Indie Spotlight is an article series at Gaming Nexus that explore the origin and development of unique and innovative games designed and produced by teams of independent developers. Each article includes a developer interview that focuses on examining the concept and design processes involved with each project. Indie Spotlight strives to showcase new and upcoming games that range from a variety of genres and development studios across the world.
Much like fighting games have seen a resurgence in the past couple of years, the 2D platformer also seems to be on the rise to have found new life recently. Once the darling of the gaming scene, the genre pretty much disappeared after taking a backseat to 3D platformers when Mario made the transition on the Nintendo 64. Three-dimensional presentation was in and two-dimensional was out. Recently though, a lot of developers have been transitioning back to the 2D perspective in titles like the recent New Super Mario Bros. series and Rayman Origins.
One company longing to return to the 2D platforming genre is Awesome Games Studio. The indie darling behind such Xbox Live Indie hits as Yet Another zombie Defense wants to remind gamers of how things used to be, when platformers ruled the industry. Their latest creation, Oozi: Earth Adventure is completed and available now. It is also up for contention for Steam distribution with the Steam Greenlight but it will need the support of fans in order to make that happen. Recently, I had a chance to chat with the staff of Awesome Games about everything Oozi, platforming, and just how important the Greenlight project is to smaller indie studios.
Can you introduce yourself and tell me a little bit about your role at Awesome Games Studio?
My name is Marcin Draszczuk and I am a programmer for Awesome Games. I also handle all business and legal stuff, marketing and PR... when you're indie you need to learn many skills! The other member of our team is Andrzej Pasiński, he's a 2D artist, animator and Oozi's designer and writer.
Can you give me a brief history of Awesome Games; how did the studio come to be formed and what other projects have you released thus far?
The studio was formed by me in 2009 and initially only developed titles for the Xbox Live Indie Games service. The most successful of those was Yet Another Zombie Defense with over sixty thousand copies sold. At the beginning of 2011, I was approached by Andrzej and he asked if would I join the project he was already working on (Oozi), because his former programmer had to quit. Since I already had a legal company set up, we decided to release Oozi under Awesome Games Studio, even though it was started elsewhere.
Tell us a little bit about your new project, Oozi: Earth Adventure? Set the stage for the adventure if you will.
Oozi is a classic platformer, much like ones you played in your childhood. There are no puzzles, no physics and it's not extremely hard, so it's quite different than most indie platformers. Its main character is Oozi, an alien, who crash landed on planet Earth and is trying to find his way home. It’s a game for everyone, not only those players who played the classics, but also for their children.
What gave you the idea for Oozi, or inspired the project? How long has it been in development?
The idea for Oozi came from our memories. We remembered playing those colorful platformers in early ‘90s and we thought there would be people who would like those memories brought back. The game has been in development for four years, however we weren't doing it full time, we had to make some small side projects to pay our bills.
Can you cite any specific influences for the Oozi project? What games were you all playing that inspired you to craft this game?
I think the most influence was made by Superfrog, but I also have to mention Rayman, Super Mario Bros. and Sonic. There were many more we used to play, but they probably aren't as recognizable.
Why do you think that the 2D platforming genre is making such a strong comeback recently?
I think it's because when 3D popped up, everyone switched to the new technology. We've had Rayman 3D, Earthworm Jim 3D and even Super Mario 3D. But until Rayman: Origins, there was no AAA 2D platformer on the market! This genre was greatly neglected for a long time, and when there's a niche that isn't occupied, developers notice that, and BOOM, three years later we have a handful of great platformers released within a year!
What elements distinguish a good platformer from the pack?
A good platformer is one that is fun. If you're not having fun playing the game, it doesn't matter if it looks good, or has a good story and great characters. I think that these days people put too much attention on things like graphics, AI, story or physics, and they forget about all that makes games memorable: playability. These days gameplay is being neglected.That is because in my opinion, gameplay is not something publishers can use in their marketing materials.
What are your thoughts on the recently launched Steam Greenlight initiative? Can you explain to our readers why it is important for a smaller studios such as Awesome Games to have an opportunity such as this? How does the Greenlight experience compare to the Xbox Live Indie program?
What I think is great about Greenlight is that it gathers all of the decent indie games into one place. Currently there's a list of 800 games, and while it sounds like a lot, it takes only a couple seconds to see if a game looks interesting to you. If it's not, you just mark it as read and move on. There are many more games you will find interesting than you think! I was surprised how many games I have found that I never heard of; it's totally worth the effort to browse through the list and find games you really want to play, rather than play clones or sequels manufactured by big publishers.
Xbox Live Indie Games is completely different than Greenlight. XBLIG's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. Everyone can release a game on XBLIG, from indie star James Silva, to a guy who's just learning to create games. Unfortunately, there's 10 poor games per one somewhat decent, and most customers don't bother finding them. On Greenlight quality requirements are significantly higher, but when you make it to Steam, you're on the same virtual shelf as AAA titles. Because of that exposure you get, the demand is of a much bigger magnitude.
What are your hopes for the Oozi experience, both as an individual game and / or as a potential franchise?
We really hope we can get the game on Steam. This is essential if we want to reach broad audience. Steam controls 95% of digital distribution market and opens many doors; you get much more media attention if you're on Steam and you get better offers from indie bundle distributors. If you're successful on Steam, you get a chance for retail distribution. It that happens, we could think about turning Oozi into a franchise. Right now, it's just too early.
Is there anything else you want the readers to know about Oozi: Earth Adventure?
Don't forget about Challenge Mode, it's our favourite mode in the game! Completing a challenge level at three stars is extremely hard but also extremely satisfying. Furthermore, each challenge level is different than the others and there's much more gameplay variety than in story mode. Sometimes you have to escape from rising lava, sometimes to complete the level without jumping or without touching the ground. Give it a try and you won't be disappointed!
I want to give a big personal thanks to Marcin for taking the time to speak with us and to answer our questions! If you are interest in checking out Oozi: Earth Adventure you can check out the game’s official blog, official Facebook page, and its official Steam Greenlight listing. We will have our full review of the game very soon!
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
If you have been here before, you know the basics: lifelong gamer, father, and of course, certified news monkey. I have been blogging on the industry for close to a decade now, in some form or another. It wasn't until I landed here at Gaming Nexus that I really dove in head first. Now, writing about games has become what I do for fun (and sometimes work) and something I intend on doing until the day I die.
I'm a huge fan of just about everything you can interact with using a controller, no matter how old or new, good or bad. If you put it in front of me, I will play it... end of story.