[Ex-Insomniac programmer Nathan Fouts created one of the standout Xbox Live Community Games for Xbox 360 in 2D side-scrolling shooter Weapon Of Choice, and explains just how in this in-depth Gamasutra postmortem.]
Working on games such as Resistance: Fall of Man and Postal 2 was a dream come true. While I really enjoyed contributing to stunningly-complex 3D games, my secret passion was to create a smoking, 2D, side-scrolling action game that looked like it crawled off that high school, stoner kid's notebook, and then ate Rainbow Brite.
For me, directly mapping 2D stick controls to a 2D action game is like pizza and beer. And maybe some warmed pie on the side. And some ice cream on the pie.
Mmmm... anyway, I drugged my wife and convinced her that I should quit my great job at Insomniac Games, and use all of our savings to make my own game. (Okay, just kidding -- no one actually took drugs despite what Weapon of Choice's art direction may suggest.)
With most of my teenage years spent fighting Red Falcon and the Bydo Empire, Weapon of Choice's designs and drawings flowed freely. The game revealed itself to me over a period of months, and fortuitously, XNA became ready for primetime as well.
Figure 1. Final title and original pencil art. All the art in the game started as pencil and was then scanned and colored digitally.
My friend, AJ Johnson, wrote the dialogue and the story, and Hamdija Ajanovic composed the game's rocking, custom soundtrack. A programming friend helped with a few enemy prototypes, and another old colleague designed one of the levels.
Those poor saps worked remotely and agreed to get paid on the back end, based on sales profit. I also remotely contracted two texture artists for occasional environment texture work; they were paid with actual money.
My wife acted as the producer and business manager. Friends and family were the QA department, playtesting the game at milestones. That left everything else for me, which included the original concept, design, programming, art, animation, sound effects... you know, the game part.
While initially I wanted to release the game on Xbox Live Arcade, Weapon of Choice swaggered onto the Xbox 360's Community Games on November 19th and seems to be well received. The game is an "approachable hardcore game" meant for older gamers who don't always have time on their hands for retail games.
Though I've worked in the professional game industry for over a decade, there were many sadly entertaining things I learned along the way. But let's leave the embarrassment for last.