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We ask indies: Matt Fitzgerald , creator of a barbaric game called Savage: The Shard of Gosen!

Matt Fitzgerald is the creator of a barbaric game called Savage: The Shard of Gosen. In this Q&A he talks about game design, '80s barbarian flicks, kickstarting your project and urinating in public!

Nico Saraintaris, Blogger

February 19, 2014

10 Min Read

Matt Fitzgerald is the guy behind Savage: The Shard of Gosen (Kickstart it here!). He is doing all the code, art, design, music and sound himself. He also makes comics and a crazy podcast. And now he answers our questions!

1. How long have you been making games?

I grew up on a Mac (a really awful "performa" series Mac) and had this weird little game called Sprite Fighter, or something. I spent a lot of time creating my own sprites and animations to use in the game. I also did a bit of tinkering with Cold Stone (no, not the ice cream), this weird sort of RPG engine for the Mac. By the time I was in highschool, and taking C++ courses, I was making these oddball little ASCII graphic RPG games, not top-down, but side-scrolling looking things. I think one had the very impressive and imaginative title, "Slay the Orc", or something. It didn't win any awards. Outside of fiddling with pixel art, growing up, and taking a few C++ courses in highschool, this is the first time I've ever attempted something like this.

2. Where do you find ideas for your games? Tell us something about your creative process.

For Savage, I think I've always sort of had the desire to make this kind of thing, because I've always wanted to play it, but I've never seen it quite done in a way that would scratch this bizarre itch I have. Animation and narrative art has always fascinated me, as well as music and toy making and design, so I guess trying to make my own video game was a given. The way this particular game started out was me drawing and animating this little barbarian guy - I had a pretty vivid mental picture of what I wanted to see him do. So for a while, I just had this little pixelated half naked man running around a room with ugly lime-green boxes. I kept working at it until it started to "feel" good, and I'd introduce the next little element, like giving him someone to punch in the face. Half-naked punching can be very therapeutic. Maybe I should go into therapy?

3. Savage: The Shard of Gosen is in its final days on Kickstarter. How are you holding up? Excited? How many hours a day are you investing into it? Are you refreshing KS every couple of minutes? Do you use Kicktraq? Any advice to devs thinking about kickstarting their own projects?

I am exhausted! I wake up, answer questions and messages, chat with people, try to find ways to get more eyes on the project, take screenshots, make updates on every social media thing I can think of... I barely have time to actually open my project file and get any proper game work done. I recently did a 24 hour live stream at the halfway mark of the Kickstarter. That was the most work I've done on the game since the Kickstarter began and it felt great. And yeah, I have the Kickstarter page open, along with Kicktraq and Sidekick (a backer informed me of Sidekick in the comments on the Kickstarter page) and I've been watching all of those like a hawk. It's all very distracting and I probably shouldn't be doing that as often as I am, ha! But it's so hard not to look. I haven't shaved in a while and I keep forgetting to get excercize and to eat healthy, but it's exciting... and nerve wracking. I keep having to remind myself to stay confident. It's definitely a mental, emotional and physical roller-coaster. If this thing doesn't make it, though, I really don't see it as a failure. I've met some amazing people who have been nothing but supportive and have shared their excitement with me about the project. I wouldn't have had all of these awesome experiences and met so many quality folks if I hadn't done a Kickstarter - all of that is worth a billion successful Kickstarters.

4. What was your favourite feedback from backers so far? Anything weird/awesome you remember coming from twitch streams you made making the game?

That's such a difficult question. I've had so many awesome people come forward and say such kind things about the game. Every time that happens it's like I get a big shot of confidence in the arm and it brightens my day tenfold, which gives me the energy to keep going. What I really like to see, though, is when people come out and share their thoughts on what they'd like to see me do. I've had one guy who really really wants to see me offer physical goods for rewards - like a boxed copy, posters, a mockup NES or SNES cartridge type thing. I love all of the ideas and I wish I could deliver on them, but at the same time I didn't want to set a Kickstarter goal to accomodate production costs for rewards. I wanted it to be solely about the game. It's pretty awesome to have that direct line to people who are backing the game, and have a bit of a back and forth like that. As far as weird things happening during my streams, during my 24 hour stream I had this guy call me a "tree-hugging hippie" because I had just eaten an egg sandwich. I thought that was a little weird.

5. Savage: The Shard of Gosen takes place in “the brutal world of Lor”. Why is brutal? Have you created Lor exclusively for the game or does Lor precede Savage? How did you come up with it?

Lor is populated by a lot of desperate people trying to eke out a living in a harsh and unforgiving world. Lots of prehistoric-sized and vicious creatures inhabit all sorts of scary climates, slave trade is a popular vocation for scoundrels trying to make a quick buck, raiders and mercenaries can be found all over the place and (the remains of) a once mighty empire lies in ruin at the heart of it all. Lore started to fall into place as I was fleshing out some of the characters and designs. Savage is itself a pretty derivative work, stealing mood and atmosphere from things like the Robert E. Howard Conan stories, so I've just sort of let my imagination run wild with stuff like that. I know what I want to see, what I want to play and how I want it to look. Plus, nobody is wearing pants. That is pretty brutal.

6. You've said you have a fetish with '80s barbarian flicks. What are your favourites and why?

Conan the Barbarian would definitely be the obvious choice. The Conan in the film is a much different animal than the Conan of literature, but I enjoy them both for different reasons. I love the origin story of the film and how the whole thing is essentially a revenge tale at heart. You also get to see him start as a slave, become a gladiator, a master swordsman, a thief, a raider, a conqueror and eventually a king. I also watched Beastmaster a lot growing up - I think it was on TV all the time. I don't know, I think I just like buff men in loincloths. My wife doesn't seem to complain about my choice of entertainment.

7. If you have to choose three and only three game developers to follow their work closely, which ones would you choose and why?

Yikes - that's a scary question. The first person that springs to mind would definitely be Jonatan Söderström. He has such an appealing approach to his game creation - visually awesome stuff that you don't get to see a lot of anywhere else. Plus, I love Shotgun Ninja and Hotline Miami.

I also really dig From Software. I've been playing a lot of Dark Souls lately, and the little bit I spent playing Demon's Souls was great fun. I didn't (and still don't) have a PS3, but once I finally pick one up it will probably be because of that game. Those games are great but I also really enjoyed their King's Field series back in the day. So much deadly and dark mystery in those games, you can cut it with a knife. Plus they kick my ass which is always a nice change of pace.

However... I am a big fan of Jonathan Blow's... I don't think I could not include him. Plus I want to play The Witness - so, nevermind. Jonathan Blow is on the list.

I recently got to play a game called N.P.P.D. Rush - The Milk Of Ultraviolet, which is a sort of action/adventure bullet hell game with a dash of speed-run thrown in. The narrative juice and music of that game is amazing and the world that Railslave created is a filthy cyberpunk nightmare. The game itself is a lot of fun, very frustrating and very trippy. I'm excited to see what he does next.

8. Are you a heavy gamer? What games are you playing now?

I love playing games. While I've got the Kickstarter going, I've only been able to sit down with a few games in very bite-sized play sessions. Blade of Darkness is one that's been around for over ten years that I've recently discovered and I am deeply in love with it. Dark Souls has me coming back to it over and over again. Retro City Rampage is another one that a friend gifted me through steam recently. It feels great so far and I look forward to when I get to sit down with it and give it some more play time.

It's hard for me to commit more than an hour here and there with a game while I'm working on Savage - I start to feel too guilty and I think about the mountain of work I still need to do. Once I'm finished with Savage, I'm going to take a week off and just play some games until my eyes bleed.

9. One last random question. If you could travel in time and space and you had, I mean, you had to urinate in public, where would it be?

Time and space is mine to play with? Wow, so many unusual choices to mark my territory in, ha! I've actually had quite a few drunken evenings in my late teens/early twenties where I've done just that... not some of my prouder moments, but there it is. But - if I could pick someplace to relieve myself somewhere in the space/time continuum, for whatever reason, that scene from Mel Brooks' History of the World: Part I, where the caveman pees on the cave painting... maybe I'd like to be known as history's very first art critic.


*We Ask Indies is an initiative by Beavl, an Argentinian independent game studio putting some teeth into videogames. You can check all the interviews here (caricatures are made by amazing artist Joaquín Aldeguer!).

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