Co-Optimus: Tell us a little about yourself and your studio, Xona Games. How did you get started in games development? Where’d the name come from? What’s your background in games development?
Matthew: Jason and I have been making games since we were seven years old, in grade 2, and were programming a year or two before that. We’ve always been into programming, computer graphics, and games. [Ed. Note: Past projects can be found at jasondoucette.com and matthewdoucette.com.] Jason has a lot of past work on his page, all of it interesting, including world records. It gives a hint of where we came from. We also have a tribute page on our first computer, the TI-99/4A here.
Xona Games was originally Saw Tooth Distortion, a name Jason came up with that all our software (freeware) products were labeled with. It eventually became our demo group name as well. Once the Internet age hit, it was too long for a dot-com, so I spent 3 full days researching new names. The name I came up with was Xonatech. The “Xona-“ prefix was the next proposed extension to the SI prefixes (kilo-, mega-, giga-, etc.). Two weeks later we were able to purchase xona.com from the inventor of the Rambo knife, Peter Klika. Small world! This new dot-com made “Xona” a great prefix for any projects we would work on, not to mention an awesome four-letter dot-com. Apparently they are all taken now. Once we got into gaming, “Xona.com” became “Xona Games”.
Co-Optimus: Your first game on XBLIG was Decimation X, a co-op shooter very reminiscent of Space Invaders, and you say on your website that you all “concentrate on nostalgic game concepts with modern-day gameplay and intensity.” Why that particular area of gaming?
Matthew: We make games that we miss. Simple as that. If there’s a game we want to play that nobody has made, or nobody has made properly, then we view that as an opportunity. Plus, there’s reason to suggest you cannot succeed making games you do not want to play yourself. And I am assuming the nostalgic feel to our games comes from our early game development and our inability to officially develop and release games from our early childhood. It’s just a guess, but somehow I think we are fulfilling now what we couldn’t do before. In a sense, we are making the games we’ve always wanted to make, but couldn’t.
The brothers Doucette - Jason on the left and Matthew on the right - showing off their upcoming XBLA release, Duality ZF
Co-Optimus: Is that same nostalgic concept the reason why your games have co-op? What sparked the decision to include co-op instead of just saying “we’ve got a game a gamer can play, let’s just put this out there?”
Matthew: Yes. In the world of 3D there is no such thing as same-screen same-room gaming. We are bringing it back. I loved playing two player Super-C (Contra’s sequel). If we could reproduce those experiences, then that is success. In a pitch video for Duality ZF I noted, “We rekindle past experiences, not past games.” It’s an important distinction. Our expectations as gamers have changed over time, so it’s difficult to deliver those same emotions we once had. The “awe” of new graphics and audio is all but gone, so we accomplish it with challenging experiences with nostalgic graphics and art.