[Originally published on Mod DB, these interviews from Leo Jaitley of Dejobaan Games explores the neat nooks and crannies in indie gaming. This week the spotlight's on Dave Marsh, co-creator of Zero Gear and one of the three founding members of Nimblebit.]

In this latest episode of "Half a Million Seconds with an Indie Developer," we sit down (virtually) with Dave Marsh, one head in the three headed (sprinting) turtle that is NimbleBit. You might know Dave and the Bits from one of their plethora of iPhone games or from their soon-to-be-released PC title - Zero Gear.


Who are you?

DM: Hi, my name is David Marsh, and I am one of the three amigos that make up NimbleBit. I make many of the shiny and colorful stuff in our games, as well as pretty much anything else that needs to be done as long as it doesn't involve touching or writing code (which makes me stutter and drool).

The other two super-friends are my twin brother Ian Marsh, who is an iPhone developer whiz as well as doing a fair share of graphics artistry and Brian Cronin who is a beef jerky and mountain dew fueled engineering and programming evil genius.


So tell us a bit about your background as a game developer. Why did you go indie and how did NimbleBit come about? What did you friends and family say when you said you were "going indie"?

DM: I started mucking about with level editors for Duke Nukem 3D, Quake, and Half-Life in the very last bit of the 1990's and my passion for constructing games has been set in stone since then. Eventually a few of my levels made their way into the original Counter-Strike which in turn landed me the opportunity to work at Troika Games on Vampire: Bloodlines. Working at Troika was my first chance to be involved with working on games along side many talented and passionate people, and it really was a great high to do so.

Right after the project shipped, the studio was forced to shut down, and it was in that time of turbulence that I really started to understand how the game industry worked, and how out of control you actually had to be in much of the time in order to be granted the opportunity to make games that way. For 5 or 6 years after that I hopped from studio to studio and it was confirmed further each place I went that this whole business structure was totally wrecking the high that I first got from working on games.

All three of us NimbleBit members ended up working at the same company when our cynicism about making games for interests other than our own reached critical mass. Eventually I think we came to the conclusion that we were still so enamored with the possibilities of making games that we had to try to do it on our own terms. We had been following the independent game development scene with great interest, and we thought that if other people were doing it, why not us! So eventually we found the three of us making games together as NimbleBit.

When we decided to try and make our own independent games, most of our friends and family wished us luck because we had been talking about how "I think we could do this too!" for so long.



Tell us about your workspace - are you a "work from home while watching Oprah" kinda dev, a "get out of bed and trudge through the snow to the office" kind, or something else?

DM: We have worked in a lot of different combinations of living rooms and spare bedrooms. Our current situation is a bit split up, so my brother and I work from a one room office in San Diego, and Brian works from home in San Francisco with his two cats, Dr. Snuggles and professor John K. Wiggles. When we really need to focus on one thing we try to all get in the same place to work as much as possible.


You wake up on a Wednesday morning. Congratulations -- you have a full day's work ahead of you! What do you get done in the first hour? (Okay, go on and tell us about the subsequent 10 hours.)

DM: I usually leave for the office at 9:00 and get there around 9:20. The very first thing I do is start booting up my laptop, and immediately start the coffee making. This is probably the most pivotal part of my entire day. I check my mail and whatever else is interesting at the moment on the interwebs and shoot the shit with Ian until the coffee is brewed, which means my brain can start functioning and I can get on about making games. We usually have a little Google voice conference call with Brian at this point, to keep us all on the same page and then we go about our business.

For me, it could almost be something different every day. When you only have a few developers, everyone has to wear a lot of different hats. So I might be modeling something, or making a website, or scripting a level or trying to promote one of our games. A lot of stuff we do is actually the first time we have tried our hand at things, which usually is pretty exciting. Some other aspects of having a studio, like dealing with the legal and business side of things is not very exciting to be doing for the first time at all.



Would you classify yourself as more of an artist or a tech wiz? Master of biz? Maybe you do it all, tell us about it Jack...

DM: I am very much an artist / designer type, but I will try my hand at almost anything!


We have a few favorite moments in our studio's history -- care to share one of yours?

DM: We are still a very young studio, so I hope most of my most memorable moments are still to come. The two moments that personally stick out for me, is the point when the three of us finally decided to band together and make games together. We all have a lot of respect for each other as developers and I think it gave us a lot of confidence to know that we trust each others abilities that much.

As of this writing, I think the most recent milestone for NimbleBit was finally seeing our game Zero Gear up for pre-order on Steam. Zero Gear is our first big project, and seeing it up there after 2 and a half years of work somehow finally made it "real" and that we are finally going to be able to see what kind of a path we can carve out for NimbleBit.


Tell us about a game that inspired you to MAKE games.

DM: I would have to say that my biggest inspiration was actually an engine, not a game. I'm not sure I would be making games if I hadn't been completely obsessed (to the detriment of my teenage social life) with the half-life modding scene. There was such an explosion of game development that came out of the half-life engine then, it was a very exciting time for me. There was tons of people just like me who were new to making games, but had lots of ambitious ideas and were eager to explore them with others.



How does NimbleBit keep their beards so healthy and lustrous?

DM: This is probably one of the most often asked questions we hear, and I can't divulge too much information other than to say it involves a steady diet of beef jerky and orange oil treatments. The overwhelming scent has the additional bonus of keeping one's self awake during late night game jamming.