Gunhouse dev explains journey from PlayStation Vita to Windows Phone in our interview

Last week we took notice of a new offering on the Windows Phone Store called Gunhouse that takes elements from puzzle and tower defense games. This is the first time I've seen this style and Necrosoft, the developers of the game, mixed the elements perfectly. Surprisingly, this beautiful and unique title is not available on iOS or Android. The only other system you'll find it on is the PlayStation Vita, another underdog platform.

The guys over at Necrosoft enjoyed our previous coverage so much, they offered to share their inside story with us. This week we had the pleasure of chatting with Brandon Sheffield, Director of Necrosoft Games and former editor-in-chief of Game Developer Magazine. A true industry veteran, he has also contributed to Dragon's Crown, Sine Mora, and Baynard Blast: Swine of the Night.

Brandon Sheffield

Tell us about yourself, Brandon. What do you do when you aren't developing games?

"I live in Oakland, California, and am a Bay Area native. When not working on games, I spend a lot of time listening to weird music from around the world - I've got a pretty size-able collection of sixties and seventies rock music from around the globe.""Some of it is real weird! Here's something I picked up in Krakow, though the band is from Hungary. Pretty good! Or this thing I picked up in Saigon:Pretty different from our rock music of the era.""I also go to noise music shows at local DIY venues, bake bread, and basically try to figure out how to live as cheaply as possible. It's tough in the Bay Area, but I was born here, and I'm not gonna let people with money push me out!""Oh, and I have a pretty big collection of retro games for most consoles. I love the PC Engine/TurboGrafx, and have about 300 games for the console. I've got about 200 Saturn games, so... I like the underdog, I guess.""But Gunhouse wasn't made just by me of course! We also had Jim Crawford who did Frog Fractions coding the original game (he also helped with some design stuff), a guy named Takashi who did the WP port, Juan Ramirez's unique artwork, Jack Menhorn's SFX, and of course Rich Vreeland on music duty. Juan's art is the real star of this thing. I just did design and production stuff; it was really all the team that made it happen!"

Gunhouse first launched on PlayStation. How did that go?

"The game was actually launched on the PlayStation Mobile platform, which now is Vita exclusive, but when it launched was also on Sony smartphones. They killed that part of the program a few months ago, unfortunately. It was a fine platform, but the store was too hard to find (and still is!), so not as many people got to play it as I would have liked."

Why did you guys choose Windows Phone as the first proper mobile platform for Gunhouse?

"Technically WP was the second mobile OS, since it was briefly on Xperia smartphones, but we decided to come to WP because Microsoft asked us! They had this great program called AppCampus, which is now unfortunately over. AppCampus granted developers a budget to bring good games to Windows Phone.""We were part of that program, and that's a big part of why we chose Windows Phone! Having development costs for the port funded was a big deal for us. It was also a good opportunity to port the game to Unity from the original PlayStation Mobile SDK. Now the game is more versatile and future proof!"

What made you guys decide to launch Gunhouse as a free game?

"We decided to make it free since Microsoft paid for development, basically. We felt that the best thing would just be to get the game in the hands of players, since our financial needs for the port were met. We're not greedy! As long as we have enough money to live, we just want people to play our games."

Where did your motto, "Stupid games for jerks like us" come from? Gunhouse seems to embody that wacky ethos.

"Brandon: Hmmm, the motto came from me basically liking really specific weird stuff, pretty much. I like very specific kinds of games - lots of strange, imperfect older Japanese games, like the Valis series on TurboGrafx and SNES, Ghost in the Shell for the original PlayStation, or Puyo Puyo~n on Dreamcast. I like games that try something new, even if they fail.""Even if they're not perfect, if they try to make me feel or think or wonder, I appreciate that. The whole point of Necrosoft Games is to make the kinds of games that I'm not seeing out there anymore. I don't know if Gunhouse is the best example of that, but I think you'll see more of that from us going forward."

Where did the idea of Gunhouse come from? What games inspired it?

"Gunhouse actually came from a game jam! I don't know if you heard about the Molyjam, but it was a game jam based on the tweets of the Peter Molyneux parody account, @petermolydeux. I was one of the organizers of the jam, and it was super popular in its two year run, with thousands of participants across dozens of cities.""So the game came from the parody account's tweet: "You live in a little house made of guns. You need many guns to fight invaders but also need to keep a roof on top of your many children.""We used that original tweet and made something that has absolutely nothing to do with how the game turned out. The original game took place inside the house, in fact! It was originally called Orphanage Arsenal. I've got an image of that for you, here."

Orphanage Arsenla

"When we decided to make this thing, we made some tweaks, then some more, and then some more, and then, little by little, it turned into the game you see here. It's a huge story how we got from there to here... I'll tell it some day!""In terms of games that inspired it, well… I think it was inspired more by genres than specific games. Tower defense and puzzle were the main ones, of course - at one point we had a mechanic that was inspired by the equip screen in Solatorobo for the Nintendo DS, but we scrapped that!"

Your team recruited the composer of Fez's music for Gunhouse's soundtrack. How did that happen?

"Well, Rich (aka Disasterpeace) lives near me and comes to our game dev meetups. I just showed him the art and told him about the game, and he said okay! He used a totally different approach for this game than for his others, using loops and sequences rather than composing from start to finish. He would create smaller chunks of music, and then mix and match them around for maximum effect.""In terms of workflow, basically he'd send me a track, and I'd tell him what I thought, ask for some tweaks, or some different instruments here or there, and he'd come back with something different. For one track, I asked for him to take inspiration from the Balinese monkey chant and some gamelan here:) and gamelan music. If you play the game, you can pretty much tell which one that is!"

Gunhouse has a vividly unique art style that reminds me of a mixture of graffiti and comic books. How did the art style come about?

"So the art is pretty much just a natural style that Juan Ramirez has fallen into. I met him on a message board back in the late 90s, and watched his art progress over time, and eventually started hiring him to do illustrations for Game Developer magazine, back when I was editor in chief. Over the years, he sort of learned what I liked, and developed his style even further.""He has a pretty unique way of doing art, compared to most folks doing game work. He actually draws everything by hand, on actual paper! He then scans it and cleans it up, but everything you're seeing in the game is actually physically hand drawn on paper before anything else. It's pretty cool! We should exhibit some of this stuff somewhere."

Do you plan on adding more levels to the game in the future?

"Right now, we're just bug-hunting. Unless we get more funding for a new version, we can't afford to put more new content in the game since we decided not to monetize it. We'd really like to, though! Cross your fingers that we find a publisher to sponsor new content!"

You have more projects in the works, such as Oh Deer! and Gunsport. Do you plan on bringing those to Windows Phone?

"Gunsport would unfortunately not work on any mobile device, but Oh, Deer! - that's another story! It's a driving game that could work well with tilt control... If the demand is strong enough, we would definitely consider it, but we would need to know that the market is there, since it would be a significant cost to port. Right now we're targeting consoles only, but you never know what the future may bring!"

QR: Gunhouse

Jonathan Dollison
  • And this game still is not available here in the Brazilian WP Store. Devs, I can help.
  • Don't worry. It sucks
  • I wish developers didn't have to see posts like this. I don't know why you can't appreciate the fact that they are developing for WP, this is a free game, and it's pretty cool IMO.
  • bad...its utterly fantastic minus the massively laggy game play on my 920. Better?
  • Well it does get kind of laggy sometimes on my ativ s aswell, but that doesn't make it unplayable imho. The gameplay is nice actually. Anyways, you should give games like these a chance. Doing something kinda different for a change. Also, the game is just out on our platform. The devs might optimise performance some more in time. ;)
  • Duh it runs smooth on my 520!
  • Welol, the framerate drops on my Ativ S aswell. Not to unplayable levels, but it does drop. Strange you don't get that on your 520, seeing that in benchmarks my Snapdragon S4 would run circles around the chip in your 520:
  • Ok just because an app preforms badly on your old phone doesn't always mean the app is bad.. Means you need a new none budget phone.
  • I just submitted a new rating... hopefully it goes through soon!
  • Hi Brandon. Thanks a lot for responding me! Did you upload a PEGI or ESRB certificate in the place of the Brazilian one (DJCTQ)? And please do not forget to "check" Brazil in the countries list. Many developers forget this part and their games do not become available here.
    I am saying this because I already helped a lot of developers to get their games here. :)
    You can ask me anything anytime.
  • I uploaded an ESRB certificate, and checked brazil! (I also got Taiwan in the process, while I was at it) It is apparently approved, so it may show up on the store pretty soon (though they say it can take up to 5 days)
  • Already available and I am downloading right now! Thanks Brandon! I am pretty sure many Brazilian guys will appreciate your game. ;)
  • I hope so!!
  • And thank you Brandon, we appreciate it.
  • Finalmente vi um desenvolvedor te responder diretamente, parabéns e valeu por estar sempre na luta :P
  • They seem.... Like the jerks they call themselves :D
  • Where is the Windows port? Xbone? Where was the question about xbl integration since ms paid for dev, but not that much obviously...
    I need moar!
  • As mentioned, waiting for funding. He ported to Unity so it should be do-able.
  • No xbox-live support
  • That's a very limiting attitude to have.
  • But it would be nice...
  • Why not charge for further content? :)
  • He mentioned that in the article, go read it.
  • Oakland is right next to Berkeley after all! Many people in the SF Bay Area are basically socialist and think it's "greedy" to grow a business as much as the market will allow. They think it's charming or socially just to be poor. I know so many people with this attitude. They usually grew up privileged so maybe there's some guilt going on there, too. Just a guess.
  • Nah. What they do is get filthy rich and then drive a Ford Escort so they're not judged by the hipsters and hippies. They have to keep their fortunes on the down low.
  • I didn't download it because it is rather big
  • TWSS
  • game is fun if only a little choppy. also would like to see orientation flipped so i dont keep swiping right and hitting the home button
  • The game lags like crazy on my 930.
  • We're working on that... something mysterious is going on there.
  • An game...
  • I noticed that too. Lol
  • Great to see this sort of thing, agreed with other comments, should charge for additional content
  • For real. Get paid bro. It's a nice game.
  • That's a pretty neat experience, I'd agree. I like how they travel, I too have a goal to get specific apps I've created on platforms im not to firm with though.
  • Oh for the Xbox Portable
  • After read this interview I can't help but loving this game even more, is weird, original, fun and addictive. Great addition to the Store.
  • So I'm guessing, because the appcampus ended, we're not going to see any more necrosoft games on Windows phone?
  • "Are you a jerk like us?...."
    Bahahaha... Nope!
  • I'm not a big gamer on phones but I lil this. I grew up with an Intellivision and C64 at a very young age, then a TurboGrafx-16 and cd when they came out. The TG16 is my favorite all time system. Since then it's been all playstation and PC. I like the style of this game, actually reminds me of the TG16 marketing and packaging. I like games that are different...Catherine comes to mind. Can't wait to see what's next!
  • I like this game very much. I Accidentally gave a 1star rating with a positive description in the review, and the devs are very quick to reply. I changed it to 5 and i got my thanks right away. That's pretty rare. :)
  • Great game guys, it does feel TG16ish
  • Superb game! :) thanks dev for WP support, make the game universal, develop it for Windows 8.1 and Xbox to plz
  • Thank you dev.
  • Cool game :-) definitely worth downloading.
  • I don't get what Microsoft is doing , its paying for stupid games and leaving big apps and games !
    Clash of clans !
    Pay facebook to develop the calling feature in messenger
    Pay viber to develop viber video calls for windows phone
    Pay those big companies!
    I'm sure they have a very idiot manager -_-
  • Yeah, you should apply for a managerial position at MS. I'm sure you'd be better than the actual one.
  • I wish I could kill him -_-
  • Don't make comments like that here, or anywhere else.
  • MS would be bankrupt if he was manager. But at least wed have CoC!
  • I hope the developer realizes that not all Windows Phone users are so dismissive of their work. Also, wishing to kill someone for not paying millionaires (at least, to your knowledge) to port over games and apps is beyond childish.
  • You didnt get the joke as I really wanted people to get -_- So , kill the OS then ;)
  • It's the internet and there are too many idiots running around who really mean what they say about killing people. If you were joking, carry on then. :-)
  • It's incredible that it's all drawn. The artist is a genius.
  • I didn't download it the first time around. I'm going to download it this time just because I read the interview and liked the guy behind the game. He sold himself pretty good, I guess.
  • I love windows platform loving developers!!!!! Gunhouse is soo cool!
  • Thanks for supporting the platform! Any plans to bring it to Windows 8.1 as a universal app?
  • Lags on my 1520 nonetheless amazing game!
  • Thanks for bringing the game over. Really appreciate it guys.
  • Downloaded this game long ago. Really neat game, but it's kinda laggy on my 1520, which is kinda weird. But it's great to hear that you guys are working on fixing this. Without the lag issue, this game can be the top notch in marketplace.
  • Awesome game
  • If anyone has issues with Day 15, the up-and-coming patch today will fix that. The other landscape orientation (keys on the left) will also be available. We're still looking into the lag :)