Have you ever thought about owning your own Indie game company? I never thought I would. And when I started Zojoi in 2012, I really didn’t know what I was getting into. I would say that over the last seven years it’s been far more up than down. Sure, it’s a tough market to sell games into but just the opportunity to re-imagine Shadowgate (for example) was worth the blood, sweat and tears.
The thing I love most though is looking for and working with people that share the same passion for creating indie games that I have. This worked out wonderfully for Shadowgate and I found out it would work out equally as wonderful for Argonus. I want to give a shout out to the main Argonus team in this post!
It was late 2014, when I started noodling with the idea of creating another adventure but one in 3D and primarily for tablets (No, it’s not for tablets now and, yes, I’ll get into that in another post). Anyway, I had always loved the Greek god movies of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Movies like Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, Jason and the Argonauts and, later, Clash of the Titans. But, as I mentioned in the last post, I needed a new team to work on this adventure. Because of Shadowgate, I had two folks that were on board immediately – Rich Douglas and Sarah Watson.
The thing about Rich is… I’ve never met him yet he’s one of my best friends. In 2012 (when I was thinking about doing a Shadowgate Kickstarter) I was sitting on a beach in VA with my family and looking on YouTube to see if anyone had done any remixes of Hiroyuki Masuno’s original Shadowgate NES chip tunes. Bam. Rich had done one and it was unreal. I immediately sent him an email and within two hours we were on the phone hashing out a contract. Rich is the real deal, folks. He is an amazing composer and an equally proficient sound designer. I couldn’t have made Shadowgate without him and the same goes for Argonus. BTW, if you haven’t heard Rich’s music, you are missing out, my friend. Go here now!
Sarah came on board in a different way. She started as a paid intern on Shadowgate, primarily testing and helping to edit text. Before long she was doing XML puzzle scripting. The thing is, over the last 7 years, there is simply nothing I can throw at her that she can’t do. So when we started working on Argonus and I found out she was a Greek god expert, it was obviously that she should be the lead designer. She not only has a great sense of puzzles but she can spot bad tropes and inconsistencies a mile away. PLUS she can code in Unity AND edit my dialogue like no one’s business. I don’t know what I would do without her – she’s simply the best. 🙂
I still had a few needs though. Art and programming. No small tasks there lol. For art, I had a chance encounter at the Origin’s game show in Ohio with an artist named Adam Meixner. I had driven from VA with my son to find someone who sold game pieces for one of the Kickstarter rewards. I happened to go by a booth that was working on a dragon-themed board game. That’s where I met Adam. He was a miniature 3D model maker. I happened to have my Shadowgate t-shirt on and he commented that he was a fan. We spent a good hour talking about possibilities before I left to head back to VA. A few days later, Adam sent me jpgs of 3D models he constructed of some of the Shadowgate characters. I was blown away. We kept talking over the coming months until the design for Argonus was far enough for him to start. Like Sarah, Adam taught himself Unity to make sure he could implement not only his art but any scripting changes we needed. He is an amazing artist, works harder than anyone I know and also happens to be one of the nicest people I have ever met.
Programming started a little slow. My friend Jason Frostick (who did a ton of awesome animation programming work on Shadowgate) started on the project and since we were going to work in Unity again, he helped get us set up the proper adventure game shell we would eventually use. However, Jason got really busy and suggested we recruit his fellow GMU (George Mason University) grad Thayne Bohman. Thayne is soft spoken and insanely smart – not just programming smart (which he obviously is) but he has great game discernment. I can’t tell you how many times he has been the voice of reason when it comes to user experience and game play issues. I haven’t come up with a programming task that he hasn’t been able to handle or an IT issue that he hasn’t been able to solve. He’s just freakishly good and I’m so glad he has stuck with me for these last 5 years!
I’d be remiss not to mention three interns that I found at GMU as well: Lou LePore, Joel Ryan and Hieu Ly. I worked out a deal with them to help with their Game Design degree and all three guys came through with flying colors. Lou and Joel primarily worked with Adam on character animation and Hieu did a ton of rigging for the models. The guys then decided to stay on as testers to help get the game to beta (and beyond!) I can’t imagine what the game would be like without them.
There are other folks that come into play on Argonus and I’ll get into that in future posts.
Thanks for reading as I begin to delve into Argonus and the challenges we faced.