Indie Spotlight: Paperbound

Indie Spotlight: Paperbound

Written by Travis Huinker on 8/5/2014 for PC  

During this year's E3 I happened to run into Dan Holbert, creator behind Paperbound, while roaming about one of the convention halls. After a brief gameplay trailer of Paperbound and some details about the project, I was eager to reconnect with Dan and find out more about the game's premise and origins.

Could you introduce yourself and talk about your various roles with the development of Paperbound?
Being an indie means that you have to take on a lot more responsibilities than you would in the AAA world. When I used to work as an engine programmer on Fall of Cybertron, it was pretty well-defined what my job entailed. But now I do pretty much anything that needs to get done that someone else isn’t doing. That includes design and coding, but also art direction, team management, PR, finance, making travel arrangements, you name it! It can be quite challenging to switch contexts all the time, and I relish the chance to just sit down and write some code for a while.

What's the history behind Dissident Logic in regards to how it became formed and whom is involved with the team?
I came up with the name Dissident Logic back when I was in high school as a sort of twist on common software company names back then—that’s basically where the “Logic” part comes in. And the “Dissident” part is all about bucking the trends. I’m not interested in chasing pay-to-win mobile markets. It’s about making games that we want to play. We believe that if we do a great job, other people will want to play them, too.

When I worked in the AAA world, I didn’t have any influence on what the games were about. I just had my one specific role that I did. That’s not why I got into games. That’s why I spent several years saving almost every dollar I didn’t have to spend so that I could form a company where everyone is involved in the creative process.

Paperbound now has a small team that’s been assembled both online and in-person. Everyone works remotely. We have a guy named Mike doing some really cool character designs, Josh and Lacey are drawing the beautiful and bizarre environments, Chris is doing music and sound effects that we hope will be memorable for years to come, and Dave is bringing the characters to life with animation. The team lives in places as widespread as Oregon, Massachusetts, and England.

For readers unaware with Paperbound, can you provide an overview of what the game is all about?
Paperbound is a game about being a gravity ninja within the pages of old storybooks. You manipulate gravity with 360 degrees of freedom in order to out-maneuver your friends and take them down with scissors, letter openers, and ink bombs. It’s a 2D, local multiplayer game featuring environments and characters that come to life from the pages of old books including A Journey to the Center of the Earth, Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings, the Egyptian Book of the Dead. It’s a frenetic excuse for up to four friends to shout at each other. It’s really fun to chase each other in circles around floating platforms and to fly across the map, Ender’s Game-style, for a sneak attack.

Tell us a bit about the origins of the project and whether there were there any particular movies, games, or other sources of media that inspired some of the concepts behind Paperbound?
A lot of people are surprised to learn that it was initially inspired by games like Unreal Tournament. I was daydreaming about a game like that in which you have gravity boots to run on the walls and ceilings. Then I decided that it would work in 2D, which seemed like a lot more realistic goal. The whole books idea came about when I was working with an artist friend to develop the art for the prototype. Combining ideas from some of his paper-themed paintings with a storyline that reflected my own life led to this idea for a single-player campaign where you have this stick man named Eddy who wants to escape his little sheet of paper and explore the world via these old books. It was supposed to parallel the experience of growing up in a small town and leaving to go to college, find a job, travel, etc. The single player campaign is on hold, but we hope to return to it after the multiplayer game is released.

With a general shift to online gaming in recent years, what were the decisions behind creating a game that focused primarily on local multiplayer gameplay?
Mainly, it’s just about creating a game that I wanted to play that didn’t exist. The initial idea was focused around online multiplayer. However, maintaining full servers is tough to do even for a AAA company, let alone as an indie. We were fortunate enough to be doing this at a time when local multiplayer is making a comeback, so focusing on that just became the obvious solution.

Which type of characters will players be assuming the role of in Paperbound?
There are five books in Paperbound, so the characters all come from those books, except for Eddy the stickman. We’ve got Horus, the Egyptian god. There’s a ninja. And one of my favorites is the Skull Kid who hails from Skull Kingdom. He just wants to be a warrior like all the big soldiers.

Can you talk a bit about the various game modes that will be available in addition to type of levels?
We’ve got a straight versus mode, Capture the Quill (capture the flag), and a team versus mode. Making the maps is one of my favorite parts of developing Paperbound. There are big maps, small maps, maps with gravity see-saws, asymmetric maps, and maps with springy thingies. One of my favorites is one where you’re playing inside the eye of a dragon, and the pupil rotates. Another one is the Mushroom Sea where you are running and jumping around on these squishy mushrooms.

As we happened to meet each other at E3, how was your overall experience at E3?
My experience at E3 was wonderful. I met a lot of great people and saw some cool games. It was really heartening to see how Sony and Microsoft were showcasing a lot of indie games. And it ended with a bang, watching a live match of Evolve with the most spectacular finale where a downed guy used his pistol to take out the beast.

When is the game scheduled to launch and for which platforms?
It will be coming out in late September or early October. We want to be on as many platforms as possible, but right now PC and PS4 are looking like the most solid. We really want to be on the Xbox platforms, too.

Is there anything we missed that you would like to mention about Paperbound?
When we were showing it at PAX, people would say things like, “This is way more fun that I thought it would be.” Video just doesn’t communicate it clearly enough. You have to get your hands on it. Which is why we’re releasing a demo to coincide with our Kickstarter campaign. Paperbound is also going through the Steam Greenlight process, and we’d really appreciate your vote.


We'd like to thank Dan for taking the time to answer our questions and for providing an early preview of the game.

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

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About Author

I've been writing for Gaming Nexus since 2011 and focus primarily on PC games and hardware. I'm a strong advocate of independent developers and am always seeking the next genre-breaking and unique game release. My favorite game genres are strategy, role-playing, and massively multiplayer online, or any games that feature open worlds and survival elements. View Profile

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