Retrific on Colt Canyon, and the importance of gameplay

TODAY: Sometimes, being indie requires permadeath and a six shooter.

Developer Interview: Make your move, pardner!

Retrific on Colt Canyon, Game Maker, and the importance of gameplay

Here at Daily Bits, size doesn’t matter – we love the tiniest indie game as much as the most bloated of blockbusters. Sure, AAA games get your heart pumping with their glitz and glamour but they often lack something the indies have in spades: Soul. Colt Canyon’s got soul to spare, and we’ve talked to developer Retrific, who has worked with three other freelancers (Niilo Takalainen, Luigi-Maria Rapisarda, and Fabian Donner) to bring Colt Canyon to life. We talk about how he got into game development, and what’s next for his wild west rogue-lite.

Daily Bits: How did you get into game development?

Retrific: I am 23 years old, and the first time I encountered game development software was when I was about half that age. A friend of mine showed me this neat software you could use to create very basic games without needing to know anything about game development. It was just dragging and dropping of blocks like “move left” or “move right” or “when getting clicked on”. It was called Game Maker, and I immediately got hooked. Back then, I didn’t even know that game developer was an actual job. I spent the next year making extremely bad and ugly “games” for me and my friends to play, just for fun. However, as I was only using a free and very limited version of the software, I slowly lost interest.

When I was closer to finishing school, I rediscovered game development when I saw a newer version of Game Maker. I was able to afford the full version and I started to work with actual code. It opened endless possibilities and made me fall in love with making games. I was still in school and didn’t consider earning any money with my games though. Only when I randomly tuned in to a live stream with developers using Game Maker professionally was when I realized that it was an actual job.

When I turned 18, I registered as self-employed and published my first commercial game all by myself. Now, at 23, I am studying game development and working with a publisher to release my most ambitious game project yet. For me, making games is a passion, and to this day I am still doing it as a passion rather than a job.

Daily Bits: According to your website, your design ethos is about prioritizing fun over storytelling. Is there any particular reason why you prefer mechanics to narrative?

Retrific: This is just the way I like it. I’m that kind of guy who skips cutscenes and has little interest in the story. All I care about is the gameplay. When I pick up a game, I don’t care about the characters or events. All I care about is what I will do in the game. The freedom to experience your own story and your own adventure in a virtual world is what makes me want to play video games. Sure, a nice setting or lore is not irrelevant, but what I don’t care about is the narrative. Especially if the game uses a lot of cutscenes, text or scripted events that take the control from the player.

I love all kinds of games though, at least if they can provide me with a fun gameplay experience. In my own games, I am putting a lot of effort into gameplay, fun and freedom. The story always comes second to me. I would never consider a game with the best story or the most exciting cutscenes if the gameplay sucks or is non-existent, but I would play a game without story or the worst narrative ever if the gameplay is just too much fun. Since I am still doing game development as a passion and not a profession, I am not looking at what I want. Not what the market wants.

Daily Bits: What inspired you to make a wild west rogue-lite?

Retrific: The first year that I was studying game design, I was given two keywords to develop a game concept from: ‘Cowboy’ and ‘Help’. Even though we only had to develop a concept and not an actual game, I started working on a prototype that later became Colt Canyon. It wasn’t designed as a roguelike yet, but that was because I didn’t have the time to develop everything needed for a roguelike experience. I had to get this prototype done in time for game design class, so it was not procedurally generated and very short. Even back then I already had the idea of it becoming a roguelike game because I played a lot of roguelike games myself. It’s just a genre I personally enjoy because of the gameplay, freedom and the ever-changing experiences.When I later decided to make a full game from said prototype, the choice to make it a roguelike was obvious.

Daily Bits: What can players expect in terms of post-launch support? Any DLC or other expansions?

Retrific: There are no plans for paid DLC at the moment, but I do have plans to get some free content updates after release. Roguelikes are perfect for post-release content because you’re constantly restarting anyway. I can add content to all parts of the game, and everyone will be able to enjoy it. I still got a long wish list of features, weapons, characters, and enemies that I would love to see in the game. As long as it’s viable, I will provide free content updates.

Daily Bits: What advice would you give people interested in getting into game development?

Retrific: The most important thing is that you’re not in it for the money, but because you enjoy doing it. Once this is out of the way, you should start small. When you think your game idea is small, scale it down even further. Making games is a lot of work and you will constantly get new ideas for features while developing, but also for entirely new games. Finishing a game is the hardest part of game development. I never feel ready to release my game, I always felt like there is more stuff to do. It’s why all my games received massive post-release updates. But, at some point, you will have to call it a day.

Having a couple of small, but polished, shipped games with everything from the main menu to credits in your portfolio is far more impressive than a lot of big, but flawed, game concepts. Nobody is going to give you a job because you got so many great ideas. A lot of people have a lot of ideas, but only few can make it become reality. Thankfully, the world wide web allows you to access a lot of resources and tools to actually start developing games, even all by yourself with zero budget.

If you like the idea of a wild west permadeath, you should check out Colt Canyon on PC, Xbox One, or Switch for $14.99. Check out our full review here!

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Today’s issue of DailyBits was written by Gavin Herman.