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NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits is a game developed for WiiWare by Spanish indie developers Over the Top Games. Developed by just four people and published in 2009, has received two awards and very good reviews so far.
NyxQuest represented more than the development of a game. It meant the creation and establishment of a new studio, and learning everything behind that. For a small team like ours, it was an enormous task, and a very ambitious project.
NyxQuest is a 2D platformer which revolves around the story of Nyx, a mysterious winged girl who is looking to rescue her friend Icarus. NyxQuest takes the rules of a classic platformer, and improves the formula by taking advantage of some of the Wii's unique features.
Using the Wii Remote, the player is able to interact with the scenery, draw wind to reach higher ground, and shoot rays at enemies and obstacles.
The core team that built the game was formed by four people: two programmers and two artists. All of us had several years of experience working on AAA games for other companies. This was key to our enterprise.
After some years working for other companies, we left to form a new studio, a place where we could create our own characters, tell our own stories and have full creative control over the development of a game.
This was no easy decision, but it was a good time to do it. Digital distribution is an opportunity for indie developers to create premium content that is able to compete in the market without the need of long development times and big budgets. We did it with very little money... but a lot of sweat!
1. Vision and Ambition
When the studio was started, the intention was to build a team that was passionate and experienced. For NyxQuest, we had to create a new 3D engine from scratch while building a game that would achieve a high level of quality in order to capture public attention.
Without both of these qualities (passion and experience) our project would have succumbed to its own ambition. For our game, we did a lot of research of the myth of Icarus and we learned what blind ambition did for him... we didn't want that ambition to be our killer in the end.
Forming your own studio requires a lot of dedication and hard work. Without a high level of passion, it's difficult to maintain morale during a long development cycle, with its ups and downs. We were lucky because all our team members love playing and making video games.
Maintaining the focus was very important, because we had to develop a game on time and on budget. We feel that our previous professional experience helped to avoid some of the most common pitfalls found in development.
Lesson learned: Passion + Experience = BINGO!
2. Artisan Development
Since we didn't have a lot of money to spend, we had to find ways to resolve some problems. Not enough work force for animation? Ask a friend with free time! No budget for voices? Get a voice actress girlfriend with her own studio! No testing department? Friends and family!
We spent some time thinking and testing options to find an art style that was able to catch your attention but at the same time that was "work-friendly". We had to be wise and find a way to build the levels with the desired level of quality, without spending too much time on it. Since we were a small team and couldn't have a lot of detailed models and textures, we chose a style that focused on lighting and shadows.
At the same time, we were telling the story of a burned and forgotten earth, full of deserts and ruins... this setting was not only chosen because of the story, it helped us to reduce work. Since the game world was ruined and deserted, we could create fewer assets and spend the time on making them stylish.