The Swindle, An Exclusive Interview With Dan Marshall

Recently we had an opportunity to conduct an interview with Dan Marshall, the developer behind games like Time Gentleman Please!, Gun Monkeys, and Privates. He’s currently working on his newest title The Swindle, which is a Steampunk Cybercrime RPG Caper about; breaking into buildings, hacking their systems, stealing their cash, and running away.

In case you missed our previous coverage, check it out here before you dig into the interview…

Congratulations on what will be your first multiplatform release, have you established an approximate date?

 Summer. I don’t want to get too tied down because honestly, it’s out when it’s finished.

In 2011, what was your original inspiration behind The Swindle? Has that inspiration evolved over the years?

Oh man, the original idea of a little 2D game about breaking into buildings has been with me for years, now. It started out as a gritty cyberpunk thing when I was a kid, and the idea sort of stuck with me. It’s gone through being a cartoony burglary simularot, to end up as the weird procedurally-generated steampunk/ cyberpunk mashup it is today.

In terms of gameplay, how has The Swindle evolved over the years? Is there anything you changed from the original, that you wish you kept?

No, all the stuff that worked in the original has carried across, it’s what got dropped that made the game so much better- no hand-crafted levels, no repeating levels, no guard AI, no vague “simulation” elements-  all this stuff that sounded great on paper but when it came down to it just didn’t hag together correctly. So, the game actually feels pretty similar in terms of gameplay, but the rules feel a bit more Arcade-y, a bit less forgiving.

What happened that caused the development of the game to be canceled? At what point did you decide to bring it back to life?

It just wasn’t hanging together well, and I’d been working on it so long, and got to the point where I needed a break. So I made Gun Monkeys, and when it came to getting back to The Swindle my eyes were suddenly opened to exactly how many problems it had. So I took a break and made something else, but couldn’t shift the feeling that there was a great game there waiting to happen. So I knocked together a procedurally-generated prototype, with the sole rule that everything has to be simple, everything has to feel binary, you know? Like, you’re in a vision cone or you’re not. There’s no grey area. The prototype was amazing, I lost hours just playing it. From that point on it was clear it justified bringing the concept back.

What in the world possessed you to create a world in which the steampunk & cyberpunk genres collide? Have you received any flack from genre purists?

Ha, no flak but I’m expecting some. Steampunk purists are very pure about it. “That type of valve wasn’t invented until 1895 and therefor is NOT steampunk”. But The Swindle kind of operates in its own weird universe; there’s little bits of modern day poking through, a little bit of cyberpunk. But everything runs on Steam, so… I dunno. Hopefully no one’s that uppity they’ll get all weird at me.

What is the ultimate motivation in the game; reaching the end, becoming a kingpin of crime, and/ or leaderboards & bragging rights?

The plot revolves around stealing this AI that the police are making – it’s going to have 1005 surveillance over London, and they’re flipping it on in 100 days. That’s going to make your job as a burglar impossible, so you need to steal it before that happens.

Have you ever imagined what The Swindle would be like if it had a team based multiplayer mode? If so, how have you envisioned it?

Ha ha no, I’m never touching Multiplayer ever again. Swindle might work asynchronously, stealing from other players’ houses. I’ve thought about it. Maybe a sequel.

For anyone unfamiliar with your games, which one game would you recommend that best reflects you? Is it your favorite of the bunch? What would you say is your favorite game overall?

Oh, I don’t know. I make all sorts of games. I’m very proud of Time Gentlemen, Please!, I think it’s a great adventure game. It sums up my humour very well. But Gun Monkeys and The Swindle are the types of game I like to play, so I’ll go with those. The Swindle’s definitely my best game to date.

What advice would you give someone that’s dreamt of making their own indie game? What would you consider to be the most important thing, technical or otherwise, to learn in setting that dream in motion?

Have a day job, and make your first game on weekends and in the evenings and in the morning before you go to work. You need to have cash to support yourself, and I think unfortunately that means having a boring job that pays the rent. Once you’ve got one game up and selling, you can make a descision on whether it’s making enough to go Full Indie, but don’t let go of one branch until you’ve got a firm grip on the next.

Recently The Swindle Blog provided an update with the newest stills of the game…

the swindle 1 the swindle 2 the swindle 3 the swindle 4 the swindle 5

The Swindle will be released simultaneously on Steam, PS3, PS4, PSVita, XboxOne and WiiU.

I’m particularly thrilled that we’ll be getting this game on such a wide range of platforms, I’m especially looking forward to playing this on the PS4 & PS Vita. What do you think of the game? Any questions you would’ve wanted to ask Dan, let us know in the comments below…  maybe we can get them answered for you.

Dan Marshall is the force behind SIZE FIVE GAMES, which was rather inventively set up at the very peak of the Global Economic Meltdown. It started out life as Zombie Cow Studios, before the crashing realization that that is a horrible name, and we changed it for something much less stupid.