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Interview with Slam Bolt Scrappers’ Developer

I recently visited the Boston indie developer Fire Hose games to check out their first studio release, the puzzle/brawler/tower defense hybrid Slam Bolt Scrappers.  Slated for a March release on PSN, SBS combines the very best of these genres into a frenetic and hilarious multiplayer experience—one-handed beverage mode included.  I asked president and founder Eitan Glinert a few questions about being an indie developer in the growing Boston dev community.  Read on for an exclusive look care of your friends at Gamer Reaction.

Gamer Reaction: Could you give our readers a bit of your background, and why and how you started your own Indie game studio?

Eitan Glinert: I started Fire Hose thanks to a combination of naivete and having the perfect amount of game development experience, around 3 years. At that point you’ve done enough to think you can start your own studio, and you’re green enough not to realize what a daunting challenge it is. I started making games in 2005 in Washington DC at the Federation of American Scientists, working on an educational video game called Immune Attack that taught immunology to high school students. It was a great project and I learned a ton, and some of the people I worked with went on to great indie success (Jenova Chen and Vincent Diamante went on to make Flower, and Kurosh ValaNejad is an IGF finalist with the Cat in the Coup). After that I went to MIT and did a graduate thesis in accessible video game user interfaces at the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT game lab. I made a DJ game that is totally accessible to both blind and sighted players, and I had a blast doing it! Incidentally a lot of the people there went on to great indie fame too, making CarneyVale: Showtime. When I finished school in ’08 I immediately started up Fire Hose in a super small basement near MIT with two other MIT friends of mine, Sharat Bhat and Ethan Fenn.

GR: What’s it like being an indie developer?  How’s the Boston indie community?

EG: Everything about it is awesome except for being broke all the time. Seriously though, I love the independence and being able to make what you want. Everyone is very supportive, and the Boston community is a great big hug fest. When it comes down to it though, the real challenge of being an indie is getting money and staying in business, and that is super difficult.

GR: You were present at Boston’s first PAX event, speaking at at least one panel.  Could you tell us a bit about your experience?

EG: We were in the Boston indie showcase, and we got named by Kotaku as one of their favorite new games of show, and then Penny Arcade followed suit. It was huge! I think that was really the turning point for Slam Bolt Scrappers, where we went from a studio of nobodies working on a game no one had heard of to a group of people with the next cool game people want to play. Plus we got to show the game off to a huge group of conference goers who loved it, which was extremely validating. So we love PAX!

GR: Will you be attending PAX East 2011?  Speaking at any panels?

EG: You’d better believe I’m gonna be back. We have a little booth on the side next to Demiurge and GAMBIT, and we’ll be showing off the final version of the game. You and all your readers should come check it out! I will be speaking on two panels about indie game development along with Ichiro [http://dejobaan.com/] and Scott [http://macguffingames.com/].

GR: SBS draws from one of the most influential games of all time; did Tetris play a significant role from the earliest concepts of the game?  How did SBS come to be what it is today?

EG: Actually, Tetris had nothing to do with the game’s development if you can believe it. The initial version of the game was much more influenced by World of Goo than anything else. The game’s development was highly evolutionary, and we went through 4 bad iterations before finally settling on this final 5th iteration which is really the awesome one. I’ll be giving a talk at Boston Post Mortem about it in a few months, you should come and check it out!

GR: I’m told there is a Beverage Mode… Care to explain what this is and how it came to be?

EG: Ha! Beverage mode is awesome, it’s basically playing with one hand so that you can multitask and do something else with your other hand (in this case, drink a tasty beverage). It grew out of my desire to make accessible games (remember my grad research) but it turned into this really fun and bizarre new gameplay mode.

GR: What has been the greatest challenge Fire Hose has faced in the development of SBS?

EG: Man, I dunno. Finding funding was pretty damn tough. Putting the right team together was a Herculean effort. And giving up on the 4th iteration and starting from scratch with the 5th iteration was a gut wrenching decision. All of those were super hard challenges.

GR: What’s it been like working with Sony?  When can we expect the game?

EG: Actually they’ve been great! They really seem to get indie development; they let us do our thing, they’re very supportive, and we think PSN is going to be a great home for our game. We can’t wait until it comes out on the PS3!

GR: Any hints on what’s coming down the pike next?

EG: Sorry, it’s a bit too soon. We’ll definitely have news for this after SBS is out though!

Alas, no dice on what’s next.  But be sure to check out Scrappers when is launches on PSN in March.  I’ve had my hands all over it, and though I can’t divulge much, I can say this: it is fast-paced, frenzied, and full-up on one-more-time play stylings.  It’ll provide some multiplayer hysteria at the very least, with or without a tasty bev or two.  Check out their site here and follow them on twitter @FireHoseGames.

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