This is a pivotal year for the video game industry as the next-generation console war begins in stride. And while the Xbox One and Playstation 4 will arrive in stores this fall to face off against the Wii U, another new piece of hardware has recently entered the ring vying for its own share of the market.
The Ouya is the debut console from Boxer8, which was funded through the second highest-earning Kickstarter campaign in the site’s history. Released on June 25 for $99, the high definition system has been differentiating itself by courting the independent developer community. Among its early adopters has been Ludeme Games, a one-man studio created by Computer Animation alum Zachary Burns.
Zac graduated in 2005, and has worked at a number of popular game studios on titles like the MLB 2K and NHL 2K series, as well as Sports Champions for the Playstation 3. He set out on his own in 2011 by opening Ludeme, which has resulted in the release of Chess 2: The Sequel for the Ouya – one of the new console’s most buzzed-about releases.
The game mechanics were originally developed by David Sirlin, with Zac choosing to port over its unique spin on the classic board game. Eager to learn about his experiences developing for the Ouya, we caught up with him a month after its debut to get insight on the new platform.
FS: What was it about the Ouya that attracted you to it as a developer?
Zac Burns: I think a lot of people really connected with the idea of a console as an open platform that anyone can express their games on. Even though much larger players are starting to follow suit, the barrier to entry is still one of the lowest out there to just get started developing. It’s an idea that I would like to see succeed and be a major factor for the games of the future.
FS: How about for gamers? How would you sell the platform to one of your friends?
ZB: The console is not for everybody, so it would depend on the friend. I think of it as more a hobbyist game enthusiast kind of console. Very interesting if you’re interested in trying out making a first time game. That said, there are a lot of games for it in a short period of time. There are currently 277 games, and the level of quality seems to be going up over time.
FS: What was it about Chess 2 that made that feel like the right project for you?
ZB: David Sirlin designed Chess 2 simply as a board game back in 2010, but when I sent him the proposal to bring it to life as a video game I stated my intention to bring it to the Ouya first. There were a lot of factors. A new indie developer doesn’t put aside his own ambitions and ideas lightly. To sum it up it came down to discoverability, scope, and love for the game.
FS: How would you describe the game to regular chess players?
ZB: There’s a lot that’s great about chess, and the game expands on that great stuff, while diminishing parts of the game most people find to be a chore – like opening memorization and draws. Usually I let quotes by famous former chess world champions say it for me, such as when Bobby Fischer said “I’m finished with the old chess because it’s all just a lot of book and memorization.”
FS: The press for the game has been really positive, how proud of its reception are you?
ZB: Pretty happy with it so far. The scope is beyond most of the first time games for small indie studios that I usually see out there. It looks like a small game at first glance but the inclusion of ranked multiplayer is not something that most would want to tackle by themselves. The other cool thing is that it will have by far the best lighting on the Ouya. I’m hoping that the popularity of the game and level of polish will win the day, and definitely will be bringing it to a lot of platforms soon after the Ouya release.