In December 2013, three developers gathered to take part in online game jam Ludum Dare.
They were UK-based programmer and lead designer Mark Foster and music and sound designer David Fenn, and Andrew Gleeson, an artist from Australia. In time, they would take on the studio name Acid Nerve.
The theme for the game jam was ‘you only get one’, resulting in the team developing a title in which the player takes on colossal creatures where both protagonist and monsters have a single health point. This was named Titan Souls after the hugely popular Japanese anime and manga Attack on Titan.
Six months later, their game was being shown off on-stage at PlayStation’s E3 media conference as part of a sizzle reel of indie games from publisher Devolver Digital.
The PlayStation E3 conference was the first the world saw of Titan Souls. We made a jam game, worked on it a bit and then the first thing we do after is go to E3. It was pretty mental,” Foster tells MCV.
"You can try crazy ideas out at game jams.
If they don’t work, you can throw them away.
You have lost nothing."
Mark Foster, Acid Nerve
E3 marked another milestone for the studio, too. Until then, they hadn’t all been in the same room.
I know Andy from Twitter. David and I had done someLudum Dare games before. We made one called Leaf Me Alone. I did the art, which was inspired by Andy,” Foster explains. When we did the next game jam, I emailed to see if he wanted to help. He jumped on Skype and took part. And now we’re working together.”
Shortly after the game jam, the team was contacted by Devolver via Twitter after seeing positive press from PC-specialist sites, as well as fellow developers such as Vlambeer’s Rami Ismail.
It escalated from there, and we ended up getting Titan Souls published and turning it into a full game.”
And Foster insists that Devolver was vital to Titan Souls’ development.
Devolver has helped with everything,” he says. The game wouldn’t have been made if it hadn’t been for Devolver. We liked it, we wanted to expand on it but we had no money or time to do anything. When Devolver got involved it funded the game from the beginning and gave us all the marketing support we needed. The guys liked the prototype and thought that we could do something good. In the last year I have been around the world showing the game at different places. In the past two weeks I’ve been to GDC, PAX and now Rezzed.”
While Titan Souls was heavily influenced by the game jam theme of ‘you only get one’, the team’s other big inspiration was 2006 PlayStation 2 classic Shadow of the Colossus. In that game, players take on a series of huge boss monsters. In fact, Titan Souls was initially a demake – where developers remake a more modern title in a retro style – of that title.
When we started to do a demake of Shadow of the Colossus, we realised that a game involving climbing monsters in a 2D world wouldn’t be easy to make,” Foster says.
So we just focused on boss fights – everybody likes those, right? We just wanted to make something that focused on those central and unique experiences. Then the theme was ‘you only get one’, which is where the idea of the one arrow, and all characters having one health point. All that stuff came from the theme. If it was just a boss fight game where you are slashing away at stuff it wouldn’t have been anything like what Titan Souls is.”
And Foster says none of this would have been possible without taking part in game jams. At game jams you can try crazy ideas in a day or two and if they are bad you can throw them away. You have lost nothing – but you have gained some experience about certain things in development.
He concludes: You know what ideas do and do not work. It gives you more ideas about what you can do in the future. Game jams are only positive.”