Interview with Sam Tuggle, Co-Creator of Grapple
Sam Tuggle is an ATEC graduate student and a member of Tuesday Society Games, the creators of Grapple, a 3D platforming computer game currently open to voting on Steam Greenlight. Here, Tuggle provides insights into the development of Grapple and discusses his future plans and takeaways from the process.
More information and a downloadable demo of Grapple can be found at grapple-game.com.
Q: Please summarize the game in a paragraph or two.
A: My favorite one-sentence description of Grapple is “Spider-Man in Space.” Grapple is a third person 3D platformer where you get to play as a ball of goo in space. The goal is to get to the black hole at the end of each level.
The ball of goo has two incredibly powerful abilities at his disposal: the ability to walk on any surface, floors, ceilings, and walls, and the ability to project parts of itself to grab on to surfaces and swing around. Using these abilities, the player must navigate the huge and sparse levels and get through progressively more difficult levels.
Q: Who are all the team members working on the project, and what are their roles?
A: The team members are as follows:
- Sam Tuggle – Programmer, 3D Artist, and Level Designer
- Brian Chancellor – Level Design and Menus
- Alex Rothenberg – Level Design and 2D Work
- Marvin Whitehurst – Sound Effects
- Andrew Grant – Music
Q: How did you get the idea for the game?
A: I came up with the idea while on a winter vacation at my parents’ place. My folks don’t have a very good computer, and I don’t have a laptop to work on, so I have plenty of time with notepad to elaborate on ideas I get.
Q: When did development begin? Was it originally for a class assignment, and if not, what was your purpose or goal in producing it?
A: I started development in the summer before senior year, so 2011. I was learning how to program in UDK, and I had done a number of tutorials already, but was looking for a larger project to do. I figured it would be an interesting experiment to give this game design a shot and worked on it all summer long. About three weeks before summer ended, I had most of the core gameplay developed, but no levels or art designed at all. I had been moving around in a technicolor, curved box the entire time. I put it off for a semester until I got to my capstone my senior spring semester, when I brought on Brian and Alex and we spent the semester developing levels for the game.
Q: How long has Grapple been on Greenlight? Has there been any considerable support for it there? What is needed for it to become available for purchase on Steam, and do you think it’s likely that it will get there?
A: Grapple has been on Greenlight for about five months now. We put it up around two weeks after Greenlight came out. While I respect the idea for Greenlight, the massive influx of games that were placed on it when it was free to post, as well as the very minimal amount of support that games have on it, it really didn’t get us much.
While I don’t know how much I am supposed to talk about Greenlight, until recently, game developers on Greenlight didn’t get much more information than the people who voted on them. Instead of requiring a minimum number of votes to get on Steam, which it actually used on release, it is more focused popularity, mainly rating each game from its number of views, positive and negative reviews, etc., to find the 100 most popular games.
It seems that Valve then periodically looks for what games are a viable fit on Steam and then vets them, allowing them to let players decide which games look worthy, but still being the final gate in case something goes wrong. Unfortunately, in Grapple‘s current position, it’s not going to be on Steam. We aren’t getting nearly enough eyes on it.
Q: Are you pursuing any other methods to distribute or market the game? What is your current user base, if there is one?
A: We already submitted it to the IGF Student Competition and didn’t make it, unfortunately. Since Grapple is such a small game, it’s not like we have a big following or anything. What we really were concerned with was getting people to play the game, so we thought that releasing the demo for free was fine.
Unless a miracle happens, it’s not going on Steam, which controls a absolutely massive amount of the digital download space. Most likely, we are going to release the full game shortly so whoever wants to play it can.
Q: Do you have any future plans for the game, such as expansions or sequels?
A: Right now, Grapple is not going anywhere. We love the game, but to say that we had a really hard time adding to it is an understatement. The game is largely driven by its very minimalistic take on not only its art, but its level design.
The goo ball, while being very fun to play, is amazingly overpowered when placed in traditional spaces. As I said, people should hopefully see the full game released for free soon if they want much more Grapple.
Q: What are your plans and your teammates’ plans for other current or future projects?
A: Grapple taught us a lot about building a full game and all the random junk that goes with it. While this team has no formal plans, we are always working on something and if we get rolling with a larger project, I have no doubts that we will get together again and try and making the best games we can.
Q: Do you have any additional comments or topics you would like to talk about?
A: I know that most of ATEC is concerned with just making a good game, which is what we should be concerned with, but let me tell ya’, it’s hard getting people to play Grapple. “Marketing” is considered a dirty word until you are having a difficult time trying to get people to look at your game.
We felt we made a really fun game to play, but it lacked the visual flare and easily appealing gameplay that would get people to bother downloading it. Once we got someone to play the game, they would really enjoy it, but before that, it was hard to get anyone to take notice.