Chris Wade is an Austin-based game designer, programmer and 3D artist who just released his first title: Sausage Sports Club for Nintendo Switch and PC on July 19th, 2018. Over the past few years, Chris has been developing Sausage Sports Club and working on titles such as Vacation Simulator, Battle Chef Brigade, Manifold Garden and Mortal Kombat X.
The following interview excerpts have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Left Behind Game Club’s Jacob McCourt: When did you know you wanted to make games?
Chris Wade: I got to college and looked at the sheet of all of the majors you can pick from. I had grown up playing games, but I never thought of it as a career. I got to this list and game development was one of the majors at DePaul [so] I picked it and started taking classes in it.
I had messed around with game development tools in high school ([mods] in Left 4 Dead and […] Game Maker) but it never stuck and I never made anything that good. But in college those skills transferred and I found it was really interesting, the problem solving was fun and it just meshed really well with me. So I eventually decided this was for me and I got into it that way.
JM: And you did a lot of game jams in college, right?
CW: I was a sophomore in college and I didn’t know what a game jam was. An upperclassman invited me and I was like: “yeah sure, that sounds really fun”. I went to [one] and our team did really well, we made a really cool game. This was basically my first time making a game outside of class for fun […] and I was totally hooked on that feeling of making [something] from scratch. After that I was like: “…game jams are the best. I’m going to do this as much as I can.” […] I wasn’t really like a good programmer [at the time], I had taken just one class. I just started doing game jams and over time got better. I used Unity for every game jam after that first one and got to know that tool really well. The better you know a tool, the better you could make things with it. And the more experience you have making games the more you’ll like be able to make better decisions at every crossroad. So I got better by doing that.
JM: What’s the best game that you made at a Game Jam in college?
CW: There was one that I made during the Train Jam. [During the 72-hour Train Jam], we take a train from Chicago to San Francisco the week before GDC. […] On the train jam it’s like 300 game developers working together making games on this train and during that I teamed up with a few other devs from Chicago.
Train Jam 2018 is over.
Thank you to our sponsors, @Amtrak, & to everyone who helped plan this event.
But most of all, thank you to the attendees. You were incredible & inspiring. We can't thank you enough for going on this journey with us 🚂💕
See you next year!
— Train Jam (@IndieTrainJam) March 18, 2018
The first day of the Jam, we just were all like really in sync. I came up with this idea for a sword fight on rails. Imagine a sine wave and on the wave there’s two little dots. Each one is controlled by a different player. You’re using your left stick to move this dot around and then with the right stick you’re swinging a sword to try to attack the other dot.
One of the people on our team Eric Huang, who worked on Battle Chef Brigade, […] is an amazing VFX artist and made these amazing flashy animations. [Combining these things]: this interesting unique gameplay mechanic of two dots moving along a rail fighting each other with swords, Eric’s crazy effects and everybody on the team immediately being in sync and being on the same page… it just turned out [to be] really fun and interesting and that would be the best [game] I made during school.
Editor’s Note: The game they made is PSHNGGG.
JM: [Your game, Sausage Sports Club] was a Kickstarter. What did you learn about the Kickstarter process both as you were getting funding and as you were communicating before the game’s release?
CW: I could talk for an hour about all the things that you learn from Kickstarter.
I would say one of the big things that I am really glad that I did a Kickstarter [was that] preparing and running the Kickstarter very much mirrored the experience of launching the game. I had to get all these promotional materials ready, I had to cut a trailer and do revisions on a trailer. I had [to setup] a press email and a content creator e-mail and try to craft good e-mails to make sure these people would want to play the game and be interested and to look like a professional. I [also] had to do all the business setup to make sure Kickstarter was going to send me money without claiming that I was being a fake. […] There’s a lot of work you have to do to set that kind of stuff up.
JM: You made a joke about a feature creep on your Kickstarter and when the game was initially pitched, […] it wasn’t pitched with an adventure mode. Later throughout the game’s development you added […] an adventure mode. Can you describe how that came about, how it affected the final product and what you learned from that?
CW: That came about as a result of a lot of market research I was doing on other games in in the similar kind of “local multiplayer” or “physics-like sports games”. I did a lot of research into how those games were doing, how many were coming out, how often they were coming out and how [much they] make for their creators. […] I was noticing that if your game doesn’t have online, if its local multiplayer only and there’s no other modes in the game, those games tend to do way worse than if you have a single player or if you have online. Online was just totally infeasible for me in the timeframe that I wanted to ship the game. […] I’m one person. I do all of the actual game stuff and it would just take an incredible amount of time. The game is [also] a physics game which has unique challenges [with] networking. If there are a hundred physics objects in a scene that’s a lot more complicated. A first person shooter has a physics engine, [for example].
[…] Adventure mode was […] a solution [because] I knew I couldn’t do online. I knew I wanted to have a single player or co-op and that felt right with the spirit of the game; having co-op and a way to play that wasn’t just competitive. […]
I was noticing that at conventions between matches players were [goofing] around, [having] fun and [knocking] around physics objects or using their head to dance with the music. Doing these really cool playful things that I wanted them to do. I had this idea that there should be toys to play with and different ways to encourage that kind of behavior. The arenas were pretty well-defined and there wasn’t really space for that sort of thing. There’s already a bunch of crap in that scene so I wanted to try having a different area [for players] to play around in. […] The overworld and adventure mode kind of came out of that…those two needs together.
The full podcast also shares details about Chris’ time as a contractor working out of the Indie City Co-op, working with Nintendo and the Nindies program and Chris gives his past self advice about the future.
Sausage Sports Club is a physics game about floppy animals playing sports and is available now on Nintendo Switch and PC. To find out more, you can go to sausagesports.club or check out the game on Twitter.
Chris also published some excellent Medium articles about developing the game, you can find those here. A big thank you to Chris Wade from Luckshot Games. If you want to follow him on Twitter, his handle is @chriswade__.
The Left Behind Game Club is a twice-monthly podcast playing through older games with the goal of building a community of people playing the same titles. Dev Chats is a semi-regular series within the Left Behind Game Club podcast feed featuring people from the video game industry, their stories and their games. The show is produced by Scholarly Gamers’ Contributor Jacob McCourt, and finds its home on their website LeftBehindGameClub.Com.