Robert Busey has graciously agreed to virtually sit down with us to answer a few questions about him and his action-adventure game currently being funded on Kickstarter. In case you are unaware of him or his project, Robert is working on bringing to life a dream project and it still needs help. Sword ‘N’ Board is basically a Legend of Zelda clone, but with a lot more heart and passion. After reading this interview, you’re encouraged to head on over the the project page and give a little. As essentially a one-man team it looks very well done. You can try out the demo (both Windows and Linux versions are available) and see for yourself.
So, why don’t we start off with you telling us a little bit about the game itself. What made you want to make Sword ‘N’ Board?
It’s kind of strange actually. I was going to school and one of my programming instructors came to work at Big Fish Games where I was doing CS stuff at the time. Him and I really hit it off and started talking about doing a game together. I would do the art and he would do the programming, it was great! We started brain storming ideas and I started doing concept art and all sorts of things for it. Well several months later he got a job offer in California which he ended up taking. Unfortunately he got super busy and really didn’t have the time to work on the game any longer. So I was left with a bunch of game ideas and no ability to program them. After watching Indie Game: The movie and really watching Tommy and Edmund work to do the same thing I decided I was going to stop making excuses and find a way to make the game with or without a programmer. So, I started looking for event based engines, engines that require very little programming, if any at all that I could make the game with. Problem was I had never used the engine before and so I decided to make a game that I could essentially use to teach myself the engine before starting the game that I really wanted to make. And so the game that I decided I was going to use to teach myself this was Sword ‘N’ Board! And then it just grew from there.
I understand that Sword ‘N’ Board is a game 29 years in the making. How much of a passion project is it and why now?
It’s 100% a passion project right now. I’m really not making any money off of it for the most part. Right now it’s just something to help get my name out there and really just learn more about the larger side of development. There’s also a lot of my own childhood in the game and I’ve really pulled from those experiences so its very personal to me in that way. Whenever it comes to sitting down and designing an asset or an enemy I just think to myself “remember when you were 9 years old and the things you did when you went on those pretend adventures? You need to go back and be a kid again” and I have to get into that head space again so I’m really passionate about trying to get that theme across the best I can.
Kickstarter seems to be the safest bet when it comes to crowdfunding. I’ve heard a lot of fear and doubt from people when it comes to crowdfunding especially on lesser known sites and Kickstarter is kind of the “top dog” right now. I wanted people to feel as secure as possible when pledging their money to the project. I really want to make the game as good as I can and frankly there’s just things that I’m not good at or really just have no interest in doing. I would rather hire someone who knows what their doing when it comes to big animations and audio design and who is passionate about it. I feel work that is driven by passion will always outshine work done by someone with maybe a little more knowledgable but who is less passionate about what they’re doing. And that’s what I hope to do with the funding from Kickstarter.
Now that we know a little about the project, let’s get to know the person behind Sidd. How much of yourself did you put into the main character?
I’d say that 95% of myself is in Sidd. I mean i really just put my whole childhood into Sidd’s. story. I got my first Nintendo around October 1986 (I was 3 at the time) and immediately for addicted to games like Super Mario, Metroid and The Legend of Zelda. But when I turned about 8 my parents split and I left to live with my mom. She was having a rough time making ends meet and so after months of not being able to pay our power bill our power was shut off and we lived without powers for the next 3 years! It was a trying time for us all I think, but especially for a kid who really didn’t understand entirely why he couldn’t just go play his video game any more! So I would make myself little swords and items out of cardboard boxes my dad would bring me from his work and go on these pretend adventures in my backyard! I looked absolutely insane I’m sure, swinging my sword in the air at nothing, but to me it was a way to escape to a world where I didn’t have to worry about my living situation or why I didn’t have things the other kids at school had. And now, as an adult it’s kind of nice to to back to that would I had created when I was so young and just escape the regular world of bills and my regular 9 to 5 job. Sidd is very much the 8 year old me. With a much bigger backyard!
With the story revolving around “playing pretend” and using your imagination, are you trying to send a message to a new generation or appealing to the nostalgic factor of older players who remember what it was like? Or is it something else?
Honestly I never really thought about how people would take it when I started making the game. I mean, I thought about it making a good back story for the game but not really how people would take it, or respond to it. I guess now you could say its a little bit of both right? I think older gamers that had to grow up in the 80s or earlier and didn’t grow up with the Internet will remember what it was like to do that when they were a kid, and I hope in some small way it will remind them of that. For the younger gamers I hope it will remind them that here is a world beyond the television and computer screen and sometimes just getting lost in your own imagination can be an amazing experience!
I know you’ve had a rough start with the project, but the pledges have been slowly rolling in. How does it feel to have the AGRM (adventure game revival movement) at your back and helping out?
Absolutely amazing! When I started making Sword ‘N’ Board I really had modest plans for it and thought “well maybe I’ll be lucky enough to get a few people to play it” and after launching the Kickstarter I’ve gotten a ton of great support from people on the Internet especially the AGRM group! They’re always there leaving comments, posting the project on various forums and just doing everything they can to help spread the word about the game and that’s not something I could have ever predicted! It’s been an absolutely amazing and encouraging experience to have a group of people behind me that really don’t know me personally or have any tie to the game in any way support it so much! It’s absolutely amazing!
Assuming that the game doesn’t get funding through Kickstarter, do you have a “plan B” to finish it and get it out to the public?
Honestly, and this may come back to haunt me but I in no way want to misrepresent anything and be as transparent as possible. The game will get finished and released regardless of the Kickstarter’s success. I’m in a position where I’m not dependent on the money from Kickstarter because I’m really doing it on the side of a regular full time job as something I really enjoy doing on the side! What the failure of the Kickstarter is going to impact is the overall audio design, and the animations used for the more story oriented side of the game. While I’m still confident that the game will still be great and a lot of fun to play, I’m hoping that with the extra funding I’ll be able to make the game all that I want it to be! It may even be that I retool the campaign and come back to it later! I already have some plans in the works for distribution with a couple publishers at the moment but don’t want to go too in detail about that until something is set in stone.
Thank you for taking the time to answer these few questions. Is there anything else that you’d like to say to our readers?
I just want to thank everyone for taking the time to read this and for supporting the game and the campaign! You have no idea how much your support and encouragement means to me. After months of sitting alone working on the game, finally getting feedback on it has been a great experience! I encourage anyone with any questions about the game to feel free to message me about it, I’m more than willing to answer any questions about the game you may have! And again, thank you everyone who has checked out the project or pledged your hard earned money! Nothing can really express how thankful I am.