Self-Funded and Self-Made
Tom Fulp on 'Alien Hominid'
In today's gaming climate of multimillion-dollar budgets and Hollywood-hyped projects, independently produced, 2-D flash-based games are lovingly referred to as "retro" Internet darlings that rarely see their names on red carpet or retail boxes. But every so often a Rocky Balboa emerges among the heavyweight contenders, slugging for a chance to strut its moves with the A-list crowd. So goes the story of Alien Hominid, a low-budget shoot-'n'-scroll action game from 26-year-old Newgrounds.com creator Tom Fulp. As a yellow-skinned, bug-eyed alien antihero crash lands into FBI headquarters, laser pistols, daggers, and streets explode in what might best be described as South Park meets Predator. As for what Hominid seemingly lacks in terms of 3-dimensionality and 7.1 Dolby sound, it charms on an entirely different level through the hand-drawn backgrounds of gifted illustrator Dan Paladin. Closer to Walt Disney than Pixar, Fulp based his game world on a fixed obsession with the far-gone Reagan-era of Eighties gaming. "I grew up with a lot of Odysee and Atari," Fulp recounts. "Pitfall was a lot of fun: The tunnel with the scorpion was so ominous and frightening to me." But fear of expanding his company's reign beyond its flash-based origins was no pitfall for Fulp, who inked a deal with Playstation2 and GameCube to upgrade and transfer Hominid's wicked humor onto both consoles. What's more remarkable about this accomplishment is that Fulp's production house, the Behemoth, achieved it without any outside investment. "We weren't even sure if the final product would be approved for PS2 and GameCube, but we believed in the game so we had to give it a shot," Fulp says. "It took 18 months and a lot more money than we expected, but in the end, we had an entirely self-funded, self-made game just waiting to be picked up by a publisher." With 6 million downloads of the flash-based version on the scoreboard, publisher 0~3 Entertainment took a chance on the console version of Hominid and watched it fast become a critical and financial success. Wannabe game designers seeking guidance on the road to going gold might heed Fulp's life experience: "There were a million times during development where each of us was ready to bail, but none of us did, and that is the only reason we made it where we are." For a chance to listen in on a more detailed discussion of how Fulp fulfilled his model of independent development, check out the designer's free (no badge/pass required) discussion of his journey from Internet flash to console splash.
Ducking Bullets and Blowing Up Barriers: The Indie Development of Alien Hominid takes place at 7:30pm, Friday, March 11, in Room 17AB. The event is free, and requires neither a badge nor a pass. For more free/nonbadge or nonpass SXSW Interactive events, see below.