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Postmortem: Mommy's Best Games' Weapon of Choice
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Postmortem: Mommy's Best Games' Weapon of Choice

January 8, 2009 Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

[Ex-Insomniac programmer Nathan Fouts created one of the standout Xbox Live Community Games for Xbox 360 in 2D side-scrolling shooter Weapon Of Choice, and explains just how in this in-depth Gamasutra postmortem.]

Working on games such as Resistance: Fall of Man and Postal 2 was a dream come true. While I really enjoyed contributing to stunningly-complex 3D games, my secret passion was to create a smoking, 2D, side-scrolling action game that looked like it crawled off that high school, stoner kid's notebook, and then ate Rainbow Brite.

For me, directly mapping 2D stick controls to a 2D action game is like pizza and beer. And maybe some warmed pie on the side. And some ice cream on the pie.

Mmmm... anyway, I drugged my wife and convinced her that I should quit my great job at Insomniac Games, and use all of our savings to make my own game. (Okay, just kidding -- no one actually took drugs despite what Weapon of Choice's art direction may suggest.)

With most of my teenage years spent fighting Red Falcon and the Bydo Empire, Weapon of Choice's designs and drawings flowed freely. The game revealed itself to me over a period of months, and fortuitously, XNA became ready for primetime as well.

Figure 1. Final title and original pencil art. All the art in the game started as pencil and was then scanned and colored digitally.

My friend, AJ Johnson, wrote the dialogue and the story, and Hamdija Ajanovic composed the game's rocking, custom soundtrack. A programming friend helped with a few enemy prototypes, and another old colleague designed one of the levels.

Those poor saps worked remotely and agreed to get paid on the back end, based on sales profit. I also remotely contracted two texture artists for occasional environment texture work; they were paid with actual money.

My wife acted as the producer and business manager. Friends and family were the QA department, playtesting the game at milestones. That left everything else for me, which included the original concept, design, programming, art, animation, sound effects... you know, the game part.

While initially I wanted to release the game on Xbox Live Arcade, Weapon of Choice swaggered onto the Xbox 360's Community Games on November 19th and seems to be well received. The game is an "approachable hardcore game" meant for older gamers who don't always have time on their hands for retail games.

Though I've worked in the professional game industry for over a decade, there were many sadly entertaining things I learned along the way. But let's leave the embarrassment for last.

Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

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Amir Sharar
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I really hope that this becomes a profitable venture for Nathan, this game was excellent in all manners and I'd like to see more. With all the lessons learned, and the custom editor created, perhaps it won't take as long for MBG to create other titles.

I have to stress how unique this title was in all aspects. I'm not talking about slight innovations, but rather, something completely different. I've never played a shootemup that had branching levels and stories (these aren't slight differences in the ending, they are completely different perspectives). Of course, the weapons are things never before seen in a game like this. The same can be said of the controls, in particular the ability to spiderwalk on any surface. The art (though I suppose my graphic designer friends would have issues with it) really look like they came out of a sketchbook, and isn't very typical of the art you'd see in 99% of games out there. The bosses are just twisted and epic. Despite being a short game (for $5 I'm not complaining at all!) there's so much here that's impressive, that I really, really hope MGB is financially rewarded and able to pump out more titles.

julian farquar
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My hat goes off to Fouts. I wish I had more hats to take off. We had to design our own level editor for Casebook, which was a rigmarole in itself. I also sympathise with any upper-indie game creator whose art design isn't glitzy and glamorous, yet competes against titles that most definitely are. As the writer on Casebook, I had to generate a plot to a miniscule budget, but my salvation was that the quality of plotting in the great weight of casual (and for that matter AAA games) is fairly weak. Nathan had no such headstart. Amazing.

David Hof
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Very interesting article about an impressive achievement. I also hope you make some money out of it, especially considering that with the volume of low quality games in XNA Community Games I fear it may be difficult for the diamonds to stand out from the duffers.

Andrius Kavaliunas
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Now that is a great article.

Looks like Insomniac is loosing the best programmers :-)

Shawn Yates
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Best of luck to Nathan, I'm curious to see what he comes up with next. Very impressive what he was able to do and I salute his efforts fully. I loved the art style.

Timothy Porter
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Nathan is a genius. Such a nice guy and a great person. I know that this game wont be the last for him or his company. Long live MBG!

Daniel Lawson
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David Hof... the diamonds stand out... like a giant light in the darkness. I think if they added in a common rating... like they do with users... then more games that are great will be shoved to the front of the pack.