Indie Developers Showcase 2010
Indie Developer Showcase, Day One: Captain Forever

Greg Tito | 25 Jan 2010 21:00
Indie Developers Showcase 2010 - RSS 2.0

imageWelcome to Day One of The Escapist's Indie Developer Showcase, a five-day celebration of the individuals and small teams who are making a big impact on the games industry. Each day we'll feature a new developer and new games to play, so keep checking back throughout the week for more indie goodness! To see the full list of developers, click here.

You may have heard of Jarrad Woods, aka Farbs, before. He gained some notoriety last summer as the guy who left his position at 2K Australia by making a game that happily told his superiors "I Quit!" Up to that point, he had been designing games in his spare time, including the acclaimed classic game mashup ROM CHECK FAIL, but right around his 30th birthday he decided to go indie full time. That clever resignation introduced the world to Farbs, but it wasn't the last we would hear from him.

Captain Forever, released last fall, was praised by players and critics alike for its addictive gameplay of blowing up rival spaceships and assimilating their wreckage to make an even more powerful craft. In fact, it took home the prize for Best Game at GDC China's Independent Games Festival, which Farbs recently attended to pick up his brick of yuan. The award may have been a validation of his decision to go indie, but Farbs is not resting on his laurels. He's already released a sequel called Captain Successor and is busy working on a third game in the series. The Escapist spoke with him about his journey so far as an indie developer.

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The Escapist: Tell us a little bit about yourself. You're based in Australia, right? What's a day in the life like?

Jarrad Woods: Well ... I'm Farbs. I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with videogames. When the games I developed in my day job strayed too far from my tastes, I quit to make my own stuff from home. This decision coincided with my 30th birthday, and I suspect this coincidence was no, uh, coincidence. A normal day for me is now: Wake up at the same time as my partner (who has a regular job), snooze until guilt sets in (usually about 20 minutes), slip on bath robe and walk across the corridor to my office. At various times across the day I'll eat, bathe, reply to email and work on the next episode of Captain Forever. When my partner gets home I head downstairs and check email on my laptop while pretending to watch TV. Living in Australia doesn't have much to do with it - I could live in a submarine and my day to day life would be the same.

TE: You got a lot of press for your resignation-as-game, A Message for 2K Australia. What was the impetus for the game? Did you expect it to get the kind of attention it did?

JW: A Message for 2K Australia happened because both sides of my conscience agreed with each other. From my right shoulder I heard "Make something nice to announce your resignation." Then from the my left: "Put it on the internet. Don't ask questions." I thought a few people might get a kick out of it, but I was quite unprepared for the response, especially from mainstream media. If you go indie, you need publicity photos. You don't want this printed in the national papers.

TE: Captain Forever pre-launched in September, and Captain Successor launched in November. How fast do you anticipate being able to design new sequels? Are you working to much of a schedule?

JW: Since I don't have a publisher, I have no external deadlines, so like Blizzard or Valve I can say my games will be done when they're done. Unlike Blizzard or Valve, I'm just one guy sitting alone in his house earning roughly minimum wage, so I guess the business plan isn't perfect. I aim to finish a new episode every few months, though they all take different amounts of time. My medium-term goal is to finish two more episodes, then look back on the series and determine whether I can afford to keep it as my primary project.

TE: You've set up a sort of "subscription" model with your work where paid users automatically get access to sequels. How has the response been so far?

JW: Well, the game actually has fans, so I guess that's a good start. I think the concept won't be properly tested until I release more episodes. On the one hand, I think most supporters aren't honestly expecting future episodes, so they'll happily receive them as free games. On the other hand, I think some supporters will have developed expectations about future releases, and since these expectations will all be different they can't all be met. Hopefully I won't upset too many people.

TE: What's the biggest ship you've built in Captain Forever?

JW: The biggest ship I've built would be about one-quarter the size of some of the behemoths the players are constructing. Captain Forever takes about 15 minutes to complete, at which point you're left in the endgame where you can zoom around in your ultra-powerful ship fighting enemies for no particular reason. This is when I stop playing, because I've won and there's nothing left to do. Surprisingly not everyone plays like that. Some players spend literally hours with this part, slowly growing and growing and growing their ships to unbelievable proportions.

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