Co-Optimus.com: What has been the biggest lesson you all learned during the course of making Sol Survivor?
Dylan: Hah. This is another one that, over drinks, could last all night. I should probably just go the Socratic route and say that the most important thing to developing an indie game is to realize just how little you know. On a daily basis we encountered situations that were new and required us to grow as a studio. Because we couldn't simply ask a more experienced team member, we took time to absorb information from the internet in helping us to make informed decisions. We read everything we could get our hands on, from white papers on graphics programming to blogs on indie game marketing.
Most people probably don't realize how much the process of making a game consumes the people involved. In the last few months of Sol Survivor, we had guys working 60 hour weeks. We'd be up until 4 am after working all night, sitting at a diner talking about this tweak or that addition that we wanted to push through the next day. Burnout can become a real factor, but for Sol Survivor we functioned mostly on adrenaline.
Co-Optimus.com: Of which aspect of the game are you all most proud? Is there anything you wish you could have tweaked or done differently?
Dylan: Personally, I am most proud of how much content we were able to produce with such a small team. The tools that our programmers made allowed us to really amplify our capabilities beyond our team size.
I know Sol Survivor was hamstrung by its learning curve. I'd like to go back and look at how we could have made the game easier to pick up in the first five minutes. Strategy games typically require more involvement, but that didn't jive with the more casual gamers that tend to make up the tower defense fan base.
Looking back, our team is also in agreement that we should have focused our efforts on a PC release prior to the Xbox. I know that we learned a lot by having XBLIG to experience a first release, but Sol Survivor wasn't a great game for the platform. We developed with a PC mentality and then released the game first on a platform that functions more like the Apple App store, both in terms of the low expected prices and the ease with which any given title can remain in near total obscurity without some attention from the platform itself. We may revisit the Xbox with our next title, but we certainly will be approaching it from a different angle.
The sweet smell of co-op lasers in the morning...
Co-Optimus.com: With Sol Survivor completed and enjoying some success, what's next?
Dylan: We've been very fortunate with our PC release. Steam and Impulse gave us the platform we needed to show our game to the public and fund ourselves for a second title. We've hired a part time designer to remove some design burden from the programmers, as well as an artist who is doing a lot of concept and modeling in addition to our original 3d artist.
This past August we moved the team and got some dedicated home-studio space as we started work on our second project. Since then we've had a major engine overhaul, and we've integrated our new content creation tool with the engine itself. There are a lot of really geeky things that lets us do, most of which we'll blog about after we announce the game itself. Once again we're making a bit of a gamble, that our small team can produce a lot of very ambitious content by having a tool that lets us work smarter, rather than harder. In the last two weeks or so, we're starting to see the first evidence that it may pay off!
We'd like to thank Dylan again for the time he spent talking with us and look forward to hearing about their next game very soon!