When covering Too Many Games 2015, many people tend to focus on the games themselves. The gameplay, the Kickstarter campaigns, how retro everything is — that kind of stuff. What sometimes gets lost is the personal stories of the indie developers behind the games. When I got my hands on Welcome to Undercog, a new adventure RPG from Geek Monster Games, I fully expected to chat about gameplay and release dates. Instead, what I got was a conversation about game development, and what it means to be a single man indie development studio trying to produce a brand new game.
Geek Monster Games is one of those independent game development studios you want to root for. We talked with Nate Flynn, the one-man team behind Geek Monster Games and Welcome to Undercog responsible for all the programming, design, art, and animation for the game. It’s obvious how much the project — specifically the art and animation portions — means to Flynn. At the booth there is an art book filled with the hand drawn comic book style game assets that will fill the world of his game. “You’re actually interacting with the story through the pages of a comic book,” Nate Flynn says regarding the art style and concepts for the game. In fact all the textures are hand drawn and all the cutscenes are fashioned after comic book panels. In addition, combat features onomatopoeia callouts (i.e. SMASH, POW) for hits and other fighting sounds effects. “I’m really trying to push the vibrance up,” Flynn says. “I want a cartoon feel.”
The comic book aesthetics definitely come through even in my short time with the game. My demo places me in a vast subterranean world. The environment and textures feel like a comic book, with bold, black outlines, cel shaded items, and sound effect callouts with every slam and burp attack. Speaking of burps, my main obstacle in the demo is an enemy force of green burp cloud spouting enemies. Flynn assures us that, although funny, these types of attacks are also functional, stating that the burp attack is actually a class of damage in the game called “caustic.” Movement is fluid, although combat feels a little spotty, as if my hits aren’t connecting with the enemies. It’s also a little difficult to tell exactly where the hits zones for different attacks are.
There is still plenty of development time left for this project so these issues don’t worry me at all at this stage. Aside from technical issues, the keyboard and mouse controls are a little cumbersome. However, Flynn is quick to point out that controller support it on the way, claiming that he is looking into, and is very excited about, Steam’s new computer controller. “I saw the new Steam controller, I love it for RPGs. I think that thing is going to be the sledgehammer for RPGs. It is going to be the best tool,” Flynn says. But he doesn’t stop there in his praise, as his excitement of all things game development shows even in his predictions for the controller, saying, “I think it’s new tech that’s actually going to bridge the gap between controller players and keyboard and mouse players.”
The game, although very early in development, sports interesting visuals and concepts, but once again, the most exciting part of the project has to be the commitment and exuberance of Nate Flynn himself. Welcome to Undercog is a labor of love for solo developer, and anyone doubting that hasn’t spent much time talking with him. He has a few jobs and works on his games on the side, usually all night long. “I tried sleeping once; it didn’t really suit me, so I decided to make games instead,” Flynn tells us. But it doesn’t seem to hold him back. Between the time that we tested the demo and when we talked with Nate, he managed to create an in-game item for another developer at the convention. More than anything, he draws on the energy and feedback from the fans and players, even going so far as to offer current builds of the game to people so that they can test it and provide feedback. But it’s his overall attitude toward development that is the most infectious. “This process, it is definitely the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life, but it’s also the most rewarding. Like, I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Flynn says. For someone who claims to get as little sleep as he does, he certainly doesn’t let it show. I get the vibe that he is running on nothing but the pure adrenaline and passion for his game project.
I walk away from my time with Welcome to Undercog with a much deeper understanding of what it means to be a single person development studio. I went in expecting to see early gameplay and concept art. And I did see that, of course. But that’s not the reason I’m hopeful for this project. I’m hopeful because I also saw the authentic, infectious enthusiasm of a dedicated indie developer that serves as the fuel that makes this project run.
Check out the Welcome to Undercog game dev website for more information and updates. In addition, if you’re interested in testing an early build of the game, make sure to email Nate Flynn at Geek Monster Games directly. You can find the relevant contact information right here.