London-based indie dev Tom Jackson has fallen into a number of happy accidents recently. Not only did a game jam prototype turn out to be his springboard to potential success, but he haphazardly exposed it to the beast that is Reddit.
Since posting a video of the first seven minutes of space-bound RPG Europa online, which Jackson describes as "Fallout 3 in space", the sole developer suddenly has a lot of expectation on its shoulders. He originally made the video to show to his mom.
"Putting it on Reddit was completely spur of the moment and no real thought went into it," admits Jackson aka the Quick Fingers studio. "I was just up late one night and thought 'hey, why not?' When I saw the next morning it was popular, I excitedly went straight for the comments to upvote all the awesome and answer questions."
The video's popularity on Reddit wasn't the only upside to the move, as Jackson has found social forums website's community to be most useful in determining what works and what doesn't in his game's opening scenes.
"When you're working alone on something for a length of time, you sometimes get a bit blind to your own work, unsure of whether the world is actually going to feel the same way as you do about it," says Jackson, noting that the game is obviously way too early in development for any real testing. "Seeing this kind of response makes me believe in it as something other people want to play."
Now Jackson is looking forward to having future Europa development scrutinized by Redditors -- a move he suggests can only have good implications for the final product.
However, before his fling with Reddit came the 7DFPS game jam, run earlier this year as a bid to bring more innovation to the tired first-person shooter genre.
"The 7DFPS appealed to me because I'd never made an FPS before," notes Jackson. "The extended time (7 days is a long jam in my opinion) meant I could be quite ambitious."
Limiting themes and imposing strict deadlines can only be a good thing, reckons Jackson, as it encourages playing around with core mechanics and ideas, rather than finetuning existing concepts.
Indeed, in Jackson's case, it caused him to attack his favorite sci-fi genre from a different angle.
"When I was a kid, my parents had a huge 'Atlas of the World' book," he says. "On the first page it showed the Solar System with incredibly detailed images of all the planets in their relative positions and sizes. I used to stare at it for hours, just in awe of the sheer size of these other planets."
"So at about 6 years old I was questioning the insignificance of our race in the Universe" -- no doubt the reason why Jackson is so keen to see players exploring the unexplored and touching the untouched in Europa.
"Making you feel like you are the first human ever to discover something creates so many conflicting emotions," he adds, "it's awe inspiring and uncomfortable. You're the first person witnessing something - it's amazing, but the unknown brings the uneasy."
And Jackson is hoping that, with the upcoming release of the Oculus Rift hardware, he'll be able to enhance that feeling of discovery even further for his players.
"I've been concentrating on creating a full body physics model in Europa," he tells us. "There's no floating hands and guns in space - it's similar to Mirror's Edge. When you look around you'll see your full body in the world."
He continues, "I like the idea of being able to look around and see your suit in the VR world. I want to see if that works as far as immersion goes. I have a feeling it'll either feel great and add a lot, or alternatively might make you feel a bit ill because your body and the body in your viewport are doing different things. I have no idea, but I'm looking forward to playing around with it!"