Welcome down to another of our indie dev chinwags, this time with the fine folks at aPriori Digital. Based in Bristol, the team have just released their first game, an old-school shmup called Aperion Cyberstorm.
What inspired you and your team during the development stage?
The initial inspiration was the resurgence of couch co-op games like Towerfall. What we’ve found interesting is during development that style of games fell away for more online-based games, yet having recently showcased Aperion at EGX Rezzed, it seems they’re making a comeback!
"You have to be a little mad to work in the games industry, but I think it’s fair to say most games devs are a little mad anyway."
Can you tell us about your team at Apriori Digital?
The team are all graduates of the Game Technology degree at the University of the West of England, and it was through that course that we all met and decided to form a company. We’re all in the South West of England, with an office in Bristol. Aperion Cyberstorm is our first major title.
How difficult is it for indie developers in this current market? Can you take artistic risks and still make a profit? Are shows like Rezzed beneficial in helping you find an audience?
I would say it’s as difficult as it might be for indies in the music or book industries, in the sense that a lot of the time the thing you’ve poured your soul into isn’t going to bring in the big bucks. Sometimes you may find it won’t make anything. For a lot of indies, it’s a question of whether they would still make games if it wasn’t going to earn them enough to recoup costs. You have to be a little mad to work in the games industry, but I think it’s fair to say most games devs are a little mad anyway.
What advice would you give to someone looking to work in the video gaming industry?
Network. Go to events, socials, anything where other game developers might be. But here’s the key part: stay in touch. Don’t go expecting to land a job or a contract straight away. A one-and-done email is more likely to end deleted than responded to. Follow up on the people you meet. We’ve contracted people for work that matches their skillset two years after we met them at events like Develop. We remember them because they would keep in touch every once in a while.
Understand that instant success isn’t a reality for 99% of developers. We spend a lot of our time working on contracts, and that’s the same for other devs. You’ll tend to find that the success stories are littered with a string of previous works that didn’t do as well. As an example, I’d recommend this talk by Jake Birkett about a decade of game making without a ‘hit’.
Where do you think the industry is heading - is VR the future in your opinion?
I wouldn’t say it’s the future, in the same way I wouldn’t say a particular platform or genre is the future. It’s another flavour of gaming, like augmented reality. VR’s working wonders for training in the engineering and medical fields, but I feel like it is still trying to find its legs in the gaming space. I hope it’s a success.
What game(s) have had the biggest effect on your life, and why?
Metal Gear Solid 2 – Holy bejebus, the back half of this game! I went in knowing nothing about it, so when the ‘Colonel’ went loopy it scared the crap out of me. I hadn't played the first MGS at the time, so the fourth wall breaks (like being told to turn the console off) left a massive mark on me. The game's almost prophetic at this point with its focus on the control of information context. Also, because Sons of Liberty in the UK came with a documentary on the making of the game, it was the first time I got to see how the sausage is made, as it were. At that point I knew what I wanted to make my career.
Eternal Darkness – Much like MGS2, Eternal Darkness’ biggest draw for me what the fourth wall breaks, using the game against the player by ‘deleting’ save data, loading the map upside down and dropping the volume on the TV. I loved traditional gameplay – I’m a sucker for the FPS genre – but challenging player expectation in the way that MGS2 and Eternal Darkness did is something I would love to explore.
Bloodborne - It was on sale, and people raved about it, so hey why not, right? Holy crap, this is one of the greatest games ever. The risk/reward gameplay and sheer speed of it is something I never knew I wanted. I wasn’t into the Souls games as much, but I’ve spent over 100 hours in Bloodborne, and I have no intention of stopping. Time will tell what kind of mark it has left.
What does the future hold for Aperion Cyberstorm & Apriori Digital?
Right now it’s coming to Steam and Wii U. As for other platforms, well, we’ll see. We have plans for our next title which is a bit of a departure in several ways from Aperion Cyberstorm, and we’d love the chance to bring it to its fullest potential. As a studio, we also work with other companies on their projects, whether games or other kinds of software, so if you’re looking for help on a project hit us up!
If you were on a desert island (it has power) and could only take one console, what would you take, and why?
PlayStation 2. I mean, *that* library. I could spend most of my life playing through its back catalogue, then work my way through the PS1 library!
Thanks to aPriori Digital for taking the time to talk to us. Aperion Cyberstorm is available now on Steam, Nintendo Switch and Wii U. If you'd like to learn more about the game, check out our review.
Join us for another quickie, as we take a look at Marooners on Xbox One.
Trying to remember the objective, or if you’re even alive, as play jumps back and forth leads to memorable moments as players meet their untimely ends amidst the confusion.
Does it support couch co-op?
In theory, Marooners lets you blend both local and online multiplayer, but the fiddly nature of setting up the former combined with the small player base of the latter means your only real option for a decent match is finding several other friends who own the game and organising some online mayhem.
For an idea of the type of fun to be had with that setup, check out our let’s play and see how we handled Marooners’ madness.
Failing that, there are bots to help make up numbers, but they negate both the challenge and humorous moments human opposition offer.
Would you recommend it?
Given the game’s only $9.99/€9.99/£7.99, yes, we would (with a caveat). There’s a good time to be had in Marooners, provided you can scrape together a few online friends to squeeze it out.
Lock and load for the Switch release of all the Tiny Troopers you can get your hands on in this bumper edition.
How do we requisition these heroes?
Completing missions is rewarded with points, however the specialists can be added to the team for one mission only, and are quite pricey, plus they have to be unlocked in the first place. Weapons and supplies can be picked up on the battlefield, but the control scheme has lead to many regrettable instances of friendly fire.
Would you give us a commendation, sir?
For a novice such as yourself private, you’ll find enjoyment and you’ll find success. A more experienced soldier might be better suited to more tactically diverse and complex challenges, beyond simply cranking up the difficulty, and long for greater control of their unit, who must move as one. Fortunately, Uncle Sam only need spend £9.99 for the privilege of your company.
Get back to basics with endearing physics puzzler Tales of the Tiny Planet in the latest delightful iteration in our mini-review series: Taken for a Quickie.
Is it worth the price of admission?
Being a game which is already available on Steam for around £7 and on mobile for just over £3, £17.99 on Switch is a hefty price tag for a relatively small package. The Switch version does boast a bonus sixth world, featuring some pesky portals, and a co-op mode, but whether that's enough to justify the jump in price is up for debate. There’s a couple of hours of solid brain-teasing here, as well as some post-completion challenges, but, in the end, despite its charm and effective presentation, it’s hard to recommend at its current price point.