Welcome to Show and Tell, a Kotaku regular where we speak to indie devs about what they're working on. Today we have Ethan Watson from Agents of Chaos. You may know Ethan as the guy from Melbourne's most recent Game Jam where he made a game covered in Matt Damon's head (All Matt Damon Mode is an easter egg that can be access via a hidden button on the extreme top right of the screen in the original version of the game). He also implemented a Matt Damon chat feature into said game. Now he's working on something new! Can you introduce yourself and tell me a little bit about your studio?
My name's Ethan Watson, and I'm the Keyboard Tapping Overlord at Agents of Chaos.
I've been tapping away at the keyboard professionally since 2003. I was at Krome Studios for most of the last decade. In my time there I worked on the Ty the Tasmanian Tiger games, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, and Game Room. I've worked a few other jobs since it's mostly-demise, and last year I finally started up Agents of Chaos with two other guys after talking about it for years.
What game are you working on at the moment?
We are currently working on a game called Mining For Profits! And before you ask, no it's not a Minecraft rip off. For some reason, that's the first thing people think whenever they see the word "mine" or "craft" in a game's title these days. It's probably a good thing we didn't call it Mining For Scrolls! I guess.
But back to the point. The game puts forward the question: What would happen if you gave Nigerian email scammers your money, and they turned out to be legit? Our theoretical answer is that, after putting forward more money than anyone else, they set up a mining operation that you have control over. To that end, you are provided with custom built software to manage your progress and to provide direct remote control over the actual mining. However, in a cost cutting measure, a group of out-of-work game developers were hired to create the software because no one else would work for that little money. To stop themselves going insane developing corporate software (and because game developers obviously don't know how to develop corporate software) they made it look like a game. This was caught too late in to the development process by the Nigerians, so now you're stuck with the gamified software.
[Editor's note: this sounds friggin' insane.]
The aim of the game is to enter mines and collect gems while avoiding the cave bugs, all in the quest to make many Stacks Of Cash for you and your bosses. You are given remote control of the Rock Destroyer Five Billion, which is a mix between a drilling machine, lawn mower, hot rod, and Chernobyl. Obstensibly a puzzle-action game, it is a bit of a throwback to the gameplay of Boulderdash, Pac-Man, and Bomberman; with specific levels taking more direct inspiration from games as diverse as H.E.R.O.
As you might be able to tell, the comedy quotient is turned up to eleven.
Many of the features are currently implemented. The art, however, is not. It's mostly placeholder at the moment, and calling it a bit ordinary is far too kind a compliment. This brings up the dilemma of needing to afford an artist to whip the game in to shape visually. To solve that problem, we've started up a crowdsourcing fund through Pozible. Why not Kickstarter? Well, you need to have an American address to run a campaign on Kickstarter, which we are lacking. Pozible is a local equivalent, and has seen success for many diverse local projects.
Where and when can we play?
We're taking a bit of a different approach to game crowd sourcing. Rather than show videos and talk about what we intend to do, we've actually created a build that you can play in a web browser that is compatible with the Unity web player. You can play it right now (or, at least, once it caches in your browser) via the Pozible profile, or directly from our website if you're the kind of person that doesn't like being led the long way around to the game. The version that we've uploaded has had some of the features and levels removed — the email system, for example, is nowhere to be seen in this demo. What is there will give you a firm idea of how the actual mining part of the game plays. If you think it isn't rubbish, drop us a few bucks. And if you want to play the full game sooner than everyone else, pick the beta testing tier.
What’s next for your studio — any big plans?
There's plenty of big plans. The way we figure it, we can't be a true indie studio without at least one pretentious arty project in the pipeline. In this particular case, I've been thinking about the game for several years trying to work out just exactly how it could be made without putting an insane amount of work in to it. If you consider that MFP is us trying to do a Michael Bay movie, the pretentious game we want to do is like if we were trying to do a David Lynch movie. I'd really like to talk about it more, but I'd also really like to wait until we have at least a polished prototype to show off.
Of course, that will probably make us $0 in profit. The plan is that we make profitable games — which we classify as "pure gaming" — and use the money to fund our pretentious, experimental titles. There's a few ideas we've got floating around. If MFP goes well there is plans afoot for the multiplayer sequel "Mining For Other People's Profits!" There's a few other pure gaming ideas I've been thinking about over the last couple of years, but I'll talk more about them another time.
Any words of advice for those who want to get into the games industry?
A fairly common thing that pops up is that someone wants to get in to the game industry, and when asked what area specifically they want to get in to they have no idea what you're talking about. The first thing you need to do is work out what you'll be good at and what you enjoy. Enjoy drawing? You'll want to do some art courses and build up your skillset. Tried programming at school and enjoyed it? Do a computer science degree. Thinking game design is your thing? You're not alone. I've preferred working with game designers that have a background in art or programming. If you know the kind of work that's involved with what you're asking people to do, the designs tend to be a lot more achieveable. This is also a good idea if you want to be a producer — do the management courses, and also learn a thing or two about programming and resource creation.
TL;DR — Find out what you're good at, then get great at it. Then apply for jobs with your demo reel/programs - alternately, if your parents are loaded make some indie games and live off their wallet and help get the Australian industry back up to strength.