Fancy Pants Adventures and NyxQuest developer Over the Top Games is self-publishing its upcoming voodoo-themed roguelike Full Mojo Rampage, but prior to that it had been working on a couple of since-cancelled projects that received offers from publishers. The problem was the contracts for these were so undesirable that the Spanish indie studio decided it was better to cut its losses, reduce the company size, and focus on self-publishing its next game instead.
One of these shelved games was a sequel to NyxQuest, the Greek mythology-themed side-scrolling platformer. While the first NyxQuest was designed for Wii and later iOS, Over the Top wanted to make a sequel for 3DS. The studio spent two years shopping around a prototype of the sequel, but found publishers weren't willing to finance a game tailored for one platform.
"The thing with publishers is they want to make games for all the platforms since the cost for them is small," said Over the Top co-founder Roberto de Lara. "In terms of designing the game, it was difficult for us because it's not the same with a normal 360 controller than it is with the stylus, or a touchscreen, or a Wii controller."
While this made finding a publisher harder, Over the Top still made it past the greenlight process with a couple of anonymous "well known publishers", but the contract terms were so poor that the team decided it was riskier to sign with a publisher than without.
"Contracts are not developer friendly," De Lara said. "One of the contracts said they could give us the money to make the game - €700.000 - but if at any point they decided to cancel the game, we'd have to return the money to them.
"If we are asking for money it's because we need it. We will have to spend it. What happens if we sign and the publisher decides to cancel the game? Well, that's something our company wouldn't be able to pay back. That's a contract we're not able to sign."
Additionally, every offer the studio found required giving up the IP. "When we sign with a publisher we automatically lose ownership of the game, the IP," said De Lara. "The IP is the only value our studios have. With this new game, and all the games we make in the future, I want us to keep the IP."
NyxQuest 2 was one of two projects Over the Top shopped around between 2009 and 2012. While one half of the team was developing NyxQuest 2, another was working on an isometric action/adventure game about a prince, tentatively titled Prince Charming.
Despite a polished-looking prototype, publishers weren't so keen on the title because its art style made it look like a kid's game. "Because we had graphics like Disney they'd automatically say 'this looks like a kid's game,'" De Lara lamented. "They mostly care about how to sell the game or how to tell people about the game. Most of the time they didn't care about the content or what's new in what we wanted to do."
Still, it received a couple offers, but these contracts suffered from the same issues as NyxQuest 2's. Ultimately, both projects were put on hold indefinitely while the team grew from four to 10 core staff plus a few contributors for Fancy Pants Adventures, a game Over the Top developed for EA.
De Lara didn't want to let half his staff go after Fancy Pants wrapped up in 2011, so the team focused its efforts on finding a good publishing deal for NyxQuest 2 and Prince Charming, but unfortunately never found one. The contractors left, one staffer got a cushy job offer from Ubisoft to work on Watch Dogs, and another few left to pursue their own thing as Over the Top's financial security was too shaky for a team of that size with no publisher to support it.
Now down to five people - just one person larger than when the original NyxQuest was made in 2009 - Over the Top is working on Full Mojo Rampage as a self-published title. To help fund it, the studio is crowdsourcing the game, but not in the conventional Kickstarter/Indiegogo way, but rather in the Minecraft/Prison Architect way where people can buy the alpha - going live in June - at a reduced price of $10, then receive the later revisions at no extra charge. There's no one specific goal it's trying to reach by a certain deadline or anything, but the game will increase in scope based on how much funding it gets.
Looking like a voodoo-themed The Binding of Isaac with optional co-op play, Full Mojo Rampage seems to be shaping up nicely. In fact, if you're in the area you could try it for yourself next month at Rezzed.