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Interview: Pixelante On Eccentric Indie Platformer Fowl Space

Gamasutra spoke with Eddy Walters of Pixelante about the development and funding of quirky 2D platform game Fowl Space, the pros and cons of life as an indie developer, and the team's plans for the future.
Pixelante's stylish 2D platformer Fowl Space uses innuendo, humor, and bold visuals to wrap traditional mechanics in unusual aesthetic trappings. The Flash-based game makes no qualms about its sense of humor or suggestive undertones; it's filled with pop culture references and sexual innuendo that create a lighthearted, if eccentric, atmosphere and tone. The game was recently featured [video] in the Penny Arcade Expo's PAX 10 indie showcase, and is due for release on PC and Mac in late 2010. Before creating Fowl Space, the three recent college grads at indie developer Pixelante developed several projects, including Hunted Forever and Pixel Legions, both of which which can be found for free on the team's official Web site. Gamasutra spoke with Pixelante's Eddy Walters about Fowl Space's development and funding, the pros and cons of life as an indie developer, and the team's plans for the future. Could you please give your name, and a quick description of your game? Eddy Walters: I’m Eddy Walters, I’m the environmental artist for Fowl Space, which is put out by Pixelante Studios, which is owned by my dear friend Evan Miller. The game is a side scrolling shooter, very similar to the original Metroid that is completely ridiculous from start to finish. There’s pretty much nothing about the game you can take seriously. So what have been your favorite things about independent development? EW: Well, doing independent development is really hard for me, because I’m the only one of my team that has moved out of the house. So I’m working part time on film sets trying to pay rent, while they can focus on it much more. The hardest point would probably be finding time when we can get everybody together simultaneously to do it. We all have different schedules and it’s all working around each other, and every once in a while there’s the one guy who’s late, and we’re like, “I hate you Drew.” He’s another one of the developers, and I tell him I hate him every day. Other challenges include teleporting platforms. We don’t really know what bugs are in the game, but sometimes collision just screws everything up and the guys start teleporting around and enemies teleport and we just sit there and go “hmmm.” What have been some of the best things about independent development? EW: The best thing is you’re free to do whatever you like. There are no restrictions on anything, the only thing that is a drawback is when we send [games] to auction on sites like FlashGameLicense.com, because ... you never really know if a game’s going to be a hit or not. So, we’re free to do whatever we want, but if the game isn’t taken well, our bids that we get aren’t very great, so the amount of money we make is always up and down. You mentioned you live on your own, are you the only one on the team with a part time job? EW: Well, three of the teammates have part time jobs as well, but they still live at home, so they don’t have the rent philosophy. The head of the company, Evan Miller, still lives at home, and he’s been the only full time one out of us, who has invested all the time in it. If you go to his webpage, Pixelante.ca, there’s a list of games that he did. So you guys are Canadian, are you getting any government funding? EW: No! You have to get on that! EW: We should! I keep stressing that. One of the [reasons] for us not getting any money is you need to have a university degree, and we all just graduated in June, so now we can apply for those government grants. As recent graduates, do you see you yourselves continuing to pursue independent stuff, or are you interested in going to Ubisoft Toronto and the like? EW: I like independent stuff. I can’t really say much for my teammates. I know Evan is collaborating on some mystery project with EA right now, which he can’t talk about, he has a gag order on that. I don't know, it’s hard to say. Fair enough. So what are guys looking at for distribution? EW: Ah! Here’s the kicker, distribution for us was going to be, when the game started, it was just going to be a Flash game, auctioned off, and sold online to a site like Addicting Games. Once we got into the PAX 10, we started thinking, “Well, maybe we can sell this on Steam.” So we’ve been trying to get in contact with the Steam guys. We’ve worked it out so it can work on both PC and Mac, which is a plus. And we’ve been in contact with a different group at the PAX 10 and they have programmers that are contemplating taking our game, and porting it to Xbox 360, PS3 and WiiWare. That’s in a perfect world. Since our game is Flash it could wind up being a total nightmare to port it, so we’re going to see how that pans out. Fingers crossed on that one. How has being in the PAX 10 impacted you guys so far? EW: [I'm] speechless. When I found out, when I got the call, I was leaving for Europe the day after. I actually had to change my plans to be back here. I wasn’t supposed to be back yet. When we found out I was like, “Ahhh!” [I] called my travel agent and changed my flight to two weeks earlier so I could finish the demo. So in that regard, it totally screwed my vacation up. So what's the difference between the vision in your head for the game, and reality of the experience? EW: Well, in the original design, it was not supposed to be such a sexually driven game. The innuendo was supposed to be there, but it wasn’t supposed to be so much in your face. Then, that all just got shot to hell at some point, and we just went nuts with it, and it’s everywhere. 2D Platformer... EW: Yes. On the PC... EW: Great. ...Do you feel like, in some way, this game had to be indie? EW: No! You don’t have to be indie to make a 2D platformer. The new Bionic Commando, it’s still technically a platformer. They kind of gave it a 3D element but it’s barely there. I wouldn’t say you have to be indie to do it, it’s just simplistic. There’s nothing wrong with simplistic.

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