Twelve Minutes’ developer has shared his experiences of pitching to AAA companies, explaining why sometimes it’s best to become an indie developer to create exciting, original IPs.
In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, developer Luis Antonio explained that he originally pitched the idea for his upcoming game Twelve Minutes when he was working as an artist for Rockstar London, and later as art director for Ubisoft. Both of his pitches were rejected because a short game about a time loop did not fit with the studio’s vision of game design at that time.
However, he received crucial support for the game whilst working as an artist on The Witness, developed by Jonathan Blow. In fact, many of the developers liked his concept but suggested Antonio should learn to programme to make it happen himself.
Antonio acknowledged that shifting from an artist to a developer was not natural, but that he believes it suits him now:
“Personally, I think what attracts me to game development is this constant exploration and iteration into interactive experiences, but the issue with AAA [studios] is maybe because of the size or how they’re run, they always have these goals that I think are against developers having enough freedom to take risks. After a while, it just became frustrating to me. A lot of good projects we started ended up not going anywhere because of high-level reasons.”
Antonio further highlighted the benefits of streamlining the process of pitching ideas in a small dedicated team. Indie developers with a small, talented team can work on exclusive interesting IPs but also show concepts of ideas faster than is possible with larger studios.
“In indie, I realized that this much smaller scale and the fact that everyone on the team has a lot of different skills lets you iterate on ideas a lot. Just the concept of the designer also being a programmer is huge. Jonathan Blow would have an idea, he would go into a room, and one hour later he would show us what his idea was. Versus AAA, where a designer would write a document, we’d go into a scrum meeting, it goes into the task list of a programmer who implements it, then we all see this kind of half-version of something, then the cycle repeats.”
Twelve Minutes is a game about a Groundhog Day-esque time loop in which the player character experiences the same 12 minutes over and over. However, the character retains the memory of his prior actions and can then use that knowledge to make new choices.
Antonio confirmed that the game was initially conceived to explore player choice. However, it gradually evolved into an experience designed to reflect the player’s knowledge and understanding of how past actions affect future decisions. Furthermore, the lack of guidance in the game (after events in the trailer) has been deliberately placed in order to create a truly subjective experience for the player. Antonio explained further:
“I didn’t know at the start what the exploration of the time loop would be about, but I realized it’s about accumulated knowledge that the character has, and the player interpretation of that accumulated knowledge. A character can be learning new things he can use about the characters around him, but if I [the developer] don’t tell you [the player] what to do with this knowledge, don’t give you objectives or guide you in any direction, it becomes a very subjective experience.”
Twelve Minutes will be published by Annapurna Interactive and is set to be released in 2020 for PC and Xbox One.