“We are developing in a market that not a lot of other game developers are developing, so it should be a little easier to stand out in that regard,” explains Brad Smith, a software engineer for Oracle and the game’s technical director. “But it’s about more than that for us. We’re trying to help usher in a second wave of arcade development. It’s about the one-to-one user connection that you get when you’re in an arcade that is really hard to get online or on a smartphone.”
Back in December of 2013, Phil Golobish, the game’s producer, asked for a Raspberry Pi for Christmas, a tech device geared toward children that teaches computing and programing. He began programing a children’s game on the device that ended up being the foundation for Skycurser
“When Chris saw me sort of just tripping over myself with this little kids’ game I made, he was like, ‘I can come in and make better graphics.’ And after that, the obsession just kind of took over,” says Phil.
Chris is the art director, so he is responsible for the visual style, sound effects, and music. Once he joined, the game quickly evolved from a silly reindeer-hunting game into Skycurser
: a lone pilot battling humans, animals, and machines infected by a plague-like disease. The three of them are the only people who have worked on the game itself, and they’re really only one of a few other people creating new arcade games today.
With approximately 500 games released on iOS every day and thousands more available online and on consoles, it can be hard to get a new game noticed. There are only a handful of other new arcade games being developed which makes it much easier to stand out to video game publishers.
“It’s already gotten us some cool attention,” says Chris. “So there’s the three big game publishers out there: Nintendo, Microsoft, and SONY. We’ve already talked to two of the three of them.”
I ask if they can tell me which ones, and Chris hesitates.
“I don’t know . . . since it wasn’t really,” he begins before Phil chimes in…
“Fuck it! It was Microsoft and SONY!” They all laugh, clearly pleased with the unexpected success of Skycurser
The game currently has two levels, but they’ve already sold a few prototypes to arcades in Utah and Chicago. They’re hoping Hoosiers will be able to play the game at Tapper’s Arcade Bar on Virginia Avenue when it opens. Although it has taken nearly two years to develop two levels, much of that time was spent building the core of the game, and they expect to have all six levels completed and the game up for sale in the spring of 2016.
The three are also building a piece of hardware that will make it easier for independent developers to make arcade games called Airframe. It has the core programming skeleton for an arcade game allowing other developers to easily build new games on top of it. Why nearly give away the single most time-consuming part of the game development process?
“Because we love arcade games,” explains Chris. “And we recognize that they’re kind of blowing up again. It’s going to get to a point where people are probably going to want more content, and if we have this super simple thing that’s really cheap and that people can make new games for, hopefully, it will kind of usher in a small second wave of new arcade games.”
They are also are constantly looking for people interested in designing arcade games to connect with and help build design teams. Right now, the Skycurser core only gets to work on the game in their spare time. But as the project scope and success of Skycurser
continues to build it looks like this could become more than a hobby for these arcade game lovers.
“Let’s put Indianapolis on the map for being a hotbed of arcade game development,” says Phil.
The stereotypical video game nerd sits in his basement, hurling insults at faceless opponents and only venturing outside his home to attend conventions. There are three Indianapolis game developers are anything but. Since February 2014 they have been building a new arcade game from scratch called Skycurser. What drew them into arcades in the first place was the social interaction they create.