Horn Swaggle Islands Developer Interview

The folks across at Pencel Games were kind enough to set aside some time to answer a few questions. Here’s what they had to say:

For anyone who hasn’t played Horn Swaggle Islands, would you please describe the game?
Well it’s basically a pirate-themed tower defence game, but with some added sparkle. The player is in charge of defending a series of islands, and making careful use of each island’s geography and buried treasure adds an interesting puzzle twist to the game. We also removed any annoying flying pirates.

How many people did it take to create Horn Swaggle Islands?
We have one full-time and one part-time coder, a part-time artist, a part-time audio guy, and one (very) part-time voice actress.

How long did it take to create Horn Swaggle Islands?
The game took probably about 18 man months of effort across everyone. Most of this was taken up by content creation and testing; the actual engine was relatively painless to put together. The fact that the engine was painless to build is more a testament to how awesome the XNA platform is in terms of support and tools rather than to how great we are at coding! But we are quite good ;).

What was your inspiration behind Horn Swaggle Islands?
The whole team love playing games like Total Annihilation. We noticed the RTS genre is sorely under-represented on the Xbox, presumably because they don’t sell that well. So we thought let’s just try something out. Tower Defense is the logical “RTS-lite” style of game that is realistically achievable by an indie team, so we looked to that as a starting point.

What do you think of Microsoft’s idea of creating XBLIG?
Awesome! A genius idea, and one I hope they do very well out of. No other console can even come close to the support and openness offered for the Xbox. Where else can you get a triple-A quality development environment and a viable distribution channel to 12m possible users for a console? Nowhere!

What do you think of the XBLIG community itself?
Even more awesome! Its true, even more awesome than the XNA toolset itself is the enthusiasm and skill of the people around it. I don’t know if the MVP lot get paid but they provide an invaluable contribution. Without the code samples, tutorials and forum support that surrounds the XNA toolset we’d never have finished our game.

Do you consider yourself a big contributor to the XBLIG community?
We review games and post on forums where we can. Many times whilst developing the game, when we discovered something interesting we would think “oh we could post up on the forums about this”. Then we would search the XNA forums and find someone has got there already, discussed it, and improved on the idea!

If you could change one thing about XBLIG, what would it be?
It must be made more visible. There are ~12m people with Xbox Live subscriptions and I’d bet not many of them have heard of Indie Games, let alone would be able to find the service on their console.

Is there anything else that you wish to share with us?
One thing we’d like to mention is that we’ve taken on board all the feedback we’ve received since launch, and one thing that really stands out is that the gameplay area isn’t super-clear on SD TVs. This can affect playability for some folks, so very soon we are releasing an update that allows a zooming view. We’re just finishing the internal testing now. The update should be issued automatically by end of August.