Developer Interview: Grip Games and Terrible Posture Games

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Tower of Guns was released on Xbox One on the 10th of April, introducing us to the insane spectacle and experience of a bullet-hell, first-person shooter with Rougelike randomisation and permadeath. We enjoyed it, giving it a solid 80% in our review, and we were fortunate enough to have a chat with Grip Games’ Jakub Mikyska who helped bring the title to Xbox One, and Terrible Posture Games’ Joe Mirabello, the one-man team who developed the game.

This is Xbox: What, in your eyes, made Tower of Guns such an attractive title to add to your porting portfolio?

Jakub Mikyska: Everybody loves a good FPS and Tower of Guns was just so unique and different that it immediately managed to stand out. It was also made using the Unreal Engine, which is currently our engine of choice. The reviews were good, the buzz was there, it was an easy decision. And after getting in touch with Joe, we found out that we are on the same wavelength and our cooperation started.

This is Xbox: There’s a lot going on on-screen at any one time in Tower of Guns, making it CPU intensive. Was it challenging optimising the game for Xbox One?

Jakub Mikyska: It certainly proved to be a challenge. We had to do lots of optimizations to make sure the game runs smoothly. Getting to 1080p/60fps was our goal, with switch to 30fps acceptable only in the most extreme situations. Also, on PC occasional drops in frame rate are tolerable, people are used to that, but on consoles, that is a major issues for a lot of people.

We certainly didn’t want to sacrifice the gameplay and the looks. We didn’t want to lower the number of projectiles or enemies, so we took a long time to make it right.

This is Xbox: Were there any other challenges in porting Tower of Guns over to Xbox One?

Jakub Mikyska: Other than the optimizations, the development went pretty smoothly. There are a few pesky bugs that managed to get through our testing, as well as Microsoft’s quality assurance test, but we have already submitted a patch and it should go live in a few days.

This is Xbox: We see you’ve recently revealed Q.U.B.E: Director’s Cut coming to Xbox One later this year. What can you tell us about that title?

Jakub Mikyska: Q.U.B.E: Director’s Cut is another first person game we are releasing this year. It is not a shooter, but a puzzle-platformer. Quite like Portal. You can manipulate the environment using some seriously sci-fi gloves. The Director’s Cut contains all of the previously released DLC and some other improvements for consoles. We plan to release Q.U.B.E. in early summer, so it is not that far away!

This is Xbox: Are there any other titles you’re bringing to Xbox One that you can talk about?

Jakub Mikyska: We’re hoping we will be able to reveal our next project at the E3!

This is Xbox: How terrifying is it to have released a game that was solely put together by you, knowing that any critique rested squarely on your shoulders?

Joe Mirabello: It’s pretty terrifying! While I’m pretty happy with how the game turned out, I’m also the kind of person who could have kept working on the game perpetually forever, and I knew I had to be realistic about what could be achieved by a mostly-solo developer. I knew I was going to be learning a lot of new things and juggling a lot of hats and that there was a good chance I would never finish unless I looked for very pragmatic solutions to problems. Now I think about it, “terrifying” is a good word for the whole experience of solo development, not just for the release.

This is Xbox: What were the benefits and challenges involved in creating Tower of Guns independently on your own?

Joe Mirabello: Some of the challenges are pretty obvious; I had to juggle a lot of different duties and multitask and learn a lot of new technologies, but the most difficult aspect of working alone is that its very easy to second guess yourself. When you work with a team you have a sort of shared ‘confidence’ in a project, and when you’re by yourself that’s replaced only with doubt. I developed a lot of tactics to combat my own dips in morale/motivation. Those tactics involved publicly blogging, tracking my hours, going to tradeshows, participating in events with other indies, being active on my forums and on twitter, regularly sending out early access builds, altering my sleep schedule, developing skills to help break up complex tasks…there’s probably a bunch I’m forgetting about. All of it was an effort just to keep myself moving.

On the flipside, I was able to build anything I wanted. I was able to inject myself into the game to a degree I’ve never done before on any project I’ve worked on–quite literally in some places. I was able to say “what if this game gave you a hundred jumps?” On any other project that sort of proposal would have been shot down immediately (not without reason, mind you) but in the case of Tower of Guns I was able to ask myself those questions early and, as the sole gatekeeper, take the time to build an experience around them. Making a bullet-hell FPS? Making an FPS with an emphasis on verticality? Letting the player get to any place in the map they can see? All of these things directly challenged my training as a more traditional game developer. They were each small experiments in Tower of Guns, some more successful than others, but together they made the experience of building the game a really exciting one.

This is Xbox: Do you miss the triple A development process or does the lone wolf method suit you better?

Joe Mirabello: I actually miss Triple A development a lot. It’s a lot of fun to work on a high-profile project, and by and large the developers in Triple A are great people. You basically inherit whole groups of friends when you start at a new company, and there’s really a sense of working on something bigger than yourself when you’re on a large team.

That said, I’ve enjoyed working on my own thing too. I enjoy the fact that I can make a risky weird first-person shooter that no one else would make. I enjoy feeling empowered, even as a solo developer, by the current state of technology in this industry. I like being able to have authorship over an entire project, start to finish. More so, the indie road is still an unknown road to me. I know what I can do as a member of a big Triple A team; I might part of something amazing, and I would certainly improve more in a singular discipline, but it’s much more of a known road. This indie road is still winding along and taking me to new places, where I meet people I would have never otherwise met, have to challenge myself in ways I could not have imagined, and have to spend a lot more time on airplanes!

Perhaps I won’t remain indie forever, but for now it’s a road I’m very curious to explore, and I’m very very fortunate that Tower of Guns has done well enough to afford me the ability to explore it.

This is Xbox: What’s next for Terrible Posture Games – is there anything on the horizon or an idea you’re eager to work on next?

Joe Mirabello: Oh, I’m always working on something. Making things makes me happy. But I’m not quite yet at the point where I’m ready to share my next project yet.

A big thank you to Joe Mirabello from Terrible Posture Games, and Jakub Mikyska from Grip Games for chatting with us. You can read our review of Tower of Guns here.

Some say Greg isn’t one person but a group of many people posting under the pseudonym “Greg”. No one knows for sure but either way, as long as he continues to fight the good fight of reviewing games, then we will always consider him a hero.

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