Q&A: Orchestrating nine-player co-op chaos in A Fistful of Gun

'If you want something with traditional controls or you hate arcade coin-chewers, it's probably not gonna be your thing,' says Paul 'Farmergnome' Hart. 'And I am okay with that.'

Paul Hart (a.k.a.. Farmergnome) is the developer of Under The Garden and the upcoming Under The Ocean. But he took a break to create the brilliantly demented Wild West shooter A Fistful Of Gun.

The game lets up to nine-people take part in multiplayer co-op matches, and they can each choose one of eleven characters who each have their own unique control scheme. (E.G. Zeke the Deranged Sniper is mouse controlled, Noah the Shotgun Aficionado is keyboard controlled, Duke the Maniac Machine Gunner spins to fire, Abel the Hillbilly Pistoleer flicks to fire...)

Hart took a break from his busy development schedule to talk to us about his latest game.

How did you create Fistful of Gun? Did you first design everything on paper? Did you come up with many prototypes and add things as you went along?

Quite a few [prototypes], actually. I actually released the first prototype on my website just to see what people thought about the game.

Which tools did you use?

For Fistful I used MMF2, though I've been known to use Flash also. Simple answer is I will use anything that makes programming easy; I am an art guy first. I use GraphicsGale for damn near all my pixel art.

How would you describe A Fistful of Gun? What makes it unique?

"If you want something with traditional controls or you hate arcade coin-chewers, it's probably not gonna be your thing, and I am okay with that."

Well, what makes it so unique is 11 different control schemes, and the heavy focus on local co-op (though I decided to add online co-op to keep up with the times). It's just a fun party game, but I think the part that I enjoy about it the most is its arcadey vibe. It reminds me spamming coins into Metal Slug during the arcade days. I might be getting a little old...

I take it you are happy with the game now that it's finally out? 

It's hard to tell of the reception yet. It has been quiet so far (busy time of the year I guess). I think it's the sort of game that divides people, though. If you want something with traditional controls or hate arcade coin-chewers, it's probably not gonna be your thing, and I am okay with that.

Was implementing 9-players co-op as difficult as it sounds?

Well sorta, yeah. The balancing was/is still a nightmare. Playing 9 people at once the game ratchets up to extreme levels of difficulty rather quickly. I think 4-5 players is the sweet spot personally, but the whole 9 player thing ties pretty heavily with the party game idea where you have quite a few people around and you want to play a game together.

And what about the bonkers storyline? How did you come up with it?

It was more a way to widen the amount of people who may want to play the game. I know not everyone who buys games is down for a party game that ONLY lets you do it with stupid amounts of friends. It was a way to offer some gameplay to people who play solo, or  just to fill out the game's content a little.

Spaghetti Westerns aside, what were your influences?

Bomberman, Metal Slug, Sunset Riders and Gunsmoke.

So, not only are you restarting Under The Ocean as a solo project, but you've just released the amazing Fistful of Gun; am I correct in assuming this too was essentially a solo project?

Outside of the music and the dialog for story mode, yeah, it was a solo job. Yes, I will be doing the same to Under the Ocean, It's unfortunate, but things like this happen and not every project ends how you would expect it.

What was Devolver's involvement?

They allowed me to work on it for as long as I needed to, they helped with getting the word out and covering all the marketing angles, and they have been absolutely awesome every step of the way.

Do you feel it's safer to work on the core of a game on your own?

I think so. I don't think I will be doing projects this scale again solo without a publisher like Devolver, as it pins too much of my effort on a single chance of success. I think once Under the Ocean is done, I will go back to smaller concept games and make them entirely solo.

And now it's back to developing Under The Ocean or do you have other plans?

Not sure at this stage. It really hinges on how sales do for Fistful of Gun. The downside of being a small fish is when sales dry up, I stop making games and have to go find a traditional job again. It's a vicious cycle.

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