IGF Factor 2010: Owlboy

RPS are big fans of Owls – they’re wise! Athena digs them! That freaky neck thing! We’re not so fond of boys – they’re made of slugs and snails and similar material. So we have mixed feeling about the approaching lusciously-retro-formed platformer. Let’s over-come them, because it looks beautiful as hell in a gotta-a-visual-arts-nomination-in-the-IGF way. You’ll find our interview with Adrian Bauer of D-pad studio about the artist-probably-being-called-Owlboy below, along with footage – or maybe talon-age, if we’re being appropriately owl-like. Love those owl guys.

RPS: Firstly, a brief intro to those who may not know you. Who are you? What’s your background? Why get into games? Why get into indie games?

Adrian Bauer: My name is Adrian Bauer, I help develop Owlboy (or however we decide to name it in the end). I don’t have a set job but I tend to do many random things for this project since it is Simon and Blake’s project mostly. I help mainly with dialogue (English major at Simon Fraser University) and fleshing out game design choices and level design. I really got into game making back in 1996 with Klik Team’s (back then Maxis) Klik & Play. I just really enjoy making games or just designing potential games; story telling and interaction is just one of the more livid fields to make a career or even a hobby out of. Indie gaming is just a natural progression, I grew up in freeware klik communities and old klikers just kind of all migrated to this one.

RPS: And… the game. Tell us about it. What was its origins? What are you trying to do with it? What are you most pleased about it? What nags?

Adrian Bauer: Owlboy started as a XNA experiment by Simon and Blake because it looked really cool and free and we were losing out minds over how horrible Multimedia Fusion was to our then current project, Rhapsody. I think what Simon wants to do is partly express his love for old games but make something different in platforming. We’re not a big fan of clone-games, I mean I could play a Super Mario World clone, but then I ask myself, why aren’t I just playing Super Mario World? The emulator is right there. I would say the biggest nag has just been getting everything running smoothly, too many delays and drop outs and problems with life, not so much with the game, we have many tweaks and additions that just haven’t made their way in yet and it becomes fist shakingly frustrating sometimes.

RPS: What’s your feelings on the IGF this year. Pleased to be nominated? Have particular love, bemusement or hate for any of the other entries? Is there anything you think is missing?

Adrian Bauer: I’m just wow’d by the fact that we made it in to anything. I’m happy with everything going on and can’t wait to see who goes where with their ideas.

RPS: How do you feel about the indie scene generally this year? People have been relatively downbeat about 2009, after 2008 being so obviously incendiary. What are the themes, in your eyes? What are people missing?

Adrian Bauer: I’m a bit too much of a recluse, even on the internet, but I’ve seen a lot of great stuff being released over the last couple years. I’ve been too busy with school to really keep up indie news for the last couple months but there have been some nice releases. It has slowed down (I think) but even the ‘meh’ experiments have been inspiring as to what could be done with the idea next time.

RPS: And how does the future look for you? What are you working on now and the foreseeable future.

Adrian Bauer: Owlboy is a great project so far, but it will be on the table for a while. I know that we all have ideas we want to do here at D-pad. Simon has some more experimental and unsure ideas to put into motion just to see if they can be done. I’m exploring narrative and story within platformers right now, I love the idea of turning plot into gameplay and not plot as a reward for doing the same old task. I like platformers because they are my favourite genre and also the simplicity for adventure and gameplay. I have two of them I’m fleshing out (to explore two very different sides of narrative) but mainly I work on my other stories intended for comic books (free ones I might add).

Okay I’ve rambled enough. Whoever drops by D-pad at IGF, prepare for conversation! we are all design-chatterboxes.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

You can follow Owlboy’s development at D-pad Studio’s blog.


  1. Eidolon says:

    Hail Athena!

  2. BooleanBob says:

    This looks absolutely sumptuous. Kieron’s intro suggests some degree of chemical imbalance, mind. Which may very well be the best way to appreciate this game? Maybe a second playthrough.

    It doesn’t surprise me at all to see old KnP hands getting props at the IGF. Man, the only thing that program couldn’t do was more than 8 global variables. As it turned out, that was a pretty insurmountable (and indefensible) flaw, but still, it was the f’n aces.

    • Spacewalk says:

      It does look sumptuous but Kieron had to ruin it by posting jpegs instead of pngs.

  3. BooleanBob says:

    This just in: Alastair Stewart appears to have said ‘dog anus’ on the ITV lunchtime news. Did anyone else hear that? More to follow.

    • Vague-rant says:

      Whilst unrelated as well, I just thought I’d mention that worse things have happened. In a report on “This morning” about a man dating 30 people simultaneously, Phillip Scofield said to one of the girlfriends “You’ve got to admire that mans stamina”

  4. DMcCool says:

    Those graphics are taking me back to a childhood I’m not sure I had. I think the idea of remaking those sorts of games that we played as kids, only better and more innovative…and then giving them to kids now is a great one. Or just playing them for the childish glee they instill.
    Do want.

    • Wulf says:

      Yep, I’ve made this point elsewhere.

      I’ve played games very much like this, before, in the distant home computing past, and my age likely has a lot to do with that, but I’m expecting this will do things to make it feel fresh, like a lot of indies are capable of. I’m amazed at how well that VVVVVV modernised the C64/Speccy platformer, and how Clover modernised Dizzy. Great stuff.

  5. CMaster says:

    Nice to see people in the Indie scene making and getting recognised for games with detailed 2d graphics, given the seeming obsession with “8 bit” pixelated art the whole time.

    • Wulf says:

      While it’s nice to praise people who’re capable of detailed 2D graphics, it’s not fair to discriminate against those that can’t due to a lack of strong artistic talent. I don’t think that people are 8-bit fetishists, per se, but simply that we’re not graphic whores, and we’re more forgiving of a developer that can’t manage to pull off an artistic coup de grace.

    • CMaster says:

      I think you misunderstand me a little.
      I love Spelunky, thoroughly enjoyed Cave Story etc. I’m an Introversion fan (well, in some senses at least).
      I don’t write off games because of simplistic graphics, though VVVVV’s were a bit too far for me. I just dislike the 8bit fetishization that has been going on recently, a quick trawl through flash games and numerous indie games will underline that. I think people seem to forget that back during the days of 2D games, people were still struggling towards the best, highest quality graphics they could have. They miss that part of say, World of Goo or Braid’s success was down to the excellent art. Instead they think “oh, we’re doing a 2D game, time to make it pixely!”
      Basically, more Prince of Persia, less Megaman is what I’d like to see is what I’m trying to say.
      This isn’t to say that simple art doesn’t sometimes work, or that programmers should be afraid to use “programmer art”. Just that I’d like to see (and think we might be beginning to) see a recognition that there are more art styles than “3D” and “8bit”

    • Dominic White says:

      A large part of the reason why people go with 8-bit style isn’t due to particularly loving it, but rather it’s quick and easy to create. Even SNES-era sprites require a professional artist to create, especially if you want them to be halfway-decently animated, and there’s almost no games that use sprites at modern HD resolutions, outside of a few fighting games by Ark Systems. And even then, the framerates on the animations are quite low.

  6. Sarlix says:

    Speaking of 2d, Team17 are supposed to be making a new 2d version of Worms for the PC. I’m hoping RPS will get a scoop on that soon ;)

  7. Leifland says:

    The owls are not what they seem

  8. Zyrxil says:

    First I was :D because the art looked nice and the world looked cool.

    Then the video got to the part where he has to fly through rings I became D:

    • DMcCool says:

      Does ANYONE like flying-through-rings segments in games? Its a mechanic that developers seem to love, but does anyone actually like it? The bit where you have to run/fly/drive/snowboard/swim through rings is always the most fiddly, frustrating part of a game.
      It always conjures images of Superman 64, and no game should ever do that.

    • RobF says:

      Only in the T2k bonus rounds. Anything else can go and sling its hook.

    • mrrobsa says:

      NiGhts (or however they write it) was like 90% about flying through hoops, and that game was awesome.
      Loving Owlboy’s art and music too.

  9. Jad says:

    Those screenshots look like the art style of some of the later Kings Quest games. It has a very “Sierra” feel to it. Which, of course, is pretty awesome.

    There has been some talk recently of a glut of “platformers with a twist” in the indie game space, and I just want to say that I am very far from tired of the idea. I still love 2D platformers, and I’m always interested in a team that does something new in the genre. I’ll be keeping an eye on this.

    • DMcCool says:

      I think Platformer With A Twist ™ is probably just the easiest, least risky way to innovate on a small budget. Which is great. The question is if its hampering innovation. If you run with the Mario With A Twist = Three Chord Rock metaphor and look back at the New Wave/Punk movement of the late 70s, a lot more actually came out of that than The Ramones and The Sex Pistols, right?
      Variety is the spice of life and all that.

    • Jimmy says:

      I wonder the same, because there are a whole bunch of lovely 2D platformers in this years IGF, but they are notable either for their artistic visuals, or twist, or both. But the genre is getting a little over explored, inevitably, after the success of Braid and simple web-based flash games exported to commercial format. That said, flicking back through entries in RPS tagged “indie” shows that there is more going on, and in a sense, the proliferation of platformers shows the vitality of the genre.
      I quite like the idea of game engines being used as art installations, like Dear Esther, but then it is no longer a game. Some crossover successes are there, like The Void (yet to finish it).

  10. Web Cole says:

    You guys must have been well impressed with Wind Waker then.

  11. SirKicksalot says:

    Here’s some owls for ya!

    • Skurmedel says:

      I hope it has a token erotic scene. CGI owl pr0n is rare these days.

  12. Wulf says:

    This looks like a simply darling little game, and if it doesn’t have a punishing lives system, I’ll very likely end up loving this. I dig the music, too.

  13. Berzee says:

    For my part, I like pixel art because I think it’s pretty and wonderful to look at — fads notwithstanding. =) I think it’s funny how popular it’s become, but it is very satisfying to me. :-)

  14. mcnubbins says:

    I like what I see here. It actually looks and sounds like it were made in the mid 90’s or something.

  15. er910 says:

    I’m loving it. The music made me have Kids Icarus flashbacks. Keep 2D alive.

  16. Wedge says:

    Oh good, so they got a programmer a few months ago. I was worried about the project, since it sounded like it had stalled pretty bad last year…

  17. Pod says:

    A SNES game with Amiga graphics.

  18. HermitUK says:

    Talon Age should totally be the subtitle.