Interview with developer Michel Gagné: ITSP
VVGtv: How long was the development process of ITSP?
Michel Gagné: ITSP was first discussed by Joe Olson and I over Thai food at a Seattle restaurant in October 2006. Joe had seen a series of interstitials I had created back in 2005 called, Insanely Twisted Shadow Puppets, and thought it would make a great style for a game. We got progressively more excited as we kept talking.
I went home that day and started doing some art concepts. After a week or so, I sent Joe half a dozen concepts and from these the visual style of the game was set. At that point, Joe and a few of his game professional friends put a crude prototype together to get me even more excited. We kept going back and forth like that for a year until by the end of 2007, we had a cool little prototype that we could start shopping around.
Joe and I took a trip around the American West Coast and pitched the game to publishers. Although there was interest, we weren’t able to make a deal at that time, but by then we’d both become obsessed about finishing the game. Joe and his small group started an FX company called FXville, which allowed them to generate income while continuing the work on ITSP on weekends and late nights. I took some movie contracts and did the same. I’d work on a contract for a few weeks and use the money to work on the game until the money ran out. We kept that process going until March 2010, at which point we signed our deal with Microsoft. Getting fully founded allowed us to get everyone on board full-time and hire more scripters, programmers and a sound guy.
The long gestation was perfect because it allowed me to really get a clear artistic vision of the world of ITSP and it gave Joe and his team time to solve technical issues that allowed us to create this universe. Through that period, we developed our methods and pipeline, and learned to work in perfect symbiosis. In March 2010, after negotiating with Microsoft for seven months, we finally inked a deal and full-time production started. We finished the game by mid July 2011.
VVGtv: Was there an earlier game of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet that it needed a fix up or serious reconsideration?
MG: The game was in constant evolution for nearly 5 years. Very little survived from our first prototype which was used to cut our 2009 trailer. We started the game using an engine called Torque, and decided to write our own engine once we got fully funded. It was a big learning experience for all involved.
VVGtv: Was it always a passion to develop games?
MG: For me, it’s an extension of what I’ve always done: making art. I’m always looking for new ways to express myself. In 2006, after meeting my partner Joe Olson, I found a new canvas to play on.
VVGtv: If you were to give advice to those just starting out in development, where would you direct them?
MG: Be creative, think outside the box, use your imagination, practice you ability to visualize, be dedicated, original, don’t close any doors and be receptive to ideas. That’s my recipe.
VVGtv: If you were able to tell your old selves anything, what would it be?
MG: I think that all we went through was a great lesson that needed to be learn. It’s important to take the rungs from a ladder, one by one. I like to look forward, not backward.
VVGtv: What made Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet such a most desired title to viewers?
MG: I think our 2007 trailer generated the first wave of interest. Too bad most of the footage ended up not making it in the final game. The reactions we received at Pax East and E3 created some buzz as well. The internet is an amazing way to disseminate information.