s the projected release date for your game?
Tyrell & Whitney: The projected release date is late March/early April. At least that is what we are working towards. We have experienced some delays, but we are picking up steam right now.