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Windy Hill Studio Q&A

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Today we have a special Interview with the Indie game outfit, Windy Hill Studios. So if you want to know a little more about them and their latest release, Orphan, then below will make some great reading.

Firstly, welcome to Invision Game Community. Let’s start with you introducing yourself to our readers. We want to know who you are, where you’re from and what makes you tick inside?

I’m just a guy from southeast Kentucky (now living in Tennessee) who had always thought it would be fun to make a game. My dream for a long time had been to do a game soundtrack but that market is oversaturated with a lot of really talented people. About a year ago I decided I’d just make my own game and now here we are! I’ve discovered it’s as much fun as I ever hoped it would be and not nearly as difficult as I had feared. Still a long way to go but it’s looking like this is what I’m going to be doing for many years.


Most people get involved in the game industry because of their love for gaming. Is there any one particular game that you played or saw when growing up which captured your imagination and inspired you to follow heart to a career in gaming; if so what was it?

There are probably too many to count. I’m 36 and I’ve been playing games since I got an Atari 2600 on my fourth birthday. There are a few games that have inspired Orphan, but the games that inspired me as a developer might include Metroid, Castlevania and Ico. The game that probably helped to drive me over the edge was Minecraft. My son was playing that a lot a couple of years ago and somehow I got dragged into it. I found myself staying up into the early morning making places for him to explore. That’s as close to the same feeling that I have now that I’m making my own game.


And now we know a little more about you, why not give us a brief history of Windy Hill Studios. We want to know everything from how it all began, where the studio’s name came from and how far you’ve come from when you first started?

When I started forming Orphan together I decided the game I wanted to make was going to be large and therefore time consuming. I decided my sales job wasn’t helping and informed them I would be leaving at the end of the year. That backfired on me and I lost that job a few weeks later. At that point I went into high gear and formed the company, although with no money or clear plan. I spent two months trying to think of a name but never could find the right one. One day I pulled onto the street where I live, Windy Hill Drive, and decided to just go with it.


Is there anything that you’d say sets Windy Hill Studios apart from other indie game studios out there?

Well probably most indie studios know what they are doing, so there’s that. I’ve been learning this day by day. A year ago I probably couldn’t name more than two video game websites, I didn’t know what PAX was or really thought more than a second about the difference between a developer and a publisher. I still don’t know what all surprises are in store.


Now you’re currently working on a project known as Orphan which is aimed for release this year and you’ve recently announced it will add support for PS4. Tell us a little more about the game; what type of game is it and what is it all about?

Well Orphan should be launched early 2016 providing the Kickstarter succeeds. Orphan is inspired by games like Oddworld and Another World in that it’s a platformer but a little slower paced without all the running and gunning. Orphan will be about taking your time and figuring out how to proceed or destroy enemies that are stronger than you. I’m trying to balance that with a moderate amount of action, exploration and item collection. I’m focusing heavily on creating a rich atmosphere for Orphan. That’s always been the thing that has made a “good” game for me personally. I like a game that creates the illusion that there is depth to the game world that might not really be there.


And where did you draw your inspiration from to create Orphan?

It more or less came together based on my own experiences and my own assets as a photographer. I knew the game would be in Appalachia since I have a hard drive full of images from the area. As I started programming the basic mechanics of the game I realized it would be a much more fun game for me to make personally if I introduced some sci-fi elements to open up more opportunities for interesting enemies and weapons.


Obviously the idea of your game is quite a popular one with gamers as Orphan has been Greenlit by the Steam Community; what does this mean to you personally to know that so many people are interested in your game and want to play it?

It’s been incredibly rewarding to receive a little validation from people who are interested in what I’m making. As I said before the fun from creating something like this, for me personally, is that other people will experience it. So I feel half the battle is already over and won. Now I don’t have to worry so much that people will want to play it, but I still must worry quite a bit that in the end it will be fun and worth their time.


And what do platforms like Steam Greenlight mean to small developers like you who are trying to forge their way in the gaming world? Is it fundamental in helping bring your game to life?

Steam has been very valuable to me. Before I launched on Greenlight I only had been receiving occasional feedback from other developers and artists on social media. Until I put the game up for voting I really had no idea whether gamers would accept it or not. Because of the silhouette graphic style I had a good amount of fear going into Greenlight. I remember watching a very Limbo-ish game get ripped apart on Greenlight about a year ago and so I spent quite a bit of effort to make this game as much “not limbo” as I could before. In the end, one out of four comments on Steam included a referenced to Limbo. I didn’t make that up I actually counted. But despite that fact Orphan get 76% upvotes which was awesome. Not only did I feel validated but that was the start of getting attention for Orphan and since that point there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not talking to someone about it. Steam put Orphan on the radar and all that it cost me was making a $100 donation to Childs Play. The whole thing is just a great deal.


Still, getting Greenlit is only a small stepping stone on your journey and before it does get released you still need to reach your target on Kick Starter, which currently has just under two weeks left before it closes. How can people contribute and what kind of rewards do you offer?

People can contribute to the Kickstarter campaign at the following link. http://kck.st/1Ca51uV Getting in on the Kickstarter can get you the game including early beta versions. Backing at higher levels can get you anything form unique swag to getting to create and contribute different types of content into the finished game.


Next is a very important question; WHY should anyone who reads this back your game? What would it mean to you personally and how much will it help?

To me personally a successful Kickstarter begins a new chapter in my life. I don’t expect anyone to care about that, but I’ve spent too much time working for other people helping them make their dreams reality. This is something I want to do and it’s going to be hard but it doesn’t have to be impossible and that’s where Kickstarter comes in. Without it, will Orphan get made? It will, but I don’t know how. I can’t work a full time job and create a big game. Maybe for the second game I will have enough money to fund my own development but as a first-time developer it’s extremely hard to find capital. I don’t have Canadian grants or rich parents!


If, and I hope it this doesn’t happen, but the Kick Starter target isn’t met what would this mean for Orphan and Windy Hill Studios?

There are a few avenues that have opened to me. There are publishers out there who work with indie studios to get that initial capital as well as help provide their resources in marketing and distribution. If Kickstarter fails all hope will not be lost.


To finish I’ll leave you with a random question that has nothing to do with gaming what so ever. Do you have any pets?

Bobbles is my tabby cat. He’s your typical fat, lazy cat that does nothing but lay around, eat and complain. We got Bobbles from a shelter about a year ago when the previous owners bailed on him because he didn’t agree to their new dog. A couple of months later I ran over him with the car and nearly killed him but he pulled through and doesn’t seem to hold it against me.


We’d like to thank you Windy Hill Studios for taking the time to complete this Q&A, and all of us at Invision wish them all the luck in world and every success with Orphan.

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