To kick off X-Play's unprecedented coverage of the 2008 Penny Arcade Expo, we've asked each of the PAX 10, the Expo's top ten highest rated indie games of the last year, to answer some questions for us.
Malcom Reed, one of the three brains behind Project Aftermath sent some excellent responses to each of our questions and provided some wonderful advice for indie game makers.
MR: A little over 2 years, full time.
G4: Where did you get the idea/inspiration for the game?
MR: We wanted to make an action-packed RTS game with more focus on combat and less on resource gathering, to make it more immediate, with shorter mission times to encourage replays for the high scores tables. I guess Real-time tactical is a closer fit than RTS. Looking back, we always liked squad based games like Syndicate, so I guess the 4 heroes comes from games like that. In the set-up for the missions we've employed an RPG style inventory with a research centre to purchase new items and boost your arsenal. The mechanic we have created for weighting 'roll-out' costs to give penalties or bonuses going into a mission is really unique. It even allows the player to decide what level their heroes are.
G4: What's your all-time favorite game?
MR: That's a real tough question - It's like having your life flash before your eyes, thousands of images spring to mind.... I simply can't answer! Well, if pushed, I'd say Civilisation 2.
G4: If you could have dinner with any one developer, who would it be and what would you eat?
MR: Valve, or more specifically, the member of Valve who came up with the companion-cube. We'd eat something char-grilled.
G4: With unlimited resources, what kind of game would you make?
MR: I'd love to make a really funny game, but it's so hard to do, you don't see it very often!
G4: Which existing franchise would you like to work on?
MR: To be honest I wouldn't! Probably not too much you can do with it. I'd much rather make something original and have full control of what I'm doing. Hey, that's why we created Games Faction and that's what being an Independent developer is all about.
G4: Where do you see indie gaming going in the future?
MR: Indie games will get better and more numerous, that's for sure. We'd like to see more experienced developers like ourselves going it alone and taking advantage of new digital distribution channels as well as traditional routes. Gamers want and deserve diversity in the industry and indie developers are best placed to provide that.
G4: What piece of advice would you give to someone looking to develop their own indie game?
MR: I would always ask what the purpose is; will it be a hobby or a business? If it's a hobby then making the game will provide a lot of satisfaction as well numerous problems to solve. If it's a business you have in mind, then know your limitations, and be realistic with schedules and budgets. Pick something small and manageable and go for it tooth and nail.
G4: What was the biggest lesson learned from your development process?
MR: Choose your project carefully. We've certainly no regrets about Project Aftermath; it's a fantastic first game for us, but it was ambitious. A simpler game would have been on sale sooner but might not blow your hair back so much!
G4: Besides the obvious—making games—what are some of your hobbies?
MR: I love hurtling down a mountain on two wheels at break-neck speeds. Sadly, my bike was stolen a month ago (****ards) so I'll be looking for a new one after PAX; have to get back in the saddle soon, my waistline is expanding at a rate of knots.
G4: Favorite movie, food, sports team, video game character, and actor/actress?
MR: Dark Knight, Thai, F1 - McLaren, Blanka(oh why not), Denzel Washington.