Co-Optimus: Was the decision to make the game cooperative made early on in the development, or did it come later? What were the challenges of going from one player to two?
John: I’m the kind of guy that owns quite a few games consoles, but most of my friends don’t. When they come round, local coop games are what we usually play. From early on I knew I wanted Dead Pixels to have local coop, but I was probably 3 months in before I actually added it. I wanted to make the game fun single player before worrying about coop, but I kept it in mind when working on things like the UI. I think the biggest challenge was being a one man team, testing coop was a problem. A lot of the time I would test with 2 control pads, and a hand on each. This allowed me to make sure things worked, but I needed to wait for friends to come round to test things properly. Most of the coop bugs came from the store and problems with one user buying something which affected the other player.
Co-Optimus: What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned during this whole process? Anything you’d like to share with other indie developers?
John: I think the best pieces of advice I can give other devs is to learn from your mistakes, and listen to other people. I’ve seen far too many devs get too close to a project, refuse to the see the flaws, and as a result they never improve. You have to know when you are wrong to be a good game dev. One of the biggest lessons I learned was to start playtesting early, and use it to make the game as good as possible. I always tried to take in what all testers were saying, and find a compromise between what they wanted and what I wanted the game to be, and I feel it worked out really well.
Co-Optimus: At the end of it all, how close were you to achieving/matching what you had set out to do?
John: The original idea for Dead Pixels was much closer to rogue-like games. It would have had permadeath and a more serious tone. You had to find food to survive, and the goal was just to survive as long as possible. Like most games that changed over time. A lot changed over development, but I feel like most of the big stuff, like making a game for fans of zombie films and making it fun in both coop and single player, I did succeed in doing. There were some ideas that I would have liked to have done, but didn’t get round to for one reason or another, but they all went into a note book, and may appear in future games.
Co-Optimus: What’s next for you? I know you’re currently working on a sequel to Dead Pixels, Dead Pixels 2; how far along have you gotten on that? Is it easier going with Dead Pixels under your belt?
John: This year most of my focus will be going into Dead Pixels 2, but do I have 2 smaller projects I’d like to work on too. I have put some time into Dead Pixels 2 already, but it’s still early days. I had to put it on hold while I worked on the steam version, but I’m hoping to get back to it in the next week or two. On one hand it is easier working on DP2 because I have the original game as a sort of pattern to look at and recreate, but on the other hand I’m having to rewrite everything and I’m having to be a little more forward thinking than I was when I made the original. With the original it was a learning process where things were being added as I went, but with DP2 I know a lot of things I want from the start, and I’m planning ahead for them.
We'd like to thank John for taking the time to answer all of our questions and sharing some of his trials and tribulations with us all. We eagerly look forward to his next project, Dead Pixels 2, and whatever else he may have in store. Dead Pixels is available for XBLIG and PC via Desura or Steam.