Nasty Developer Interview

I managed to catchup with Kris Steele, the developer of Nasty and ask a few questions:

For anyone who hasn’t played Nasty, please may you describe the game.
Nasty is a retro-ish 2D game the blends platforming with action elements. Players are equipped with a gun that they can shoot in eight directions which they must use to kill all the enemies in level while avoiding the enemies, projectiles the enemies shoot, or level dangers like lava and spikes. Nasty can be played with one player alone or two players cooperatively, which is how the game is really best played. There are 100 normal game levels in Nasty, 5 of which are large scale bosses.

What was your inspiration behind Nasty?
Nasty was really all about creating the kind of game that I enjoyed playing when I was growing up. I’ve always been a big fan of 2D platform games and really, really enjoyed the select few that allowed co-op play.

How big was the team that worked on Nasty?
There are three people primarily responsible for creating Nasty. I created the concept and did all the coding along with some of the artwork and sound effects. I initially brought on Philippe Chabot to do just the main character design but I liked his work so much that I ended up having him do the graphics for nearly all the characters, bosses, and various level graphics. He additionally contributed some ideas to improve gameplay or make several of the enemies more interesting. Liam Tarpey created the soundtrack for the game (and did an excellent job I should add) along with the level intro and exit jingles.
For the sound effects that I didn’t personally create, I used SoundSnap.com. The background texture for the menu screen (with some slight modifications by me) was supplied by Mediamilitia.com. And of course the good folks on the forums at XNA.com, who provided invaluable testing and feedback.

How long did Nasty take to create?
The entire development process for Nasty took eight months from start to release. It took longer being my first XNA game than it otherwise would have. I’m hopeful that I can create future games with as much content as Nasty but in a much shorter time period.

How long have you been creating games?
In many ways, my whole life. When I was younger, I used to fill notepad after notepad full of drawings of “video games” that I had created and often subjected my friends to play them (using their finger or the back of a pencil). Over the years, I created several custom levels for Doom/Quake and worked with tools like Klick and Play (Maxis licensed version of Game Maker) and a now defunct first-person shooter creation tool, but never released anything to the general public other than a few Warcraft II and Starcraft levels I had for download on one of my websites. I played around with XNA a little bit but never got really serious about it until Microsoft announced their Community Games initiative (now Indie Games) that allowed people to sell games for the Xbox 360.

So far I’ve only made it as far as the 11th level*, but besides any of your team has anyone yet completed the game that you know of?
I only know for sure of one other person that has completed the game, but I’d like to think that more have (or at least will in the near future). There are 100 levels in Nasty, some of which can be rather difficult, so it will take some time and patients to complete the entire game.

It’s only been a little while since Nasty was released, is it performing as well as you’d hoped?
It’s only been a week, so it’s hard to really judge how things are going yet. A lot of people are playing Nasty, not as many people are buying it or rating it as well as I would like. I think a lot of that has to do with the price point (400 points) which puts off some people, but I firmly believe that there is more than enough content in Nasty to make it a worthwhile purchase.

What’s next in the pipeline for you? Any future games you would like to mention or are you going to keep that quiet for now?
I’ve got two things in the works right now but neither are ready to be shown publicly just yet. Expect an announcement on my company website or my personal blog regarding these titles in the not too distant future though.
I’m also tweaking some things in Nasty based on customer feedback and plan to do a few updates that include not only tweaks and bug fixes but new material.

Besides your own of course, do you have a favorite XBLIG?
I’ve been digging Downtown Smash Dodgeball lately, which is pretty much an updated version of the old NES Super Dodgeball game that I enjoyed growing up. It’s actually made by the same people, which I think it really cool. There are a few other titles I enjoy, but honestly I spend so much time creating my own games that it doesn’t leave me too much time to enjoy other people’s work.

What is your opinion of XBLIG?
There have been a few solid titles released so far along with a lot of not so solid titles (one Microsoft employee described the games on the service as “great games and not as great games”). Many games really didn’t get a lot of effort put into them or are just something thrown together to earn a quick buck and these games unfortunately outnumber the really good and polished efforts, painting the entire service in a bad light for many gamers.
I’ve got a lot of hope for where the service is going though. The recently added rating system seems to have done a lot to help gamers find the better games on XBLIGs. The runaway success of “I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1″ has done so much to spread awareness of XBLIGs. And finally some of the titles in Dream Play Build were simply amazing… I can’t wait to get to play games like Grapple Buggy, Dust, Square Off, Band of Bears, Magnetic Mind, and Aesop’s Garden. I expect some of those titles will end up on XBLA, but it still shows just how high the bar could be set for XBLIGs.

What is your opinion of the XBLIG community?
They’re great. There are a lot of people in the community that are really willing to help out, answer questions, and generally try and improve the entire service. Microsoft does a lot to help us too, providing numerous educational examples to work off of and all the tools needed to create games free of charge.

For those taking their first step on the ladder towards becoming a games developer, is there any advice that you would like to give?
To steal a line from the movie “What about Bob”… Baby steps. An entire game can be daunting to create, but if you start will small pieces they eventually add up to a large finished product. Start with creating a game that displays a character. The some blocks. Then make it so that character can run on those blocks. If you start small and build up, you won’t get overwhelmed by the entire process.
Also keep the scope of your first game realistic. Ambition is good but not if you try and create something so big that you never complete it. Your first game is not going to be the next Halo or World of Warcraft.