Sportsball for the Wii U is a game that combines the 2D aerial battles of classic Joust with the frenetic action of a schoolyard soccer game – if you ever played schoolyard soccer with dozens of balls at once.
Sportsball is the second game from Too DX, a small indie shop based in Seattle, WA. While enjoying the many games in Nintendo's booth at IndieCade 2014, I had a quick chat with Too DX Business Developer Ned Green about his company and game.
A gregarious guy, Ned discusses the concept behind Sportsball, Too DX's choice to eschew crowdfunding for this project, and the position of indie games within the overall gaming industry. Like other short interviews in this series, I am mostly concerned with the limited resources that indies have to work with, like funding, and how they see themselves vis-à-vis the triple A industry.
GameCritics: Start by introducing yourself, talk a little bit about Too DX, and briefly summarize Sportsball.
Ned Green: My name is Ned Green. My company is Too DX, for too deluxe, because that's what we're all about. Our game is Sportsball. It's an upcoming team sports game for the Wii U, and it combines soccer, jousting, and giant flying birds. It's a lot of fun. It's a really great couch game. We're really into the local multiplayer experience, and that's something that we really wanted to focus on. The game was designed to be something that is as fun to watch as it is to play, and we think we've succeeded there.
The team is myself, Kareem Shuman is our Lead Sound Designer, nicklePUNK did our sound track, and Auston Montville is our programmer.
How did you fund Sportsball?
We funded the game through the fact that some of us have jobs, and when that money ran out, we got a private loan. We tried very hard to stay away from Kickstarter or Indiegogo or trying to get funding from a publisher, because we wanted to make a game with no restrictions and no expectations other than we have this vision for this game, and it's a strong one, and we want to show that it can be done without having to go outside and get funding.
Also, it's hard to get attention in some of those spaces. There are a lot of really good games out there. There are a lot of really good concepts on Kickstarter. So it's hard to show something that is a local multiplayer game. It's like, oh yeah, there're a lot of those, and maybe they'll pass on ours. Instead, we'll just do it, save up some money, bank out a year, and then work on it.
We've been working on Sportsball since January and we're hoping to release in early November.
So it's an old school approach to project funding.
Do you have any plans for other platforms?
Right now we're just on Nintendo. We're hoping to get on the PS4 and the Xbox One, and of course Steam would be nice. The game was designed for controllers, so we're looking at consoles first and Steam later. Because Nintendo has been so good about helping us, we want to go with them now, and then we're going to keep working on the game, and then put back in the features we had to cut out to meet our goal for ourselves and then work on getting a very full release to other platforms maybe next year.
Are you all coming from larger developers, or what's your background?
My background is in board games. My family owns one of the longest running game stores in the game country. It's Griffin Games and Bookstore in South Bend, Indiana. It's been around for almost 40 years. And I just love games in general.
Auston went to school for game design at Champlain, a private college in Burlington, Vermont. He worked for Disney for a little while, and then he worked in the mobile space, but he didn't really like being corporate. So he said, "Hey Ned, I've known you for a really long time, why don't we go indie?" And I said, "Sure, I'm finishing up my accounting degree, why don't we do that?" And then we met Kareem through GDC. And he's a really good sound designer, and we've just been working with him and having a good time.
How important do you think indie games are right now to the overall gaming industry?
That's a tough question. I think indie games are very important. Indie games showcase a lot of creativity and a lot of cool concepts that maybe wouldn't run in a corporation that's meant to make money. But Indie game devs have to eat too, so there's that commercial aspect.
Really, I just think people want to make good games, and there are a lot of really good tools for that, so we're in a really good space for people to showcase what they can do on low budget or no budget games and make really cool experiences. We're in a booth filled with really, really good independent games, and that's awesome.
So the fact that there's that, and then there's also all these really good triple A multiplayer games – like Destiny has just dropped, and people have their complaints about it, but it's also just a fun thing to play!
So gaming itself is in a really great place, whether it's indie or corporate.
Any final words on Sportsball?
We're dropping hopefully in November, and you can check us out at www.TooDX.com or @Too_DX on Twitter. We're pretty active in trying to keep in contact with people. So shoot us an email if you want.
In college John fell to poetry, short story writing, and journalism, but ultimately took to writing critical, academic work on video games. He was actually surprised this was an option. For reasons he will never be completely sure of, he ended up in graduate school where he wrote about the discursive mapping of gender onto the terms "hardcore" and "casual" and the power hierarchy of legitimate and illegitimate games that creates. He is a proud feminist.
Currently, John is a PhD student in the Film and Media Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He continues to study gender, race, and sexuality in video games, video game culture, and the video game industry. He also mulls over issues of creative labor, cultural hierarchy, and power, among other random subjects.
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