May 16, 2012 1:00 AM | John Polson
For the launch of the PC version of Serious Sam 3: Before First Encounter in 2011, publisher Devolver Digital took an unusual approach. The company hired three indies to create three smaller games that would release before the full Serious Sam game, to essentially build hype for the series. One of those games is Serious Sam Double D, from Weapon of Choice and Shoot 1up creator Nathan Fouts, and his team at Mommy's Best Games.
SSDD was released for Steam in late 2011, but now Devolver has commissioned an Xbox Live Arcade version from Fouts and company, called Serious Sam Double D: XXL (as though the game needed a longer acronym), ahead of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 launches of Serious Sam 3: BFE.
The updated version of Fouts' game will feature additional levels, two-player co-op, and additional weapons for the game's "gunstacker" mechanic, which allows players to stack up their guns and use them all simultaneously. We spoke with Fouts to find out why the company took the "reverse path" from PC to console.
Why bring the game to Xbox Live Arcade? Most developers these days seem to make the game for XBLA, then sell several times more on Steam later.
Serious Sam Double D was initially conceived as a marketing game for Serious Sam 3: Before First Encounter. Delightfully, it ended up getting a lot more fun and bigger than either publisher Devolver Digital or I thought it would be. The initial budget and timeline wasn't huge and we had to pick a target platform. Serious Sam initially launched back in 2001 on PC only. I think it was the best fit still, especially for the fans.
After the game launched on Steam and was well received, XBLA talk began. The Steam price is $8, and to reasonably charge $10 (for XBLA) we've been adding a lot more to the game to expand it. I realize the order of platforms we've released it for seems a little backwards, but I think Double D makes perfect sense on console (playing similar to Contra).
Is it a significant effort to port from the original, or was this planned all along?
It's kind of a lot of work. The big difference is this much more than a straight port, but still less than a full-blown sequel. We had a lot more we wanted to get into the PC version originally but didn't have time. Hopefully we can squeeze it all in here.
The crazy thing is this was not planned from the start. It was going to be simple and short, but got out of control, which was mostly fun to create, but definitely stressful. We'll be using all the assets from the original release, but we've been drawing, animating, coding, and building a ton more.
For example, all the original eight gun-types are still there, but now there are four upgrades for each gun class (making 32 upgraded guns plus the original 8 guns). I'm doing all-new gun art for a lot of the upgrades, in order to make it satisfying when the player gets those new upgrades. With the addition of all this new player firepower, I've had to go back and retune every level to match the new player abilities.
How do you feel working with publishers again, after quitting because you didn't like losing creative control?
Devolver Digital has been good-weird. They've only supported us financially and with marketing, and almost never messed with our creative direction. So... it's been great! We're definitely still independent, as we control nearly every single thing about the game itself. But we do get help from Devolver on occasion, such as wrangling the XBLA deal itself.
How do you deal with working on a license, marrying that with your unique style and keeping your freedom?
It was fairly difficult to do. You have to know yourself -- and studio -- really well. And you have to know the license. Once we sorted out what worked in both cases we were able to add them together pretty well.
For instance, how do you get a first-person shooter feel into a 2D run'n'gun? Sam has tons of circle-strafing and running backward while firing (in the original). To mirror this play-style in Double D we introduced a jump-pad powerup. You throw it down anytime and it launches you high into the air. The player-jump is also very maneuverable in mid-air. This was to mimic the circle-strafing. It gets more vertical movement out of the side-scrolling, and lets you dodge much more than a typical run-n-gun game.
Even the Gunstacker itself was a response to integrating the original "plain" Serious Sam guns. I knew I couldn't get wacky with the guns right off the bat or fans wouldn't recognize enough of the game, so I created with this method to combine guns.
Are you going to keep working on XBLIG and smaller titles, or are we only going to see Mommy's Best Games in larger arenas now?
I'd definitely like to stick with both areas. Steam and the PC scene are thriving and it's smooth to develop for. Big projects like XXL for XBLA are really satisfying to create. Smaller-scope projects on XBLIG are fun to make though -- they go faster, and there's often less risk. We've made some good money on XBLIG and now we've done well on Steam.
It's been well established there is plenty of money to make on XBLIG given the right game. While we've had good success on XBLIG, our games sometimes get lost in the shuffle (Explosionade, we hardly knew ye). But I continue to plan and design for games on XBLIG in the future. I love the platform and the community there. It's wonderful to develop games for, but it can be tough to make money.
[This article appeared originally on Gamasutra, written by Brandon Sheffield.]