We welcome back two of our favorite guests, Nathan Fouts of Mommy's Best Games, and Bryan Jury of Epicenter Studios. They bring us up to speed on what's been happening since their last appearances and talk about their new games, Shoot 1UP and Rock of the Dead. These guys are funny, candid, and filled with pie. With Chi Kong Lui, Brad Gallaway, Mike Bracken, and Tim "Bob Costas" Spaeth.
Tim Spaeth: Fueled by passion and DayQuil, it's the GameCritics.com podcast. It's episode 31. I'm Tim Spaeth; a great show on tap for you this week. Let's first say hello to the regulars. Back in the pole position, here's GameCritics founder and owner, Chi Kong Lui. Hello, Chi.
Chi Kong Lui: Hey, Tim. How's it going?
Tim Spaeth: Going really well, apart from the horrible illness that I'm suffering from. How's your health?
Chi Kong Lui: I'm doing fine, actually.
Tim Spaeth: All right. Good. I'm jealous, and a little angry about that, actually. Also joining us, senior editor of GameCritics, Brad Gallaway. Hello, Brad.
Brad Gallaway: Hey, Tim, hey, everybody. Good to be here tonight.
Tim Spaeth: Great to have you. And rounding out the cast: critic and horror geek, Mike Bracken. Hey, Mike.
Mike Bracken: Hey, Tim. I'm a little under the weather, as well.
Tim Spaeth: Awesome. Awesome. That makes me feel a little bit better. Now, let me ask you this: We are hours out from the gold medal Olympic hockey game. And you, as a hockey connoisseur, I would be remiss in my duties as host if I didn't ask you for your impressions of the game.
Mike Bracken: Oh, man. I was really torn, because I'm American. But I'm a Penguins fan and I love Sidney Crosby to death. So if America was going to lose in overtime, Sid getting that goal was the best way it could happen. So I feel like I won, even though America lost. Great game; great day for hockey; really happy for Sid. Go, Pens!
Tim Spaeth: Would you agree with Bob Costas that it was the most important event in human history?
Mike Bracken: [Laughter] No, not quite.
Tim Spaeth: That's what he asked us all to believe, and I wasn't entirely sure.
Mike Bracken: He's been really strange since he started dyeing his hair so dark. I don't know what's going on with that.
Tim Spaeth: Yeah. He aged 20 years overnight. I don't quite know how that happened. Once boyish, now elderly. Anyway, we digress. Listen: incredible show tonight. Joining us for the first time ever, not one, but two guests. They're both returning favorites; they've both been on previously; both superstars of the independent games scene. Let's introduce them now: Nathan Fouts of Mommy's Best Games. Nathan, hello, sir.
Nathan Fouts: Hi everybody. How's it going? Guess what—I brought pie!
Mike Bracken: All right!
Tim Spaeth: Aw! Love that!
Brad Gallaway: That's a good pie.
Mike Bracken: Does it have Cool Whip?
Nathan Fouts: [Laughter] No, no. As long as the pie's good, you don't need Cool Whip. Trust me.
Tim Spaeth: That's a good point. A pie in its native form, if prepared properly, is the best kind of pie.
Nathan Fouts: It's pie! You don't need Cool Whip.
Tim Spaeth: Well, Nathan, your new game is Shoot1UP. It's just out now on the Xbox Live marketplace under the "Independent Games" banner. We're going to talk about it in just a moment. But before that, also with us, back for his second appearance, it's Bryan Jury from Epicenter Studios. Hello, Bryan.
Bryan Jury: Hey, guys. How's it going out there?
Tim Spaeth: It's going well. It's so good to have you back. You have just announced your new game. It's the hotly anticipated Rock of the Dead, and we will be talking about that as well. I have a lot of questions about both games, actually. Obviously, for everybody listening, our topic this week is the state of independent games, life as an independent developer, and of course, catching up with our old friends Nathan and Bryan.
For those who missed their original appearances, I just wanted to give you the episode numbers in case you wanted to go back and listen to them. Nathan's first appearance was way back in episode 11, which was actually recorded a year ago this weekend—exactly a year ago.
Nathan Fouts: Woo!
Tim Spaeth: I know. What a special way to spend that anniversary. Episode 19 for Bryan. In those episodes, we kind of went over your biographies; your transition from working with the big-budget, triple-A development studios into the independent scene. Both those episodes kind of ended on cliffhangers, and I wanna start there. Nathan, when we recorded your show, you had not yet received the sales figures for your first indie game, although, at the time, it was under the "Community Games" banner. That game, of course, Weapon of Choice. Not long after your appearance, you got those sales figures, and how would you describe your response? It was a public response.
Nathan Fouts: It was kind of like: "Dah dah, DAH!" [Imitation of dramatic music] That's how I felt. And then barfing sounds afterwards.
There was a whole lot of weird misinformation floating around. But we had anticipated higher sales and we got lower sales, and that doesn't make a cool equation for making a living. But we're adjusting. Filet mignon is now Ramen noodles mignon.
But we're coming back up. We're like the Jeffersons. We're movin' on up. We're gonna do okay.
Tim Spaeth: So, not just one game, but two games in the pipeline. Like I said, we're gonna talk about those. Bryan, when we had you on the show last, the cliffhanger that we left on was that Epicenter Studios's game Real Heroes: Firefighter was actually on the verge of coming out. I had seen it at a Best Buy that day. This was last summer. Since then, it has come out. I have not seen any sales figures; I really don't know how well it did. Can you talk about the critical reaction to the game and your reaction to the sales figures, which I assume you have some knowledge of at this point?
Bryan Jury: No, actually. I don't have the actual sales figures. There's a variety of reasons for that. But the VG chart says we did about a quarter million, which I think is probably the high end. But for us, we never expected to make money off of it. What we were doing was hoping to build a name for the studio. In that sense it worked, because we got a couple gigs since then.
Tim Spaeth: So, a quarter-million. That's fantastic.
Bryan Jury: Yeah, that's according to VG charts. I think it's an educated guess, at best.
Mike Bracken: Statistics 101.
Bryan Jury: Yeah, pretty much.
Tim Spaeth: Oh, no more Statistics. Let's not go back down that road, sir. What about the critical reaction to Firefighter? I ended up buying it about a week after you were on the show. I had a fantastic time with the game. I've been telling everyone to go pick this game up, because it's something different and special for the Wii. What did you think of the critical reaction to it?
Bryan Jury: With very few exceptions, I thought the critical reaction was very fair. I have no complaints at all; we learned a ton about how to make a game better from the critical response. In general, people have been really good and really honest with us. That's how we learn how to make better games.
Tim Spaeth: Um-hm. Fantastic. Well, that's great news. I'm glad to hear that. All right—well, thanks, guys. Thanks for coming on the show.
Mike Bracken: This has already been one of our best episodes ever. [Laughter]
Tim Spaeth: I really think so. Let's quit while we're ahead. So based on what happened with your first game, how did that directly shape your next move? What specific changes did you make? How did you change your approach to development and publishing and promotion? I'll let either of you jump in there.
Bryan Jury: Well, sure. It's such an eye-opening experience to release your first thing out there. And really, again, the critical response…we read every single review that we could get our hands on. Even message boards, which is more depressing than anything. But we definitely learned a lot. I really feel like you learn more in failures than you do in successes, and we had a lot of issues with the game.
We never really got the distribution we wanted. We were never in Wal-Mart; we were never in Target; we were barely in Best Buy. So even though you could get it online, you just couldn't find it anywhere. So moving forward, when we signed our next game Rock of the Dead we definitely learned from a lot of those kind of mistakes and figured out what not to do. That was probably one of our biggest: "What did we do wrong? Let's not do that again."
Nathan Fouts: We're in a strange situation, because we do distribute directly through Microsoft on their downloadable service. Because we're on indie games, we like to have our games on Live Arcade because there's less competition, essentially, and higher price points.
When I was designingGrapple Buggy… When I was looking for the next game, I went through all my game ideas and tried to figure out the one I thought was strongest, but had the most appeal currently and went with that. [I] also went with the one that would look sizeable—be big enough to hopefully look attractive to get on Live Arcade. We're in talks with different people, so that's the good news. And then at some point, I decided to smoke pot and make Shoot1UP. That's a lucid dream or something, but I'm going out of it now.
Tim Spaeth: I guess I wanted to ask you about that. Grapple Buggy seemed to be the next game, and then all of the sudden Shoot1UP came out of nowhere. Then suddenly it was out, and I was like: "Wait a second! This is moving much faster than I had anticipated." At what point did you decide to divert from the Grapple Buggy plan and make this little sidetrack to Shoot1UP?
Nathan Fouts: We entered Grapple Buggy into Dream Build Play 2009, and that's Microsoft's competition where they hand out some money and also have the Live Arcade team look at your games. We actually didn't place and didn't get into the Top 20 at all, which didn't send me into a depression spiral for months and months, but it should have. Instead, I just took on some other work to make ends meet for a while there.
During that time, we were making decent money on the side and then I thought: "Well, I'm not quite working every day of the week like I normally do on my own games. I've got a little spare time. Why don't I make a game?" So it's kind of stupid. [Laughter] In the spare time that I had—even though we already had a game started—I thought I'd make a small game. And my wife laughs. But anyway, I started working on that. Then the part-time work stopped, and then [I] came on to full-time on Shoot1Up, and it was really polishing up nicely. I was getting a lot of good press and good previews, and people were really pumped about it. So we decided to put in the final push and try to make a game out of it. I'll get back to Grapple Buggy, though, obviously.
Chi Kong Lui: That's actually not so strange. It mirrors the Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai. He was making this big-budget epic film Ashes of Time, and then in between that he made Chungking Expressa smaller film. Nathan, Shoot1UP is your Chungking Express.
Nathan Fouts: I like that, I'll tell that to marketing.
That's a cool point, Chi. Grapple Buggy, I have all these big ideas and it is a big game, but really, I'm the main developer on the game. Hamdija [Ajanovic] does the music and I do the game. It got huge, and I'm spread a little thin on it there for a while, and so then we had to rein it back in and look at it again. It's like this mammoth design. So when you look at Shoot1UP, it's really exciting to just move over and do this cool little tiny thing, and then come back to the mammoth design and finish it at some point. But we're coming back full strength to Grapple Buggy to make it awesome, without a question. And actually, as expected, some time off has done wonders to hone the design and make it much better.
Brad Gallaway: Hey, guys, if I could jump in a little bit. I would like to get back to something that we alluded to a little earlier, and that's the financial side. Nathan, you mentioned doing some work on the side. And Bryan, you mentioned that your intent with Firefighter wasn't necessarily to make a ton of cash—although I'm sure you wouldn't have turned it down—but to make a name for yourself and the studio.
How does that really break down in practical terms? I know that there's a lot of fans out there who don't really have an idea of how games get made. They don't really know what the life of a developer is like. I'm sure that a lot of us think that you guys have infinite money, and it's all babes and booze and coke all over the place. [Laughter] But I'm sure that's not really what it is.
Nathan Fouts: There's really no other answer to give.
Brad Gallaway: [Laughter] But seriously, though: Based on the knowledge that Weapon of Choice didn't do as well as it deserved to—and it really did deserve to—and questionmark of Firefighter being out there and not really knowing how much you actually made, how does that even go into your life on a daily basis? You guys may have families; you may have responsibilities. I'm sure you live somewhere; you're not developing in a cardboard box in the street. Everybody's got bills. Can you guys talk about the practical side of being a smaller developer? I'd like to hear more about that.
Bryan Jury: We have really great contracts with our publishers, where we would see a significant percentage of royalties if we reach certain sales figures that are pretty attainable, just because our budgets are really small. But having said that, there's a lot of hands in the pot—between your publisher, between the distributor, between the retailers, et cetera. We would have to sell more than we thought we would have to sell to see something in the backend. But at the same time, that's nothing that we ever really, really expected or counted on.
Having said that, with the economy…[Joking] I don't know if you guys have heard. The economy's pretty bad right now.
Brad Gallaway: Oh, is it really?
Bryan Jury: Yeah, there's an excuse, I guess. Cash is definitely hard to come by, and credit is not as hard to come by. I'm not proud at all to say this, 'cause it really ate me up inside: We actually missed payroll for about a month last year, and it really, really sucks. But we get paid from our publisher. It's really small payments, but we get monthly payments for milestones. In general, we were in pretty good shape last year, and so far this year.
Same thing with Rock of the Dead. We think there's probably a better chance of getting better distribution and a little bit more of a nerdboy capability of selling this thing. We might see something on the backend, but at the same time, we're building infrastructure; we're buying more equipment; we're learning on the job. It really is an investment. Even if we make zero dollars, we learn and we grow. Although it would be nicer to make more than zero dollars.
Brad Gallaway: I was gonna say: It's great to learn life lessons, but when I learn life lessons and earn zero dollars, my family's not happy and neither am I. So it's gotta be a tough situation to be in. Nathan, what about you? I know you're in that similar boat. What's your take on that?
Nathan Fouts: We've been learning, and fortunately getting to pay for a few things here and there. In our case, technically we're the publisher and the developer and Microsoft's just the distributor. But we do get quarterly payments from Weapon of Choice sales. It's been okay, but it wouldn't cover our whole year of living or the next, or anything like that. That's why I went out to look for some other work. I've worked with some people on the side that I used to work with. That helped pay for things. Also it wasn't hard, so I'd work for that in a day, design and such at night. That's how Shoot1Up started happening.
The other thing is, the Xbox 360 indie games scene is the Wild West on steroids. It is so freaky, and it's so fast-moving in terms of how to react business-wise but also game design-wise as to what's hot and what's going on at the time. It keeps you on your toes. We actually changed our whole strategy with Shoot1Up to say: "Let's go for super-broad approach and as low as it goes—a dollar. And we only spend three months on it and see what happens." I suppose the bigger games, which is what I'd like to do, like Grapple Buggy and raise the price on it. Let's just see what a smaller game would do. We're still waiting on sales on that, but hopefully, it's doing okay.
Chi Kong Lui: Nathan, going back to what you said in your previous appearance here: Is that community games dream that you had dead in some ways?
Nathan Fouts: There's a lot of me that's dead now. [Laughter] Like I said, it's so instinctive, the way you have to market things there. You can get press, but you basically live by your box and your name. Not that that doesn't happen in retail—it certainly does. But you're on that little New Arrivals list and you get that split second of attention. You basically get about two or three days before you get shunted off that. If you don't get on the Top Download, then that was it. You lose. So that's why the cover of Shoot1UP looks the way it does.
Tim Spaeth: Since you brought it up, I have to ask the question, particularly because your wife is sitting right by you. What was her reaction to the fifth level, which is basically a lot of nude women lying prone? And then I don't think I'm spoiling anything, because it's on the box cover: It's a woman with giant metal breasts shooting bullets. What was her reaction the first time she saw that?
Nathan Fouts's wife: Can I jump in?
Nathan Fouts: No, she was thrilled.
Nathan Fouts's wife: I've been [unknown] by Nathan since the day I met him, so it's just par for the course.
Brad Gallaway: That's awesome. [This is the first?] wife on our podcast.
Mike Bracken: This is a podcast first.
Tim Spaeth: That's fantastic. It's so great.
Nathan Fouts: [She's?] happy with it; she loved every minute of it. She actually suggested that. She said: "Why not a naked woman level?"
Mike Bracken: Did she tell you the first chicks you had weren't hot enough? That maybe they needed to be bigger-breasted?
Nathan Fouts's wife: I had to live through him drawing the Grapple Buggy commander.
Nathan Fouts: The concept art for the woman that drives Grapple Buggy is pretty seductive. So just that, which involves a lot of nude reference, and we went from there. Our marriage is stronger.
Tim Spaeth: I do have Javeya coincidentally on my screen, and I have to say, that outfit doesn't seem conducive to driving a grapple buggy.
Nathan Fouts: It's a futuristic spandex. [Unknown] And also, there's no gravity on that planet—hell, I don't know.
Tim Spaeth: Very well. Perhaps once I play the game, it will make more sense.
Nathan Fouts: Oh, yeah. It'll make a lot of sense once you play the game.
Mike Bracken: It all comes together.
Chi Kong Lui: Once you've given your cash, it makes perfect sense, right?
Tim Spaeth: I wanna talk about the Independent Games tab over there on Xbox Live. In the last year, there've really been just two changes. It's now called "Indie Games." And there is now a rating system, which apparently the scale is from 4 to 5. That is the rating system. [Laughter]. So not a lot of change. We had talked in your last appearance about them doing more. About: "What could Microsoft do to promote this more?" and it seems like they haven't done very much. But is there something we're not seeing?
Nathan Fouts: Well, let's see here. So the rating system applies to every product on the game marketplace, which is pretty interesting. It's funny to see Assassin's Creed II get a lower rating than Castle Crashers, or something. Nothing escapes the ratings; that's kind of cool.
The other thing is, they actually did apply another category called Top Downloads, which has not been explained behind the scenes, but we assume it means actually the top downloads. We don't really know if it factors in sales, too. They kind of act funny about it when you ask. So gamers come on; they can see what other gamers are downloading. They can go with the crowd or dip into new arrivals. Live Arcade has that, Demo Games has that, Indie Games has that, which is untested games—you're not sure what you're geting unless you read reviews.
Outside of that, in terms of promotion from Microsoft, they've done promotion on the Dashboard, which is like the gamma ray effect on your game sales. It's insane. Whatever it is, it mutates your game sales into tremendous proportions, if you can magically get into some Dashboard promotion that they decide to do. So they'll do a Christmas one, maybe, or a Valentine's Day one or a New Year's Eve one, and any game—Arcade, Indie or otherwise—that gets in there, doubles, triples, quadruples their sales. It's insane. If their magic wand comes over and touches your game, go out and party that night, or hell, that week, because it's awesome.
They did that, so that's cool But it's definitely on the developers, in terms of promotion. Which is why I'm on the GameCritics podcast. Woo! [Laughter] I love you guys, too, but I'm also promoting the game I just made.
Brad Gallaway: We gotcha. We know how this works.
Nathan Fouts: No, I love you! Come on! Aww. Okay, I'm leaving.
Tim Spaeth: You may love us, but I think you probably love our 850,000 listeners just a little bit more.
Nathan Fouts: Only if they have 80 Microsoft points. Those that have 80 Microsoft points, I love them. Anybody wih 60, 20? You guys are screwed. I don't know what you're doing with those 20 points.
Tim Spaeth: Hopefully something left over from their purchases of premium themes and avatar gauntlets or something. Bryan, since we spoke to you last, you've announced Rock of the Dead, which of course will be a retail disc. Epicenter's first title was a WiiWare game. In looking at the downloadable space the last nine months since we've talked, have you looked at downloadable as a potential venue for any of your upcoming products? Things that you've talked about at all?
Bryan Jury: We have. Internally, we've got a couple smaller iPhone projects going on. But that's something I wanted to ask Nathan: Why focus on the Xbox "Indie-cade" stuff? I get XNA and all that kind of stuff, but have you considered looking at WiiWare? Have you considered looking at iPhone?
Nathan Fouts: Yeah. We're actually taking Weapon of Choice to the PC. That's not at all what you talked about, but I thought I'd mention it. [Laughter] We've looked at the iPhone. Honestly, I need to hire a really good engine programmer, 'cause I'm the engine programmer and I'm just not an engine guy. So that's kinda where we're at…just being too small to expand past that right now. I like making games so darn much, I get tired and sleepy when I start thinking about writing low-level system code for WiiWare. I need to grow up and hire somebody. That'll help me with that.
Chi Kong Lui: Do you have the rights to bring Weapon of Choice to the iPhone, if you could?
Nathan Fouts: Oh yeah, absolutely. We own all the rights to all our games, and we could take it to the iPhone. It's just splitting my time, and I'm still feeling out if the iPhone would be worth the time to do it or not, in terms of how fast games can drop off and lose exposure there, too. Not to mention trying to figure out how to make it work on the iPhone. We've definitely got some ideas and we've seen other games work like that. But it's intimidating when you have a powerful console sitting there that you can make really big games for, as opposed to iPhone games. So that's the artist in me taking—not the businessman, nor the programmer that should know better. Hey, Bryan, how many people do you have that work with you?
Bryan Jury: We've got 14 full time, and then depending on the needs, we've got five or six contractors, max.
Nathan Fouts: How did you start with your money? Be vague. I'm not trying to—
Bryan Jury: Oh, no. I'm always happy to be totally upfront about it. There's definitely no secret about it. We got lucky; that's really what it comes down to. We had a couple of high-profile titles under myself and my business partner's résumé. Just like you, we were in the big publisher over at Activision for a while, working on Call of Duty stuff.
When we started this thing, we ended up actually getting a video game agent. He helped get us the WiiWare title with Konami, 'cause he had some good friends over there. It was pretty low-budget, but it was just getting our foot in the door. We also did get some private investors to help us make a demo for Firefighter, and that was really, really bare-bones, money-wise. But, again, once you get published once, it snowballs, because then people are asking: "Hey, what else do you got?" "Well, hey, check out this demo!" And "Hey! We wanna pick that up!" And that snowballs a little bit.
Tim Spaeth: Let's move on. Let's talk about your upcoming games, and Bryan, I'm gonna start with you. Epicenter's new game in development, announced recently: Rock of the Dead. Give us the 30 second hit list. What is Rock of the Dead?
Bryan Jury: I always ask: "Have you ever played Typing of the Dead?"
Tim Spaeth: Hell, yes.
Bryan Jury: See, for you guys, the answer is yes. But with the people I normally ask, I get this blank stare with a little bit of drool coming out of the mouth. [Laughter] And I've gotta explain it a little bit more. So, it really is Typing of the Dead; replace the typewriters with the pieces of plastic we already have in our living rooms. It's a first-person on rails light gun game, except you're playing music to kill the enemies and Neil Patrick Harris is cracking wise during it. There's my 30-second pitch. How was that?
Tim Spaeth: There were so many things in that 30 second pitch.
Mike Bracken: You had me at Typing of the Dead.
Tim Spaeth: I burnt so many hours on Typing of the Dead. I'm a huge fan of it. And this game concept seems so perfect. It seems so obvious and perfect and exciting. I have to ask you—and, in fact, some of our readers asked this question, and I'm sure you get asked this constantly—Is this affiliated in any way with Sega's Of the Dead franchise? Is this part of House of the Dead, Typing of the Dead, Pinball of the Dead? Or is it just companion in name only?
Bryan Jury: It would be companion in name only. We haven't talked to Sega since they were kind of rude to us about Firefighter way back in the day. We were shocked that Rock of the Dead was trademarkable. Is that a word? It is now.
So when you apply for trademarks, you get back this thick pamphlet so lawyers can get paid. It lists out all the warnings here and there, and there was no warnings with this one. So who knows what's gonna happen down the road? Maybe Sega will get pissed, and they have better lawyers than we do. But right now, it looks like we're in the clear. The name seems to fit really perfectly. I'm pretty happy with it. It's got nothing to do with any of the Dead games from Sega.
Brad Gallaway: I have to say, I was really surprised by that. When I first saw the title, I was like: "Well, of course it's connected. How could it not be connected? It looks just like Typing of the Dead. I was really shocked that Sega hasn't said anything about it. Maybe they haven't heard. Are you guys kind of in the back of your heads bracing for Sega to come knocking at your door?
Bryan Jury: This is kind of a different topic, but Sega's probably one of the least of the big boys that we're kind of afraid of. Not really afraid of…Nathan can probably speak up from his experience as well. But right now, to create a video game, you really have to go through this legal minefield. It's really kind of nuts. Between the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of patents out there and people owning exclusive libraries. It's really kind of nuts out there.
I just wanna make a game that's fun and not actually have to be a lawyer about this kind of stuff. Dealing with Activision, Harmonix, Nintendo about questions about the guitar controllers, it's been tricky. But I think we've successfully navigated every minefield so far. If Sega wants to call, we'll call and talk. We're definitely not infringing on their stuff.
A lof of the things that we've shown so far of Rock of the Dead are definitely the more House of the Dead-y kind of stuff, the zombie-type stuff. But that's really about a third of the game. It's really not the focus of the game, so we're definitely not trying to infringe on anything. That's for sure.
Nathan Fouts: Hey, Bryan, do you have any backup names? I'm just wondering.
Bryan Jury: [Laughter] We've got a couple. We've got contingency plans, for sure.
Tim Spaeth: How about: Real Heroes: Zombie Rocker?
Bryan Jury: I'm gonna write that down, if you don't mind.
Tim Spaeth: Absolutely. Absolutely. It is open source. [Laughter] So I've watched some videos of the game. I know one of the things that you said about Firefighter, I don't know if you'd call it a regret, but you mentioned that you maybe should have gone in a less realistic direction with the graphics. Clearly, this is a more cartoony look. Was that one of the lessons that you learned from Firefighter that you applied to this game?
Bryan Jury: Yeah, absolutely. You have to make the game that really fits well on the system with the resources you have. My art director, B, he would probably use much more intelligent words than what I'm about to use. But it was really all about making sure the contrast levels of the texturing were light enough. The darker you get, the more aliasing you're gonna see. We didn't base our textures on photographs; they're all hand-painted stuff. We skewed all the art to make it so it's not realistic, so it's a little more Tim Burton-esque. (I hate using that term). A little campy, a little loopy kind of stuff. But yeah, it was absolutely one of the lessons we learned from Firefighter.
Tim Spaeth: And you had also mentioned that you're particulary proud of the voice acting that you got in Firefighter, and you mentioned Neil Patrick Harris for Rock of the Dead. But it's not just Neil Patrick Harris, is it?
Bryan Jury: Not at all. Are you guys fans of Dr. Horrible?
Nathan Fouts: Oh, absolutely.
Brad Gallaway: Absolutely.
Bryan Jury: I thought that was just one of the purest, most brilliant little pieces of entertainment. It's chocolate entertainment. It's amazing. We ended up with Felicia Day and Neil Patrick Harris. Felicia Day plays NPH's potenital love interest. They're both really, really fun to work with, and the cool thing was that we actually got them at a fairly good discount, mostly because they were genuinely interested in the game concept itself. They were automatically fans. It was really kind of cool to talk to two celebrities who are gamer nerds just like we are. It was cool. I'm still shocked that it all came together.
Tim Spaeth: If anything, if they're talking about the game on their Twitter feeds—I think combined, they've got two million Twitter followers—so right there, you've got some instant advertising, which is a great thing.
Now, I have to ask you this, and I guess this is the hard question. There's a lot of geek cred with this game. Certainly, Neil Patrick Harris, Felicia Day, Typing of the Dead has a very geek pedigree. Mike and I, obviously, big fans of that. Zombie-killing: very geek, nerd-oriented. Are you concerned at all that the core audience for this game—the geeks—might skew a bit more towards the Xbox/PlayStation consoles, and thus have already purchased their plastic guitars for those consoles?
Bryan Jury: I think that's a valid concern. If you look at the market for the actual number of guitars sold, everybody says: "I don't have any guitars on the Wii. Who the hell bought a guitar on the Wii?" The fact is, the guitars on the Wii completely blows away the numbers on the 360 and PS3.
Now, I totally agree with you that the hardcore geeks probably have their equipment on the 360/PS3, but we definitely didn't make this game with a demographic in mind. We wanted to make this game how we wanted to make it. If we wanted to, sure, we might've put puppies instead of zombies in there.
Brad Gallaway: [Laughter] That would [pan out?] really well. You [kill?] puppies with a guitar? Yeah, that's a great concept. [Laughter]
Mike Bracken: I would've been all in on that.
Bryan Jury: I'm actually gonna write that down right now, too.
Tim Spaeth: And you gotta put the Real Heroes branding on that game, too.
Brad Gallaway: Real Heroes: Guitar Puppy Killer.
Mike Bracken: 'Cause heroes like to kill puppies.
Bryan Jury: But also having said that, after we've announced the game…And nothing's a done deal, of course. Until there's ink on paper, there's nothing a done deal. But people have approached us to help invest in potentially bringing it out for the 360/PS3. I probably just jinxed it by saying that. We'll see down the road. Obviously, we wanna do that. It's all about resources and coming out. We'll see. So far, so good.
Tim Spaeth: What kind of rock music can we expect to be slaughtering zombies to?
Bryan Jury: Good question. It was a tricky question to answer because, again, we got zero budget for this kind of stuff. What we ended up doing a trial run on and then running with it was, we've got a couple friends who are in bands—two really good friends in particular, in Pittsburgh, where I went to school. They've got some indie bands that play around town. We ended up contracting them out to do rocked-out versions of classical pieces. So stuff like, Brahms, Bizet, Bach: everything that you would recognize right away, but you have no idea what it's called. I didn't know what these things were called until like: "Oh, that's that song!"
So, we have about a dozen of these, and it turned out really, really cool. We're also looking into doing a couple of licensed tracks now that we have some further investors, but again, that's kind of down the road. We'll see. But it's really kind of unique, and some of these classical pieces are really complicated. There's multiple parts, and multiple time measures. I still think that if the big boys really wanted to make Rock Band: Classical, it would actually be a pretty kick-ass experience.
Nathan Fouts: I'd be fully open to licensing the theme to Weapon of Choice to you for this.
Brian Jury: Yeah. Let's talk afterwards.
Nathan Fouts: Yeah, sure. Definitely.
Chi Kong Lui: Are the Classical pieces public domain?
Bryan Jury: Yeah, they're all public domain. The most recent one was something from the 1920s. A lot of it's even Traditional; there's no composer even attached to a lot of the stuff. But, again, as soon as you hear it you'll know it, and it's just these fun, indie band interpretations of the stuff. It's fun; it seemed to work out really well.
Tim Spaeth: You know, Bryan, Huey Lewis isn't signed to any of these rock games. I'm just throwing that out there. If you haven't gone down that road, you may wanna just check that.
Bryan Jury: I'm trying to think of how many guitar riffs are in "I Need a New Drug." [Laughter]
Brad Gallaway: I'm wondering: Are Neil Patrick Harris and Felicia going to be doing any vocals? I know they're doing voiceovers, but are they going to be singing anything? That seems like a natural segue from Dr. Horrible.
Bryan Jury: I would've loved to have a) the ability to have somebody write them songs, and b) timeframe. My hope—and I know he's a listener to you guys—is tht Joss Whedon is gonna contact me really shortly, and we'll go from there.
Tim Spaeth: Well, joining us now on the call: Joss Whedon!
Mike Bracken: We will hook you up.
Tim Spaeth: Have you announced a release date for Rock of the Dead yet?
Bryan Jury: We're looking at this summer; we're not sure of an exact release date. It will probably be after E3, so I would assume July-August right now. We still have a couple months of polish-time. There's still a couple other features I wanna get in. Reading message boards definitely gives you a) an ulcer, but b) some ideas [of what?] people are looking at. We're able to get feedback already and put that feedback into the game. I would say mid-late summer this year.
Mike Bracken: Do you ever just look at the message boards and say to yourself: "Man, you people are fucking stupid"? 'Cause that's usually my reaction.
Bryan Jury: It depends if I agree with them or not. If I don't, then clearly they're fucking stupid, right? [Laughter] But so far, the message boards have been pretty good to us, so I'm not complaining at all.
Chi Kong Lui: One thing I saw on the IGN preview of the game that they were complaining about was the horizontal scrolling of the notes. Was there a reason behind that, as opposed to it scrolling vertically?
Bryan Jury: There's two reasons. One is definitely gameplay. We have one designer that hates people [Laughter], so he has a couple sections where there's 12-13 different enemies on screen. And just in order to fit all the measures on screen, it really needed to go horizontal. The other reason is legal. The 3D note highway is actually a patent that we have to work around, and so you can thank Activision for crapping on fun.
We could totally talk about my hatred of video game patents. That's a video game mechanic. My equivalent would be: James Cameron should now patent the camera shot of somebody's boot hitting the ground. It doesn't happen in cinema. Why do we allow this to happen in video games? It just kind of sucks. But at the same time, it's a gameplay decision—just to fit [the notes] on the screen.
Tim Spaeth: You can just hold the guitar sideways in rock star position and you're good to go.
Bryan Jury: It's funny, 'cause it does look weird when you're taking a look at it for the first time. When we bring in focus testers, we bring in all these kids off Craigslist—which sounds really bad that I've realized [unknown.] [Laughter] But we had these people check out the game, and there's definitely a moment or two of disorientation. But after literally 15-20 seconds, you get it. And then maybe after a level or two, you're really running with it. There is a moment of transition, but it's pretty fleeting.
Tim Spaeth: So, I played through Firefighter in a couple nights, had a great time. And I have to ask you about this level, 'cause it left such an impression on me—the museum level. You're going through the game; it's pretty much grounded in reality. These are actual situations that could occur in real life; these are real things firefighters would do. You get to the museum level. You're at the top of the museum; you're at the planetarium. All the sudden, the sun falls from the ceiling and rolls through the museum—it's on fire—rolls into the lobby, you go down to the lobby and now the sun is shooting fireballs. And you're dodging fireballs in the lobby of a museum. And I'm thinking to myself: "This is great!" I have to know what was going through your heads during that, because it was such a crazy, out-of-nowhere boss fight in the middle of this firefighting game. There has to be a story behind it. I must know.
Bryan Jury: Well, our Firefighter technical advisor, it was actually something that he dealt with at one time. [Confused pause] Oh, nah, I'm kidding. [Laughter] We had a designer that ended up not finishing the project with us for one reason or another. But that was his level originally, and the level went through about three or four iterations before we finally got the final version of the level. That one and the Neighborhood one were kind of problem children. But it was his idea to have the sun rolling around causing havoc, and then when he left, somebody wanted to cut that. I'm like: "That's great! It seems so ridiculous, over the top, but it's cool that you enjoyed it. We didn't have any resources to spend, so exploding the T-Rex skeleton, we put resources on that, just 'cause we thought it was cool. We weren't going for ultra-realism obviously with the game; we were happy to get some video game moments in there.
Tim Spaeth: It just stood out as you guys must've just had a blast on that particular fight; just like: "Let's go nuts!" I really liked that moment.
Bryan Jury: I'm glad you liked it; that's cool. It is one of my more favorite moments. It's so ridiculous.
Tim Spaeth: Well, we'll look for more information soon on Rock of the Dead, coming this summer. I can't wait; I'm there. I'm absolutely there. So, thank you, Bryan, for that. Let's move over to Nathan and talk about Shoot1UP. I have played though it. Brad, I think you played through it.
Brad Gallaway: Multiple times, yeah.
Tim Spaeth: I've been through it twice, and the first impression is: "This is a game that's worth way more than 80 Microsoft points. This is a steal at that price, sir.
Nathan Fouts: Thank you, sir; thank you. Yeah, it's an experiment. We'll see if it just totally screws our future projects or not.
Tim Spaeth: Because now there's the expectation that all Nathan Fouts's games will be 80 Microsoft points?
Nathan Fouts: Yeah, exactly. Or if I make something for 400, then it has to be five times as good as Shoot1UP. I don't know.
It's gonna be tough. Like I said, it's an experiment, just on the dollar market to see if it would work. There's a lot of psychology behind it, but basically it would just be: "Go buy it right now."
Tim Spaeth: So I'll give you the same opportunity I gave Bryan, and that is: What is the 30 second logline for Shoot1UP for those who aren't familiar with it?
Nathan Fouts: Shoot1UP is a shoot-em-up. It's a vertical scrolling game. Instead of just having your nuts in a vice and barely being able to get past the first level, this is a forgiving, enjoyable shoot-em-up, where you sit back and have fun. In this game, every 1Up that you get turns into an instantly playable player ship. By the end of a couple levels, you can be flying around with literally a dozen ships all blasting out and shooting giant lasers everywhere.
Tim Spaeth: I love the look of this game. It calls back to some old PC shooters I used to play. There was one in particular called If It Moves, Shoot It! which is probably ten or 15 years old. The look of the game is fantastic, but what I really like about the game is the risk/reward mechanic with the triggers. I love the triggers in this game. If you hold the right trigger, your fleet spreads out and you get more firepower, but of course you put yourself at risk, having your fleet spread out. If you pull the left trigger, your fleet contracts so it's easier to dodge things, but you don't have as much firepower. It seems like the whole game is based around risk and reward. There's branching paths: if you take the harder path you're more likely to die, but there's more points to be earned. There's just a lot of choice in this game—much more than I would have expected.
Nathan Fouts: Yeah. To me, the shoot-em-up genre is just ripe with possibilities, and I can't wait to make another. I've probably got a dozen different things I'd like to try out. If I can, I like to inject player choice into a game, because games are about interactivity. Why don't we have some different, higher-level interactivities in a game rather than just the primary gameplay mechanic, like just kill things or just unlock puzzles, or something like that? That's how the branching paths came about. And the risk/reward mechanic: since the game is about getting more ships and getting more power, I tried to ratchet on as many possible interesting little concepts onto it, to just make it feel more whole. So that's where the risk/reward and the powers increasing and the more ships that you get [came from.]
Brad Gallaway: I was instantly captivated by the whole mechanic of the giant laser being being shot from the middle of the ship cluster when they're extended. I've played quite a number of shooters and I haven't really come across anything that was quite like that. Was there anything in particular that spurred that idea for you? Where did it come from? I thought it was pretty brilliant, and for me, that was the defining characteristic of that game. That's what really puts that game head and shoulders apart from anything else. How'd yuo come up with that? What was the inspiration for that?
Nathan Fouts: Thanks a lot, Brad. I'm really glad you like it. Because this game was an experiment, and because it was gonna be a lot smaller in scope, the game almost came out without that. [Laughter]
Brad Gallaway: Ah, man. Can I just say that would have been disaster. I love your games, and I love you, but man, that would've sucked hard. [Laughter] I'm glad you didn't do that.
Nathan Fouts: Oh, I know! What I've loved about developing Shoot1UP is it's been so dynamic and just so fast. It's just been wild making this thing, because the choices, picking out the designs that could go in with them or not, has been so fast. Within less than four months, the whole development…
So that particular mechanic, I took it in front of my best friend, and you can thank him. My best friend, by the way, is Matt Griffin. He invented the Baker's Edge, and it's a brownie pan that only has edges. He actually was just featured on CBS Sunday Morning this morning.
Brad Gallaway: [Laughter] Dude, that is brilliant! When you see him, tell him I'm totally buying one of those. Everybody knows the edges are the best part of brownies. I'm gonna tell my wife right now.
Nathan Fouts: [Laughter] But anyway, he and I grew up playing games. He's the guy that I play games with all the time, and I put it down in front of him, knowing I hadn't played it much before. And he played it and he liked it. We play shoot-em-ups all the time. Previously [in Shoot1UP] the score multiplier was what connected to spreading out your ships. So you could spread them out more and you'd be in more trouble, but you could get a higher score. And I wish I'd thought of it. He was like: "Put some kind of gameplay connected to spreading out your ships." And I'm like [sarcastically]: "Wow! Gameplay. Right, that's awesome." And the rest is history.
The gameplay connection is basically, I liked Metal Black. It's on the Saturn; it's a weird shoot-em-up with all kinds of freaky, wild mechanical aliens. And it does the Dragonball Z thing. I'm not a huge Dragonball Z fan, but it had a Mega Blast in this Metal Black game, where you fight with these giant laser beams. It's really cool. The actual game's not that fun, but the concept's really cool. And I just thought I would love to see something like that. I want a lot of power to come out of your ships. And also, like Batsugun and DoDonPachi, all the classic bullet hell games, those were inspiration, too, in terms of doing the art for the plasma auger. The plasma auger is the mega shot that you get. It almost didn't come to be, and I'm a moron for not thinking of it originally.
Chi Kong Lui: The first time the giant laser happened while I was playing, I was like: "How did that happen? How do I get that to happen again?" [Laughter]
Brad Gallaway: "Do that again!" [Laughter]
Chi Kong Lui: And once I figured it out, I was just totally hooked on it. I'm not so much of a score whore when it comes to playing these kinds of games, so yeah, I'm totally glad that you attached that to it. It definitely made it a big hook for me.
Brad Gallaway. Totally. When I saw that the first time, I'm like: "Oh, my God! Massive energy penis! This rocks!" [Laughtr] It totally made the game. by far. So give your friend my regards.
Nathan Fouts: [Unknown] It's funny that you said "massive energy penis," and [mentioned] the naked woman level [earlier.] A lot of people think that kind of stuff is juvenile, and I'm not saying it's not. It totally is; it's very teenager-y. But at least in my head, I like to pretend that I'm exploring some sort of gender agression issues and that kind of stuff. You know, women are intimidating; they're coming at you with their breasts. Honest to goodness, that was in my head when I was designing this stuff. I know it doesn't come across like that.
Brad Gallaway: That's exactly what I thought of, yeah.
Chi Kong Lui: That's a great sell for the wife, right?
Nathan Fouts: She's not buying it, she says. [Laughter]
Mike Bracken: It's a feminist manifesto.
Tim Spaeth: Did you intend for a culture of high score to form around this game? It does seem geared towards high score competitions, but there's no mechanism in the indie games—I don't believe—to have an online leaderboard.
Nathan Fouts: There is a broken, ad hoc method you can use for creating these half-assed, shared leaderboards, and some of the games support that. I just look at it from a consumer standpoint: I'll buy one of these games and I'll look at the leaderboards, and it'll say no one's in first place. It'll say no one's in my global leaderboards. And then I'll think it's broken. But then, apparently, if you wait long enough, it shares it or something. I'm not implementing that. That's, like, crap. [If] something gets fixed, [when] there's proper leaderboards, I'll do it.
As for the game itself, I love Giga Wing, and I love gigantic scores, so I like the concept of having these two score levels. You play the game on Normal, and you're like: "Oh, cool! I'm doing pretty well. I've got 10 million [points]." And then your friend's like, "Oh, that's nothing. I got 120 million." And you're like, "How the hell did you get that?" You figure out the shield system; once you figure out that, you get these ridiculous scores. I love that system, because you can kill a single enemy and get a million point drop out of him—or even higher. It's nuts. I think that's exhilirating when I see that as a player.
Now, with that said, Bryan's mentioned the messageboards. I try not to eat while I'm reading those. But again, they are definitely useful, because you get a barometer of what everybody's feeling. A few people have mentioned that they feel like it's just too excessive; that the shield mechanism breaks some of the scoring. In the next update, I'm looking at introducing a slightly tweaked score multiplier system based on a shield that'll hopefully be a little bit more addictive but also a little bit more reasonable, in terms of how the scores are meted out.
Tim Spaeth Yeah; I didn't figure out the shield system until towards the end of my second playthrough. I don't quite know how this works in the game, but obviously, if you don't shoot, your shield forms and then when you shoot after your shield forms, this explosion happens and you can one-hit-kill and get these massive scores. But what effect does the shield actually have on your individula ships? How many hits does it protect me from? Is there a benefit to keeping the shield up and not firing?
Nathan Fouts: That's a good point, and something I'd like to address in an update to hopefully make that more clear. It's a tough one. Basically, that circular shield protects you against nothihng. That's not a shield; that's the shield of being ready. And I made it a circle so that you'd know where the shield will affect once you shoot.
But I'm trying to think of better ways to communicate that, so that people know it's not an active shield. So I called it a "flash shield," because once you press the shoot button, it's active for about four frames of the game—a split second. It's there to basically stop bullets. But an advanced player will use it to kill enemies.
Like I said at the beginning, this whole game is built [to draw] more action gamers into shoot-em-ups, because I think they'll dig them. But I also think they're put off by shoot-em-ups. This game is easy to get into, and that more advanced stuff is out there for the harder-core guys that have been actually digging it.
You let [the shield] warm up; it doesn't do anything. It actually grows in size the longer you let it warm up. And then when you press the shoot button, it instantly kills bullets and it delivers damage to anything within range. Because it acts over a few frames, it's really strong. And if you can get multiple ships around, all of their shields going, and zap something, you really can [nip?] the crap out of it. So that's how you get the one-hit kills.
Tim Spaeth Thank you for that explanation; I'm going to go back and try that now.
Brad Gallaway: I don't know why you didn't put that in the introduction. It only took you paragraphs to explain it.
Nathan Fouts: Honestly, I tried to make it kind of like in Raiden Fighters Aces. A lot of that gameplay that I like about that whole collection is, the gameplay just comes about as you play more. Like Tim said, he played and figured it out. Hopefully I've made it intuitive enough that people can get it, once they try out the tutorial at the beginning and they see the controls, But I am looking at ways to hone it and make it much better, so we'll see.
Tim Spaeth To close things out here, we are frequently asked by our listeners whenever we have guests to ask what other games the guests have been playing, if you even have time to be a real gamer and play video games just for fun. Bryan, I'll start with you: Have you had an opportunity to play anything outside of work? If so, what was it and what were your thoughts?
Bryan Jury: I kind of got lucky, and I had the flu for about three weeks in January.
Mike Bracken: [Laughter] "I got lucky; I had the flu."
Bryan Jury: Absolutely. It allowed me to finish Mass Effect 2 and BioShock 2 back to back, 'cause I did nothing but sleep and sit on the couch. It was incredibly lucky. Both games were a lot of fun. Based on Brad's recommendation from a while ago, I played 'Splosion Man as well. That was pretty cool.
Tim Spaeth Excellent. We will refrain from asking you a detailed Mass Effect 2 opinion, lest Brad disconnect immediately from the call. [Laughter] Nathan, what about you? Have you had a chance to play anything recently?
Nathan Fouts: Well, I'm definitely jealous of Bryan's flu. [Laughter] I've been playing Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Raiden IV, New Super Mario Bros. on the Wii, and Blaster Master: Overdrive, and [unknown].
Mike Bracken: Wow. You're a busy man.
Nathan Fouts: No. That's 15-30 minutes a day that I play. I cycle them all. I've got them saved everywhere at different points.
Tim Spaeth Groovy, groovy. Interesting [about] Blaster Master: Overdrive. Some people have made comparisons between Blaster Master and Grapple Buggy. You're not doing research, presumably, but people have made that comparison. What would you say?
Nathan Fouts: Oh, it's absolutely research.
I've gotta say, whatever that is—a zipline—completely sucks, so that's awesome. If they enjoy Blaster Master: Overdrive, their heads are gonna pop off when they play Grapple Buggy. That's all I gotta say.
Tim Spaeth Fantastic. And when can we expect a release date on Grapple Buggy?
Nathan Fouts: Can I get an echo effect on this when I say: The future.
If the Live Arcade deal works out, then it would be a while. But if it doesn't, then possibly this fall. We'll see. Keep an eye on the website.
Tim Spaeth We will do that. I'm gonna close things up by saying our goodnights: Nathan Fouts, Mommy's Best Games; Shoot1UP is on Xbox Live Indie Games right now for the insane bargain price of 80 Microsoft points; Grapple Buggy upcoming. Nathan, thanks so much for coming back and being on the show with us again.
Nathan Fouts: Absolutely. It was a real blast. Thanks everybody, and eat more pie.
Tim Spaeth Always good advice.
Nathan Fouts: If any of you guys are going to GDC, I'll be there next week, Tuesday to Friday. And we'll be at PAX East too, at the booth, actually. Here's the deal, everybody: Come to PAX East at Mommy's Best Games booth. And if you mention that you heard us on the GameCritics podcast, you get a free Grapple Buggy bumper sticker.
Mike Bracken: Awesome.
Tim Spaeth Nice. Now, here's the thing: If nobody shows up, you must never tell me, because that would be the most depressing thing ever.
Bryan Jury, Epicenter Studios. The next game is Rock of the Dead, coming to the Wii soon. Look for news on their website.
Bryan Jury: Yeah, that's right. And I'd like to say, during this conversation Nathan actually just sold me a copy of Shoot1UP, so I'm looking forward to playing it. I will play anything that's two player co-op, especially at a dollar. You'd be stupid not to buy this.
Nathan Fouts: Thanks, Bryan. That's awesome.
Tim Spaeth I believe we call that synergy. So, again, thank you both so much for joining us, and do come back any time. My thanks also to Chi Kong Lui, Brad Gallaway, Mike Bracken, Bob Costas, and of course, you the listener. My voice is almost shot, so I'll wrap it up by saying I'm Tim Spaeth. Good night and bonne chance.
[As closing music plays]
Nathan Fouts: Which one of you hated the trigger controls on Weapon of Choice?
Chi Kong Lui: That was Mike, actually, 'cause Mike wasn't on the [previous] show.
Mike Bracken: Yeah. It was me and Tim.
Tim Spaeth That's right; I took all the heat for that.
Mike Bracken: You took all the heat for me on that one? Thank you. I've sense come to think that "hate" is too strong a word.
Nathan Fouts: Have you played the update?
Mike Bracken: No, I haven't. My 360 red-ringed and it's out of warranty and I still haven't gotten it fixed.
Nathan Fouts: Ay ay ay. Well, I added in four control schemes now, basically for you guys. Honest to goodness.
Mike Bracken: Excellent! I'm totally flattered by that.
Nathan Fouts: I've gotten some e-mails from people like: "Hey, that's really cool. I use this version versus the other." But basically for you guys, who complained so fucking much.
Mike Bracken: Well, that's my job here; that's my role on the show. I just bitch about everything every week. If I don't, then I don't have anything to say and everybody's like: "Where was Mike this week?"
Nathan Fouts: I wanted to rib you some, but also tell you that it was beneficial.
Mike Bracken: Well, I'm glad, 'cause I really enjoyed the game. It's just the trigger was so counter-intuitive for me, for some reason. I just could never get over the hump with it. I was really digging the game, but I was having a hell of a time playing it for that very reason. I will definitely check [the update] out.
Tim Spaeth First of all, Nathan, that's fantastic, but I had no idea. And maybe this cuts to one of the key problems with the Independent Games platform: If I wasn't podcasting with you, how would I have known that update had been made?
Nathan Fouts: Well, that's a good question. It actually kind of solves itself, because I tend to podcast with every person that bought the game. [Laughter] I just personally call and say: "Hey, Dan! How's it going? By the way, I updated." The next on my list, I call them and then it's done. You guys are the last guys on the list, so everybody knows now.
Brad Gallaway: That's pretty fantastic customer service; that's outstanding. [Laughter]
Nathan Fouts: Hey, this is how we do it. It's a totally broke system; it's really messed up. And Brad, your dinner stuff is awesome on Twitter, I've gotta say.
Brad Gallaway: Oh, seriously? [Laughter]
Nathan Fouts: Menus are always fun to read about. It's really cool.
Brad Gallaway: Okay, cool. I was actually thinking about scaling it back, 'cause there's been a recent backlash against "What are you eating? tweets. But I'll dial it back up for you.
Mike Bracken: I just always wonder how Brad doesn't way 400 pounds, based on what he eats.
Tim Spaeth Yeah. That's a good point.
Mike Bracken: Every time I look, it's like: "I'm having fucking crepes," or "I'm eating pie"—this exotic, fattening food. And I look at at that, and I weigh 300 pounds if I even think about eating it.
Tim Spaeth The bad thing is when you're reading his tweet and you're holding a bowl of Fruity Pebbles. It's like: "Oh, God!"
Nathan Fouts: "I could cry."
Mike Bracken: "What have I done wrong with my life?"
Tim Spaeth Yeah, exactly.
But then a friend introduced her to the seedy underworld of the Mario brothers and she spent her saved-up birthday and Christmas money to buy a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Her mom didn't like the Nintendo at first, but The Legend of Zelda changed her mind. (When Tera got Zelda II: The Adventure of Link one Christmas, she suspected it was as much for her mother as for her).
Though she graduated from Agnes Scott College in 2002 and recently learned how to find the movie theater restroom by herself, Tera still loves video games. Far from being a brain-rotting waste of time, they've helped her practice spatial skills and discover new passions. Her love of games like Kid Icarus and The Battle of Olympus led to a degree in Classical Languages and Literatures. She thinks games have a place in discussions on disability and other cultural issues, and is excited to work with the like-minded staff at GameCritics.com.