Interview with “Angry Newton” (Mr. Gravity)

Posted: 2011/04/28 in Indie Games

Angry Newton is a team of students taking a game development course who are about to release their first Xbox Live Indie Game (XBLIG). In the following interview we talk about what it’s like to work with the XNA development community, their gravity-based game Mr. Gravity, why they’re not allowed to submit their game to Microsoft’s Dream.Build.Play competition, and much more.

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WMD: I like to do interviews/news pieces on upcoming games, because I generally won’t review a game until it falls off the new release list either. This lets me promote a quality new game that way, plus review it later when it’s no longer top of mind. I did that for “Shield the Beat” for example.

Tyler Robinson: I personally think that’s a good methodology. As newcomers to XBLIG we have only heard of how hard it is to keep the attention of the customers.

WMD: Writings of Mass Deduction was created as a response to that. Can each of you tell me your full names and where you hail from?

Curtis Taylor: Curtis Taylor from West Haven, UT.

Kamron Egan: Kamron Egan, from Layton, Utah.

Tyler Robinson: I’m Tyler Robinson; Born and raised in Salt Lake City, UT.

Nate Bradford: Nate Bradford from Sandy, UT.

William Black: William Lukas Black. Herriman, UT currently (raised West Valley City UT).

Steven Doxey: Steven Doxey. My family hails from Utah, but for the most part I grew up outside of the state.

WMD: And I’m Steven Hurdle from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Thank you all for being here. How did your team come together?

Tyler Robinson: Last semester we enrolled in the Senior EAE Capstone class at the University of Utah. Our team was developed through voting on individual pitches that we all developed (30 people in the class, approximately). Our professors organized us into a team based on the “best” pitches, and what we wanted to work on.

Curtis Taylor: This is the route we all took for a senior project.

WMD: For those who don’t know (such as me :) ), what’s a “Senior EAE” class?

Nate Bradford: EAE is a specific track inside the U where students from Computer Science and Film background get together to make games/movies. EAE is Entertainment Arts and Engineering.

William Black: The capstone course we are in specifically focuses on making a game over 2 semesters, and hopefully publishing said game.

Curtis Taylor: http://eae.utah.edu/ This is the website for the program.

WMD: You have a game that’s making its way through the XBLIG peer review process, what would you tell someone about your game who knows nothing about it?

Steven Doxey: Mr. Gravity is a maze based puzzle game where the player changes the pull of gravity to guide the character through the mazes.

Tyler Robinson: Peer review is a process that enforces quality control on the indie market. Since Microsoft doesn’t moderate the indie market, we, as developers, are meant to verify bug free games are making onto the market that is truly independent.

Tyler Robinson: Since we review games from our peers, we also expect our peers to review our game. This is actually a major battle against filling the market with games that spam the market, like Avatar games that sell but may not be any good or even work. It also allows us to verify that no one is breaking the rules in the market.

Kamron Egan: Or the always humorous “massage” games…

Steven Doxey: Each maze has three challenges based on speed, collecting gems, and staying alive. The biggest challenge comes from trying to get the highest rank in each of these categories.

WMD: What were the inspirations for the game?

Nate Bradford: The idea was initially Tyler’s.

William Black: Visual-wise games/movies like Tron, Geometry Wars and Lumines inspired the art design.

Tyler Robinson: My original pitch was actually extremely simple. I think everyone has played at least one game that toys with gravity a little bit, and it is a good gimmick, but I thought about making an entire game where the character only falls. Giving the player with 4 directions of gravity they can do things that require some serious thinking to get around.

Steven Doxey: For the music, Lumines was also a reference as well as classic games like Super Mario Bros.

Nate Bradford: The game itself has a retro feel to it. We drew a lot from classic games.

Tyler Robinson: So much so, that we added an entire world that has some throwbacks to some old games.

WMD: Why did you choose the XNA development platform, and the XBLIG distribution platform?

Tyler Robinson: It was a class requirement, BUT I think that the community is so big and so new that it is easy to actually grow from these small little seeds that already exist.

Kamron Egan: Creator’s club memberships are also made available to students for free through the MSDNAA [Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance].

Curtis Taylor: I believe that the professors chose XNA because it is an easy platform to develop on and the XBLIG market is easy to work with. I should also say that XNA is easy, yet powerful.

WMD: What price point are you targeting, and what do you think of the XBLIG price points?

Kamron Egan: 80 Microsoft Points.

WMD: The XNA development community, of which XBLIG is a part, has been heralded by many developers. How have you found working with the community? Has it lived up to its billing for you?

Curtis Taylor: I have found it has lived up to that very well. It is a very generous and helpful community.

Kamron Egan: Many of the members of the community are very knowledgeable of Xbox “oddities” such on items on the “Evil List”. Without some of there suggestions, I don’t think we ever would have sorted out all these issues within our game. For example, just a few days ago a community member came to our rescue telling us about an error in our game when switching from “Trial” version to “Full” version of our game.

Tyler Robinson: I’ve actually really been surprised. Since we are kind of in a restricted environment, we really only have time to work on the game and then go back to working on other things in school. It really is remarkable to see how many people are regularly sharing code, playtesting and peer reviewing. It takes a lot of time to do these things, so its remarkable how many people are standing behind it so strong.

Kamron Egan: That kind of community really promotes growth and excellent games through this kind of critical peer review.

WMD: Do you intend to keep developing games past this class project, and if so would you do so as a team or individually?

Curtis Taylor: I personally would love to as a hobby, maybe not so much in a professional environment. That may change in the future though.

Tyler Robinson: It would be really cool, but most of us are taking separate ways out of college. We do want to at least bring Mr. Gravity to platforms like Android, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 (or 8…depending on when we get around to it). I definitely plan on working on games in the future as a hobby and as a profession (though possibly not indie).

Kamron Egan: I am continuing on at the University of Utah in the Masters Game Studio Program, but I would love to work with this team again, especially to expand the platforms that Mr. Gravity is available on.

William Black: I would like to find work on an art team with a local game developer, but it would be cool to work together on a project as a team again.

Steven Doxey: I want to continue developing games, and would welcome the chance to work with this team again. I’m also not sure if it will be professionally, or even be limited to electronic games.

Nate Bradford: My career walks many worlds, but ideally I’d like to do animation for movies rather than games. I am not opposed to working on games in the future.

WMD: Has there been anyone else who has participated in the game’s development?

Nate Bradford: Yes. We have outsourced some music to a few friends. Michelle MacArt and Cuyler Stuwe have also done music for our game.

Tyler Robinson: Well there are two people who are missing right now, Casey Spencer and Jeremy Heintz. Our professors have also been big help in our progress. Oh and Morgan Reynolds. He is in our team too. :)

Kamron Egan: Roger Altizer and Bob Kessler of the University of Utah are our professors for this project.

WMD: Do you have any expecations or hopes about how the game will sell, and how do you plan to divy up the proceeds amongst so many people?

Tyler Robinson: We plan on an even divide between everyone. Really, it’s the only thing that can be considered fair. As for the way it sells, we’ve had an amazing response during our times of BETA testing and sharing with our friends and some professional impressions from EA, Zynga, and Disney Interactive, that makes us feel like we might actually do well in the market. We’ve also been trying to do some small marketing pushes, like twitter, that seem to be working well for us.

WMD: That was going to be my next question. What can you tell us about how you’ve been promoting the game?

Nate Bradford: We have set up a page on Facebook as well as Twitter and we are in the process of creating a simple website for the game. I have been posting on Facebook to get my friends involved in helping promote our game.

Tyler Robinson: Twitter has helped a lot already. We’ve been trying to push our Facebook and a website, as well as pushing locally with our peers at the University and friends outside of school. We also have a scheduled event next month (May 3rd) where professionals and a ton of students come and just play our games (3 games in our class).

WMD: I only just stumbled across your team on Twitter, which hashtags have you been using?

Tyler Robinson: #XBLIG #Xbox360 #XNA and just recently #WritingsOfMassDeduction. ;)

Curtis Taylor: mrgravity.com has all of our contact information.

Tyler Robinson: I think all of us are new with Twitter, so making things work with the trends hasn’t quite set in yet but we do plan on posting more towards the more popular (and appropriate) trends.

Nate Bradford: Our website is still under construction, but it will be up soon.

WMD: How would you describe the experience of being an indie game developer to someone reading this article at home who is interested in game development? Would you in general recommend it to someone wanting to get into game development?

Kamron Egan: If you want to get into the game development industry, publishing a game is a huge leg up towards that goal. Indie development is a perfect way to ensure you can get that game credit out there.

WMD: Will your game be submitted to any competitions, such as DBP? [Microsoft’s annual Dream.Build.Play XBLIG competition]

William Black: I believe its a useful and more direct way to find out what goes into making a game, and it helps teach you how to work in team. So I would definitely recommend giving indie game development a try.

Tyler Robinson: We aren’t allowed to submit to DBP. When we were going through the pitches, we talked about if the game didn’t make it through the pitch process, we would make this game for DBP on the side, but fortunately we didn’t have to try to squeeze our time in for the game and were able to put full focus on it instead.

WMD: Why aren’t you permitted to submit to DBP?

Tyler Robinson: Our team is too big. DBP only allows seven person (or fewer) teams to produce games for the competition. We have too many people. :D Currently we are at a nine member team with two people assisting on the side.

Tyler Robinson: We just found out that we can submit to some indie game festivals (Indiecade and IGF) if we wanted to.

WMD: What XBLIGs from other developers would you recommend WMD readers try or that I should review in the future?

Curtis Taylor: Coming soon are two games “The Last POD Fighter” and “Minions”(title pending), they are also games from our class.

Tyler Robinson: “Urban Space Squirrels” and “Rapunzel’s Fight Knight” are last years games that are on XBLIG.

WMD: I reviewed Urban Space Squirrels, that was from your school?

William Black: yeah I was on the the art team for Urban Space Squirrels as an independent study.

Kamron Egan: Yes, USS was made in this same class.

WMD: Congrats, it’s a great game. Any other XBLIG suggestions?

Tyler Robinson: “Hoardzz”. This was created by a group of students that had already graduated and our professor.

Steven Doxey: They brought it to our class one day. It was pretty fun.

WMD: Anything from outside those connected to your alma matter in some way? :)

Tyler Robinson: Ummm…There is one that hasn’t made it out of peer review quite yet but it was really cool called “Kinetic Kube” . He’s getting a large number of reviews in the peer review so I expect he’ll do really well out of the gate. As for other XBLIG, we haven’t really had an opportunity to play very many of them that have been released. Especially ones that aren’t on the Top Games list.

WMD: Was there anything else you wanted to share with our readers?

Curtis Taylor: I would like to say that our game is a great student made game by many people who are very passionate about making and playing games.

Tyler Robinson: Game development is amazing, and the opportunity to produce REAL games for Xbox, Android, iPhone, etc is just a remarkable experience… especially if the game is actually really good. I go around telling everyone about our game because I’m personally so proud of it… it’s a great feeling.

WMD: Thanks for your time everyone, I look forward to playing your game.

Kamron Egan: Thank you. ;)

Steven Doxey: Thanks for the interview.

William Black: Thank you for interviewing us. :D

Tyler Robinson: Yes! Thank you very much! :)

Nate Bradford: What they said. ^^

Curtis Taylor: Thank you as well.

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Comments
  1. […] Want to know more about the students behind Mr. Gravity? Check out this interview. […]

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