Thursday, October 6, 2011

Jus' braggin' about my man

Just thought I'd brag a little.
Ty has been getting some media attention here and there, but this one was pretty cool.

It's an interview, detailing the mind of the gamer himself, Tyrone.

Click HERE for the link.
And for my own sake, I'm pasting a copy here for when I print my blog to book.

ALSO...He was chosen with 9 others to talk about his game for 30 minutes on stage at a huge gamer convention called MineCon in Las Vegas next month, and he's totally STOKED! We are soo grateful and soo blessed with the progress of this game.

You GO BOY! Love your guts!!

Here is the link to his Catapult for Hire website for real-time updates.

Interview: PixelMEGA’s Tyrone Henrie discusses Catapult for Hire

Posted on 09.06.11

Games featuring catapults aren’t exactly a rarity these days. Even the wildly-successful Angry Birds uses such a mechanic (albeit via a slingshot, rather than a catapult), and you can’t throw a stone into the Flash gaming scene without hitting some physics-based title starring a trebuchet.
In addition to demolishing things by flinging heavy ordinance, however, Tyrone Henrie’s upcomingCatapult for Hire seeks to expand what we’ve come to understand as traditional catapulting fare. Including a full-fledged narrative-driven experience, Henrie has already teased one of the upcoming game’s more atypical  catapult-based activities in the first of a series of trailers. Fishing, anyone?
I recently reached out to Henrie, founder of PixelMEGA Games–and the sole developer behind Catapult for Hire–to chat about how the game is coming along, its inspiration, and how the experience will elevate the art of catapulting beyond single-faceted flinging and destroying.
Indie Games Channel: Tell us a little about your game development experience, and what led you to form PixelMEGA Games.
Tyrone Henrie: I’ve always been a jack of all trades, master of none, so I never thought I would break into game development as it seemed that most of the game companies want specialists. I could never just decide on one facet of game development to specialize in because I love all of it. I created a few games using Flash, but really didn’t know what I was doing. For whatever reason, I had never heard of any of the game development tools out there and was under the impression that to create games I would have to learn to code my own engine, so I never go into it.
I continued to work as a web software engineer by day and studied 3D animation by night to pursue a career in animation. I remember discovering the indie game dev scene through the 1up show and then started to get involved with sites like tigsource. Every day at work, I listened to various video game podcasts (especially Weekend Confirmed!) and I obsessed over game design and what made good games good.
After getting involved in the indie scene I found that my skills weren’t a weakness because of lack of specialization, but were a strength that would allow me to create games on my own.
At that point, I had to do something because I quickly lost focus at my job. All I could do was think about making games. I was desperate and was ready to take any step to begin. Believing in yourself is one thing, but you have to be willing to bet the farm on it. I quit my job and moved in with my in-laws 2,400 miles away to keep expenses low and started to chase some dreams. Things happened to come together really fast and a year later I’m back here working on games full-time.
Indie Games Channel: You’re currently hard at work on Catapult for Hire. Can you talk some about what inspired the game (both mechanically and narratively), and how long you’ve been working on it so far?
Tyrone Henrie: Originally, I wanted to enter a game into a competition and so I decided to do something involving catapults. I wanted the game to be 3D because I love the sense of freedom you get by throwing and following a projectile through a 3D environment. I wanted the game to overcome typical 3D artillery game downfalls like complex control schemes and an awkward camera. I think the game is on its way to achieving that.
I didn’t want to do just another game where you throw stuff and hit stuff and so I contemplated ways to allow for more varied gameplay, which was a little hard as catapults are mostly stationary. From there I thought up the idea of a freelance catapultist and that story conceit worked in every way. It would allow for levels to happen in any environment doing any insane task that I could dream up.
Narratively, the game takes place in a medieval society with modern day issues like economic collapse, pollution and urbanization. I didn’t realize this at first, but the story is inspired heavily by my own experiences of growing up on a farm. As a kid, I had legendary fun and the world was perfect. After growing up and having lots of life experiences–good and bad–when I revisit the same places I played as a kid, it’s not the same. From a gameplay standpoint, my goal is to create a sense of childlike wonder where the world is your little plaything.
I started working on the game, along with a few other prototypes in October 2009. After it was was awarded the “Staff Pick” in the IndiePub Independent Developer Competition, I started full-time development in November 2010. I am super grateful to IndiePub for believing in the game and taking a chance on me.
Indie Games Channel: Catapult for Hire doesn’t seem like your standard, run-of-the-mill catapult game. Sure, we all like flinging plenty of things at other things using physics, but would you describe some of the more atypical activities players will be able to undertake in the game?
Tyrone Henrie: In the game you are a freelance catapultist hired to do various jobs. In one job you need to stop an underwater oil spill. There is more than one way to stop the oil flow, but you must first figure out how to get past the underwater creature that caused the problem in the first place. You will be rewarded differently, based on how you do it. Once you stop the oil, you find that the creature is a protected species and killing them results in a fine. Conversely, you will be rewarded for stopping the spill without killing it, as you have helped preserve their natural habitat.
Another client is an adventurer of sorts that wants to recover treasure from a series of ancient ruins, but he isn’t brave enough to do it alone. In helping him solve the puzzles and navigate the traps safely, he offers half of the legendary treasures found within.
In another job you have been summoned to help a small village of mages that have been irresponsibly disposing of expired and spoiled potions in a local body of water. This potion pollution has created a mutated creature that is now threatening the safety of the village.
Throughout the campaign you can also collect items for crafting upgraded catapults and payloads. I want exploration to play a key role in the game so you will be rewarded for checking every nook and cranny.
Indie Games Channel: Working as a one-man development powerhouse is sure to have notable advantages, but it’s bound to create some challenges, too. In your own experience, how has solo-development informed the evolution of Catapult for Hire?
Tyrone Henrie: Working alone has its ups and downs. The main difference is that instead of having meetings with other departments and debating what it most important, you are constantly meeting with yourself. It’s an endless meeting. In a group environment, each department would be vying to have their concerns be heard whether it’s the development team wanting to lower polygon count, or the art team wanting to add more explosions. I’m constantly questioning every decision I make and over-analyzing. Realizing this has helped a lot. I’m not doubting myself, I’m just trying to reconcile the different goals of each aspect of development within myself.
I’ve really enjoyed it so far, but at some point, I would love to find more people to work with. I suppose that will just happen as I continue to be involved. The biggest disadvantage to working alone is you don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of. That immediate feedback and reality check is super helpful.
Indie Games Channel: On your development blog, you mention that you gravitate towards an “iterative” design approach, to help mitigate things like creative burnout. Can you discuss this approach specifically as it relates to the development of Catapult for Hire?
Tyrone Henrie: Games are an insane amount of work. It’s easy to lose motivation when you look at the epic-sized to-do list as a whole. I like to work in a more experimental manner that allows me to constantly try new things.
Not being locked into a feature-set allows you to constantly find new fun. There are a lot of exciting features that I have planned, but sometimes they simply don’t work out. Working in an iterative manner, I’m not married to any idea so there is no separation anxiety by scrapping a feature since I didn’t spend too much time on it in the first place.
Ask any game developer, and you’ll probably find they enjoy the prototyping phase of game development most. Coming up with something completely new is totally fun, so I like to try to do that throughout the project. Once you have a functioning game it’s pretty easy to try new things and laugh at how easy it is to break everything. Breaking everything happens more often than not, but there is always a chance that you’ll find a new little gem. It helps keep everything fresh.
A downside to working this way is that you won’t have a lot of work to show the public, at least at first, because you won’t spend any time polishing.
I think the process of development is more about discovery than dictation. If you’re open to new ideas the game can always get better. If you set everything in stone then the game is limited, and in that case, you better hope you got it right the first time.

Indie Games Channel: Understanding that the game is still in a pre-alpha state, what things inspired the colorful and cartoonish art-style? What are some of the key things you’re trying to convey with Catapult for Hire’s presentation? Can you talk a bit about some of your favorite characters?
Tyrone Henrie: I’ve been playing games since the Commodore 64, and with each subsequent generation of game consoles came a sort of Renaissance period in my life. When Donkey Kong Country came out I was blown away. 32 bit graphics! Are you kidding? Surely nothing could get better than that!
Prior to the release of the Nintendo 64, the amount of hype that I had personally built up for the release of that system was so epic, I’m forever trying to get back to that era.
That’s why I think the Nintendo 64 is the main inspiration for the feel of the game. Banjo Kazooie’s environments, in particular, I have thought a lot about. Now that I think of it, I haven’t looked at screenshots but I’m trying to capture how I remember the game–the “rose-tinted” version. Whenever I need some art or game design inspiration, I’ve been playing a lot of Yoshi’s Island because that game is chock full of it.
As far as favorite characters in the game I have a couple. The village idiot was a fun one [to design] because he’s this little eccentric self-proclaimed fashionista. But really, he’s just a village idiot that likes to gamble. He’s full of sass and pizazz and will get you into some trouble. That, and the character model itself came out kind of cute and funny.
Another is the lazy ogre. He’s inspired by the Rockbiter from Neverending Story. Rockbiter always seemed so scary and capable but in the film he comes off as so helpless. It’s funny to think of a creature that could do so many things so easily, given its enormous size, yet he’s so lazy that he chooses to hire someone else to do things for him–and that’s the lazy ogre.
Indie Games Channel: It sounds like Catapult for Hire will have a ton of different things for the player to do. Just how epic will Sir Knottingsforth’s campaign be? Any chance there will be additional game modes, challenges, leaderboards, or multiplayer?
Tyrone Henrie: Extremely epic. Let’s just say “Cybernetic Laser Space Kraken.”
The story plays a key role in the game. It’s not a bunch of throwaway words that simply coincide with the game’s action. I’m also trying to approach a few typical gameplay elements a little differently. There are many tropes that we are used to as gamers like save points and respawns. What if in real life whenever we failed we could just hit the “reset” button and pick up from a save point? What kind of implications would that have in how we carried out our lives? In the campaign, the player can’t just go back to previous jobs and try again–at least not at first. I’m hoping to have a few moments that matter based on the fact that you can’t always go back.
There is a challenge mode in the game that will have more arcadey type action. There may be leaderboards but I, unfortunately, don’t have time for multiplayer. That is something I would love to pursue at some point though.
Indie Games Channel: How was your experience collaborating with Mattias Gerdt on Catapult for Hire’s charmingly crunchy, upbeat soundtrack?
Tyrone Henrie: I randomly met Mattias at the Kill Screen vs. Scandinavia party at GDC 2011. He’s like a big furry huggy bear. He’s a totally warm, friendly guy. After I got back from GDC I was really happy to find that he was willing to do some work for the game. From there I sent him a build of the game and an esoteric formula I wanted for the title music (upbeat + medieval + a little chiptune / retro = win) and he came back with something super incredible. He’s amazingly talented so I’m always blown away by what he can produce.
Indie Games Channel: What have you been playing lately (indie or otherwise) that you’ve found to be particularly great or inspiring?
Tyrone Henrie: Lately, I tried Terraria for the first time and that was ridiculous, in the best possible way. I felt like I was playing the most amazing Super Nintendo game of all time. The experience that has stuck with me the most though has to be when I played Solace at GDC. It’s a shooter that takes you through the stages of grief, like literally each stage is a stage of grief. By the time I reached acceptance I was almost in tears because I couldn’t believe how well everything was communicated and through a freaking shooter game! Yeah, Solace.
Indie Games Channel: Any idea when folks will be able to get their hands on Catapult for Hire?
Tyrone Henrie: There’s nothing official just yet, but if all goes well, that should happen this winter!
Indie Games Channel: Thanks very much, Tyrone! Best of luck with Catapult for Hire!
We’ll be sure to keep our eye on Catapult for Hire, here on Indie Games Channel, as it nears completion.

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