The Great Escapists - developer Mouldy Toof on the indie prison game

Alex Calvin
The Great Escapists - developer Mouldy Toof on the indie prison game

Alongside Tomb Raider, Halo and Quantum Break on stage at Microsoft's Gamescom 2014 press conference was a pixel-art title called The Escapists.

It's an indie game set in a prison and has been developed by one-man studio Mouldy Toof, aka former roofer Chris Davis.

Having my game shown to the world was an amazing experience,” Davis tells MCV.

It started off as a hobby that I didn't think many would be interested in, so it was quite surreal seeing the volume of support that stemmed from having The Escapists included in Microsoft's conference.

Development was an on-off hobby until a couple of years ago when I started putting a couple of my projects on Kickstarter - The Escapists being one of them. Once it started gaining momentum and a publishing deal was put on the table, I dropped my roofing job and focused on development.”

COMING TO CONSOLE

The title was initially a PC-only release, coming out on Steam's Early Access programme in August, before launching ‘properly' on both Xbox One and PC on February 13th.

Once the feedback on the game started coming in it became quite clear that it shouldn't just be a game limited to PC,” Davis says.

[The game's publisher] Team 17 has a good relationship with Microsoft, and getting into the platform holder's ID@Xbox programme came along through that. Any company embracing the indie scene is a sensible move.

Indies tend to go out of their way to break new ground and explore unique concepts, which is what the gaming scene has needed for a long time. It doesn't hurt that the biggest game for the last few years – Minecraft – came from the indie scene either.”

"Early Access was a refining process.It's
invaluable feedback, and The Escapists
is a better game for it."

Chris Davis, Mouldy Toof

The Escapists has already picked up plenty of critical plaudits. And Davis says Steam Early Access played a big part in that.

Early Access is great,” Davis says. I can't imagine what The Escapists would have been like without it. It's been a refining process really, having a mass of people alongside while you're developing it, saying what they think works and what doesn't. It's been invaluable feedback and The Escapists is a better game for it.”

HELPING HANDS

In this modern era, a developer can make and release a game single handedly. But Davis decided to not go it alone, and instead partnered up with publisher Team 17. As a result, The Escapists was taken to trade shows, and received media attention it might have otherwise missed.

I wouldn't say it's important or essential that indies need a publisher, as it all depends on how they prefer to work,” Davis says.

But I've found Team 17's role of raising awareness, setting up exhibits at gaming shows, arranging interviews and coverage, sorting out sales, campaigns, internal QA and so on, very helpful. It's a different ball game to Early Access in terms of what help and support Team 17 can offer.

I'm useless at promoting my own things. Once I get into my ‘dev mode' my mind is focused on that. The things indie devs need to do, such as social media promotion and marketing, get neglected. This is the main reason I agreed to go with a publisher, because I could leave all that to them while I get on with the development side.”

For all the hype about The Escapists launching on Steam and Xbox Live, it was a bit of a surprise to discover last month that the title was also getting a physical release – courtesy of Sold Out. And releasing The Escapists in a box is something that has delighted Davis.

I hadn't really considered it at first to be honest, but when Team 17 mentioned it to me I thought it was a brilliant idea. It's a pretty good feeling seeing your game being sold in shops you've frequented over the years.”

He concludes: A lot of gamers – myself included – love physical copies of their games anyway, so having a boxed release caters to such players.”

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