GamerNation: First off, congratulations on Tumblestone being selected as a Games With Gold game by Microsoft for the month of July. How important is this moment to you as a game developer, as well as the release of the game itself on multiple platforms?
Ty Taylor: It’s great to have an upfront guarantee of sales and popularity of a game, especially as an indie in a highly crowded industry. Already, before launch, Tumblestone is profitable due to the GwG deal, which is not something most indies have within the lifetime of their game. As for influence on other platforms – that was a big influencing reason why we are doing GwG. Tumblestone will immediately be in the hands of millions of people on Xbox One, and based on the recognition Tumblestone has already gotten, I suspect they’ll be talking. There will be word of mouth that will carry over heavily to players on other platforms who will have Tumblestone available.
GN: Your previous game, The Bridge, was a puzzle game but obviously nothing like this one.Where did the idea for Tumblestone come from?
TT: Tumblestone started as a game jam. I kind of pulled the idea out of thin air, first experimenting with colored poker chips on a tabletop. Just the action of removing sets of exactly three from the bottom of the set while trying to always have a set of three available for later moves really “clicked” as fun in my brain. Within 48 hours the three programmers (myself included) on the team had something up-and-running and were shouting at each other in the middle of the night due to the matches being so close – an emotion that of course remains heavily in the multiplayer gameplay today. At that point we knew we had something special on our hands.
GN: What lessons did you learn from The Bridge and how did they go into both the development and launch of Tumblestone?
TT: The Bridge among the most award-winning indie games to be created, but it still had some flaws which I made sure to avoid. It was slow-paced, so Tumblestone is much faster. It was somewhat short (6 hours), so Tumblestone is much longer (40 hours for just the story). It wasn’t replayable, and Tumblestone offers an infinite amount of procedurally generated content and the ability to play with other people.
GN: What has the reception been like from players so far?
TT: Nothing short of phenomenal. Tumblestone has always been a hit at expos such as PAX. We’ve heard from players that it’s the only game that they come back to at expos, it’s their favorite game of the show, that it’s their favorite puzzle game ever made, etc., fairly regularly.
GN: Achievement hunters really hate not having a nice even number at the end of their Gamerscore, and The Bridge definitely left some of us with very odd numbers. Tumblestone doesn’t follow that trend does it?
TT: Another lesson learned from The Bridge! It was cute to make all of the gamerscore prime numbers in The Bridge, considering the storyline is about a mathematician. Message heard though loud and clear: Tumblestone is all 5’s and 0’s.
GN: When you aren’t developing games, what games do you actually play and on what platform?
TT: When I’m not developing games, I’m sleeping. Otherwise, it’s all creation for me. It’s to the point of obsession, and I love it.
GN: But you must have had a favorite game at some point?
TT: I’ve always been drawn to puzzle games. Anything that invokes an “ah-ha!” moment. Portal and Braid are two of my favorites.
GN: What inspired you to be a game developer?
TT: I think I was born a puzzle designer. Before I could write my name as a child, I was drawing mazes and puzzles, and as I grew up it escalated to designing Mario levels on paper to eventually teaching myself how to program as a Freshman in high school so that I could make my own games. I’ve always loved games and I’ve always loved creating, so being a game developer seemed like a natural fit.
GN: What challenges do you face developing and releasing games as an indie studio?
TT: It’s mostly an issue of limited resources. Tumblestone is created by three engineers and an artist. We’re all incredibly experienced and good at what we do, but still, trying to ship on every console and Steam at the same time means that we don’t get more than four hours of sleep a night.
GN: How do you gauge the success of Tumblestone when it comes out? Obviously the Games with Gold deal is huge for you, but what other goals might you have set for the game as a whole?
TT: I try not to quantify success of a game, as that’s fairly arbitrary. Some people use the financial side of things to do so, but Tumblestone is already profitable. You could use awards, but Tumblestone already has one the PAX 10, PAX East Indie Showcase, the Intel Level Up Best Puzzle Game, and several others. Ultimately I think of it more as a feeling of successfulness. I’m pretty widely recognized in the gaming industry based on my work on Tumblestone and on The Bridge. I meet people all the time who tell me that my games have impacted them, and that makes it feel successful.
GN: I know Tumblestone (at this point) is not even released yet so this might be a little too forward thinking, but what’s next? Have you begun working on your next game or do you have any ideas in mind?
TT: I’ve had a Google doc for the past several years, where whenever an idea pops into my mind, I write it down. Just a paragraph or so that I can come back to it later. At this point that document is almost 50 pages long. I have plenty of ideas to choose from going forward, but right now my concentration is still 100% Tumblestone!