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How a single developer brought the giant robot game Jettomero to life

October 4, 2017 | By Bryant Francis

Jettomero: Hero of the Universe is a Noby Noby-inspired game developed by Canadian indie developer Gabriel Koenig. It’s a charming, striking game where you control a (clumsy) giant robot hell-bent on saving the Universe (even if it doesn’t need to be saved). 

Today on the Gamasutra Twitch channel, we were lucky enough to stream Jettomero while chatting with Koenig about his process making the game. Unlike many of the other indie developers we’ve talked to lately, it’s a story less about crunching into the night, racing to meet a launch date, and rather about one man figuring out what his game was while holding down a day job. 

The resulting game is a really unique, toylike experience, and you can watch our gameplay of it (and the conversation with Koenig) up above. In case you’re rocketing around the universe right now, here are a few key takeaways from that chat. 

Creating a different kind of “comic book look”

Two of the artistic influences behind Jettomero include the work of comic artists Jack Kirby and Mike Mignola. Yet if you looked at Jettomero it would take you a few minutes to detect its comic book influences. According to Koenig, this art style emerged from trying to figure out a unique way to animate the weirdness of space, which led him to Kirby’s cosmic ’70s art and Mignola’s heavily contrasted design for Hellboy. 

One interesting part of Koenig’s art style is that during development, he’d print out screenshots of his game and install them in his friend’s art show, surprising viewers who assumed the images were created by digital painting, not a video game engine. 

Why games?

Koenig actually didn’t go to school to be a game developer, he went to study video and film. As we talked about the artistic work he’s done, we wanted to know why a sound designer/filmmaker would want to work in games. As it turns out, Koenig’s take is sort of the opposite of other developers who are worried there are too many games out there. 

As Koenig explains, he saw games as a medium good for artists because it can be done from his desk (and not on a film set), and with so much competition in the music industry, he sees games as a good way to get his music in front of the people who would like it. 

Using Kickstarter as a marketing tool

Jettomero did have a small Kickstarter campaign that Koenig ran toward the end of development, not as a tool to capitalize on a pre-existing community but as a means to market the game. Since it exceeded its modest goal, he was able to raise some funds to help localize the game and build a small fanbase who’d be interested in release. 

In an age where smashing successes on Kickstarter have sort of petered off, it’s an interesting observation about how the platform can be used for game developers. 

For more developer interviews, editor roundtables and gameplay commentary, be sure to follow the Gamasutra Twitch channel.

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