Interview: Brandon Brizzi On 1000 Amps

By John Walker on April 18th, 2012 at 11:30 am.

Everyone's going to be Amp this Halloween.

1000 Amps is one of my favourite puzzle games in years. Brilliantly designed, and constantly interesting, I went so far as to do cosplay to convince you to play it. Hopefully you did. I am convinced lone developer behind The Odd Man Out, 22 year old college student Brandon Brizzi, is one to watch. Which is why I caught up with him to ask about the experience of releasing a successful game, the motivation behind his projects, and why he no longer has to make pizzas.

RPS: Your previous games have been much smaller, web-based projects. What was the path that led to 1000 Amps being something so much larger, and indeed getting onto Steam?

Brandon Brizzi: I see it as a building process. I started with smaller stuff because I didn’t know how to execute on bigger stuff. In fact, 1000 Amps started as a smaller project. It was a much more linear game, with each room being tackled by itself instead of being connected to other rooms. In the beginning the art style was mostly present, and the lighting up of things was there, but that was mostly it.

I think I realized that such a limited scope wouldn’t be worth more than a passing glance to most people. Making it worth people’s time meant expanding on concepts and scope. Through playtesting and re-building the game from scratch I was able to brainstorm the things that made the game come together: the teleporting, the music, and the limitations of the rooms. Really, I took what might have been a handful of my smaller projects and mashed them together in a complementary manner!

RPS: What has the experience been like of having a game on Steam, and getting higher profile coverage?

Brizzi: Immensely gratifying. Having worked towards something for so long and having people receive it well has been probably the most rewarding part of the experience. Having the game be on a service as revered as Steam has really opened up future possibilities, for both 1000 Amps and any other games I’ll be doing, just because of the amount of eyes that are on it.

RPS: Has the game been a success? Have you made money from it?

Brizzi: I didn’t make a very heavy monetary investment in 1000 Amps. I think more free-time was invested than actual money. So really, all 1000 Amps had to do to be a success for me was beat out my minimum wage job. At this point, it’s eclipsed that mark several times over. I don’t have to make pizza’s anymore, so that’s success enough for me!

RPS: The sheer volume of puzzles in the game suggest that it must have been enormously complex to put together. But you’ve done this incredibly successfully. How did you come to develop such strong puzzle design, and keep it all balanced in an open game?

Brizzi: Coming up with the puzzles was kind of a puzzle in and of itself. I made a whole bunch of different pieces for the player to interact with, I just needed to assemble them in an interesting manner. I wound up making levels in the order I thought the player would play through them. It’s open world, so there’s some leeway in where a player can go, but I still wanted to have a ‘prescribed path’. I started by making basic puzzles that used as few types of blocks as possible. As I ran out of ideas with the tiles I was using, I’d just pull out a new tile to use, opening up that many new puzzle possibilities! Some of it got quite insidious. I would make several branching paths and then have to pull them all together to funnel the player to the area’s power up, resulting in what I call ‘boss puzzles’. A bunch of paths smashing together to make an uber-puzzle!

RPS: I absolutely loved Before The Law, and think it asks some interesting questions about what is a game, and what’s an animation. How do you define that difference?

Brizzi: That was more or less the question I was pondering when I conceived of Before The Law. What could I do with an interactive medium that couldn’t be done in another medium? The answer was: I could allow choice. A normal animation is just a linear series of events that you have no influence on. Interactivity allowed for a seamless experience that incorporated choice. I think most of the discussion comes from the traditional definition of ‘game’. Something that can have a winner and a loser. You don’t really win or lose Before The Law, nor for the most part do you win or lose a lot of the other ‘art games’ that are out there. People see that it’s not just a normal animation, but afterwards realize that it’s not really a normal game. It’s like it’s some kind of video… game.

RPS: With games like Before The Law and 1000 Amps so completely different, it’s pretty much impossible to suggest you have a style. Is that important to you?

Brizzi: Heh, now that you point it out I’m noticing that most of my work doesn’t have any strict style. I’m working from the mindset of ‘I don’t want my game to be mistaken for another game’ so Before The Law and 1000 Amps looking that different is a good thing to me. Really, I’m just looking at tropes I’m seeing in video games and trying not to duplicate them. I’m not going to make a SNES era looking platformer for the same reason I’m not going to make a brown colored FPS. If it’s been done, in some cases to death, why would I try to beat a dead horse?

So if I had a style, reaching beyond just visual aesthetics, it’d be trying to do things that havn’t been done. To do something unique. As far as I know there havn’t been any metroidvania games that take advantage of the mouse as part of its core gameplay. There are few examples of literature interpreted as a video game, and fewer examples of video games that focus purely on an artistic message. Also in the minority are games that don’t allow you to die, both 1000 Amps and Before The Law do not have any kind of death mechanic. When I’m coming up with a new game, that’s generally what I’m thinking of. What hasn’t been seen before?

RPS: It also suggests that you may be reluctant to make sequels to 1000 Amps, despite the tease of other trees to power at the end. Can you see yourself making another, or do you want to move on to new things?

Brizzi: Well, I can say that there won’t be a sequel in the immediate future. I do have ideas that hit the cutting room floor that I could use to make a sequel, and I certainly did leave story room for a sequel. For now though, I think the universe of 1000 Amps and its mechanics can take a break. I have a lot of other ideas for games that deserve their turn under the sun.

RPS: Thank you for your time.

You can play the demo of 1000 Amps here. Or pick it up on Steam here.

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14 Comments »

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  1. AshEnke says:

    And please, pick it up. It’s really cheap, and one of the best puzzle-game I’ve ever played. It’s even better designed and more enjoyable than VVVVV, so it says a lot about how much I love 1000 Amps.

  2. Premium User Badge

    AmateurScience says:

    I picked this up after John’s WIT, actually fired it up last weekend and was completely hooked. It’s very very good indeed.

    Also: £4.

  3. trjp says:

    The time I spent with 1000 Amps was great – but a combination of a map which is hopeless (even when he added scrolling to it) and a game design which contains “you cannot pass this bit yet” puzzles which aren’t always obvious drove me into quitting (about 1/3rd through the game).

    The map just didn’t offer the remotest clue where I should be going and I’d found a few rooms which appeared to be impossible without the greater ‘radius’ of switch activation (tho as a lot of those rooms are multi-part and dark it’s impossible to be sure) >

    Imagine a Metroid game where the switches/things/weapon upgrades aren’t labelled and you have some idea of where I ended-up – oh that’s a Metroid game with rather more complex maps and lots of stuff which is hidden until you bump into it.

    Flash was a bit of a limitation for this too – it’s just a shit platform to ship desktop games with. The performance is patchy-as-hell even on a decent PC – on lower-end PCs it’s almost game breaking in places :(

    • roadkill_cr says:

      Wait – there’s more powers than teleport? #@%@#!

      I got completely stuck and gave up on the game a while ago. If I’d known there were more powers or that I was going in the wrong direction that might’ve helped. I kept wondering how it was possible to beat some of the levels (especially the ones where you have no space to maneuver and each teleport erases everything you just did).

      • trjp says:

        Two things – both SPOILER ALERT stuff really…

        1 – you receive power-ups which extend the range of your ‘lightbulb activating’ ability – which makes some rooms easier (and I assume some impossible rooms possible)

        2 – you don’t reset lights if you teleport whilst in mid-air – only if you teleport when you’re on a surface. Knowing this is key to getting anywhere (and it’s not really that clearly explained I don’t think??)

  4. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    1000 Amps didn’t click with me. I found it edging more into being frustrating than fun, perhaps in part to a bit of control lag which meant having to start puzzles again due to accidentally leaving rooms when I didn’t intend to. i think the point when I gave up was when those enemies who switch off nodes started appearing. It just felt a bit unfair compared to other games of its type.

    Oh and as trjp says the map isn’t the most helpful thing in the world, this normally doesn’t bother me too much but in a game where navigation is a bit more confusing such as this it was a tad irksome.

    Cool concept and art style though and I’d certainly encourage people to try the demo but as much as I wanted to like it I ended up leaving it on the (digital) shelf.

    • trjp says:

      The map isn’t clear – but it’s also too ‘zoomed in’ which makes it really hard to figure out.

      It’s like trying to solve a jigsaw when you can only see an inch of the picture at any given time.

      The enemies which flip switches are nasty – they sometimes have a system and are sometimes random (and as they’re also invisible a lot of the time it’s hard to know which). The ‘solution’ is that you get a wider radius of ‘light switching onability’ which makes them less of an issue, but it’s never obvious when you need that or when you’re just missing something.

      Nice idea – got my money’s-worth from it but it has it’s frustrations too.

    • Ernesto says:

      Same here… It’s made with Flash isn’t it? ‘Complex’ flash games never ran well on my PC. I never finished it because of that. The same happened with The Binding of Isaac. Very nice games design-wise, but just crap technology-wise…

      So it would be nice to see a remake with a decent well optimized engine.

  5. baby snot says:

    I think there should be a warning about the strobe light effect that trailer has.

  6. baby snot says:

    I was sure I just posted this so apologies for possible double post… I think that trailer needs a warning about the (slight) strobe light effect used. I feel old.

  7. Premium User Badge

    sonofsanta says:

    For God’s sake John, STOP IT. All this championing of undiscovered talents is making the other games journalists look rubbish again. Have pity on them and their press-release-parsing talents!

  8. SmittyBit says:

    Gaming delight I haven’t experienced in quite a while, A beacon example of the coming wave of gameplay-oriented development by the little guy, big box publishers realizing their sand castle empires may not be as solid as they once thought.

    Gaming seems to be regaining a balance, a new floodtide of lost gaming ideals rising towards a high-tide watermark like something from the mid-nineties, where gameplay not glitz could be seen just beyond that pane of glass in your local department store. Support for startups with good gaming ideas, quality games without the princely cover fees, this is the way of the future, and the one aspect of gaming today that may just bring it back from the brink of mediocrity.

    I wonder if anyone else is seeing the signs go by, all pointing at the glimmering possibility of a new golden era in gaming. Maybe we just need to look.

  9. Jupiah says:

    “As far as I know there havn’t been any metroidvania games that take advantage of the mouse as part of its core gameplay.”

    Aquaria? You can play that game using nothing but the mouse, though it’s a lot easier if you use the song shortcuts on the keyboard. I don’t know if that qualifies though.

  10. LionsPhil says:

    Hunh. Really needs to add that demo to Steam; I assumed there wasn’t one.