Interview with Fist of Awesome Developer Nicoll Hunt

For game developer Nicoll Hunt, aspirations of creating the world’s greatest beat-em-up have been with him for years, way back in his teens. It didn’t matter to him that he was completely out of his depth and had no idea how to make games, he knew what he wanted to do and that one day he would get there. Fast forward to today and after a very unusual anniversary gift involving punching a bear in the face and several years of learning to make games, Nicoll has brought the world a game involving time travel, lumberjacks and hands that have taken on a personality of their own. It’s got a surreal sense of humour but looks to be a fantastically unique game unlike any other available at the moment. We chat about how he got his start in game design, his advice to others looking to follow in his footsteps, the titular fist and how PETA feels about punching Velociraptors into extinction. If you think you can handle the sheer amount of beard growth and paradoxical time travel conundrums then give it a read.

Laura: For anyone who doesn’t know you, could you introduce yourself and tell us a little about how you first got into game development?

Nicoll Hunt: Sure. I’m Nicoll Hunt, I live in the giant metropolis of London now, but I’m originally from the countryside in Scotland. I got into games as a kid and spent most of my youth playing Spectrum games. I studied computing at university and decided to try to make a career out of my hobby. I got a job for Codemasters at 21 and progressed up the chain to Lead Programmer there. After that I ended up back in Scotland working for a few other game companies until finally moving to London to work in movie post-production, where I decided to start making indie games in my spare time. That brings us roughly up to date.

Laura: And could you give us the elevator pitch for your current project, Fist of Awesome?

Nicoll Hunt: It’s a time-travelling-lumberjack-em-up that lets you punch bears in the mouth on iOS and Andriod 🙂

Laura: It’s a pretty unique idea, how did you come up with it?

Nicoll Hunt: The origins of the game are spread through my history. When I was 14 I decided I was going to make “the greatest beat-em-up of all time.” That was a pretty ambitious idea for someone who had no idea how to even begin making games. I started the basics of a game but my lack of skill quickly caught up with me. This year I made a Valentine’s Day game for my girlfriend which involved a pixel me punching out bears to get to her. That reminded me of my long lost desire to make the single greatest beat-em-up of all time. From there it all just fell into place!

Laura: Many core gamers who have grown up with button centric controllers take an instant dislike to games using touch controls, particularly in genre’s like beat-em-ups. What would you say to any gamers who might be turned off by the idea of playing a game like yours with touch controls?

Nicoll Hunt: I’d say I agree with them! My favourite games are all beat-em-ups, especially the old school scrolling ones. I spent far too much time in smokey arcades playing Double Dragon, TMNT, The Simpsons Arcade, Final Fight, etc. I loved the feel of the joystick and the buttons. Seeing them rendered as icons on touch screens, where I have to jab at them underneath a solid sheet of glass is rubbish. I can’t replicate the feeling of a real joystick and buttons, so I don’t try. The gesture approach I’ve taken in FIST OF AWESOME makes you feel like you are really in control of the character. You don’t keep glancing at your fingers to ensure you’re over the punch button and not the jump button, it feels completely natural. So it’s not trying to emulate the old way, but it is trying to give you the feeling of precision and control you’re used to.

Laura: What would you say are the pros and cons for you in terms of developing the game by yourself?

Nicoll Hunt: The pros are that I have complete creative control over the game and I can try out new ideas incredibly quickly without having to wait on anyone else. It also feels really satisfying knowing that I’m responsible for everything seen on screen (music is the only development task I’ve delegated).

Cons are that I am a huge bottleneck for the project. I need to have a hand in creating everything so I need lots of time to be able to create all the art, animation, code, level design, etc. that this kind of game demands. It’s also lonely sometimes trying to be creative with nobody to bounce ideas off. My poor girlfriend has to put up with me running up to her, pushing an iPhone in her hands and asking what she thinks of the new pause screen.

Laura: And what has it been like trying to market your game as an indie developer?

Nicoll Hunt: Short story: Hard but fun. Long story: It’s basically an excuse to show off all the things I’ve been making and try to get other people as excited about them as I am, which is great fun! Using Twitter to speak to fans is brilliant and it’s incredibly rewarding to find people genuinely looking forward to FIST OF AWESOME. Getting website coverage is harder, but again the guys that run sites that cover indie games are huge gamers themselves, so when those guys get excited about your game they can get REALLY EXCITED! I’ve recently taken on Grahame Gallacher as my PR manager to help me manage all the contacts I need, which is a new experience for me but it’s working well so far.

Laura: Could you tell us a bit about the titular character, the “Fist of Awesome”?

Nicoll Hunt: FIST, as I call him, is a figure of mystery. He appears in Tim Burr (our lumberjack hero)’s life without warning and promptly takes control of his body. He’s a very serious Force of the Universe, but he and Tim slowly build a friendship and understanding as the game unfolds. It’s like Lethal Weapon but with a lumberjack and a talking hand… and time travel… actually it’s not really very much like Lethal Weapon, but it’s still good.

Laura: Having played the first few levels I can already see the game has a terrific, if slightly off the wall, sense of humour. What would you say your inspirations are in terms of the game’s humour?

Nicoll Hunt: Good question. I guess I love the surreal sci-fi humour of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Red Dwarf, they’re huge influences. I love buddy movies as well, so the aforementioned Lethal Weapon and things like Toy Story influence my writing. Classics like Monty Python and Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs certainly have their part to play as well!

Laura: As someone who has aspired to design games for a long time, do you have any advice for any aspiring game creators?

Nicoll Hunt: Yes! Go make a game. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t write big design documents. Just go start making a game. Download Unity, or GameMaker Studio, or one of the many other game development platforms out there, and just start bashing away. The only way you ever truly become good at something is by doing it. You practice the bits you’re not very good at, and then you do it again. One of my favourite developers is Mike Bithell, creator of Thomas Was Alone. I’ve so much respect for him because he just decided to make the game, regardless that he didn’t know how to code. He just kept at it until he succeeded and now he’s heading over to Minecon to do a talk in front of thousands of people. It’s ace and anybody can do it if they just keep trying.

Laura: For anyone reading before December 12th, you’re currently running a Kickstarter campaign for the game. Why should people back your game about punching bears in the face?

Nicoll Hunt: For many reasons. 1) It helps keep the dream of scrolling beat-em-ups alive. 2) Cool rewards like soundtracks and t-shirts. 3) You could be in the game and PUNCH A VELOCIRAPTOR IN THE FACE. 4) It makes you appear incredibly attractive to the opposite (or same) sex.

Laura: Also, have PETA begun protesting your game for encouraging people to punch animals yet? As you punch dinosaurs in the game and they’re now extinct, doesn’t that make you solely responsible for their existance?

Nicoll Hunt: I can see you’re thinking through the implications of time travel and I like that! As of yet PETA have not contacted us, but I am wary that their Sauran-like gaze could one day turn this way. My prepared response is to point out that the animals themselves are more than willing to punch first and ask questions later.

Laura: When can fans expect to get their hands on the game?

Nicoll Hunt: I’m very hopeful that the game will be out on iOS and Android March next year.

Laura: Do you have any last words for our readers?

Nicoll Hunt: Thank you for reading to the bottom of my tea-fueled ramblings. I hope you enjoy FIST OF AWESOME, either by being part of the Kickstarter campaign or by trying it out when it launches next year! Have fun and PUNCH BEARS!

 

We would like to make clear that MCM Buzz DO NOT condone the punching of real bears UNLESS you happen to have a magical sentient hand and the bear started it.

What do you think? Does the idea of a time travelling lumberjack have you intrigued? What’s the first thing you’d do if your hand came to life and took on a personality of its own? Have you ever punched a Velociraptor in the face? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

<

1 Comment

  1. Jkdale says:

    I don’t play games, but this one sounds fun and right up my street. I enjoyed reading the humour in this interview too!

Leave a Reply

Copyright © 2012 MCM BUZZ – Movies, TV, Comics, Gaming, Anime, Cosplay News & Reviews