If you’ve been noticing Shahid Ahmad’s handsome mug plastered all over gaming websites recently you may be wondering if Sony’s commitment to indie development is just hype or if there’s some actual truth to the notion that Sony is the best place for indie development right now.
The story of Coconut Dodge might give you a clue.
I was part of a team who wrote a game on a different system’s indie platform a few years ago – and it seemed like nothing had changed in all the years I’ve been writing games. Without a publisher behind you, you were essentially throwing your game release into the Marianas Trench, never to be seen again.
That can be a little crushing.
Like a lot of programmers too moralistic or too stupid to get a job in the banking sector, I spent the next few years being passed around by various companies like a cheap bathroom concubine. One place I was packaged off to, tied and gagged with an apple in my mouth, was called FuturLab.
The manager, a chap called James Marsden, treated me with kindness and we set to work on a game called Drop The Beat. It didn’t go anywhere but we did end up with a working sprite and sound engine for the PSP, along with some contacts. It wasn’t a fancy engine – we didn’t presume to give it a cool name (I quite like The Polynator, but apparently that’s rude) – but it handled the basics and allowed us to start work on updating an old FuturLab Flash game to run on the PlayStation Portable. Sony was genuinely supportive, so FuturLab decided to self-fund Coco’s development and we set to work.
Coconut Dodge isn’t a huge game in coding terms – it isn’t even as big as the code for Velocity’s menu system – but making it was fun and everybody who played the test versions enjoyed it. In the week before release we were still cramming in extra modes and polishing gameplay – you do that when something is dear to you and you’re working as part of a small team.
Without the ease of development on a fixed system, the mature Sony libraries and their technical support – not to mention somewhere to actually release the game (the Minis platform) – Coconut Dodge would never have been made and FuturLab would be yet another brief blip in the gaming landscape of failed software devs. Or even worse James would have returned to making Flash games and I’d still be dancing naked for coins down the docks.
Coconut Dodge came out at the turn of the decade and won plaudits and even mentions in Kotaku and IGN. It opened doors which we then pushed open even further with Velocity – which was inspired by many of the mechanics in Coconut Dodge. Unusually the game was popular with both guys and girls – that was particularly gratifying.
EA asked for a mobile phone version, Marmalade wanted a tablet version, we were interviewed on websites and YouTube – it was an exciting time. More importantly we now had the leverage and recognition to create something bigger.
And now, for PlayStation Vita, we have given our first game an HD overhaul, along with modern requirements like an online leaderboard and trophies. We think it’s a fitting update to the game that kept us in the industry. If you have the good taste to pick up a copy when it releases on 5th June we’re sure you’ll enjoy it!