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Facepalm Games hopes to be the next big Indie Fund success story

Facepalm Games hopes to be the next big Indie Fund success story Exclusive

May 24, 2012 | By Caleb Bridge

May 24, 2012 | By Caleb Bridge
More: Indie, Exclusive

When you’re two young guys from Helsinki, Finland, it can be hard to get your game a) funded; b) noted by the public; and c) finished. But Facepalm Games’ The Swapper is hoping to do just that after February’s announcement that it is being backed by Indie Fund.

Facepalm Games is primarily the work of two people, Olli Harjola and Otto Hantula. Neither has much game development experience, with Harjola developing some minor personal projects, and Hantula’s experience being limited to mods and Counter Strike maps.

Despite this, the pair -- who are also being helped out by a third team-member, Carlo Castellana and occasional freelancers -- have struck a chord with The Swapper. The sci-fi puzzle/platformer "is inspired by films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris," said Facepalm's Olli Harjola. It has been in development for about three years in total, but only the past seven months have been full-time, as the game has gathered momentum and development ramps up towards release.

In The Swapper, players take control of a character exploring a space station, carrying a gun which gives them the ability to clone themselves wherever the cursor is pointing. This mechanic allows players to traverse the terrain, navigate obstacles or fall safely from great heights, and is set around "a story about treating human beings as objects."

Other than this main gameplay mechanic, one of the main features separating The Swapper from the pack is its art, which is almost entirely handmade and, contrary to what Facepalm's April Fools Day joke would lead you to believe, has not changed.

"I experimented with many different art styles. The clay animation wasn’t the first idea I had, but I hate 3D modelling," said Harjola. "I think the interfaces can be really bad and I find myself getting caught up in navigating the technical side of it instead of actually creating."

"I had made some clay animations before, so I figured I could take some photos of clay, then make normal maps to help with lighting and other effects. It was a long process, it took me months of experimenting with different styles, but I’m happy with the end result."

Currently, Harjola and Facepalm Games is grateful for initiatives like Indie Fund which is "literally funding us to be able to work on the game."

Indie Fund -- started by a group of successful indie developers to help further the growth of new, up and coming indie developers -- and the Facepalm team initially crossed paths at IndieCade 2011, where The Swapper won the show from a selection of over 40 submissions and 10 finalists.

While Harjola wasn't willing to discuss the finer details of how much is being provided by Indie Fund, previous titles funded by the group show that Indie Fund has an eye for success, after recouping its $90k investment in Q.U.B.E. in only four days, and Dear Esther's $55k investment in a mere six hours.

According to Harjola, Facepalm is currently hoping to put some of the money towards providing a better audio experience for The Swapper. Until now, "all money spent on the game was from our own savings. Anything we won from festivals hasn't actually helped, because of the travel costs involved it actually eats into our funds."

Now that development is in full swing, Facepalm's next challenge is trying to capitalise on the publicity opportunities offered by being involved with a high-profile group like Indie Fund.

After the initial Indie Fund announcement was made, the news was reported in many high-profile media outlets, but Facepalm Games didn't have the manpower to take advantage of the situation.

"It's just really hard when there's so few of us. We're so focused on working on the game that we just don't have the time to spare to do all the media and marketing work we need to do," said Harjola. He does, however, recognise the importance of dedicating time towards this closer to the end of their development cycle.

The Swapper is currently being developed for PC/Mac with Facepalm Games hoping for an early 2013 release.

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