Most of the indie developers that I’ve met so far have been individual people who wanted to program games on their own. A few of them teamed up with friends to form their own companies. Nick and Joe Gravelyn were the first brothers that I came across that formed their own indie developer company called Brushfire Games.
The brothers teamed up with Ty Lagalo and Dan Waters to release their first game: Shipwreck.
The game looks like it’s incredible fun, a tribute to old school games like Legend of Zelda. Let’s face it, this is my type of game. So I’m a touch bias when I tell people to head to their site, http://brushfiregames.com/shipwreck/, and purchase it. You can get it for your PC or download it through XBL. It costs $3, which is a very good deal considering what you get!
I was able to interview Nick. Let me tell you, I liked him a lot. He’s the type of guy who isn’t afraid to admit when he doesn’t know something then will go out of his way to learn it. That’s the type of guy you want working on something because you know he’ll do a great job on it. Plus, we have similar tastes in games. So I’m very much bias there!
Without further adieu, let’s get started with the interview.
Press Start To Begin: Hello there Nick! Let’s jump right into it. Tell me about Shipwreck. What was your thought process behind it?
Nick Gravelyn: At the start of 2013, I was looking to make a serious move into independent game development. I knew I wanted to make a “big” game so I started looking at the old Zelda games because I’ve always been a big fan. Link to the Past is one of my favorite games of all time so that was a huge inspiration. The gameplay definitely came first and over time we tweaked the story/design into Shipwreck as it is now.
Press Start To Begin: The gameplay looks very much inspired by Zelda. So besides all the work you put into the game, is there anything about making the game that stands out to you?
Nick Gravelyn: Personally I’m most fond of the art and music because I didn’t do them. I’m hyper critical of myself and can find flaws in every aspect of the game that I did. The art and music, though, I think are fantastic and really tell the story of the game. Both turned out way beyond what I had imagined when I started this journey. Dan Waters (who did all the audio) and Ty Lagalo (our art master) really nailed it and Shipwreck wouldn’t be nearly what it is without them.
Press Start To Begin: Since this was the team’s first game, was there any unexpected challenges that came up along the way?
Nick Gravelyn: Honestly I’d say we didn’t have many unexpected challenges, but since this was our first game that either of us have tried to design, we had some stumbles along the way. Level design, enemy design, narrative, etc. These are skills we didn’t really have prior to Shipwreck and I think completing it has really taught us a lot that we’ll be applying to our games in the future.
Press Start To Begin: That’s very cool. I’ve had the same thing with a lot of projects I try… it always demands skills that I didn’t have before. So, what made you want to get into video game development anyways?
Nick Gravelyn: We’ve always been into games. When we were just little kids our dad brought home an NES from an old video store he ran and we’ve been playing games ever since. When I was a teen I took a summer programming course and decided that programming video games was what I wanted to do. And, like most people, we’d play games and say “They should’ve done X or I would’ve done Y like this.” As game developers we can now make the games that we want.
Press Start To Begin: Do you have any future plans for Shipwreck or your next game?
Nick Gravelyn: Right now we’re trying to drum up as much exposure for Shipwreck, especially with us on Steam Greenlight now, but we’re also deep into designing and prototyping our next title which we’re planning to release on Xbox One. We’re hoping to have our next game out late 2014 or early 2015. We’re not doing much planning past that point yet because our future beyond that will largely depend on the success of Shipwreck and our next game.
Press Start To Begin: And now that you are developers, how does it feel?
Nick Gravelyn: We’ve only just started with the Xbox One but we’re incredibly excited to be a part of the new generation. We think there’s a huge potential to being in the program in the first six months of a console.
Press Start To Begin: Let’s change pace a little bit. You’re a gamer at heart like the rest of us! What sorts of games do you enjoy playing?
Nick Gravelyn: I’m really all over the place with genres. Most recently I’ve enjoyed Titanfall, The Novelist, To The Moon, Spelunky, and Eldritch. I try not to be too worried about genres when picking games to play, instead looking at reviews and common opinions, but I don’t find myself very drawn to RPGs or other games that require many many hours to complete. I like games that can either be played to completion in a few hours or have smaller gameplay chunks I can play again and again.
Press Start To Begin: And what about a favorite developer? For me, it’s Shigeru Miyamoto. That’s probably the answer for most people, but that guy could make fun games! What about you?
Nick Gravelyn: I’ve never really thought in terms of having a favorite. I am excited to see what The Novelist creator Kent Hudson does next because I thought that game was incredibly powerful and, between that and To The Moon, has really changed how I look at stories and design in games. Which reminds me I need to go replay The Novelist before I get too far into development of my next game and don’t have time for it. 🙂
Press Start To Begin: Other than video games, what do you do for fun?
Nick Gravelyn: I’m one of those people that is fairly narrow focused. To support and fund Brushfire I do contract work during the day, so all my personal game development happens at night. It’s a lot of coding and game development, but it’s what I’m passionate about.
I don’t really read much and while I go to the occasional movie, I tend to be behind the times with those. That said I love music and listen to it when at all possible. Lately I’ve been into Coldplay, Broken Bells, Bastille, Young the Giant, Imagine Dragons, Bruno Mars, Cold War Kids, Miles Davis, and Macklemore. I like to span a range of music as I think there’s good stuff in most genres and it can be inspirational to keep that open mind. Plus different music is great for different times or moods or goals. Macklemore can get me excited and pumped up to buckle down on some code while Miles Davis is great for some late night design where I just need something to listen to that is a little more mellow.
Press Start To Begin: That’s awesome! Okay, final question. I love asking all the developers this question. Let’s pretend you had an unlimited budget. What sort of video game would you love to develop?
Nick Gravelyn: Deep down I would love to make a 3D adventure game like Ocarina of Time or Shadow of the Colossus. A grand world with a great story and engaging gameplay. I know that’d require quite the budget and likely skills I’ve yet to develop, but it’s really one of my dream projects.
Press Start To Begin: Thank you very much for your time! It was a lot of fun!
Right now, Brushfire Games is trying to get this game on Steam. If it’s something you would like to see on it, please click the link below. It’s always good to support people who make such a great effort like them.
Take care all!