Nicoll Hunt is a man who first found indie game fame with Hard Lines, a game for iOS and Android that married the classic simplicity of Snake with the game mechanics of the light bikes from Tron. Featuring quirky humour and a tuneful finale from the developer himself, who very kindly answered some questions for me as he builds up to the release of his next venture, here is FIST OF AWESOME.
FIST OF AWESOME is made from hand-drawn pixel art that brings back nostalgia for ’80s beat ‘em ups, but provides the side-scrolling genre with a modern feel with 8-bit tunes provided by Brendan Ratcliff. Playing across different time periods, you are Jack Lumber, a simple, forest-dwelling man who inexplicably becomes tangled in an interstellar plot that sees you defending important events from remote-controlled animals attempting to undo history.
What made you begin to develop games for the iOS platform?
For the cost of a £150 iPod Touch and a £61ish dev. license from Apple, I can develop games and publish them worldwide when I’m done. It’s such a phenomenally low barrier to entry that to not give it a go seemed like madness!
What would you say your most important influences are?
The ZX Spectrum, SNES and Amiga were where I spent an unhealthy amount of my childhood. In those days British games were king, and I loved the humour of titles like Jet Set Willy, Lemmings and Cannon Fodder. Those games really felt like they had the personality of their creators ingrained throughout. That’s a big part of what I’m trying to recreate now and why I’m such a big supporter of the indie games movement.
If you could work on any game or idea, what would it be?
In all honesty FIST OF AWESOME is my dream project! Every day that I work on it I fall a little bit more in love with it. It sounds cheesy, but sometimes it feels like it’s developing itself and I’m just along for the ride. It’s a really great feeling!
Apart from that though, I’ve always had a hankering to make a massively over the top light-gun game — something like Time Crisis but set in the ’80s and with the script love child of Rambo, Lethal Weapon and Die Hard.
Obviously you’ve experienced success with Hard Lines before, do you think it’s been part of why you’ve now been able to develop FoA?
It definitely is a big part of why I feel I can take on FIST OF AWESOME now. Hard Lines was a tough development process, I was working full time so all my development time was in the evenings and weekends. I’ve since started working part time at my main job (thanks boss!) to dedicate more time to indie dev., which means I can take on a project the size of FIST OF AWESOME without totally burning out.
Hard Lines also taught me a lot about how much people appreciate a well-polished game with its own quirky sense of humour. FIST OF AWESOME will feature all of that, and cranked all the way up to ELEVENTY BILLION!
So tell us a little bit more about FoA (As the sneak peek made me froth a little bit)!
One of the things I’m most proud of so far with FIST OF AWESOME is the control scheme. I’ve played every beat ‘em up style game I can find on the iOS App Store, and they all use virtual controls that cover half the screen. FIST OF AWESOME is different — I’m using the touch screen in a unique way to allow complete control over the character and move set, and not at the expense of covering the screen with joysticks and buttons.
I’m also doing all the art and animation for this game, which is a first for me. Over the past six months I’ve been getting (painfully slowly) better at pixel art and animation — it’s hard work but I feel it really helps add the character I want to the game.
How about your top three favourite indie games?
Oh god, this is a hard one! I try to play as many as possible, and there’s so much good out there. OK, here goes:
World of Goo – It showed what a tiny team can achieve, had a wonderful mix of story and playfulness, and was one of the first big breakout indie hits of recent time
Castle Crashers – I ADORE the art style of Dan Paladin — he’s one of my few heroes that I’ve actually met in real life, and I think this was his best work to date. I did hope that with its release there would be a renaissance of scrolling beat ‘em ups and was a bit sad when that didn’t happen. Hopefully FIST OF AWESOME will make up for that.
Magnetic Billiards – The Pickford Bros literally put themselves into this game, as far as I know it’s the only game where beardy game devs pop up to tell you how well or badly you’re doing! Their personality really shines through the presentation and it’s definitely something that’s inspired my own work.
If you could give any advice to aspiring game developers, what would it be?
MAKE SOMETHING. That’s without doubt the main thing that you need to do. Also don’t think of yourself as a “programmer,” an “artist,” a “designer” or any other role. Try to do everything — it doesn’t matter how good or bad you are when you start off. My first games were hideous in every single possible way. One was even called “the worst game of all time” by a German Amiga magazine. It doesn’t matter — if you want to get good just keep doing it. If you do anything for long enough you’ll get good, and if you keep doing it for long enough after that you’ll get great.
Also, don’t concentrate on the monetization side of things when you start off. In fact I’d encourage making all of your first games completely free. Your first games will be terrible, and the experience and feedback you get from players is FAR more valuable.
Will you be doing the music for the credits screen?
YES! After the success of the credits screen from Hard Lines I think it’s almost expected that I do a song somewhere in the package. I’m already excited to think about what I can do this time and I can confirm that my voice will still be as woefully out of tune! I’ve also got a super duper secret plan for the theme music which I think will blow everyone away!
For more information about FIST OF AWESOME, or other projects Nicoll’s working on, visit his blog.
Kat Jackson is a senior writer for Multiplay Insomnia LAN festivals and is also the Editor in Chief of Bits of Joy, focusing on indie games and game culture.