Tonight at 6:30 at Sophia’s Thai Kitchen in Davis will be the third Jumpstart Davis. We have already profiled two of the three presenters. Ethan Garrett, the founder of “ROOTD,” a social media site for student athletes to connect with alumni after graduation, and Matt Miller, the driving force behind POLLINATE Davis Co-Working Space.
Robert Webb helped to found NextGen Pants, a studio of independent game developers formed in 2013. It consists of “four dedicated team members working tirelessly on our first commercial project, Tetropolis. We have over a total of 17 years of experience in software development, sound design, music composition and the entertainment industry.”
“Starting at the end of 2012, what would become the team behind NextGen Pants came together to prototype ideas for games. They worked throughout the greater portion of 2013 on several concepts and eventually created the initial demo of Tetropolis, their first commercial game. In the later half of 2013, the team had solidified along with the design of Tetropolis, moving into full production on the game.”
The Vanguard spoke with Robert Webb last week. He said he got into developing software because he wanted to make video games. “About 20 years ago, when I was 12, I started learning coding,” he said. “It wasn’t until recently when I started working with a small team of cross-supporters for video games, I was doing a press circuit for a lot of trade shows… that I found people I really wanted to start the studio with.”
That was about two years ago. The studio was founded last September but had been going on nearly two years unofficially.
Mr. Webb explained that the NextGen Pants name came out of a story that he ran across online, about the experience of working in a larger company. “They were making a game, it was partway through development and they had a room full of suits, that were going over character designs and one of the corporate fellows was looking at the characters and just sort of scoffed and said, I don’t like those pants, those pants looks so last gen, I need next gen pants.”
He said it is “an ironic thing, designing a game based on someone who has no idea what they’re doing.” He added, “It’s such a non-descript thing to call it.”
Mr. Webb said it became an inside joke and they took it on as a tongue-in-cheek name for a small independent studios. “We’re striving not to be Johnny Corporation,” he stated.
Currently, as indicated above, Robert Webb and NextGen Pants are working on their first game title – Tetropolis. He said that the game has been around for a while and they originally came up with it as a joke. “It was a game we never intended to make,” he said. “The idea of it has been around for as long as the studio has been around.”
“But eventually it kept gnawing on us, and we decided we need to figure out what this game would be,” he explained. The concept was, “What if we mesh up Tetris and Nitroid. Mesh up two games that are not even remotely similar.”
He described the weird combination of falling blocks in a platformer. “It’s such a weird combination, we ended up coming up with the term, Tetroid-vania.” He said while fun, he ultimately decided, “I have to figure out what this game would actually be, because it’s bugging me.” Ultimately he decided the key to the game was rearranging the world through creating rooms with connected pathways.
“That was when we decided, we need to make this game,” he said. “It’s gotta happen. It’s too good of an idea to pass up.”
Tetropolis is between 30 and 50 percent through the development stage. They have reached out to Sony and Nintendo and need to figure out what platforms to put it out on.
Robert Webb said his role is everything that is not art, music, or sound design. He founded the company and put everything together. They have a 3D artist out of Seattle, a sound designer based out of Chicago, and a musician based out of Austin.
Mr. Webb came to Davis when his fiancée entered the graduate program in disease ecology.
“There’s a lot of paperwork, a lot of red tape you just don’t know exists,” he said. He called it deceptively easy to start a company. He said, “There are so many things that I didn’t realize I would have to do.”
“That ended up taking a lot more time away from developing the product and the game than I thought it would,” he said. “Most of my day is still kind of dedicated to it, but there’s a quarter of the day where I just have to respond to emails, file paperwork. The management side is pulling me out of doing what I wanted to do to begin with.”
He got into this to develop the games, but now a big portion of his work is management.
They tried to do Kickstarter. He said it was a weird time for them and they got rushed into doing it to meet a deadline to design an Android game where they could get their budget doubled. They had a week to put the proposal together.
Ultimately, he said, given all of the factors going on, “I wasn’t too disheartened by the fact that the Kickstarter failed.”
He said while that’s something they might go back to, right now, it’s mostly all self-funded.
Robert Webb advised those seeking to create a start up to “find people who have done something similar.” He’s part of a community of independent game developers who have done something similar – he called it all very daunting and he’s grateful for the experience of others that he could rely on.
Those interested in learning more about NextGen Pants or the other presenters are invited to come to Sophia’s tonight at 6:30 to the third Jumpstart Davis event.
—David M. Greenwald reporting