The Seattle Indie Interview: Scott Brodie

Jul 2nd, 2011 by Matthew Burns

Tell us your name and how you got into indie games.

My name is Scott Brodie and I’m an independent game designer. I started taking a serious interest in building indie games a few years ago after being exposed to the influential work of people like Jason Rohrer (Passage, Gravitation), Jonathan Blow (Braid), and Eskil Steenberg (LOVE). Their outspoken commitment to a personal vision was inspiring, but more importantly they shed light on viable paths I could follow to earn a living making the games I enjoyed building and playing. I dipped my toe into the indie pond with an experimental game called The Beggar. After about six months spent learning flash, and a gentle nudge or three from fellow Seattle indie Daniel Cook, I decided to give it a shot as an indie full-time.

What moments in games inspire you?

I’m always blown away by immersive minimalist games. The ability of games like ICO, Flower, Gravitation, and LIMBO to convey so much without uttering a word pushes me to find more ways to simplify and focus my own games.

As well, a game or two of pick-up basketball always seems to leave me in a better place if I’m feeling especially jaded or uncreative. It always amazes me how quickly a leather ball and some white lines on a floor can motivate five strangers to work together.

What game are you working on right now? What makes it special?

I’ve spent the last 8 months or so dedicated to building Hero Generations. It’s an oddly wonderful marriage of turn-based strategy, “artgame”, and classic adventure. You play as a hero that lives out an entire lifespan over the course of 5 minutes. Your goal is to explore a series of little worlds and build a reputation before your hero dies. In parallel, you also need to be on the look out for a mate you can start a family with. If you attract a mate and have a child, you continue on as that child, with the actions of your past hero shaping what type of life that child can lead. Much of the fun in the game comes from the tension created by love and achievement pulling you in opposite directions.

I think it’s special for a few reasons. It has a little of everything I love about games: simple controls matched with deep strategy. Procedurally generated characters and worlds. And if I do my job right, the game might just (*flips back scarf, tips beret*) offer up a truth or two to ponder about the human condition.

It also has the potential to be one of the first true indie games delivered through Facebook, and I’m hopeful the game can change people’s perceptions about what a Facebook game can be.

What is a burning lesson that you’ve learned about indie development that everyone should know?

 Independence is a gift and a curse. Without someone enforcing and setting out milestones for you, it’s easy to lose focus and wrongly prioritize what’s important for the game. My advice is to set milestones early and find some way that works for you to hold yourself accountable. For me, I try to always have a regular playtest or feedback session on the horizon. Knowing there is a real person out there that will be judging my game motivates me to work hard on the things that person will care about.

 Beyond that, my only other advice is to dare yourself to make the game you want to make. Across my writing, music, tweets, whatever—I always find I get the biggest response when I’m bold enough to be myself. Trouble starts when I try too hard to imitate what other people are doing because it’s what has proven to have worked in the past.

What would you like to see out of a Seattle Indies community?

I’d like to see Seattle Indies become a support system of peers for existing independent developers, and a “lighthouse” of sorts that can guide new indie hopefuls to success as they transition out of the traditional industry. It was a long process for me to finally muster up the courage to give up my large company job and follow what my heart was telling me. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that what I thought would be a lonely journey afterwards has been anything but. The support of like minded friends and this group of 50+ people and counting has helped me greatly, and I hope Seattle Indies can continue to be a support system for others.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Well, if you’d like to follow along with the development of Hero Generations, I’m pretty active on twitter (username: @brodiegames). I mainly talk about game design, but every now and then I’ll describe the many adventures I have as a new dog-dad.