Tom Happ has been working on Axiom Verge for five years, and is now eagerly awaiting its launch later this week. In the age of social media, it's become increasingly easy, if incredibly time consuming, for indie developers to market their games – but the kind of raw hype that surrounds Happ's release is a rarity. As such, we thought that we'd have a word with him to get the inside scoop.
Push Square: Could you explain what Axiom Verge is to any uninformed readers?
Tom Happ: Axiom Verge is a classic-styled action-adventure where you awake in a bizarre, alien world. The point of the game is to explore and find out why you are there.
What classic games inspired you while you were creating Axiom Verge? What impact did they have on the project?
Metroid, Contra, Bionic Commando, Rygar, Blaster Master, Ninja Gaiden, Shatterhand, Kid Icarus, and many others. Although most people respond to the Metroid influence, in its earliest conception, the game was going to play more like a mix of Bionic Commando and Rygar in a setting like Blaster Master and Shatterhand.
Glitches play a role in the game's design. Can you talk a little bit about how that works?
Well, you'll surely spot some glitches early on in the game, but, around the 15 per cent mark, you'll get a weapon that allows you to glitch enemies. Each enemy type has a different behaviour when glitched, so it involves experimenting to see what effects you can have in different situations.
The word on the street is that you alone are responsible for the game's art, code, music, and design. That's impressive. What's kept you going?
Mainly being patient. Getting frustrated or losing interest is the greatest enemy to a solo developer – and even some small teams. So it's all about trying to make sure you always give yourself something interesting to work on.
Axiom Verge was selected for Sony's pub fund last year. What's it been like having Sony as a partner?
Great! It's amazing the amount of exposure I've gotten through them. To do this on my own would cost a small fortune.
Are the 16-bit graphics just for looks, or is this an old school experience through and through?
It's not an old-school quarter muncher; you are meant to explore so the difficulty is "medium" – well, unless you select the Hard setting. Death is also non-permanent since you just reappear at the last save station with all of your acquisitions intact. But then, since you are meant to explore, it doesn't feature "map stations" or blue arrows pointing where to go next.
Games with a Metroidvania style like Axiom Verge have plenty of hidden goodies for players to find. Without giving too much away, what sort of treats can players look forward to?
A lot. If I didn't count wrong there are about 60 per cent more hidden things to find than Super Metroid, though the world is also bigger. There are the usual tools and abilities to help you get past areas, but also there are a lot of weapons. Most of the weapons aren't necessary so just play and have fun with them.
One last question: what's it like seeing so many people excited to play something that you've created?
It's quite surreal. I mean, if you can imagine what's basically a hobby for many years – say it was stamp collecting or something – suddenly appearing in news and getting argued over passionately in the comments ("My body is ready, inject that stamp collection directly into my veins!"), you'll get an idea what it seems like to me. Though I'm starting to get more used to it, for better or for worse!
Thanks so much to Tom Happ for answering our questions. You can read our review of Axiom Verge through here. Are you looking forward to this Metroid-inspired adventure? Don't point your Glitch Gun at the comments section below.