Solar 2 is a beautiful game where you start as an asteroid, gain mass to become and planet and finally a black hole. The game play and score are mesmerizing and after I got it as part of the last bundle I was hooked. The made a pretty large impression on me and as such decided to hit up creator Jay Watts and ask him a few questions.

I want to thank Jay for taking the time to talk with me and wish him well on his next project which at this point, is a secret to everybody. Well, except Jay. :D

jdodson: I just wanted to start by saying “thank you” for making Solar 2. The game is very fluid and as I play it I find myself going to some kind of zen place with the music and the gameplay. I guess I would describe it as some kind of beautiful puzzle game, but its not really a puzzle game. Even if its hard to describe the end result is amazing. Not really sure this is a question!

Jay Watts: Glad you enjoyed it!

jdodson: Solar 2 has had an awesome run being released on the XBox, PC, Steam, Mac and Linux, iOS and Android. I was recently exposed to it through the latest Humble Bundle. How has it been featured in the latest Humble Bundle and how has the process been to bring it to so many platforms?

Jay Watts: Solar 2 is on six different platforms now, and as a one-man dev team, trying to work on all those platforms is an absolute nightmare! It is nice now that all the main bugs have been fixed, but it was pretty brutal there for a while!

jdodson: I wonder what the inspiration was for Solar 2?

Jay Watts: The inspiration isn't as obvious as it might seem. After working on a complex project for a while, I didn't think I could handle all the graphics on it. I wanted to make a really simple game, that I could do all my own graphics for and still look good. I played around in Flash and drew some really nice vector circles, that kind of looked like planets. I added physics to it, some asteroids and a star and the rest of the game just developed from there!

jdodson: Solar 2 for me is about cycles. You start as an asteroid and become a planet. The planet evolves life then become a Star. Eventually you end up as a Black Hole and explode to become an asteroid again. Is this cycle aspect of the game how you look at the life and the universe or is it just an awesome game mechanic?

Jay Watts: Originally I wanted it to be totally organic, no discrete 'stages' or anything. As you got more mass you gradually evolved through things, like how the universe is. But I quickly found that there is a big 'nothing' gap between a little asteroid and a proper sized planet, along with another big gap between a big life supporting planet and a full size star. Rather than have the player grind through these less interesting parts, I just changed it to be separate distinct stages. It made it less of a universe simulator and instead a much more abstract experience, but the game is much better off as a result!

jdodson: Doof, Doof is the next game you have mentioned you are working on right now. How is that going for you and do you have anything to share about its progress?

Jay Watts: That was a great little idea and I had fun doing some prototypes, but now I'm working on a totally different game. Which happens, I play around with different prototypes all the time, I worked on at least a dozen little prototype games between Solar 1 and Solar 2, that never ended up going anywhere. The game I'm working on currently has progressed far further than any of my aborted prototypes before, and I'm really excited about it, but it's too early to share anything yet I'm afraid!

jdodson: Any thought to a Solar 3?

Jay Watts: It'll happen eventually, as I do think I can get more out of the Solar 2 concept. There's an amazing game in there, and although Solar 2 was good I don't quite think it was there yet. More of a focus on the sandbox and more depth and learning about the ingame universe and I think it could be amazing.

jdodson: What advice do you have for other aspiring indie developers?

Jay Watts: Like with anything, if you thoroughly enjoy doing something then you'll keep doing it. Even if you are terrible, you'll keep working at it, and eventually you'll get better at it. It was years before I made anything I considered any good, but I kept at it because I enjoyed it, and after a while things started to fall into place.

jdodson: What inspired you to release the game as part of the recent Humble Bundle?

Jay Watts: All the cool developers were doing it, and I wanted to be cool too!

jdodson: As Solar 2 has been out for sometime now on Steam and also with the recent inclusion in the Humble Bundle I wonder how that long lifespan effects game sales. Does this continued attention create a situation where its easier to fund the next thing you are working on? My question comes while thinking about traditional publishers talking about the old model of “box” video games where they make the majority of their money in the first week. With digital being the new thing, it seems like games have a much longer lifespan. As an Indie Developer that has existed in this new space what are your thoughts here?

Jay Watts: I don't know much about retail video game sales data, so I couldn't comment whether the lifespan is better digitally or not. It is certainly nice that sales can be more focused on websites and such creating a lot of attention, compared to say a sale in a retail store where it's much broader and games don't usually stand out. Digital sales also offer more chance to bundle things (like the Humble Bundle) and offer older games as pre-order bonuses for newer games, do giveaways, etc. It's an entirely new way to deliver products, and its flexibility is still being explored! As for funding though, like most small indies, I don't need any funding. Just a little bit of money for living expenses is all I need.

jdodson: Solar 2 was ported to a bunch of different platforms. What wizardry did you use to make this all happen? My experience with Solar 2 was from the Steam Linux port and it worked flawlessly.

Jay Watts: Solar 2 was originally developed on the XNA Framework, which is a game framework made by Microsoft for Windows and Xbox 360 (and Windows Phone). It's very popular, so a small group of developers made a framework that works exactly like it, but uses OpenGL instead of DirectX, and such is ported onto many different platforms. It's called MonoGame, and Solar 2 on Mac, Linux, iOS and Android wouldn't have existed without it!

jdodson: One game you have featured on your site is Mind over Metal, which is a pretty cool looking Metal Slug game. Metal Slug is game that hasn’t received a lot of love recently and I can’t think of a new Indie Game styled like it. Any word on if this will see the light of day in some form?

Jay Watts: That was a solid little game, and I learned a lot developing it. Sadly though it was really designed around XBLA, but that was just as things started to decline there, and things got really difficult for indies to publish there. Maybe one day I'll work on it and release on PC or something, but I'm leaning more towards games with simpler graphics, so more time can be spent tweaking and prototyping them. ***

jdodson: Symphony of Specters Solar 2 score works amazingly well alongside the core game. Are you considering working with them again for your next game?

Jay Watts: Quite possibly, you'll need to wait and see!

jdodson: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, I wonder if you have any last words as we wrap things up?

Jay Watts: New game announcement later this year. I won't give anything away just yet, but it's looking pretty good!

AdamPFarnsworth wrote on 05/16/2013 at 09:07pm

Solar 2 is a very fun, zen like experience. Sometimes I like just floating around as a planet, seeing how many asteroids I can get to orbit me.

Great interview! I'm looking forward to whatever comes next from Jay.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 05/16/2013 at 09:08pm

Yeah I am too. And since he just teased it with no hints, I am double curious :D

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