Editor: Michael Garvie
One of the highlights at rAge 2013 was the Make Games SA stand, which showcased some of South Africa’s most promising indie developers. Amongst them was Giant Box Games, a half-South African development team of David Nickerson and Dominic Dbojkovits, currently working on Pixel Boy.
Pixel Boy is an intriguing indie title which has been generating quite a lot of hype locally and is currently pending publishing on the Steam Greenlght service. I had a chance to chat to them briefly at rAge, but was unfortunately not able to schedule an interview on the day; instead, I was able to interview them via correspondence.
ITF Gaming: Hi guys. Firstly, a lot of gamers – and I know I’m included here – don’t know as much about the indie studios as we do about the larger, more prominent studios such as BioWare, Naughty Dog, and DICE. Could you tell us a little about Giant Box Games and how it started out?
Giant Box Games: We met on an indie developers Forum, Dave had posted looking for a programmer to start working on a project and Dom responded. After many prototypes were tossed back and forth we finally found something we both enjoyed working on and Giant Box Games was born.
ITF Gaming: Secondly – where did the name “Giant Box Games” originate from?
Giant Box Games: We actually had a lot of trouble finding a name for our company. We wanted the name to be fun and memorable without being cheesy or offensive. One day we were both thinking about what makes someone’s childhood fun and were reminiscing about our old toy boxes, this made us think about how much joy that simple box of assorted toys gave us so we thought of a name where would encapsulate the same emotion, hence Giant Box Games.
ITF Gaming: On the topic of histories, which other projects have you guys worked on in the past – prior to Giant Box Games – and what role did you play in the development of that project?
Giant Box Games: David worked on GTA IV as an environmental artist and then moved on to work at a start-up with Paramount Pictures and is now doing Art and Design at Giant Box Games. Dom is very young and started in the games industry developing Apps at the age of 16 and is now doing Code and Design at Giant Box Games at 19.
ITF Gaming: I was told at rAge that you two only met in person about a week before rAge 2013, yet managed to create a game that has drawn the attention of a large portion of gamers. What were the biggest troubles and hardships you went through to develop Pixel Boy?
Giant Box Games: Balancing work and life has always been difficult for us, especially with the 9 hour time difference. Many times we have had to stay up until odd hours in the night in order to accommodate each other’s bizarre schedules. Dom has also had to graduate from High School and attend his first year of College during Pixel Boys development cycle.
ITF Gaming: It’s clear that Pixel Boy isn’t your standard dungeon crawler; it has all the elements of a classic but it still has this feel of a new game and not just another generic clone. Could you describe the gameplay and premise of the title, so as to give our readers an idea of what to expect and ultimately look forward to?
Giant Box Games: Pixel Boy is what we like to call a top-down-action-arcade-shooter-lootfest-dynamic-dungeon crawling-RPG. Since that genre is too much of a mouthful, let’s just call it an arcade dungeon crawler. The idea of the game was to combine the high-paced action of top-down shooting with the strategy and planning of an RPG while also giving the player some creative freedom.That’s why we added a power up crafting system which allows players to make their own weapons and armour which affect how their shots work and ultimately will alter their strategies.
The games premise is that it is a self-aware dungeon crawler, Pixel Boy is competing in a dungeon runners competition with a sports commentator commentating what he does. It is his goal to beat the competition and get to the bottom of the dungeon.
ITF Gaming: In terms of your inspirations, what would you say the biggest influences on Pixel Boy were in the area of graphics and, of course, gameplay?
Giant Box Games: Our biggest influences in terms of art direction come from our personal hero Shigeru Miyamoto. The gameplay was inspired by so many great games that we’ve played when we were young up until just yesterday. All great art inspires more art.
ITF Gaming: I must say that, in my opinion, the ability to combine powers into newer, stronger powers is a brilliant idea. Can we expect to see abilities linked to a class, or will there be an adaptive levelling system as such that can be customized as the player wishes?
Giant Box Games: The player will gain experience and level up and when they level up they will be given 4 stat points which they can put into Damage, Speed, Fire Rate, Range or Health. We really wanted to give the player full control over how they build their character, so there aren’t cookie cutter classes in Pixel Boy and it’s really up to the player to build their own class. The player can then create power ups which complement their stat build as well.
ITF Gaming: Are the chances that Pixel Boy will be released through the Steam Greenlight program high? Has there been a large influx of interest since rAge?
Giant Box Games: The community is very important to us and there has been a large influx since rage and we can’t stress enough how much every single vote counts. Hopefully we will one day be able to release on steam and with every single vote that goal becomes closer. So please everyone Vote VOTE VOTE!!! In fact, vote on all the games you think are awesome on Steam Greenlight, it’s a really interesting program that keeps evolving for the better. Valve are a really thoughtful bunch.
ITF Gaming: In terms of release, will we be seeing Pixel Boy any time soon (on or off of Steam)?
Giant Box Games: Pixel Boy is intended to be released early 2014. We will also be launching an early access program for everyone that has pre-ordered the game; more details about early access will come soon.
Pixel Boy is currently available for pre-order on our website through the good people over at Humble Store for an awesome 50% discount ($4.99) and will be available for pre-order soon on Desura and hopefully Steam.
ITF Gaming: Can players expect to see any Easter Eggs and references to other games in your title?
Giant Box Games: Well, I can tell you that there are definitely some references to some classic and new titles hidden throughout the game, but you’ll have to wait and see which ones.
ITF Gaming: Lastly, in the blurb on Steam’s Greenlight page it says: ‘Three pixel powers can be equipped at a time and are stackable AND combinable so that Pixel Boy can find the best combination of over 6000 powers to defeat his adversaries most efficiently”. Could you also give us an example of something we can expect to see in the game in terms of a ridiculously awesome power combination?
Giant Box Games: The pixel power up system is so exciting to us, we have toyed around with so many different combinations and found so many wicked powerful combinations. The most exciting thing for us to see is at conventions when the public gets some hands on time with our alpha build they often create weapons we haven’t even seen before. A crowd favorite is the Split-Spread-Heatseeking. You shoot one pixel; that pixel turns to three; those three pixels then split to six and each pixel tries to seek out a nearby target to damage. It’s really quite deadly.
ITF Gaming: From my side, and on behalf of ITF Gaming, thank you so much for agreeing to speak to us; we really appreciate it. We wish you all the best with the development and the finishing touches on Pixel Boy, and look forward to conquering the dungeons of Cinnamod ourselves.
Giant Box Games: Thank you for your time and help to drive interest in the Indie Games industry. We here at Giant Box Games really appreciate it.
It was really interesting to chat to Giant Box Games, seeing what they had in store for their breakout title, and we hope to see and hear a lot more from them in the future. For now, we hope they get onto Steam via the Greenlight service and wish them the best of luck with Pixel Boy.
For anyone who is interested in finding out more about Pixel Boy:
Follow them on Twitter – @TeamPixelBoy is their handle.
Finally, if you like what you see, feel free give them a like on Greenlight.