Only By Midnight is a husband and wife development team from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Andrew Czarnietzki is the lead developer and has over 15 years of experience in the games industry. Jen Laface, meanwhile, handles the non-development duties, including communications, marketing, and competitive analysis. Their skill sets mesh together perfectly, and both are passionate about creating video games that bring together engaging gameplay, technology, and narrative elements. Wishlist Curved Space on steam today.
Q: What is something that makes your game unique?
Curved Space uses some crazy fun math that maps 2D gameplay you've seen in SHMUPS onto any 3D surface, creating a different style of movement. Players can zoom closely along surfaces, dipping into a concave part of the environment and then climbing walls to the ceiling while "sticking" to the surface. We have asteroids that players can zip around and levels called "Tangle" and "Elephant" that are spacestations with their own design. "Tangle" gets real fun zipping up to what was the ceiling a few seconds ago. Up and down is relative.
To match the trippy, curving levels, the enemies crawl along and stick the surfaces. There's a variety of enemies from three legged spiders that shoot plasma bullets and stab at you, rollies that form into a ball and chase you down, larger spiders with enemy whips, and gigantic bosses for epic battles.
Q: How did you design the gameplay mechanics of your game?
The prototype for Curved Space started a long, long time ago and evolved into the game it is today. Getting the movement of the spaceship and enemies along the surface was key to give that unique gameplay experience.
Once movement was working, we moved to fleshing out both weapons and abilities for the player and enemies. There's a lot of back and forth testing and adjusting. Part of our process was hosting "alpha tester dinner parties", where we'd invite friends over to playtest and provide feedback. Note this is during pre-covid times and may have involved Ohana Donuts.
The story was designed around what we already had for gameplay mechanics. We figured out how the narrative would work on a trip to a writing conference ironically enough. Driving down, Jen turned to Andrew and said, "How about transtemporal space spiders?" Now, we didn't go with time travel, but "transtemporal" really sparked something, and after a weekend at the writing conference we had a "choose your own path" story with branching options. Sometimes you need to get out of the house / dev studio and take a trip.
We couldn't have gotten to fine-tuning our gameplay mechanics without our beta testers. We're really grateful for these players that provided awesome feedback that improved the game!
Q: What are some of the fondest gaming moments from your childhood? Where did this all start for you?
That brings us back. After playing "The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past" on the SNES, Andrew wanted to make video games for Nintendo. He plugged away at developing programming and art skills through high school and university. Now that Curved Space will be on the Nintendo Switch, he's excited about living his childhood dream.
Jen's path is different. Her mom entered her into a Gavin's Bread contest and won a classic Nintendo. The only console in the neighborhood, Jen played many hours of "Super Mario Bros.", "Duck Hunt", "DuckTales", and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project". She always wanted to be involved in a creative endeavor. When Andrew mentioned he was working on a game, she was excited and happy to help with story, dialogue, and anything else!
Q: What advice would you share with other prospective indie developers looking to start their journey?
Just start somewhere! Starting is the hardest part--it's that leap of faith not in knowing the outcome, but confidence that you can learn and find your own path when life happens.
Awareness is key, and not just with game trends as they change. Awareness in how your present yourself, time as there's only so much, building a community, the business of indie games, marketing the needs of your team mates and more--you have to be present. Do you do it all? Or hire someone? What's the trade-off? How do you measure success? Asking in-depth questions is key and knowing you don't need an answer right away.
Q: What is the best part about being indie? What is the worst?
We'll sandwich this question. :)
One best part of being an indie is the freedom to pursue your creative direction. You can choose what you want to do, which can be liberating and daunting.
The worst would be the unknown of your decisions. Do you choose to take an action, use valuable time or even hire "X to do Y"? What would the outcome be? Nothing is guaranteed in life, and you get to live that fully in the indie dev space. You have to find comfort in not knowing the result of certain decisions.
Another best part of being an indie is working with people you want to work with! You can build a team of friends and professionals you're so honored to work with and didn't know what you'd do without them.
Wishlist IWOCon 2020 here.