Electron Dance
11Feb/162

Where Are They Now 2016: Part One

where-are-they-now-2016-1

I thought it would be fun to go back and take another look at those developers I covered in the early days of Electron Dance. In six years, what has happened to them?

In part one, I talk to Matt Verran, George Buckenham, Nicolau Chaud, Jay Kyburz and Gregory Avery-Weir.

Matt Verran

Matt Verran’s 2D shooter Leave Home woke me from my callous disregard for 2D shooters and I realised there was still plenty of life in the format. Originally, Matt Verran sold his games under the banner of “hermitgames” but has recently rebranded his private corner of the web as “Verran”. Hermitgames is dead, long live Verran.

Verran is not a full-time indie, so his fans have learned to be patient. The followup to Leave Home was the amazing qrth-phyl which I labelled “an astounding piece of work”. In 2014, he released his next title, Δ, a twitch game in the vein of Super Hexagon. I never wrote about it because it was an Xbox-only release (and I don’t have a Xbox).

Verran doesn’t like to share too much about his games until they’re finally ready for public consumption. However, he told me he is working on hermitgames LP for PS4, which will include “expanded versions of Leave Home, qrth-phyl and Δ including some of the stuff I cut from the originals plus some smaller bits, hopefully out this year.”

qrth-phyl-new-stage-ps4

Exclusive new qrth-phyl stage for PS4 edition

I was still curious about a qrth-phyl soundtrack, which is not forthcoming but: “There will be a really good qrth-phyl audio release by a really good musician around the PS4 release. It’s already done and sounds great.”

But never fear, fellow PC enthusiasts, as Verran also added, “I have a couple of mostly finished games that I'd like to stick on itch.io or something when I get the chance.”

Update 12 Feb: On Twitter, Verran said he'd forgotten to mention that both Leave Home and qrth-phyl are also coming to Steam this year.

Go forth:

George Buckenham

George Buckenham, who I originally knew as ‘v21’, published this cute little game called CUBES which I wrote about in 2011. The following year I met him in person at the 2012 Eurogamer Expo, where he was showing off A Bastard - best described as a two-player party game inspired by Michael Brough’s Glitch Tank.

Buckenham has been quite prolific when it comes to Twitterbots and has a site dedicated to helping others make them called Cheap Bots, Done Quick! which is apparently hosting over 400 bots. (Laura Michet just this week waxed lyrical about using it to make some bots herself.)

Buckenham is not short of experience to cite on his game CV. “CUBES still lives on in a strange sort of way. The shaders for that I kept working on, released on the asset store, and became as the starting point for my level in Panoramical.” Yes, Buckenham even has a bit in David Kanaga and Fernando Ramallo’s IGF-nominated Panoramical.

He’s more often associated with physical games than the purely digital variety. For this reason, I interviewed him for my RPS piece on the future of controllers, discussing in particular his creation Punch the Custard. He’s also part of the Wild Rumpus crew which organises “multiplayer indie game events”.

Now he’s on the team developing Fabulous Beasts, a project that is, er, difficult to describe. “It's about stacking things in real life,” Buckenham explains, “then seeing a world form on an iPad.” It’s kinda like a God game with Jenga. It went up on Kickstarter a couple of weeks ago and is doing well.

fabulous-beasts-collapse

Fabulous Beasts

The truth is Buckenham is involved in every videogame project worldwide and if you need more proof check out his blog post covering what he got up to in 2015.

Go forth:

Nicolau Chaud

Brazilian psychologist Nicolau “Calunio” Chaud became a JRPG developer of some repute after his 2010 sociopath simulator-cum-love story Beautiful Escape: Dungeoneer and won an award at Game Music Brasil in 2011. However, Chaud had made another JRPG before this which had flown well under the videogame radar - until I revealed its existence to the world. That game was Marvel Brothel and it is exactly what it says on the tin. It's a game which climaxes in a superhero orgy to save the world. The most important thing to know about Marvel Brothel is that, as a game, it takes itself seriously: it is not an easy game to best and involves a lot of learned knowledge about its systems.

vivikka-playlist-3

Vivikka's Playlist

Chaud is one of my biggest influences. He freely appropriates assets from other sources in pursuit of a thing he has envisioned and his goal is never to make money but to make the thing. It's why I'm footloose and free with the footage and music used in the Electron Dance films, because it's in pursuit of the thing. Of course, this is precisely why Marvel Brothel was wiped off the internet by a DMCA request and my last video, Into the Black, has been monetised against my will due to the use of Max Richter tracks. (This is a longer-term concern, especially as YouTube has turned into an aggressive, abusive partner for many video makers.)

Chaud worked himself into the ground with the over-ambitious Freudian sex JRPG project Polymorphous Perversity, which had a lot of issues. Some bounced off its sex-combat system and others were upset by some of the NPC portrayals. But it’s a sprawling and weird work with the classic Chaud touch and I found it fascinating.

Chaud continued to work on other projects such as Depression and Suzy and Freedom (the latter was discussed here on Electron Dance) but I hadn’t heard of anything new from him for two years.

“I have been away from gamedev and gaming in general because of work stuff and also health stuff,” he tells me. “2015 was crazy, and 2016 is promising to be the same. I did start working on a project, but it's on hold while I try to organize my time. It's called Vivikka's Playlist, and it's something like Final Fantasy Tactics and Guitar Hero with a story that alternates between reality and a fantasy world. I have a very good outline of the whole game, and a few graphics and screen mockups. But I have no idea when I'm going to get back to making it.”

TERAPIA-COMPORTAMENTAL-E-COGNITIVA-O-JOGO

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: The Game

He’s currently focusing on developing games for teaching psychology and therapy skills. “ I don't like mixing the two worlds, but well... better than leave game making behind. I made a board game about cognitive behavioral therapy.”

I’m glad to hear he still has a hand in making games; I had suspected he had quit the scene.

Go forth:

Jay Kyburz

In the beginning, Electron Dance was more of a fan site for Laura Michet and Kent Sutherland’s Second Person Shooter. 2PS was my role model, far more than Rock Paper Shotgun. Being a regular in the comments earned an invite to a 2PS private match of Neptune’s Pride in 2010, a multiplayer 4X game that runs in real-time. A year later, I wrote a much-praised series called The Aspiration about the craziness and crippling mental terror that played out over the four weeks of our match.

Asp Collectors Edition - Xasp

Electron Dance film "Broadcast Prime" based on Neptune's Pride

Neptune’s Pride was the brainchild of Jay Kyburz, a developer who had worked on Bioshock and its sequel. The game was a source of great player war stories and offered a curious mix that proved to be simultaneously gripping and traumatizing for its players. Kyburz followed up with a co-op alternative to the NP model called Blight of the Immortals, in which the players work together to stamp out a zombie blight that threatens an ancient kingdom.

Iron Helmet Games also offered Jupiter’s Folly in 2011 and, eventually, Neptune’s Pride II: Triton in 2013. (I was flattered to be offered the opportunity to write for the latter, but it became clear that I didn’t really have the time for an extra side project.)

blight-immortals

Blight of the Immortals

So what is Iron Helmet Games up to now? “I'm actually remaking Blight of the Immortals at the moment” Kyburz tells me. The open beta is available at the old Blight site.

It may not be strictly multiplayer this time around. “We have a kind of turn-based single-player version of the game. At first it was just for us to help test but I think it could be fun enough to actually ship as a single player game in Steam.”

Go forth:

Gregory Avery-Weir

I haven’t written about Gregory Avery-Weir as much as I feel I should. The first Avery-Weir title I played was The Majesty of Colors from 2008, during the time when short Flash games were just coming to prominence. Later, I got into Looming, where you take the part of an archaeologist uncovering the past of alternate realm. I liked it, but all I wrote was that I’d spoilt it for myself in Electron Dance’s first real popular post, The Second Game.

wm-ossuary

Ossuary

“After my early work releasing a lot of small, artsy Flash games, I shifted my focus to larger projects,” says Avery-Weir. “I'm now part of Future Proof Games with my partner, Melissa. In 2013, we released Ossuary, a dialogue-focused, satirical adventure game that takes place in a creepy underworld inspired by the funny and bizarre religion Discordianism.”

Long-time readers might remember I promised to write about Ossuary. I didn’t get round to playing it for some time and it dropped off the radar. However, when Ossuary was released on Steam, I did play through the whole thing. Avery-Weir comments, “It's been experiencing a bit of a resurgence as more people are discovering it.” It’s enjoyably odd and I still reserve the right to mention it in an article about game story...

Last year Electron Dance posted a piece Avery-Weir had written called Minecraft is About Transcending Minecraft. He runs a Patreon to help support his writing about games and other small projects. “It's still in its infancy, but I'd appreciate support from anyone who's interested in personal, deep dives into game design and culture.”

But the game-making continues. “Since the initial release of Ossuary, we at Future Proof have been working on Exploit: Zero Day, a free browser-based social cyberpunk puzzle game that explores hacktivism and corporate overreach. It's a game where you're a hacker for social justice, solving puzzles that represent computer systems and exploring an ongoing story involving the shady corporation Samsara Digital. Players can also create their own puzzles and story to share with the community and challenge their friends.”

exploit-zero-day

Exploit: Zero Day

Reader Phlebas points out that Exploit: Zero Day is the sequel to the free game Exploit, which is still available to play from Avery-Weir's site. The sequel is currently in a closed alpha test, but Future Proof are regularly sending out access codes via a mailing list and working towards an open test. You can sign up for a monthly newsletter at the Exploit: Zero Day site.

Go forth:

More To Come

Part Two: Puppygames, Douglas Wilson and Michael Brough.

Part Three: Orihaus, Austin Breed, Chris Park, Jonas Kyratzes and Paul Eres.

Part Four: Alex Ocias, Terry Cavanagh, Dan Marshall, Charlie Knight and Ed Key.

Download my FREE eBook on the collapse of indie game prices an accessible and comprehensive explanation of what has happened to the market.

Sign up for the monthly Electron Dance Newsletter and follow on Twitter!

Electron Dance Highlights

Comments (2) Trackbacks (1)
  1. Interesting reading! Possibly worth noting in the last section that Exploit:Zero Day is a sequel to Exploit, which is still available to play free:
    http://futureproofgames.com/games/exploit/
    It doesn’t have the big community elements or ongoing story, but is fun and puzzly and (if I recall correctly) has a recipe hidden in it somewhere.


Leave a comment

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail.