In our second interview with a Christian game developer, we had the wonderful opportunity to interview Mark Liberto from DevHour games, publishers of Depixiton and the soon-to-be-released Loveland. We asked him a few questions about both his Catholic faith and the gamemaking process.
What was your inspiration for creating Depixtion?
Mark: I met Chris (co-founder / Lead Designer) when I was consulting in Chicago back in 2017. We both realized our mutual affinity for gaming and had nearly identical gamer tags at the time. He mentioned how he and a friend (Nick, co-founder / Lead Developer) made some games in the past, one of which (Flood Fighter) was used by the Army Corp of Engineers for the state of Nevada. Chris knew my background in software and production, but I informed him I also used to be an Associate Brand Manager for Sensodyne ProNamel, so marketing was a specialty as well. By late 2018 we were all talking about making a game, and we aligned on the idea of starting a small indie game company. When Depixtion first started out, it was a bit of a different color puzzle game, almost as if you had to take different colored stamps to complete a solution. But, we were all fans of Picross as well, and we felt the original concept was a bit obtuse, so we took the original idea and created a innovated upon the Picross formula with it.
What struggles did you encounter throughout the gamemaking process?
Mark: Understanding how to get on a console platform was a key obstacle that took a bit of time to overcome. STEAM is easy, but the platforms are different. And don’t even get me started on Sony’s platform. But besides that, just being a small team with limited resources, and time, as well. We were all working full-time jobs in other areas throughout its creation, so getting the game ready for E3 involved many late nights. Heck, the night before E3 Nick stayed up till 3AM ensuring the code for the controller functionality was working for the demo. All the hard work was worth it, especially once you saw the smiles from players at the event. We even had Tim Schafer of Lucas Arts / Double Fine fame, and some of the Pyschonauts 2 team come and check it out, as we were stationed across from them the entire week.
There was also a ton of legwork done on the marketing side. Emails, face to face interactions, PR releases, and more. But it paid off, we had a pretty high Metacritic rating, and we even had Giant Bomb (Playdate: Steam Summer Sale Request Stream! – Giant Bomb) say “I never thought I’d see this type of innovation in a Picross game” and Kotaku cover it as well (If You Like Picross You’re A Good Person And Will Probably Enjoy Depixtion (kotaku.com).
What impact did your faith have on the development and release of Depixtion?
Mark: My faith always provides me with a relentless hope. There was nothing deeply theological behind the game though. We were rejected early on from Nintendo to get on the Switch, but we also knew that was our best chance of success given the ideal nature of a portable platform for a puzzle game. I explored as many avenues as possible and ended up getting us on the Switch by launch time simply by finding one of the heads of their Indie team on Twitter and sharing some of our exhibit from E3.
Which of the 12 apostles do you think would be the best at Depixtion?
Mark: I’d have to say St. Peter, because when Christ asked the apostles who He was, Peter was the first to know. Everyone else was still puzzled by what they saw, but Peter solved it. Seems like he might be good at puzzles.
Any future plans for Depixtion/releasing other games?
Mark: Our next game is currently in development and will be featured on STEAM fest this June, with a targeted release of late summer / early Fall 2022. It’s called Loveland, and it’s a dark, retro type horror game in which an evil frog overtakes a small trailer park. Think Firewatch mechanics meets a Control type universe but stylized as if it was on a PS1. I’d say this game was more of a stretch for me, as it emerged from a game jam I didn’t participate in and I’m not much of a horror guy. It wrestles with the problems of fundamentalist / positivist / heretical half-truth use of scripture, and how evil entities can manipulate us to resort to evil itself. I’ve served as writing, production, and game design on this effort, but I’ll mainly be providing the writing and voice for John, a radio host who the player can interact with as they’re exploring the mysteries of the cult. John will serve as the orthodox light to the unorthodox darkness, but the player will also have a high-level of free will in terms of what they can do in the game; so, in some sense, the player will have the option to pursue the mystery as far as they like and may finish it without fully knowing what’s going on.
We’ve actually received quite a ton of publicity on this one as well, catching the eyes of developers from Epic (people who work on Fortnite) and more.
Huge thanks to Mark for giving us the interview and of course his whole team for making cool games! Depixtion is available now on Nintendo Switch and Steam at the links below.
Depixtion for Nintendo Switch – Nintendo
Depixtion on Steam (steampowered.com)