Q. Hello lovely Dan Marshall of Size Five Games! First of all tell us all about The Swindle, seeing as some of us have been distracted by the big golden BAFTA you won for Privates that you keep carrying around. It’s hard to keep up…
This BAFTA is kind of heavy. I shouldn’t insist on carrying it round all the time really, but it comes in so handy as an ice breaker, both literally and figuratively.
I’m making a game called The Swindle. It’s a Steampunk cybercrime caper; the big idea being it’s kind of like a 2D Steampunk Deus Ex with strong platformer roots. “Sonic meets Deus Ex” is how I described it, and that kind of sums stuff up nicely. The idea is you have to break into these various buildings, hack their computers, steal their Steampunk money and escape again. The more money you’ve got, the more you can afford to upgrade your equipment and steal more cash. It’s pretty cool.
Q. So this lovely game, this’ll be appearing on PC and Xbox – right? Just like you said it would?
Ha ha, I did say that originally, didn’t I? That may not longer be entirely accurate. It’s mostly accurate, though.
Q. WHAT? Why not? Are you saying 360 development has been… curtailed?
Well… up till now, I’ve been co-developing The Swindle on both PC and Xbox. To-ing and fro-ing and making sure it works nicely on both systems. It’s a time-consuming process. There’s some complicated boring tech going on that the two systems do differently, and it’s got to the point where it’s no longer sensible as a lone developer to focus on both. For now I think the smart thing to do is fall on the PC side of things, and worry about re-jigging everything for an Xbox version further down the line.
Besides, by the time Swindle’s done, they’ll probably have announced Xbox 360 2, and the rules of the game could have changed entirely, since the only games playable on it will need a coaxial cable jammed directly into the BRAIN. So yeah, a bit of a gamble.
Q. So what do you make of what’s been happening with the increasingly buried XBLIG? For a developer such as yourself, is it just a dead-end?
Yeah, for me, I think so. This is my full-time job so I need to make sure I’m making enough money to live off. I used to think quite a lot of it is marketing – loads of indies release their games and kind of lazily assume word of mouth will magically do the rest, but actually it’s a complete slog getting people to notice your game, getting sites to talk about it, that sort of thing… let alone getting people to actually fork out real life money for the damned thing.
So I’d kind of put some of the XBLIG failures down to complacency; whether it’s on XBLA or XBLIG, if it’s getting amazing reviews and loads of coverage it’ll still sell, surely? People aren’t stupid – if Super Meat Boy had gone on XBLIG after all their buzz it’d still have turned a profit, surely? It’s only a different menu!
However, I can’t see XBLIG surviving to the next Xbox, can you? Microsoft really need to admit XBLIG has been a failure, and shift to something mid-way between XBLIG and XBLA. Do indie games right, like Steam do. Set up a store where not *everything* can go on, but there’s low enough barriers to entry that there’s an amazing selection of games and nothing shit. How hard is that? Surely they can afford to hire someone to look at each game, Google it, find out what people are saying and do some actual personal, human-based Quality Control?
I think what’s most upsetting about the Xbox “Indie Games” channel is that it’s doing the reputation of the indie games industry a massive disservice.
Q. So what about full-blown XBLA? Is it too much to hope that a game like The Swindle could find a home there?
Nope, I think it’d wind up being a perfect fit. I’d be ecstatic with an XBLA release, and closer to release I’ll be pushing for that whole-heartedly. But XBLA is a total gamble for guys like me –at this stage, I can’t afford to spend months making sure the game’s Xbox-compliant only to have Microsoft turn round and say “no ta, we’re not into physics based platformers this year. lol, try 2010” and then have to try to scrape that cash back on XBLIG.
It’s a mysterious, closed-off process and I have *no idea* how it all works, which doesn’t help matters. I’ve actually been warned off XBLA development by several people recently – it has a huge reputation in the indie scene of endless forms and middle managers jabbing at your code. I don’t want that. But then again, I’m not even entirely sure how true that all is… which is still part of the problem of it being such a ‘behind the scenes’ process, I guess.
So anyway, when the game’s more ready, I’ll send them a PC build and hopefully we’ll talk then. Assuming they’re still talking to me.
Q. Admit it Marshall. You’re still smarting from the ‘No vagina game on Xbox’ thing, aren’t you?
I’m so angry at Microsoft, I’d kick THEM in the vagina if they even had one but they don’t. Uh, but no, not really. I understood the decision not to put Privates on Xbox entirely. Bless them. I’m specifically not putting vaginas into The Swindle just in case, though. You only make that mistake once. (Not really. I might slip in a secret vagina, just to stick it to The Man)
Q. Well okay. Thank you for giving Hookshot Inc. a NEWS EXCLUSIVE. I believe this is sort of thing we should be doing on an internet news site. Anything else we should know?
No, that’s all the exclusive news I’ve generated recently. As soon as I’ve powered up my news cannon again, I’ll blast it in your faces.
Q. Cool. As soon as someone bakes a Swindle-shaped cake be sure to get back in touch. I could probably do something with that too.
Be honest – have you set up an entire website specifically in order to snag free promotional cakes?
Q. I’m the one asking the questions Marshall.
The Swindle will be released on PC in 2013, beyond that – who knows? For more information why not visit www.sizefivegames.com?