The Xbox Live Indie Games channel has had a number of successful titles despite the vast amount of games that go unheralded. In this interview, I talk with Sean Doherty of Freelance Games about their hit franchise Trailer Park King which has recently seen a new episode released on the 360. We’ll also discuss the early lessons learned, the success of the TPK series, and the future plans of the development team.
Brandon: Sean, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Before we talk about your Trailer Park King series, can you tell me a little bit about the history of Freelance Games? How did it get started and what were your motivations?
Sean: Well Brandon, in the words of “The Trailer Park King” it’s totally awesome to be interviewed by “The Indie Mine” and we will be sending each of your readers a “Free Invisible Stamp”.
Now that we promised everyone a stamp, Freelance Games is an indie games studio located in eastern Canada. Freelance Games was essentially resurrected in 2009 to fight what many Indies consider the greatest Evil of the Information Age. That’s right baby, Freelance Games is a warrior in the fight against “The Cubical”!
In September 2010, Freelance Games released Starchon (pronounced “star + con”) on the same weekend as Halo Reach. In retrospect, it was pretty arrogant to think we could crush Halo into the ground without a value propositional like an Invisible Stamp. So we regrouped and rocked XBLIG with the release of Trailer Park King in July 2011. Those were sweet days…
Basically, we’re motivated to create awesome games that are different… Games that have the WTF, WOW, or “Holy Bucket of Crap” factor!
Brandon: Besides the timing of the game’s release, what were some of the other lessons you learned going into development of the original Trailer Park King?
Sean: Starchon was our first attempt at the Xbox Indie Market and we made just about every mistake possible. The game took almost a year to develop because of unclear design goals (was it a strategy game or a shooter), Xbox performance issues (its not as forgiving as the PC), and difficulties finding the right artist. Starchon has some pretty unique features, but no real WOW factor. In fact, we spent a lot of time on features that didn’t matter to anyone like the number of star systems (if your game has 99 levels as a selling point – no one cares). We should have been focusing on a unique game with a cool title (Google friendly), awesome box art, and a WOW factor that was out of this world.
Brandon: A lot of developers for Xbox Live Indie Games have been expressing their frustrations with the service, and a number have vocally expressed a desire to move on to other platforms. What has your experience been like and do you plan to stick with developing for XBLIG?
Sean: Let me say this, XBLIG is clearly not something important to Microsoft and in my opinion will not exist on the next Xbox console. This Year, Freelance Games will be expanding to the iOS, Android, Mac, and the PC Markets. We will continue to develop games for XBLIG, while we gain experience in the other Markets and evaluate the future of XBLIG.
Brandon: Well let’s move on to the real reason we’re here and that’s to discuss your hit series Trailer Park King which has recently seen the release of a sequel. Where on Earth did you come up with the theme for the original game? And was there a particular reason you went with the point-and-click adventure style of game design.
Sean: Holy Bucket of Crap! We are now talking about Trailer Park King! The originally concept for Trailer Park King was more of a simulation where you had to become the most popular person in the trailer park. Since simulations aren’t something that generally resonate with the XBLIG audience we decided that Trailer Park King would be a point-and-click adventure game with a strong story located in a trailer park.
Basically, we created a Hero “The King”, a Villain “Truck”, and a whole lot of honeys (with a few skanks along the way). It’s funny the number of guys that complain about the girls being too hot for a trailer park and the accents being incorrect for Central USA. Holy Bucket of Crap! We actually never said the location of the trailer park and if you want ugly girls, get your own trailer park… lol This is my vision of the ultimate freak’n trailer park…
Brandon: Heh, that’s pretty funny because I was considering asking you about whether you had many people wondering about the realism of the female characters. There can’t be too many people complaining though as you guys are sitting right near the top of the sales charts for both the original game and its sequel. Have you been at all surprised with the success of the Trailer Park King series?
Sean: We were pleasantly surprised by the number of people downloading, playing, and talking about Trailer Park King (even with my high expectations – I felt it was a pretty unique and polished game).
Brandon: You mentioned a number of other platforms that you will be moving to this year. Are there any plans to port this series to iOS, Android, etc.? Any thoughts on bringing back Starchon to consumers who might not have had a chance to play it this first time around?
Sean: We are in the process of porting Trailer Park King to the iOS using MonoGame and doing some proto-typing of a sequel to Starchon.
Brandon: Can fans of the series look forward to more Trailer Park King games or will you be moving on to other potential franchises or concepts? In other words, what’s next for you and the team?
Sean: There are plans to continue the Trailer Park King series and create a few new games at the same time. It’s difficult to say exactly what we will be releasing next. Stay tuned…
Brandon: Before I let you go, I usually like to ask indie developers what they would recommend to individuals or small teams looking to break into the indie development scene. What advice can you give them?
Sean: Probably, the best advice is to make sure you don’t chew off more than you can handle. Start by making small games that you can handle (an unfinished game doesn’t make any money). If the game doesn’t do well, just go back to the drawing board and try again. The key to success keep pushing forward and learn from your mistakes.
Brandon: Congratulations to you and the Freelance Games team. You guys already seem to be off to a great start in 2012, but best of luck in the coming year anyway.
Sean: It’s been awesome chatting with you about Freelance Games. Keep an eye open for your Free Invisible Stamp…
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