Indie developers are the starving artists of the video-game world, often brilliant and innovative, but also misunderstood, underfunded and more prone to writing free-form poetry on their LiveJournals. We believe they deserve a wider audience with the Joystiq Indie Pitch: This week, Klaus Petersen and Bedtime Gaming talk about artistic IGF student finalist Back to Bed. Check out the Kickstarter here.
Our game is called Back to Bed. It is a 3D puzzle platformer, wherein the player has to help a sleepwalker reach the safety of his bed by navigating him through a surreal and dreamlike environment.
How did you hear that Back to Bed was an IGF Student Showcase finalist and has that changed how you approach the game's development?
Well, we just read it on one of the game news sites, when the student showcase "winners" were announced, which of course caused celebration.
But yes, the IGF nomination changed alot of things. Besides giving the team a giant boost, it also gives us the great window of opportunity to show our game to a lot of people. It also builds up a little pressure, I guess. But it's just things like this that makes the long hours during crunch worthwhile. What inspired you to make Back to Bed?
The fundamental idea for Back to Bed was a combination of two ideas. One was to make a game about sleepwalking, the idea of a sleepwalker moving through dangers without realizing it, a bit like in old cartoons. The other idea was to make a puzzle game where the challenge wasn't to get the player to the goal, but instead helping someone else reach the goal. To give the player the dramatic feeling of saving someone.
The visual vision came a bit later, and was inspired by surreal art. These inputs combined was what created the idea.
What's the coolest aspect of Back to Bed?
Would have to say the visual feel of the game. Here we are talking about both the artistic side of the game, as well as the level design. From the start we wanted a surreal look to capture the dream aspect of the game.
This was achieved by taking inspiration from known artists, such as Dalí. We also wanted to include illusions inspired by Escher, which was achieved by some tweaking of the game engine.The combination of these, along with the painted style, creates a feeling of playing in a surreal painting.
DADIU seems to have a solid game development program. What makes it successful?
The team combinations are clearly one of the strongest elements of the DADIU program.
First of all, there are students from all manner of educations, from programmers to art designers, instead of all members having the same background. This means each team has all the competences needed for making a game, while also having many different ways of thinking about games and game design. If everybody had the same background, many would think alike. The clash of different competences often creates something that is better than the sum of its parts.
Secondly, the idea of having a group of people with lead roles with their own responsibilities, just like in a real production, gives a huge advantage and opportunities to learn. Team members know that the project manager controls the timesheet, the director the vision, the designer the mechanics and so forth. Some productions are more rigid than others, but the experience of some having the lead roles, and others having to accept their decisions, is an invaluable experience. The result is some very focused productions that feel real, instead of just another university project.
Very important, both as an opportunity to show off our game, but also to get feedback from a lot of new people, some of whom actually know a thing or two about games. It also gives new developers a chance to see and meet the rest of the industry and to learn how it functions from a business side. Furthermore, it is always nice to meet other people that also care about games, and to be reassured that one's passion is shared by many others.
Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?
It comes down to wanting control over our own game. We feel we have created something quite good here; a game that has value both as a game experience and as an artistic experience. For us it was clear that we needed to be in control, since we care for our game, but also because we are the ones who know the thoughts behind the game best.
Do you plan on making any money off of Back to Bed? How?
We are not counting on becoming rich by releasing Back to Bed, but we are planning on making some money, both to cover the cost of the production and to get some money back for the time invested in the game. We plan on releasing the game on the Apple App Store for $2, as well a free lite version of the game with a couple of levels. That way a lot of people can try the basic game, and people who want all the content can buy the full game.
Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?
Definitely. Several members of the production team are also working on other indie games, so it is a large part of the way we approach making games. For most of us we see it as a way to try out ideas that larger developers wouldn't touch and do some crazy stuff. But indie productions are also a way for us to get into the games industry and gain some experience without a huge risk. We don't see ourselves as "only" indie developers; we aren't against working for others in the future.
Sell Back to Bed in one sentence:
The hectic experience of trying to save a helpless person from himself and other dangers, all while having the feeling of playing in a piece of art.
Our current goal right now is to make the game work as well as possible on the iPad. After that we will focus on bringing the game back to the original platform, the PC (Windows and Mac). This means implementing all the changes into the PC version, and also adding more graphical effects, since that platform is more capable. After that, most of the team members are returning to their own productions, but we are generally open for what the future might bring us.
Back to Bed has a Kickstarter campaign, asking for $12,000 to finish production. Check out a demo of this student showstopper right here, for free.
Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.