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Lot Lizards and Indie Game Development

Asylum Games has recently released Lot Lizards as a free to play game on Wooglie.com. Jake Barnes was kind enough to answer some questions about the game and about indie game development.

I had the opportunity to ask Jake Barnes, of Asylum Games, some questions about their new game, Lot Lizards . Lot Lizards is an irreverant single player arcade game. Players control a redneck trucker, Biff Webster. Biff grabs his shotgun to clean up his beloved truck stop while protecting his wallet from women who seek to steal it. It is currently free to play on Wooglie.com.

SW: What can you tell me about Asylum Games?
JB:
Asylum games was founded by myself, Gregg Johnson, Chad Heer, and Chris Held. We all met in college and worked together on several projects together. We had great chemistry and a love of old-school games. We all graduated and realized that with the economy being what it was, it was gonna be hard enough for ANY of us to get a job in the industry, let alone all of us. We banded together and have done a couple of games together (we did 2 separate, unpublished, ones for contests) and hope to continue making games that just don't exist anymore; that we feel people are clamoring for.

SW: What inspired Lot Lizards, as a game concept? How did you guys come up with it?
JB:
LL was a crazy idea cooked up by Chad. We all came up with 2 game ideas to "pitch" to the other guys so we could vote on something to make next. It sounded funny and edgy so, while it wasn't the game we initially wanted to make next, but it sounded simple enough to cut our teeth on the new game engine we would eventually learn. (or so we had thought!) [sic]

SW: Lot Lizards is kind of reminiscent of Asteroids in gameplay. Why did you choose that as a play mechanic?
JB:
Well the limitations of the game engine we chose to use meant we had to keep the polygon count below a fairly low level. The view we chose was high enough that we could keep the poly-count of the models fairly small so we could accommodate having quite a few models running in on the screen at one time. As the levels progress, the LL run in at a faster pace so we needed to make sure the engine wouldn't freeze up due to having several high-poly models on-screen at a time. So it is a standard top-down angle, that gives you a full 360 view around your main character.

SW: You created some pretty neat artwork for the game, but we don't really get to see it. Were there size constraints or other problems?
JB:
Absolutely, there was a size limitation to the overall game that we needed to cut back in multiple areas. If we had no limitations on size it would have been much larger, and there would have been many more "in-game advertisements" cause we had quite a few more and they were all pretty funny. We have them ready to go, 'cause we either are hoping to make an update to LL, or release a sequel that would add in all the stuff we didn't have time/memory space for.

SW: Lot Lizards is currently free to play on Wooglie.com. Is that temporary? What's in the future for the game?
JB:
We plan on releasing it on the iPhone and other phones, with hopefully the update that I mentioned before. We had other ideas that would make the game a bit easier, and more fun, cause right now, as it stands, it doesn't have a very high replay value. Which we knew from the get-go, but had to deal with the limitations of the sites that host it. We don't have that limitation in the other markets so, we plan on expanding it with a full sequel, or just a version 2.0.

SW: What tools and engines did you use to develop Lot Lizards ? Were you always in the same place or did you use programs, such as Google Wave, or a wiki to share information?
JB:
Well it took us a lot longer than we had wanted to for a a couple of reasons. First of all we had the game at about 85% completion in Flash before we got approved to create games for Apple. We then found out Apple doesn't support Flash so we scrapped it and had to look for a reliable 3D engine to make our 2D game in. We had made our previous games in Torque, but it was unreliable, and unpredictable so we had to search for another one. We eventually decided on the Unity engine, and went from there. The models were made with 3ds Max and skinned and mapped in Photoshop. The only online resource we used was actually Urbandictionary.com for a lot of slang terms that truckers use, because we weren't up to current on "trucker-lingo". A lot of it was far more foul than what shows up in the game, but like I said there's hope for the sequel that the material will make its way out!

SW: All of you are experienced developers. What did you learn from making Lot Lizards?
JB:
The only one of us who had any real professional experience in the gaming field was myself when I worked for Frozen Codebase. I learned all about deadlines, and working cohesively so everyone is on the same page to make sure the final product is close to what we pitched to each other over a couple of beers. I think, if I learned anything, it would be to know, well ahead of time, your restrictions and avenue of distribution. If we had researched all that ahead of time LL would have been published months earlier.

SW: A lot is being said about doing indie development while searching for a job. What would you like other indie teams to know?
JB:
Indie developers are popping up everywhere, and that's a good thing. Years ago, you almost HAD to go through a major studio to get a game made. Now you don't need to go through the BS of answering to a publisher, or a game developer or designer that want to have a say in how YOUR game looks. So, if you have the talent and vision, you can pump out whatever game you want to without having to jump through those hoops. We kinda are happy in how "crappy" our first effort was, and I say that with complete honesty! LL is our first game, and we knew it wasn't gonna be a tremendously great one. It was a great way to get our feet wet with the engine so next time around we could make the game we want to, look and feel the way it should. LL is not anything completely new, or ground-breaking, but it is just as entertaining as some games made by other companies who had thousands of dollars and man-hours to make their games just as "crappy".

SW: Would you like to hint at any upcoming projects for Asylum games?
JB:
Our next project is the game we really wanted to make from the beginning. We posted some concept art pieces on our website and FB page. We intend on making it a "playable comic-book",or as everyone seems to call them now-a-days, graphic novels. We are looking again to the iPhone and phone markets, but also PC, so you can really read the fine detail in the art which is gonna be a large part of the game. Its gonna play a lot like Contra , or Super Castlevania 4 and will be released in 2-3 levels per "issue" to give it a real episodic feel to it.

SW: Anything YOU'D like to tell fans and others about the game? Something I missed? Like, what kind of rewards and levels are there? It's a challenging game.
JB:
Yeah it is a very challenging game. In fact, I rarely make it past level 4. There's no real "rewards", or "hidden" easter eggs or anything yet, but again that's where the expansion, or sequel, comes in. All I have to say is "beware of the loaf!"

Lot Lizards is currently free to play on Wooglie , but it won't be forever. While you're there, if you like it, give it a positive rating.

I would like to thank Jake Barnes for taking the time to talk to me about the game and for sharing information with other game developers.

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