The tension is building towards another big Radiangames release. Lots of thoughts race through my mind as a big launch approaches. Did I miss any major bugs? Is it fun for new players, or only for experienced ones? Why doesn’t this look as good in screenshots/video as it does in person? Should I have made a different game instead? Is this game “the one”? The last question is the one that lingers most of all. With Defenders of Townsville, it’s less of a do-or-die situation, but if the game is a big success, I’ll have less to worry about.
The big difference this time (compared to Super Crossfire and Bombcats) is obviously The Powerpuff Girls. Some people have expressed surprise that the guy who makes glowy arcade shooters is making a Powerpuff Girls game, but to me it’s a natural intersection of Inferno+ and Bombcats. Bombcats was really the big “what the hell?” game for Radiangames. That was way further out there for me than a Metroidvania-shooter.
As for getting the Powerpuff Girls license: It wasn’t something I went looking for. I was lucky to have stumbled into it because of one guy (Ryan Harwell) at Cartoon Network liking Bombcats and Inferno. I was never really aware that the Powerpuff Girls license might be out of my league until I saw the reaction to my announcement. I’ve worked on big game franchises before (Descent, Red Faction, Saints Row) and on big licenses (The Punisher), and I’d just done an art-heavy character-based game at Radiangames (Bombcats), so there wasn’t anything about the project that felt out of place.
The Dream Game
The other half of the game coming to exist was having a game concept that fit the Powerpuff Girls really well. The big hardcore “dream game” I wanted to do since 2010 was a Metroidvania-shooter called (STILL A GOOD NAME, NOT REVEALING IT SORRY). We’ll call it MVS. I chose to work on Super Crossfire over the MVS concept for my first Unity game because it would make a more natural mobile game, and Super Crossfire would be faster to finish since it was a combination of Crossfire 1 and 2, and I would learn how to port XNA to Unity. But Super Crossfire wasn’t a big success, and I didn’t have the guts/money after Super Crossfire to spend enough time on one big hardcore game to make MVS.
Besides, at GDC 2011 the new hardcore “dream game” for me became a combination of Inferno+ and Spelunky after seeing Derek Yu’s Spelunky presentation (the game is a Rogue-Like Twin Stick Shooter, or RLTSS for short). MVS was now second on the list of dream games after RLTSS.
The next opportunity to choose to do a big hardcore game was in the summer of 2012. Thinking I could make the next big physics-based puzzle game (aka Angry Birds, Cut The Rope, Where’s My Water?), I chose to make Bombcats over RLTSS. In retrospect that wasn’t the smartest decision, particularly when combined with trying to make it free-to-play. Had I made RLTSS with Steam in mind, it probably would have been a big enough success that MVS would have been my next game, and Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville wouldn’t have existed.
So Defender of Townsville’s creation was a very fortunate convergence of there being no PPG game in the works when a TV special was coming soon, me having a game concept that fit the license and not having started a big project at the time, and Ryan taking a chance and emailing me because he liked Inferno and Bombcats. The other thing is, I was this close to not signing the contract when it came time…
We Need To Talk
My stepfather had a long and difficult battle with cancer that was coming to an end last summer. I was starting to work on the Defenders of Townsville during that time, but before a contract had been signed I was having growing doubts. After working on the game for a few weeks, it started to feel a bit like Bombcats to me. It was going to be a big game, with lots of new systems and editors, under the pressure of a deadline, and I would not be able to change my mind once I signed the contract.
I just wanted to spend time with family and be able to do fun things (like take vacations, spend time with my daughters, etc), and was feeling pretty uncertain about whether being self-employed was the best way to make that happen. I’d been at it for almost 3.5 years, and still was struggling with how to make it as an indie developer. If I signed, I would be guaranteeing my family would be in financial limbo for another 6 months.
So I sent Cartoon Network an email: “I’d like to chat with you when you have time” was how it started and I listed a bunch of reasons why I was worried. I was prepared to say I couldn’t sign the contract or do the game during the chat. Obviously that didn’t happen, as Ryan and Zach (my producer) were very understanding and talked me down from the ledge while modifying the plans so I felt more comfortable about how the game would proceed.
I can’t say my fears were completely unfounded, because it was a ton of work to finish the game. But it did get finished. For the third time, I’m now left wondering if this game is “the one”?
Even though Defenders of Townsville won’t end Radiangames if it fails, it will still be a big disappointment if it doesn’t succeed. Many things had to line up just right for the game to exist, it seemed like a perfect fit from the beginning, and I’m proud to have made a game that promotes girls kicking ass. If it succeeds, it turns Bombcats into a blessing in disguise. The third time will be the charm.
While making the game, I didn’t have time to think about any of those things. I just had to get it done. But now I have time to think and wonder what will happen, and think more about how it happened. Expectations are always so difficult to manage, and despite all my efforts it’s really hard for me not to
expect hope for this game to be “the one”. I don’t believe in jinxes, but even admitting that I have high hopes feels like I’ve done something wrong.
Something that I don’t feel wrong hoping for: That you’ll enjoy the game when you play it.
On a less serious/introspective note: The Powerpuff Girls: Defenders of Townsville soundtrack is now available to stream! And you’ve even got choices on how to stream it: Bandcamp or SoundCloud. All the music was written in-house, so if you do/don’t like it, direct your hate/love this direction. Or keep it bottled up inside if you prefer. I’m not sure I can bear to read it either way.
Luckily we were able to post the entire soundtrack for streaming, though if it ever becomes available for download, some of the tracks might not be available (anything with the original PPG theme in it).
While you’re listening to the soundtrack, be sure to visit the Steam Store page for the game if you haven’t yet. Well, I should say visit now, and visit again on Friday when you can actually buy the game. Until then…