It takes a lot of determination and sacrifice to follow one’s dreams. The game developers at Whole Hog Games know that as well as anyone. Working on their first project, Full Bore, has been a labor of love and though they couldn’t imagine doing anything else, it hasn’t all been easy. The game has required a lot of personal investment of time, capitol, proverbial sweat, and tears. It’s meant taking time away from family members, temporarily giving up other plans, and spending the vast majority of their spare time solely on the game. For one team member it’s even meant giving up a job in video game programming and moving back home from a completely different continent.
But through it all, they have at least had each other.
Whole Hog Games founders Casey Carlin, Finn Beazlie, and Jake Federico go way back. They are old high school buddies from Northern California who “got the band back together” so to speak. Not to make music, of course (though Full Bore does have a very nice, custom soundtrack), but to start their very own indie game studio. Casey, the game’s programmer, recently moved back to the US from Japan where he was working for ARC System Works to partner up with Finn, the lead artist, and Jake, who handles game design.
Full Bore is the self-funded group’s first project and on December 12th they are launching a Kickstarter campaign to help complete their charming puzzle adventure game.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Casey (via Google Hangout) to talk a little bit about the game, their struggles and progress, their Kickstarter campaign, and the future of Whole Hog Games.
Our interview started very informally as we started working through some minor technical issues and I got to start getting to know the guys. There is definitely something to be said about sitting down with a group of people so closely connected and so absolutely dedicated to one common goal. At first that none of us was quite sure how to start our conversation but once Finn got us started the boys took it from there. I was amazed at just how easily they fell into cadence with one another, building of what the others said, and really showing just how well they work together.
Each member of Whole Hog Games bring their unique personality and interests to the project in a way that adds character to their game. All of them are big video game fans but they approach the medium fr very different perspectives. Finn prefers games that focus on a solid narrative, Jake prefers games with solid mechanics. Casey resides squarely in the middle ground between them both. It has led them to a bit of conflict in designing their own game but at the same time it has challenged them to look beyond their own expectations of game design. Their differing opinions and ideas have taught them to compromise and to consider new ideas that they otherwise may never have thought of themselves.
The development of Full Bore shows just how well this melding of very different minds works.
A full demo will be available when the initial Kickstarter campaign starts up but the game that you see will be very different from the original game. Full Bore started out as a much simpler game. It was meant to be a linear platform puzzle game with high scores, random level generation, health bars, and more. But when they really started to think about their concept and the gameplay they realized they had the potential for so much more.
In time, they developed a full story and went from just a high score focused puzzler to an open world puzzle adventure game full of secret treasures, hidden rooms, and Easter eggs for savvy players. Working on 2D games in Japan gave Casey the sort of unique ability to try new and innovative ideas and transform their game from your average retro throwback indie title. With a few helpful – and sometimes frustrating – suggestions from Finn (who admittedly knows nothing about coding whatsoever), Casey was able to really bring the world of Full Bore to life using dynamic lighting and various other techniques more often employed in 3D games.
But it’s really the changing, interactive environment that gives the game it’s real sense of adventure. You can explore the modular world at your own pace and learn to tackle new and more challenging puzzles as you go. The open world aspect gives you the opportunity to make the game your own. You can try to complete puzzles and focus on the main story and means of completing the game. Or you can spend your time unlocking secrets hidden in the game (and the boys assure me that there are many of them) by exploring different caverns and working to solve puzzles in various different ways.
By taking chances, trying new things, and pulling together all their really great ideas and concepts, Whole Hog Games has managed to create a really solid game – one that I cannot wait to see finished.
But again, it hasn’t all been easy. The guys have tried new ideas and nixed others; created prototypes of different abilities and items, then scraped a number of them. It has been an on going process and at times it has almost seemed overwhelming. A lot has gone into the making of Full Bore already and with this sort of dedication to a project there is a lot of pressure to finish and a lot of potential for self doubt.
That’s why it’s so great to be doing something like this with your best friends. Casey, Finn, and Jake try out new ideas, revisit old ones, and challenge each other to think of better ways to piece together the world of Full Bore. They are a built in support group for one another and it’s that camaraderie that really brings the whole project together.
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Now, there are still some obstacles. Namely, finances. Casey has been working on the game and only the game for the past year while Jake has been balancing his game design duties with a full-time job in mechanical engineering. And Finn spends the vast majority of his time at home caring for his twin infant daughters. But the group remains confident. So far they have been footing the bill themselves and they are hoping that with a little help from the gaming community and Kickstarter that they will get the funds they need to finish Full Bore by March of next year.
After talking to them and getting to know them, I have no doubt that these guys can pull it off.
Whole Hog Games is in it for the long haul and on December 12th, I hope you’ll check out their Kickstarter page and consider helping them out. You can download the Full Bore demo for yourself – updated and improved for the Kickstarter campaign launch – or read our upcoming review. After a few hours with the demo and you’ll be a believer, too.
Lastly, before I go, the question I know that I was most interested in: why a boar? And why Whole Hog Games?
The real story is all in the name. Originally, the studio had a different name but when they found out it was already in use by another group, they needed to find an alternative. “Whole Hogittude” was a phrase they threw around a lot at the time. They were, after all, going into this business whole hog and they had the attitude to match. The name, then, seemed to fit. And from there? Well, one porcine phrase led to another and ‘full bore’ led to the idea of a pig – or, actually, a boar – working for a mining company. With the idea in mind, they ran with it to create the game you’ll get to preview on December 12th.
I’m a big fan of the game they’ve put together and I have ever confidence that you will be, too. Check back here for continuing coverage of Whole Hog Games and Full Bore!