Welcome to our very first Indie Corner. Here we’ll be picking the brains of various indie developers for your reading pleasure. Today we have Jamie Tucker and Adam Winkels from Asteroid Base, creators of Lovers In a Dangerous Spacetime.
Asteroid Base is a Toronto based company that has been around since 2011. So far they’ve released one game (Shuriken Skies) and their current project in development, Lovers In a Dangerous Spacetime, is getting a lot of attention. LIADS is a 1-2 player local co-op action game where you work on a spaceship to save (cute) animals, and avoid a horrible spacetime death.
TGF: So, first we want to thank you guys for taking precious time to talk to us. There’s literally a million other things you could be doing right now; riding a roller coaster, running with wild horses, standing on your head while trying to drink a glass of water, etc. Seriously, thank you.
Adam: Don’t worry, I’d just be sleeping.
TGF: Ah, sleep. Want to start by explaining to our readers your roles in Asteroid Base?
Adam: I’m primarily the programmer on the team.
Jamie: I am the person without a role. I try to do everything and fill in where we need extra help. Matt, our third member, is primarily the designer/art director.
TGF: So right now Asteroid Base is a threesome; you two, and Matt. What’s the history there?
A: Matt and I have known each other since high school when we played together in crappy, go-nowhere grunge bands. Then, I met Jamie through Matt, as they went to college together. While I was going to school for physics I realized that the little bit of programming I had to do was easily my favourite part, so when I finished I decided to focus on that instead.
J: I went to college with Matt and first met Adam at a party at Matt’s house at the end of first year. Adam and Matt have know each other for over 15 years, I’ve know them both for about a decade. After college we all went our separate ways in our lives and careers. I went and tried to be a graphic designer and then moved to Calgary, Alberta. Matt became an animator and tried to move to London, England and Adam moved to Montreal, Quebec to become a particle physicist. Personally I didn’t feel right with where I was and what I was doing, and I saw from across the country the kind of video game development scene that was growing in Toronto around 2008. Around then you had Everyday Shooter from Queasy Games, and N from Metanet. I saw the community and it really interested me, but I still thought that game development was something that was out of my grasp.
TGF: Looks like it all came together nicely. Okay, you know what we’re here for, Lovers In a Dangerous Spacetime. Forget everything anyone has ever said about it. What does LIADS mean to you? (Yes, s**t just got real).
J: When I moved back to Toronto in 2010 one of the first things I did was go to my first game jam which was TOJam 5 (the ninth iteration is currently this weekend). I think the community here in Toronto fostered us and encouraged us to start teaching ourselves game development because it was the perfect time in all our lives. I think one day we just said, let’s make a game together. What does Lovers mean to me? Right now it is my life. I’m 30 now and my 20s were spent trying my hardest to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I would always be worried about some little detail and found excuses not to do something. I tried freelance graphic design, illustration, comics… with Lovers I just started doing something… anything… and then it just turned into the thing that started to define who I was. We started working on Lovers and then when we found we were already in over our head, we built our company around it.
TGF: It sounds like you have a great community to back you up as well. How about you Adam?
A: It’s been something that has absolutely changed all of our lives. It forced me to quit my job and take risks that I never thought I would be given the opportunity to take, let alone decide to take! I don’t know if that answers what it “means to me”, but I think for all of three of us it has consumed all of our professional lives and a good part of our personal lives. The three of us are still friends outside of work, so when Friday night rolls around and we go out with our other friends, unless we make an effort not to sit next to each other at the bar, we just end up talking about the game. We definitely spend too much time together, we live super close to each other in the same part of town. Quite a contrast when we all lived in separate cities across Canada.
TGF: That’s definitely compelling. It seems like indie is high risk high reward, but it’s worth it when you can make something that is truly your creation. Speaking of which…
We hear the influences for the game are pretty broad; Star Wars, Sailor Moon, Powerpuff Girls, and Katamari, to name a few. How did you guys manage to paint all of those influences into the game?
J: I think we cheated when we made it a space game (our first draft was a pirate ship) because with a space theme you can have a universe of possibilities to play with. We wanted to have a look that was the opposite of gritty space drama, so we tried to go in the exact opposite direction with the art style.
TGF: So the influences are more visual?
J: Yeah, colour palettes and general sensibility. We aren’t limiting ourselves with our content by thinking that it would be out of place. We were joking around the other day about having the Ship ride on a skateboard, but to us that would be perfectly normal in the universe we are creating.
A: The science fiction setting, in addition to the not-so-serious visual style, allows for a lot of suspension of disbelief and so we’re allowed to play with some wacky mechanics and concepts. It would probably be pretty hard to pitch the Gears of War guy riding around on a skateboard rescuing bunnies
TGF: Right, that sounds like a bad mushroom trip.
We saw our first hands on demo of LIADS at the PAX East Indie Megabooth. How did PAX treat you guys and the game, any favorite moments?
J: I’d say PAX East was our most successful show to date, where we had the most people able to play our game.
A: The highlight for me was a boy and his dad who came by our booth a few times over the weekend. The boy would make his dad hold his place in line while he stood at the front of the booth and watched other people play. Then, when their turn would come the boy would be jumping up and down as he and his dad were playing together. Then, when they would inevitably lose, he would send his dad to the back of the line again while he watched the next players. It was both adorable and incredibly inspiring.
TGF: Very inspiring, and cute.
Lately we’ve been seeing a lot of hot indie games go local multiplayer, like Towerfall Ascension. What made the decision to keep it local?
A: Our primary concern is that communication is a very important aspect of the game. The ship is severely understaffed, if you and your partner don’t work together effectively you’re probably going to die very quickly. We didn’t want, for instance, a person’s first experience with the game to be getting matched with a complete stranger without a headset and both of them struggling to work together with no means of communication.
TGF: I think it adds to the sense of community. It’s kind of nice to invite a friend over to your house to play, as opposed to over a network.
A: You’re absolutely right about that as well. Co-op games will always be more fun when your partner is sitting next to you on the couch and you can give them an elbow or punch to the arm when they don’t listen to you!
J: Lovingly of course
TGF: Right, no friend face punches.
A: “Love tap”
TGF: We know a PC/Mac release is inevitable. What about consoles? What are the biggest challenges for you guys in that space?
J: The game is a natural fit for consoles since it is first and foremost a couch co-op game. As well, as we have been creating the game the Big 3 have started to reach out to indies and have been super helpful to us. I’d say the main challenge is the fact that we are only three people and simultaneously developing the game on multiple platforms and maintaining separate code bases is no small order. That being said, we have confirmed a Steam release on PC/Mac, but our eventual goal is also to include consoles as well.
TGF: Well, good luck! And we hope everyone will get the chance to play your game!
J: Thanks a lot!
TGF: Thank you guys!
To check out our full preview of Lovers In a Dangerous Spacetime click here.
You can find @jamie_tucker, @winkels, @matthammill, and @asteroidbas on Twitter. Visit www.asteroidbase.com for updates on the game.