Remember that time you got really motivated, gathered your thoughts, threw away all the cheetos and Maxims cluttering up your living room, cleaned off your desk and actually took on that project you’d been dreaming about? You know the one that got you the respect of your friends and peers, made you rich, and compelled Maslow himself to slice off the top section of his “hierarchy of needs” pyramid and hand deliver it to you because he was so in awe of your drive and subsequent success? Nope, me neither. But hey, there’s always today right?
At this year’s PAX, I sat down with Eric Fritz, Director of Marketing for GarageGames, to discuss his kick-ass company’s cool projects, like the upcoming Game Development Competition. He had some excellent advice on how to develop your own game from home using cheap software. He also dished a little dirt on Nintendo’s WiiWare plans (or lack thereof).
Hit the jump and prepare for your life to be changed.
GarageGames is an online publishing label for independent games, as well as a first party developer. You may be familiar with them from the recent Xbox Live Arcade “smash hit” Marble Blast Ultra. Go on, bump down that Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix in your download queue for a few seconds and give it a try. You back? Surprisingly not too shabby, huh? These fellas don’t just make games though. They’re on a mission. God knows why, but they actually want to help regular folks like you and me make our own games. And if we’re good enough, they might just help us beam them into Wii60 living rooms across the planet. They license their sophisticated game development engines for pocket change, enabling anyone with will power and a computer to create games with depth and character. Their company’s stated goal is to rescue independent developers from the “mercy of corporations that only care about the bottom line”. I’m gonna go ahead and file GarageGames under the good guys section in my Rolodex.
Destructoid: As GarageGames continues to be successful, what are your plans for continuing to support indie development and publishing? Are you committed to this ideal for the long haul?
GarageGames: Oh, absolutely. Those are the types of games that we like making. It’s not what people consider triple-A titles or the latest FPS or anything, it’s just fun games. Not necessarily in the casual space, not necessarily in the hardcore space, but somewhere in between. We’re definitely committed to this idea for the long term. In addition to making games like Marble Blast Ultra, we also provide technology to aspiring developers. We have a wide range of licensing options for our Torque engines that go as cheap as $100, so it’s really affordable for a really powerful engine, we think. We’re definitely interested in supporting indie games. We also publish some of those games that our community of developers have produced.
For the upcoming Game Developers Contest you’re sponsoring, in addition to earning a free Torque Engine license, is there any chance the winner will end up having their game published with GarageGames? If you see something you like in the contest will you pursue it as a future title?
Sure, it’s certainly a possibility.
Do you have plans or aspirations to do things on a more commercial scale as you become more successful, while still maintaining your indie development side?
Right. It’s kind of a fine line. We want to keep making money so we can continue to support indie development, so that necessitates doing at least something on a commercial scale.
Are there any other companies devoted to the indie scene with the same passion as you guys?
It’s growing. GarageGames is definitely a pioneer in the area. Maybe even the first. We started in 2000 and it was always with indie development in mind. The whole premise of the company was based around providing technology at an affordable price so that anyone can make games.
That philosophy is the basis of your name, right? It’s an echo of the garage band concept.
Focusing on indie games, do you experience less of the notorious conflicts between developers and publishers? There’s been a lot of talk lately about the production model being broken due to the lack of trust between the two camps involved in making games.
We do publish games, but we’re not funding other developers to publish games. So we don’t get involved in their development process. We sell the license, they go make their game and then they come to us when they want to distribute it. You can think of us as more of a distributor than a publisher.
I imagine having the ability to distribute your own games makes it easier for you guys, since you don’t have to go through a publisher.
So you’ve got this flexible licensing structure in place for the game engines you’ve created. When someone wants to use your software you offer different rates for amateur developers vs. commercial developers. How do you determine the difference between who qualifies as amateur and who qualifies as commercial?
It’s really easy. If you make $250,000 in a year, you’re commercial. If you make less than that, you’re what we call indie and you can qualify for an indie license, which is just $100. There are only a few stipulations. You have to be working on a game. It can’t be like a sim or a technology pack or various other things. You must be focused on gaming to qualify for that discounted rate.
Let’s say someone were to get really lucky and strike gold and make $250,000 with a GarageGames product . . .
Then they’d have to upgrade to a commercial license, which hopefully shouldn’t be that painful if they made that much.
Do you plan on keeping this two-tiered licensing structure in place?
For the foreseeable future, yes. We’re also exploring other options. Nothing that would be more detrimental [to amateur developers], but things that might be more beneficial.
The Torque Platformer kit is extremely affordable. It’s $30 for an amateur license? Is that correct?
That’s a content pack and code pack that works with one of our existing engines. It actually works with Torque X which has a free version to it. So essentially you can play around with the Platformer starter kit for just $30.
Is the software accessible and user friendly? Or do you need serious coding knowledge before you jump in and start using Torque?
We have a wide range of engines. Torque Game Engine is kind of the original 3D engine. It’s what Tribes was built on. GarageGames was founded by a bunch of those guys from Dynamix who came over and brought their engine with them. That one is a little more complex. It’s a little harder to jump into. We realized that, so we made a simpler version. Now we have Torque Game Builder, which is 2D only and it has a very easy to use editor with a lot of drag and drop functionality, that we think anyone can really get into. Torque Game Engine is a little bit tougher. And then we have Torque Game Engine Advance, which adds a bunch of the latest and greatest shaders and that sort of thing.
So there is a basic package for people who might have no prior experience, but more options are available, depending on your skill level?
I also saw that you have plans to heavily discount your licensing for WiiWare games.
That’s right. We’re still waiting for Nintendo to announce their plans for WiiWare. We still don’t know what their process is for developers who want to make games for that. They’ve said that it’s going to be open and easy, we’re just waiting to see something official. They haven’t announced pricing and process. We know that you are going to need a Wii development kit, which costs $2000. So it’s certainly not going to be on the scale of hundreds of dollars. We’re just trying to see where their costs line up so that we can fit in accordingly.
I know that you have a Torque Engine for Wii that you’ve made available already, and the upcoming Zorro game is being developed with that.
Yes, right. Those guys, Pronto Games, are the guys that actually did the port for the Torque Game Engine for Wii. They created the port and then made their own game.
Will you need to make some adjustments to make it functional for WiiWare?
So right now you’re just waiting on Nintendo to give you the specs before you can implement them?
Your website states that the Torque Game Engine for disc-based Wii games includes networked multiplayer game support. Now, so far, there haven’t been any third party online games for the Wii. Have you encountered any resistance from Nintendo in allowing online support for your games?
We hear that they’re planning on opening that up. They say they’re going to open it up, so we’ll see.
Thanks so much for your time. Best of luck to you guys.
[NOTE: Plättchen Twist ‘n’ Paint, from Austrian game developer Bplus, has been announced as the first official WiiWare title. A Nintendo rep I spoke with at PAX told me on the condition of anonymity that the programming specs for WiiWare have already been quietly released to a handful of select companies. It sounds like Nintendo’s being awfully choosy in who they share their development info with. The possibilities for WiiWare are limited not “only by the imaginations of developers” but also by Nintendo’s cliquey invites to their online party. Which logically leads to the question, how much lip gloss and smokey eye shadow do you have to wear before Nintendo will let you compete with its first party titles?]