Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Scrooge McDuck

One of the charms of this project, is that it's being made with very limited resources. Not that Tower22 is anywhere near finished, but it feels a little bit like making the impossible possible. The Tower22 headquarters is my couch and bed. We work with Commodore 64's, ancient programming languages (Delphi 7), and a handful of cowboys doing this in the spare hours. Programming is done while sleeping, models are sculpted on the toilet, sound is recorded while feeding our kids. And neither do we have a budget or art-subsidies. I pay with "good job!" emails, or ok, constructive feedback if you will. Hey, recently one of our guys got a (paid) job in the games industry and thanked for the stuff he learned with Tower22. That gives little tingles, like a proud grandpa.

Some hint me about funding websites like "Kickstarter". Now I'm not an expert, but as far as I know, these are websites that help (Indie)projects with a (small) budget. Not to buy private jets and E3-booth with robot-babes. You know, just a budget to buy a new videocard, a CD with sound effects, or maybe even to allow one or two persons to exchange some working days without their families starving. Not sure where the money comes from, probably from individuals who like to see a game happen and donate. Or maybe with good old magic. So Rick, why not grab some cash, say your boss he can stick those harvesting machines in his @ss, and chill out on the sofa with Tower22?

Well, first of all I like my jobs, I'm a loyal slave. But moreover, I'm dead scared of funders and George Washington papers. My momma always said "Nothing for free in this world boy", with a lovely black lady Chicken-Tonight voice. No she didn't say that, but they did raise me with common sense. No-one on this planet gives money just because they like you. They want something in return. Something that sells, generates more money. If EA Games knocks on the non-existent Tower office-door, with a bag of money, they expect us to finish a selling game within X years. And as soon I say "sure thing doc", they got me at the balls with a rusty vice. If our little (not so experienced) team fails to deliver, they will take my baby. A bit like how Duke Nukem Forever got finished(rushed) by another team in the end.

Every room gets multiple sketches. Tons of work, but every detail should be done with love. This one was done by newcomer Pablo btw.

But... nothing wrong with that right? Of course people expect something in return, We're not living in a yippie-hippie world. And even there people would expect services in return. Trade a cow for a donkey, publish Tower22 in return for your wife, et cetera. If I give money to a painter I don't expect him to fix the sink either, paint the damn house. Yet, there are still some problems. A publisher invests, then wants to make money. And as we all know, games play on safe. Not a miracle, because these days games aren't produces by 2 programmers in a basement anymore. Shit no, we're talking about armies of artists, expensive engines and studios, Bill Clinton and Mr. Ed the Talking Horse doing the voiceovers, complete American football teams, and very large basements of programmers. And not to forget all the marketing of course. Millions of dollars are invested, so publishers are very reserved with experimental ideas.

But I can already tell you that the Tower22 game ideas are not founded on typical selling-bombs like slow-mo bullet modus, chattering gasmasked alien soldiers, and auto-save every 5 meters that makes the game accessible for the whole family(= sellable), including your Labrador. Man, my generation was raised with impossible Super Mario jumps, no-save at all in NES games, and extremely annoying games that made the joypads fly around. Hardcore gamers (in nerd-jargon), and that's what you can expect from Tower22 as well (imagine a Gomer Pyle face now). But with a publisher on the buttons and money, a game like this will likely result in something we didn't exactly want.

But wait a minute. We were talking about small funding. To buy coffee and a new mouse and stuff. Yet, that still makes me nervous. My momma always said "Son, thou shall not steal", with a mother Theresa voice on her deathbed. No, she didn't said that, and she is still alive. But they did raise me with decency. If Billy donates 2 dollars to Tower22, then I want to make sure Billy can get a copy of this game sooner or later. No matter how small his donation was, he has faith in us, so we owe him. And honestly, at this point there is no guarantee Tower22 will be there soon, or even will be finished some day at all.

Last but not least, my momma always said "Money poisons, my dear.", with flowers and braids in her hair, barefeet, and hairy armpits. No, she didn't said that, and I don't know how her armpits look. But they did raise me non-materialistic. We make Tower22 because we are passionate. Not to get rich. Sure, a budget increases the chances. In fact, it might be the difference between a hardcopy on the shelves or keep-on-dreaming. But if someone offers help, I want to make sure he/she is doing it because he/she really loves drawing/modeling/composing/programming, and likes to see Tower22 happening. As soon as there is money, people may get greedy. Pay me more, or I'll walk away to another company with your ideas. And who is getting what with a small budget? Ten- thousand dollars sounds like a lot, but divide it through 10 people. The remainder is not even enough to pay my house two for months. Pay-per-service sounds more fair, but how to judge what a 3D cardboard-box model is worth anyway?

More corridor, this time from Borja, another newcomer doing concept art. Yes, I'm happy we finally have 2 guys doing environment sketches!

Is funding out of the question then? No, it is not, and my momma didn't say not to do it either. But before taking that step, whether grabbing 2 dollar from Billy’s pocket, or receiving big money bags + cans of helpers by a big publisher, I want to make sure we are heading the right way first. With that I mean the team must be talented, motivated and big enough to produce a substantial part of the game. That also includes some self-reflection. My part, the game-idea + engine, must work too. If first testplays turn out to be damn boring, or if the engine is as stable as a North Korean rocket, we need to change plans. The engine is in a too early stage, and the amount of content-production manhours is still too little/fluctuating to make a good planning & hard guarantees.

Hmmm... that doesn't sound very hopeful! But hold on. The team doubled the last few months. Not that more people automatically leads to more and better results -don't forget each of them also needs to be guided properly-, but in this case its certainly a step forward. I'll introduce them in a next post. Anyway, let's say if we can make a bunch of good looking / SCARY, *playable*, floors, I may look again at Kickstart or the likes. Because at that point, we proved for ourselves we are able to do it, plus we can estimate how long it takes a bit.

And let me reveal something else then. Finishing the entire game in this setup is indeed impossible, unless you are patient and play Tower22 on a classic PC in future times where we fly with cars and make love with holograms. The target for now, asides attracting some more artists with 1 or more future demo movies, is to make the first ~40% of the game, and release it (for an Indie price). Yeah that's right, a game. To play. But not the complete thing. Although I must say the game storyline is perfectly suitable to split in two, I'm not a big fan of the "Episode" approach. But in our case we have little choice. If part1 is a success, getting funds and more horsepower to realize an even better second part will be much easier. And if it fails, we'd better return to our Magic cards collections and kitchen gardens. My momma always said "A man has gotta know when to stop." ;)


  1. Your blog is great, stay passionnate guys ! I hope Tower22 will be released soon !

  2. Hey Rick, you probably checked it out by now, but there's no catch when being funded by kickstarter. People send you money, you "promise" to send the game/alpha/a dog. Although there are two problems, not sure, but I think Kickstarter is US only, although there are alternatives (Ulule) but much less known, and secondly, you do have your head on your shoulders, I think it's brilliant of you to wait and see what can be done before plunging to a kickstarter deal. I understand the game is still in gestation, so ideas must be flying all over, but I can see with the grim setting a reasonably slow paced horror/mystery fpa (first person adventure) like amnesia. I know there are quite a few more that would like this. But you are talking about hardcore 80's 90's games with skills and trial error and repeat mechanics, for a horror game I think it just ruins the atmosphere (just like in RE5). I wonder how "gamey" you envision Tower 22. Anyways,for the love of the bearded guy, if independent funding can help you get something out of the door, do it! You have my 15€ for sure...

  3. Thank you guys!
    Ideas for the game are pretty much done, though not in the smallest detail but that's just a matter of trying it out, its impossible to have it all perfect on paper right from the start. However, actual playable game-content is still in a very early stage, and therefore it wouldn't be fair to promise a game/alpha and get money while there is absolutely no "coming soon" guarantee.

    Trail & Error is something I'd like to avoid. I believe nowadays games are a alot more trail & error. Take Modern Warfare for example. Run in a room with a M60, get killed 3 seconds later -quickload- try again with a different weapon, got killed again, -quickload-, and so on. I hate the quicksave/load mechanism as it doesn't really matter anymore how you complete a task. You have to think twice before doing something in T22, then again you won't get killed or attacked every 5 seconds so the chance you'll die and have to redo a big part is a lot smaller. All in all, it has to feel "fair".