Our parade of interviews with Indie Games Uprising developers continues. In this installment we talk with Alex from Autotivity Entertainment. Autotivity has developed Entropy, a game sure to entertain fans of physics-based puzzle games. Check out the interview below for information on Entropy and development advice direct from Aristotle.
Alex you are here representing Autotivity, the developers behind the XBLIG game Entropy. Can you tell us a bit about your studio in terms of how you got started and where you are now? Your staff more than doubled in size during development.
Autotivity is a name we picked because DBP demanded a team name so we have no glorious history to share tales on. In the beginning there were two of us (programmers both), but later on we were joined by five very motivated people who helped us finish Entropy for the Uprising (turned out you actually need artists for proper game graphics, having 3d graphics and physics programmers alone is not sufficient.)
You were accepted into Dream.Build.Play, and now you’ve been asked to participate in the Indie Games Uprising. What’s been the reaction from the staff? Is everyone stressed out by meeting deadlines, or is everyone really excited?
My co-workers and I had a lot of pressure in the last weeks as this is not the only project we’re involved with and even though rapidly approaching deadlines are good for actually finishing stuff, the pressure on our real-life has been high. I don’t think there will be much excitement until we have the game released.
Let’s dig into discussing Entropy. I’m a big fan of physics-based puzzle games and I know there are thousands, maybe millions, of other people out there who feel the same. Can you tell us what Entropy is all about?
It’s about physical interactions between different kinds of matter, set within a mystery world with lots of hidden stuff to discover. Roughly speaking, the world we built for the XBLIG community is a cave garden that happens to be populated by lava, acid, heavy stone balls, electric conductors – and you have to combine all these components to get forward. The interesting part is that most puzzles must be solved indirectly (obviously, all this stuff is really dangerous!). Be careful, you’re not alone down there!In one of the first levels, our first-person player (who initially doesn’t know who he is) gets a “weapon” that produces gravity bubbles, which stay alive for a while and push all movable matter within their range towards their center. The later levels are based on tilting entire chambers.
There’s some 3D platforming involved as well.
It’s really difficult to explain how this all comes together, you should check out our release trailer (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8CMSrfBBaU) to get a feeling for what to expect.
What games, if any, inspired Entropy?
Portal. In the beginning we were scared about being a fake Portal ripoff because everybody whom we talked to about the game concept would mention the ‘P’ word somewhere. Now that the game is finished we can safely say that Entropy is totally, absolutely different than Portal – still Portal‘s puzzle design somehow inspired the game and even though you don’t carry a gun in Entropy the gravity device you use bears some very vague resemblance to the Portal Gun.
Rumors are there is even cake in the game.
(Braid, even though it too has the time shift feature, was not an inspiration, none of us had played it.)
What games in general have inspired you to become a developer?
On this question I can only speak for myself. I don’t think computer games ever inspired me to become a software developer (there’s so much out there that is more or at least as fascinating than games), but they inspired me to delve into 3D graphics programming. Noteworthy titles include Half Life 2 and, later, Crysis.
What do you consider your favorite part or element of Entropy? Is there anything that’s not going to make the cut that you wish would?
In Entropy you can always go back in time. Time shift is easily accessible on the left trigger so it integrates smoothly into the gameplay.
I really LOVE this feature. It’s so fun to be able to burn half the scene (for fun … or by accident) and to watch it play back in real-time.
Earlier you mentioned the need to bring in artists to help on the project. What’s been the most difficult part of the game development process for you and your team?
Organizing the whole thing. Entropy is a medium-sized software project running on two platforms doing non-trivial stuff and being developed on by multiple developers. This alone is a nightmare to manage. Add the need to communicate with artists and to schedule their work, too, to the pot and it gets even worse.
I think the most difficult aspect on game development is that you not only need to get a software project done, but you also need to do well on non-quantifyable scales such as artistic aspects or plain “fun”.
What do you feel is the best part about being an indie developer?
It’s difficult for me to respond to this – we’re Indie developers by accident and we don’t need to earn our living with it. In fact we don’t need money at all (even though we’d be glad to get our development costs back).
So in our case, we were just writing the game we would like to play ourselves, with no pressure and full freedom to do what we had in mind.
I doubt the experience remains as pleasant as soon as you need to get something in return.
Are there any aspirations to do this kind of development full-time?
No to Indie development as a fulltime job. But I can definitely imagine it as a hobby.
What advice would you give to other developers out there just starting out?
I’ll go with Aristotle and say that to begin is more important than everything else. You’ll probably do 100 of the 10000 things you have in your mind to achieve in your life – or zero (as in zero) if you don’t start. So go ahead and start doing something. Sticking to it is the next obstacle, but to start comes first.
Before we go, let’s get back to Entropy for just a moment. Can you tell our readers what kind of experience they can expect playing your game, and why they should give it a try?
You will be exploring a very fascinating and beautiful 3D world in which there is lots to discover. You will be solving puzzles that are not overly difficult but totally different to all 3D puzzlers you’ve seen before. Did I mention you can play with fire in the game?
Additional coverage of Entropy:
© 2012 – 2013, The Indie Mine. All rights reserved.