Matt recently headed to Kickstarter to raise funds to complete his retro side scrolling action game, Savage: The Shard of Gosen. In Savage you play a guy, with a sword and.. Well, none of that really matter. In Savage you get to run around in an open non-linear world with a wide variety brutal weapons killing things. Toss in cool touches like day/night cycles, procedurally generated encounters, and a complex narrative structure and you’ve got a game that just might break the mould of it’s own roots; if Matt can complete it. We recently asked Matt about his game, it’s Kickstarter campaign, and poetry; he was kind enough to reply, which is always nice.
Cliqist : If you were on the Dating Game and the girl on the other side of the stage asked you to tell her about yourself, what would you say?
Matthew Fitzgerald : Hi! My name is Matt and I don’t like to go outside! I like to draw, make music and play video games. I like to make video games, too! Are you hot? Also, I’m married… I shouldn’t be here.
Matthew Fitzgerald : Savage: The Shard of Gosen is a game about barbarians; lots of half-naked men running around in a brutal, unforgiving world swinging blunt objects and sharp stabby pieces of metal at each other. It’s a 2D action/platformer with quite a few RPG elements mixed in for good (and fun) measure. It’s largely my own personal love letter to Zelda 2, Super Mario Bros. 2, Conan and other silly things like Beast Master.
Cliqist : Haven’t I played that before? What about all the other (insert classic side scroller) inspired games out these days?
Matthew Fitzgerald : Ah, but you haven’t played anything like this before. Savage is a game with a heavy emphasis on melee combat – nothing new, right? But wait! What I’m trying to achieve here is a non-flashy, stick and move pace to the combat. It’s not a button masher and doesn’t have insane combo counters and juggling. It’s a game about knowing your equipment and weapons, and also staying sharp and aware of your enemy’s movements. The joy comes from knowing how to handle the weight of your spear, the arch of your club, and scoring a really satisfying hit while avoiding the other guy’s attack. I want to approach the combat like a series of little puzzles and create an environment where the player will want to ask, “Ok, with what I’ve got and what’s going on around me, what’s the best way to take this baddie out?”
As far as combat goes, it’s almost like a 2D Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, or Blade of Darkness.
Each weapon, armor, item and piece of gear that you use also has its own separate and specific pool of experience points. For example, the more you use your long sword, the better you’ll get with it and you’ll eventually master it. Once mastered, it will yield a skill, perk, or base stat increase that the character gets to keep.
Add on top of that an open world map to explore with procedurally-generated mini-encounters, rare creatures and bosses to hunt, branching dialogue choices that can alter the outcome of a fight or scenario, and yeah… I’d say the game has a pretty unique flavor when lined up against other 2D action games out there.
Cliqist : You’ve been very open with the Alpha version of Savage. Many developers are reluctant to let people play their game so early in development. Ok, sorry, that wasn’t a question. Say something?
Matthew Fitzgerald : Haha! That was close enough, to one… I think. Yeah, I launched an open alpha late last year in October, and my decision for doing that largely came from a need for some good news – or at least any news. Last July (the 4th, of all days) our apartment burned down and we lost just about everything. I wanted to reach out and show people what I had been working on. And finally get some feedback on this thing I had been keeping to myself for the better part of four years, which was also actually kind of terrifying. I’m glad I did, though, because feedback has been insanely positive and I’ve met a lot of amazingly supportive people. It’s been great fun being a part of something that’s been building up its own little fan base and community. I hope that sort of answers the not-question?
Cliqist : That fake NES launch style packaging brings back memories. Then I get angry when I realize that you’re not releasing a cartridge version of Savage. Any possibility of that happening one day?
Matthew Fitzgerald : Man, I would love to one day code and build a game with the intent of releasing it on a cartridge! I have no idea if I ever will, though. I have definitely flirted with the idea and have given a solid look into what it would take to do something like that. Of course, that faux NES black box parody art is a bit of a misnomer – Savage is definitely not made within the confines of the NES color palette, memory size, all that, and more resembles something you’d see on SNES… or maybe something in between. Speaking to that, I really should get around to updating the box-art.
Cliqist : Part of the money from your Kickstarter is going towards cost of living while you work on the game. How about I just send you a case of Ramen and some Kool-Aide instead of backing? Why should I give you money?
Matthew Fitzgerald : Wouldn’t it be easier for you to use that money to instead back the Kickstarter? I mean, you’d have to go through the hassle of going to the grocery store, picking out the Ramen and Kool-Aide, getting my address, getting the appropriate packaging together, and then paying to ship the stuff to me. Plus, Ramen and Kool-Aide donations would not be counted toward reaching the Kickstarter goal. My campaign would fail and all I’d have would be one packet of Ramen and some color-specific flavored Kool-Aide.
That aside, with the support of my wife and the savings we had, I was able to work on the game full-time. The costs of relocating and getting things like clothes and furniture (inflatable mattress and bean bag chairs, ha!) really just about obliterated all of that. We had crappy insurance and it was only able to cover about one-fifth of our losses. A successful Kickstarter would allow me to continue working on the game full-time until it’s done, and to do it right. I want to avoid sob-stories, I’m not looking for charity, which is why the fire and all that go virtually unmentioned on the Kickstarter page. I wanted the game to stand on its own and for anyone interested to get excited about it and to back it.
Plus, I hate Kool-Aide (apologies to any Kool-Aide enthusiasts out there).
Matthew Fitzgerald : I wasn’t aware that cross promotion carried with it a degree of taboo on Kickstarter. I was approached by other project creators interested in doing some cross promotion, I looked at their projects, I was genuinely interested in what I saw and I said, “Sure, ok!” Of course I was hopeful that it would get the word out about my project to other people who might be interested in backing it, but I’m also really interested in those projects I gave shout-outs to. Like Scum Lord. That game looks rad.
Cliqist : You’re approaching the halfway point of the campaign, and it looks like it’s going to be a nail biter to get funding. Any backup plan in case the Kickstarter doesn’t work out?
Matthew Fitzgerald : Sorry, what? I was too busy whittling my nails down to the cuticle. The reality I’m facing with my game is that I may very well have to put it down for a bit if the Kickstarter fails and go back to working on it in bite-sized chunks every now and again. I’m no stranger to doing that. Before my wife and I saved up enough to move out of state I was working as a dockworker at a dehydrated food processing plant, a coffee roaster, and a projectionist. I would work on Savage wherever and whenever I could. A failed Kickstarter doesn’t mean the game won’t ever be finished. The game has already been through a damn fire – it’s a tough bastard and I’ll figure something out.
Matthew Fitzgerald : I am prepared to shave my head AND take a Kool-Aide flavored pie to the face on Twitch.
Cliqist : Can you finish us up with a Savage: The Shard of Gosen inspired haiku?
Matthew Fitzgerald : Ahem.
of the loins. Battle Cry!
Game Genie won’t work.