During my second ever day at PAX Aus, I spent some more time down in the PAX Rising area with the Indie Dev’s. My first meeting for the day was with a great little outfit called Another Indie, and their Marketing Director Iain Garner. Another Indie were showcasing three games at PAX Aus this year, and Iain and I discussed all three.
Josh: So here I am, Day 2 of PAX, back down in the PAX Rising area. I am standing here with Iain from Another Indie to talk about the three titles they are showing this weekend. Iain mate, how are ya?
Iain: I’m fine, how about yourself?
Josh: Really good thanks. How was the first day of PAX Aus for you?
Iain: Enthralling, Exhausting and fun.
Josh: So was it your first time at PAX Aus?
Iain: This is my second Pax Aus, actually.
Josh: Showing the same titles from last year?
Iain: No no, all new titles this year. We only had one title on the floor last year, this year we have three, so thats a good sign.
Josh: That is a good sign. So, tell me all about Another Indie. Who are you, where are you from, what do you do?
Iain: So, Another Indie is a China-based publisher. We work predominately with Asian Indie games and what we are essentially trying to do is publish chinese and asian indie games out into the world. It’s a lot harder for Asian Indie Dev’s to do this, and we have the connections and the resources to get these games outside to shows like PAX Aus,, PAX US, GDC all these kinds of places. So that’s what we really do. We kind of leverage our own privilege. I’m essentially a lovely british man, and it’s a lot easier for me to get to shows like PAX Aus than it is for them. So thats kind of what we are doing right now, acting as a signal booster really, helping them with all the non-developer stuff and just generally doing what we can to make good indie games great.
Josh: So, you said you were British. Are you based in England?
Iain: No, I live in China, in the trenches effectively.
Josh: Jeez, right. That must be a really interesting.
Iain: Yea I like it, I like it a lot. There is a lot of cool stuff happening out there, especially in the indie scene. A lot of great enthusiasm and a very different take on things.
Josh: Yeah, Ok. Probably going off on a little bit of a tangent here, but what was the draw that made you want to go to China? What made you first think ‘Let’s go to China’ and then do something from there?
Iain: Oh man, it’s a long story. To cut it short I got offered a job which everyone thought I should take. I woke up one morning after accepting it and thought ‘I hate this idea. I will be doing this for the next 20 or 30 years and I will go slowly but surely insane. So I was on a plane two weeks later without very much of a plan, it was sort of an impulse decision really.
Josh: Wow, OK. And before you got to China had you been involved in the industry and game development?
Iain: No, I wasn’t. I was actually teaching English in China for two years and I got involved with gaming through writing. I was initially writing for various publications all around China, looking at the chinese indie dev scene as well as the asian dev scene. Also some tech stuff as well, so if google my name you will probably find a whole bunch of old articles from a few years ago.
Josh: All in Chinese?
Iain: No usually in English My Chinese is pretty bad. My writing is really bad, but my speaking is better. Just.
Josh: Right. That’s really interesting. So I guess going back to Another Indie. What’s your role with the company? Did you start Another Indie?
Iain: So I was one of the first members of Another Indie but I’m not actually a founder, as I had no money back then. This stuff takes a lot of money. So my Boss Adria, who is a lovely spanish man, is the head honcho of the company. I’m in charge of a lot of the day to day running of things, especially games related. Adria tends to focus the overarching business plan, whereas me I’m working with the developers and making sure everything is going to plan. I organise the social media guys. We have about seven people working for us full time at the moment, but we have other contractors that we hire as well. So that’s my job. I make sure that all the wheels keep turning and I organise events like this.
Josh: Ok, cool. So tell me a little bit about the three games you have here this weekend.
Iain: So we’ll start over here and just kind of make our way across. This is Original Journey. Original Journey is a weird and wonderful fusion of rogue-like, platforming and narrative. So unlike most roguelike games that don’t really have a narrative arc, they are just sort of like play play play, Original Journey has a beginning, a middle and an end. So although we have that roguelike element to it where the levels are randomly generated and different things happen, there is set instances that occur at certain points after a certain amount of time or progression through the game. These trigger different events throughout the story. We have a whole range of cast, a base you keep going back you. There is betrayal, a love story, you’ve got all this other stuff going on but in a roguelike formula. So it’s just a nice mix up and it really is kind of gorgeous too, isn’t it?
Josh: Yeah it is. Looking at it now it certainly has a charming style to it and looks really, really nice.
Iain: Actually, everything you can see on the screen is hand-drawn in pencil.
Josh: Hand-drawn in pencil?
Iain: Yes, and then scanned into a computer and animated after the fact. The whole game was drawn by one guy.
Josh: By one guy, really?
Iain: Every single thing you see in the game is drawn by one guy. Animated by other people but drawn by one guy.
Josh: Well, with that in mind how big is this game? You said that all the levels are randomly generated?
Iain: So, it’s not a huge game. For me to get through it, beginning to end takes me about 6 to 8 hours but obviously I know my way around it pretty well by now. Most people would be looking around 12ish? It’s not a game that is going to consume your life, it’s just a beautiful experience that you know, if you have a weekend with nothing to do. Maybe it’s wet outside and everyone is miserable, grab Original Journey and have yourself some fun.
Josh: Standing here looking at it and hearing about it, it’s certainly a game I can see myself sinking some time into. So, where can we get it? I assume it’s available on Steam?
Iain: Yep Yep, it’s on Steam right now. So you can just go online, type in Original Journey and up it comes, it’s $11.99. We are currently working on console ports. We are expecting Switch, PS4 and XBox One ports to be done by early next year. We are pretty much done with it, we just have to get through all the accreditations and platform publishing stuff.
Josh: For a game like this, do you see the Switch as a really strong console for it?
Iain: I think so? I think the Switch bubble is probably about to burst for a little bit because there has just been so many games that have hit it so rapidly over the last few weeks. I’m not expecting the ends of the earth or anything but I hope people like it. The Switch is an amazing console, I just picked up my copy of Super Mario Odyssey like, 5 minutes ago, so I’m really looking forward to the plane ride home.
Josh: I gotta say, I picked that up yesterday. Got in early with the media pass, went straight to the Nintendo booth and played it for about 10 minutes and was like ‘Yep.’ Went straight over to the Harvey Norman booth and picked it up.
Iain: Yeah, my buddy over at the Samurai Code booth was like “I’m going to go and get Mario Odyssey. Do you want one?” and I was like “YES. Yes I do.”
Josh: Right, so that’s Original Journey. Next to it, we have Sinner.
Iain: Yes, this is Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption. Sinner is a Souls-inspired boss battler. So there is no, in-between levels, no grind. It is just seven, eight total, but seven to start with super intense boss fights. The core feature of Sinner is that we wanted to make a Souls-like game that was accessible to almost everyone immediately. So even if you’re not the best Souls player, or even the best games player, you can access these seven amazing boss fights right at the beginning of the game. But, we have a really cool system to make the game get more challenging despite the fact there is no linearity. Every time you go into a boss fight, you need to perform a sacrifice. The sacrifice is a debuff, and it is permanent. So what that means is that at the very beginning of Sinner, you are the most powerful you will ever be and you get weaker with every boss that you beat. So instead of getting more powerful and newer and stronger weapons, you actually degrade, which makes each of the boss fights harder.
Josh: Now, my assumption is that all of the bosses are a little bit different and will react a little bit differently?
Iain: Yeah, all the bosses are totally separately coded. All of them have totally different AI and reactions. Some of them are very aggressive, actually right now you can see we have one of the bosses that is actually more like a two-in-one. So this one is very melee focused, she wants to do exactly what she just did and knock you off the edge and ruin your day, and another one that stands back and throws lightning at you. So you’re trying to balance between the two, figuring out which one to go for and when. It’s a real tricky experience.
Josh: It looks like a lot of fun. So I am assuming that the sacrifices affect your base stats?
Iain: Yeah, everything, and we show it on the character as well. So at the beginning of the game Adam, the main protagonist, has all shiny armour and his weapons are looking good. He looks kind of like your classic warrior. By the end of the game he has a loin cloth, his weapons are all rusty and broken. He’s all hunched over and looks a bit starved. He really looks terrible. We thought it was a really nice way to defeat the gate keeping that most games like this have. We didn’t want to do that, we wanted people to engage with the vast majority of the content.
Josh: Now I’m assuming that each time you play, you can sacrifice differently at each fight so each game, after you have done a couple of runs, it still changes because what you sacrifice will change the way you play?
Iain: Yeah yeah, 100%. For example, some players already, we only have three bosses here, but some players are already clued on to ‘OK, so if I want to fight her I shouldn’t lose this’, you know what I mean? There is this chain of events that some people have. But it all depends on your personal play style. So for example with me, I’m quite conservative, so one of the bosses in this build takes over half your healing items. So instead of seven healing items you only have three. So i save that motherfucker for last, because I need those healing items. So what I will do is I will sacrifice my attack power, but I have met players the other day who were like ‘I will never sacrifice my attack power, never ever. I will always sacrifice something else.’ So like, it really depends on who you are and how you play.
Josh: So you said there is seven boss battles, well eight really, but I am assuming that there are more than eight stats that can be sacrificed?
Iain: So right now it’s only seven, but each boss has it’s on specific sacrifice, so you don’t get to choose what you sacrifice. Each boss has it’s demand.
Josh: Oh right, so like ‘To fight me you must sacrifice this’.
Iain: Precisely. So we’ve got some plans to shake that up in the future, but as it stands right now you have seven sacrifices. By the time you have done those seven sacrifices you are a fraction of your starting power, and then you have to fight the final eight boss.
Josh: That just seems mean to me.
Iain: It is mean, but you know that’s the thing. It makes the final boss fight…I’ve only played through the game beginning to end once as it’s still a bit rough around the edges in some places, but when I finally beat that eight boss. Oh my god what a feeling. What a feeling. I felt like I had just climbed Kilimanjaro. It felt amazing. And that’s the feeling we are going for. It’s also about practice, and about figuring out those patterns by watching the game closely. I think that’s part of the fun. So i think the people that find it hard and quite punishing are going to enjoy it more, and the people that don’t want to do that, they can still have seven amazing boss fights. They can go in full-powered to every one of those fights except for the one single sacrifice. So, even for the more casual players we have so much content. Thats kind of what I wanted to go for. Something that was able to be played by literally everyone. Like, if you’re the hardest core Souls player you are going to find this a challenge. If you are the lowest core souls player or someone that likes the idea of the souls game but could never really jump in because you were like ‘I’m not spending $60 on something that’s going to kick my ass’, Sinner might be for you. It’s got those elements that people like, but it’s got them in such a way that it doesn’t prohibit engaging with the game.
Josh: Again, available on Steam?
Iain: Not yet. We are still developing. We ummed and ahhed about doing Early Access and bringing it out early and pre ordering, but what we have decided to do is just when the game is done, it will be launched and it will be perfect. We are working really hard to give everyone the absolute best experience we can.
Josh: Nice. Now, as you said you have seven boss fights, and eight with the final boss. Are there any plans in the back of the head to expand on that?
Iain: We’ve already got like, an idea for DLC later on. What we want to do, right now we have Adam and we are thinking about creating a new character with their own world and bosses, and then having the characters be able to swap between the worlds to fight the other bosses. So, Adam will be able to go to the new character’s home world and the new character will be able to go to Adam’s world. That’s the idea we are playing with right now, but we haven’t even begun developing at all. We have literally had a meeting, written down a bunch of ideas and then once we finish the game, then we will engage with that. We are going to have the actual game finished in November, which is what we are aiming for, but then we still need to do all of the cut-scenes. So in-between, we are really going to have time to start planning out what our game plan is. But for right now, it’s all about getting the game out on all the platforms. We are aiming to get it out on PC, PS4, XBox and we are even looking at Switch. We are in talks with Nintendo to try and figure out how to make that work. The feedback we have received is that everyone really likes Sinner. People are finding it really charming in that brutal kind of way. So I want to get it to as many people as we can. If you are a player, I want you to play Sinner.
Josh: So, last one. A game called Shots Fired. Talk to me.
Iain: So Shots Fired is like my baby. Shots Fired is a Filipino developed game. All the other games here are Chinese, but Shots Fired is Filipino. I met those guys a year ago at ESGS, which is a Filipino Games convention that was at this time last year. I just fell in love. It’s this weird amalgam of visual novel, assassination simulator with some time management elements and a goofy, crazy piss-take of a story. It just sang to me. You know,. Sometimes you just see a project and you’re like ‘Ohhh, I need to be in this’. This was a game that wouldn’t have happened without Another Indie. They needed help, they needed funding and a lot of assistance to get things going and we managed to make that happen. The developers themselves are only two guys, and artist and a developer and they are just incredible. They are such passionate people. Chryse, that’s the name of the company, I strongly recommend you go and check them out. They are just amazing. But the game starts with a protagonist who you never really see. You only ever see an outline of them, so we never give them a gender. We are really very good at never giving a gender or any sort of name, but they have a wife and a child. At the very beginning of the game, the wife is murdered, the child is kidnapped, and the TV is stolen. So you go through this series of events trying to reclaim all of these things and uncover the mystery. So the first thing you have to do is, using your job as a Meme Journalist, taking photos for Meme’s, you save up enough money to buy a rifle. Then you start working in the criminal underworld as an assassin, in order to build up credibility to be able to take on the clients you take on. So, the assassin app is based on Tinder, so its swipe right to murder, swipe left to not murder.
Josh: Right, OK.
Iain: So each target has like their own little story and their own little dialogue. The main character never speaks, they only ever type in emoji’s. So everything is told through other people typing and this character responding. So even at the beginning of the game where your wife is like ‘Oh my god, there is someone at the house. Oh my god, I think they are here for me!’ you are getting like, Shocked face, Angry Face, Running Man all told in emoji’s. It’s really funny, and it’s a bit of a middle finger, cheeky thumb nose to all the John Wicks and the Taken’s and a super, angry masculine revenge fantasy. We were like, this is silly so let’s make fun of it. But it’s just beautiful. The way the game actually works is it’s almost like a game of Hide and Seek with pixel people. You are given clues or descriptions or jobs and you are looking to find where they are on the screen. You’re trying to take pictures, assassinate and then escape with little mini-games. There is this Hacking mini-game so you can get into people’s computers and find out all this information. It’s just great fun.
Josh: It certainly looks interesting. I do have a question, and it’s a little bit of a political question. It’s just, with all the recent stuff that’s been happening in America and around the world, are you worried about any bad publicity for the game?
Iain: So yea, we actually had a media build we were going to be releasing. We were planning on releasing it three days after Las Vegas, so we cancelled that immediately. Umm, we are in a situation where…I mean, there is no easy answer, right? Our game is fun, it’s comedy but because it involves shooting people with a rifle from a distance, I can understand that’s controversial. I, however, will not accept people having a go at me and my developer’s for making something that we think is an interesting take on a genre that has existed for as long as there has been motion pictures, let alone games.So I did actually have someone come up and say something to me, and I was like ‘Look, I’m not being funny but if you want to take every game with guns in it out of circulation, you are going to be a very busy person for a very long time’. I don’t think that’s the way to do it. If you want to talk Gun Reform, we can happily talk Gun Reform, but I really don’t want people associating my pixel art beautiful game with that.
Josh: Yeah, I can totally understand that. Looking at the description for the game, and I think I got the email about this interview around the same time, it was just a question that popped into my head.
Iain: Yeah 100%. We are aware of it. You know, the first thing we did when we realised what happened in America was to say No to that media build. There is a matter of being a good person. Looking at the world outside your own little box. At Another Indie, we are all about looking outside that little box. We live in China, we find these amazing games from Asia and we do everything we can to make those games a success. The last thing I ever want to do is have something I have created cause anyone any real emotional pain. I have no interest in that. We don’t want to be anything negative. We want to make cool, fun, occasionally beautiful games and I don’t want people to be upset with anything we have made.
Josh: I’ve got a good run-down on the games. I’m really, really excited to get in and try them because they all look sensational. Really excited to maybe get them on the Switch as well. Iain, thank you very much for your time.
Iain: You are very welcome.
Josh: I’ve had a great time and I hope you have a great rest of your weekend.
Iain: I will do man, you too.
Another Indie had some great titles on display at PAX this year, and since I’ve been home I have sunk a good chunk of time into Original Journey. It is definitely worth picking up, and I urge you all to do so. There will be a review coming from me on the site in the next few weeks as well. I’m keen to sink some time into Sinner once it releases as well. I’m horrible at the Souls games and I didn’t fare too well when I played Sinner at PAX, but I did have fun.
If you want to keep on top of all the amazing work Another Indie is doing, there are a few ways to get involved with them. You can check out their website, anotherindie.com, for a list of all of their games. Otherwise, you can hit them up on their Discord at Discord.gg/ai.