Dyad is one of the most exciting PSN releases this summer, a shooter/racer mash-up that draws heavily upon arcade gaming’s rich heritage for both its style and substance. Released in the US last month to widespread acclaim the European release is still absent. We caught up with the game’s creator, Shawn McGrath to find out what’s going on.
Hookshot Inc.: Hey Shawn! Congratulations on your baby’s launch. How has the first fortnight been?
Shawn McGrath: Thanks! It’s been kinda weird. I was really happy the night it launched. Then the next day I just felt depressed. I was in NYC attending a Sony PR event and I realized that it’d be the last time I’d be showing the game in that kind of context and it kinda hit me: “wtf am I gunna do now?” For the past 4 years all I did was work on Dyad, and now that’s done.
I’ve heard that happens a lot for small team indie devs who work on ambitious projects like these. So much time and effort is concentrated on the process that, when it’s all done, there’s a sort of post-natal depression. How are you working through that?
When I returned home from New York I started work on some new stuff and felt really good again. It’s exciting to be working on something new. Then I started working on the European version of Dyad and got thoroughly depressed again! I thought I was done with the game. It’s all good now though, I’m emotionally stable. Promise.
Yeah, so tell us about that. In what ways was creating the European version more hassle than you were expecting?
German. It has a lot of long words! It turns out that English is probably the most concise language from a character count perspective (at least in terms of English, French, Italian, German and Spanish). Also, I spent *A LOT* of tiSme on the English text. I know people skim over the text and I wanted to make sure it was as short as possible while explaining the concepts as clearly as possible. It uses a very rigid structure and deliberately chosen words to create a language to describe the game. Trying to communicate that with translators is difficult, especially when I can’t verify their work. I think it’s good now though — I hope at least…
So, is it all finished? When will Europeans get to play the game?
The gold master is uploading right now! I hope it’s pushed live in August.
I guess this is a related question: how has it been working with Sony? Would you do so again?
It was honestly great. They were completely hands-off in terms of design and development and helped out immensely with marketing, PR and getting exposure. I really couldn’t ask for a better arrangement for a game of this scale. I think the next thing I want to make will be larger and possibly weirder, so there’s more risk. I’m not sure if I’m comfortable taking on that risk alone yet — I’ll have to see in a year or so when the game starts taking shape. I’d love to work with them again if I can figure out a way to make it work.
Any ideas on what that next project will be about?
I’m not sure yet. I’m thinking a lot about an RPG and a also about a two-player abstract board game… Who knows what I’ll make.
What’s the dream here? Where are you headed?
I have no idea. I think I want to make a bigger game next, but I like having the freedom to do whatever I want, and not have to worry about commercial viability of my work. I’ll have to figure out a way to balance my creative freedom with the scale of game I want to make next. I’m sure I’ll figure it out; worst case I’ll just work on it more than I did on Dyad somehow.
Returning to Dyad, is there anything you’ve seen players doing with the game that you weren’t expecting?
Not yet! Although I am still expecting to see some crazy shit that I didn’t think was possible.
What were your most positive and negative experiences making the game?
The most negative experience was in January 2011. The game was a complete mess, it was about 60 completely disjointed levels, I had spent my life savings, I had no idea how to make it into a game that anyone could play. I actually quit working on the game to make THE MACHINE at that point.
Wait. What on earth is THE MACHINE?
I know, right?
The most positive experience was showing the game at GDC. It was the first time anyone other than David (Kanaga – the game’s composer) and four friends saw the ending.
What is your favourite moment in the game?
Playing? The ending. No question about it. The end of Dyad is… I dunno, it’s really special to me. I still get goosebumps and have watery eyes every time I play it. I can’t play it more than once a week, it’s too much for me emotionally. I dunno why either, I’m not sure if that stems from some weird hubris or admiration for 2001.
It seems like there’s a lot of emotion tied up with the game. Was creating Dyad a transformative experience for you in any way?
I am just a different person now than when I started in basically every possible way.