by Kim McMinn

Kim McMinn is a fantasy writer who masquerades as a librarian by day while she completes her first novel. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Arts from Murdoch University and lives in Perth, Western Australia with her husband and three world-domination-plotting cats. 


On a rooftop bar, on a warm Wednesday evening in Perth, local game developers Stirfire Studios, hosted by AFK, held their official launch party of Freedom Fall: a diabolical down-scrolling platform game.

Over one hundred close friends and fans celebrated the successes that the game has so far achieved since its launch last year at PAX Australia on July 19. They huddled on the couches, playing the newly released levels of the game, avoided the wrath of the eerily beautiful Princess in attendance, and imbibed the game’s custom cocktail, the Elicksir of Life.

Freedom Fall’s creative director (Art, Story, Level Design), Lisa Rye, created the delightfully twisted fairy tale adventure three years ago as a personal project. From there, it was pitched to Let’s Make Games, a non-profit association that works to support the game development community of Perth, where it sparked the interest of Stirfire Studios. Freedom Fall was launched initially for iOS, Android, Ouya, and Desura platforms, and in January this year it was given the green light for Steam, where it has already sold thousands of copies. Freedom Fall has been nominated for several awards and won Best Game at the WA Screen Awards in 2013.

Freedom Fall follows the trials of Marsh, the hero, as he attempts to escape a prison tower. But this is no ordinary prison; the beautifully creepy Princess, who finds the prison dull and dreary, has made some alterations for her own amusement. Marsh must avoid spikes, fire balls, and other devilish traps, while collecting bolts and cogs to create items that will help him through the labyrinth and find freedom. The walls of the prison are splashed in graffiti written by the Princess, delivering the darkly humorous backstory of her life. This is a Princess that you need to be rescued from!

Along with the reveal of two new levels to the game, and a door prize raffle of one of three collector’s editions of Freedom Fall, Stirfire Studios announced two more surprises for 2014. The first was the reveal of a new game called Dead End Alley that is in production with Meijer Creative. The second was a collaboration, still in its very early stages, with an Australian science fiction author who used to live in Perth, but is now based in Brisbane. It was all very mysterious and exciting, and we’ll have to keep our ear to ground to find out more about that!

BEC STAFFORD INTERVIEWS LISA RYE

To what do you attribute the resurgence in retro-style games?

I believe the resurgence of retro-style games is coming from the gamers who grew up playing games, and wanting to make their own. I had classics when I was little, like Commander Keen and Chrono Trigger, which I must have finished twenty times or more over the years! There’s a strong nostalgia with those games, that brings you straight back to the feelings you felt when playing those old games you loved.

The first Beta version was publicly previewed at a games showcase. How nerve-wracking is that experience & how much testing and feedback preceded the release?

Presenting a new game is always nerve inducing, but we had fantastic responses at the first public showcase. If you have confidence that your game is fun to play, that helps a great deal!

What was your model in the creation of the ‘down scrolling’ retro style?

When the idea came to me, it brought up images of a fast, free flowing and tricky game play style, and I just wanted to play that! I’m not sure that there’s any particular game that inspired it, there’s plenty of vertical climbing games and side scrollers, but not so many falling games.

I’m a huge fan of American McGee’s ‘Alice: Madness Returns’ & the story that accompanies the game play. How difficult is it to incorporate a narrative into a gaming environment?

Bringing in a strong narrative to the game was very important to me. One of the aspects that made me fall head over heels in love with games was the way you could sink into another world and experience the story unfolding. But yes, you do need to approach story telling in games in a different way to how you’d approach a short story or film.

I know many indie developers just go the easy route of using a stereotypical story or not having a story at all due to time or budget reasons, but if you think creatively, there’s always a way.

Freedom Fall has been created for multiple platforms. Which are users predominantly downloading for and have you been any shifts in this trend over time?

I’ll have to answer this one after release!

What are some of your favourite retro games and why?

What counts as ‘retro’ differs from person to person, but I grew up playing games like Jazz Jack rabbit, Final Fantasy, Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventure, Sim City and pretty much anything I could could find!

GOG, Humble Bundle, & the like offer gamers bulk games for incredibly low prices. How difficult is it to compete in this market and what do you need to consider in terms of promo work?

Right now, the indie market is doing wonders for small developers! Of course, this also means there are more and more people making games, so you do need to work hard to reach your audience. Indie groups don’t often have a large marketing budget, so you need to use every avenue you can: social media, conventions, personal blogs and websites, even supportive friends and family helping to spread the word can make a lot of difference!

Can you tell us how your idea for a reverse Rapunzel story evolved and why you elected to make the princess creepy and dark?

For Freedom Fall, the story emerged naturally from the game play style. The falling mechanic needed a set-up that suited it, so I created a prison tower that reaches the sky, then worked from there to develop a world and characters around it. I also wanted a story that would work without cut-scenes that take control away from the player, so the idea of the creepy little princess in her ridiculously tall tower, writing on the walls, just fit.

Which games are you currently playing in your spare time?

Spare time? What’s that? I do have a pile of games I’ve been dying to play after the release, but I did find the time to play Evoland the other day (that’s certainly a romp through some of the games I grew up with!) and replay Bastion, which I can also recommend a great deal!

Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

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