After my hands on time with Mike Bithells new game Volume. At the Eurogamer Expo, I took some time out with the Indie developer. If you are looking to get into indie development or simply want to know some more about Thomas Was Alone and Volume then look no further.
Was Thomas Was Alone the first game you developed?
It was my first indie game. I was working for a couple of games companies at the time, and Thomas was my hobby game. Every evening after work I would get on the tube, go home and work on it for a couple of hours and at weekends, it basically took over my social life for two years. So it was a hobby game that did a lot better than I expected.
What is it like working as an Indie developer compared to working for a studio?
There are great parts and there are less great parts. It’s awesome how much freedom you have and you get to make whatever you want, but you do miss out on the awesome learning you get from other people. So with Thomas, I made it pretty much on my own. I did have a composer working with me but other than that it was just me. What’s great with my new game Volume though is that I have been able to grab a bunch of people with various jobs and collaborate with them. People like Daz who is my concept artist. I also have character artists, animators, musicians and sound designers. I have a big team working on Volume now which is great.
Did you expect Thomas Was Alone to be successful as it was?
That would make me a very very smug man and very arrogant [laughs]. No I didn’t, I mean the file I have on my computer is called teaching myself Unity. It was a hobby in order to learn a new engine and people really went for it. It got really big and blew up in a way that I never expected. I have been very lucky, and because of Thomas’ success I quit my day job and went into indie development properly.
Thomas was so successful it went to PS3 and Vita as well, was it easy to convert the game from PC to PS3 and Vita?
Well the problem I had was that I used something called Unity which is a games engine, and at the time Unity supported PS3 but not Vita. So what we ended up doing was rebuilding the entire game from scratch in a different game engine. So essentially what happened with Thomas was the game was entirely rebuilt with a team of five people in about 4 months. It’s a completely new version of the game which is awesome.
I was geeking out over a lot of the indie games. I’m a big fan of World of Goo, Super Meat Boy and it made me think I can make this. Well I can’t make Super Meat Boy but something as half as good. So I was sat in the middle of a 200 man company just getting really jealous of these indie companies of like one or two people making these awesome games. That idea was very attractive when you are someone working in a massive team and you’re the dude whose just responsible for designing waypoint nav meshes, which means I was in charge of where the enemies can go in a level. That was my job and it was boring as hell [laughs] I wanted to be in charge. I wanted to do whatever I wanted, and indie was a very exciting prospect for me. So it was really just jealously of the indie space that inspired me to make the Thomas.
Development wise, how much bigger is Volume compared to Thomas Was Alone?
Well it’s not done yet but so far massively. I think Thomas cost 2 or 3 thousand pounds total, where as at the moment with just getting the voice acting and making the basics work, Volume has already cost around 15 thousand. So basically it’s a much bigger game. Thomas did far better than you would expect a game of that budget to do which meant I had a bit more money and I was like you know, I could get a house or I could make an awesome game. So yeah, Volume is massive, but in terms of scale of the game it’s only going to be three of four hours long. I don’t want to make a big epic 40 hour game because I think you would stretch things too far unless you have a budget like GTA has, which I haven’t, so I wanted to make something smaller.
Volume is a very stealth heavy game, have you been a big fan of stealth games?
Yeah I’m a ridiculous Metal Gear Solid fan which probably comes over in the game. Metal Gear Solid and Commandoes are my top favourite stealth games. Modern games like Assassins Creed and Splinter Cell I enjoy, but they kind of moved away from some of the stuff I liked in the old Metal Gear games which is where the thinking for Volume came from. Volume is kind of an alternate reality where the stuff I liked from old style stealth games became the games core so we’ll see how it goes.