Achievement Unlocked!

At long last, I will finally be able to say without any caveats that Axiom Verge is playable on your favorite console. I will soon be able to say that whether your primary platform is Steam, PS4, Wii U, or now Xbox One, Axiom Verge is available. When will I be able to say this? The final piece of the console puzzle, the Xbox One version, will launch on Friday, September 30 – a mere 2 weeks from now! Mark your calendars and tell your friends! Like with the other platforms, it will be $19.99, but it will have a 10% introductory discount through October 10.

There’s a certain irony that Xbox One is the last console to get Axiom Verge. When I started development almost 7 years ago, Xbox 360 (in particular, the Xbox Live Indie Games service) was my target platform. Like many indie developers, I vastly underestimated the scope of what the game would eventually become and the time needed to achieve my full vision, and by the time I was ready to launch, the development framework I was using (XNA) was no longer compatible with Xbox’s latest system.

For anyone interested in a history lesson, XNA was developed by Microsoft as a free set of APIs for independent developers to use to create games for consoles – without the need for expensive development hardware. At the time, this idea was revolutionary. Consoles were always the domain of large companies with big budgets. Development kits ran tens of thousands of dollars, so hobbyists, or even small studios, could never afford to develop games for consoles without a publisher who could provide the necessary hardware and software. XNA made it possible for anyone with access to a simple PC to develop games that could be released on a console.

But it was often more than that. Although consumers probably saw a lot of low quality shovelware clogging up XBLIG (opening the floodgates does let some sewage through), to XBLIG developers, it was about community and developers helping each other. A lot of talent cut their teeth on XBLIG. Ska Studios first achieved notoriety with their title I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1. Now you may know them better as the developer of Salt and Sanctuary.

In fact, James Silva, who was the sole member of Ska Studios until his wife Michelle joined him and turned it into a 2-person company, wrote a book about making games with XNA. James Petruzzi and Tim Dodd used that book to learn how to make games for XBLIG. In case you’re not familiar with James and Tim, they’re the people behind the upcoming metroidVANIA, Chasm. (Incidentally, Chasm and Axiom Verge share something else in common. Dan Adelman is handling the biz dev and marketing for both games, and we often show our titles together. This was our setup at PAX East – sorry for the potato quality.

(If you’ve already played Axiom Verge and enjoyed it, you may want to sign up for the Chasm newsletter and start following it too. But I digress…)

(If you’ve already played Axiom Verge and enjoyed it, you may want to sign up for the Chasm newsletter and start following it too. But I digress…)

XNA and XBLIG were part of Microsoft’s deep commitment to indie development during the Xbox 360 years, but unfortunately the decision was made to shut both of these down during the Xbox One years. The market had changed, and I suppose Microsoft concluded that there were plenty of reasonably priced tools for small developers to use to get access to consoles, so that tech no longer filled a vacuum.

Bringing Axiom Verge to Xbox One

Many XNA developers needed to make a change when Microsoft discontinued support. Fortunately, open source versions of XNA called MonoGame and FNA stepped into the void. I was able to convert Axiom Verge and continue development. Unfortunately, these weren’t supported on Xbox One… until now. Thanks to the popularity and quality of games using Monogame, Microsoft made the decision to have Monogame ported and officially supported on Xbox One!

Now, porting an entire development framework is a lot more complicated than just porting a game. There are few people who could tackle such a complex task, but Tom Spilman from Sickhead Games is kind of a wizard. He was able to port MonoGame to PS Vita and took up the challenge of porting it to Xbox One as well. Since he was already familiar with the code base of Axiom Verge, he decided to use it as the guinea pig for getting the framework up and running. Although the MonoGame port still has some rough edges to polish up before it’ll be trivially easy for all MonoGame games to move to Xbox One seamlessly, the Axiom Verge port is great. I’m proud that of all of the XNA games that originally targeted the Xbox family, Axiom Verge will be the first to have a native version running on Xbox One… with hopefully many more XNA games to follow!

The Indie (Special Needs) Dad

Alastair at the PAX West Nindies Lounge

Alastair at the PAX West Nindies Lounge

With the Wii U version of AV released and the XB1 version in certification, I thought I'd take a moment to talk about my son, Alastair.  It's not something I talk about a lot because, basically, I don't want to make you depressed.

Over a year ago I posted, over-optimistically, the Alastair had returned from the Neonatal ICU mostly unscathed.  I was very wrong.  I don't want to deluge you with details, but, to put it in simplest terms, my son has Kernicterus, which you get when your doctor doesn't treat newborn jaundice on time.  His mind is completely functional but his motor control is extremely damaged, so his movements are either super stiff or super random. He can't sit up or crawl, and it's doubtful he'll ever be able to walk.  He might be able to play video games one day with eye tracking software or the like, but probably not reflex intensive games like Axiom Verge.  He can eat but can't pick up food or even bring his hands to his mouth unassisted.  He will eventually be able to hear - after a cochlear implant surgery he's undergoing in a few weeks - but everything's going to sound like an 8-bit NES sound sample.

There are basically no approved treatments for Kernicterus in the US, which leaves unapproved treatments.  He received a bone marrow stem cell transplant in Mexico (your stem cells become classified as a drug by the FDA once they leave your body, hence why it's not allowed here).  So far if we've seen any improvements, they're very minor.  Nothing like you hear about celebrities like Gordie Howe,  John Brodie, or Bart Starr who could walk after stem cell treatments.  There's no way to know if this is because Kernicterus is just that much worse than other brain injuries or if it's that I would need to bump up to embryonic cells, which can cause tumors, and which they won't use on children even in Mexico. We also got him a hyperbaric chamber which, according to recent studies, leads to improvements in patients with cerebral palsy, though kernicterus is rare enough that it's not part of those.  We've also heard of other children using thc/cdb oil with a lot of success (in 2 cases even restoring the hearing of all things), so we've begun the process of applying for a medical marijuana card.

None of these things are covered by insurance (which, being an indie, I need to pay for in full), so you can imagine how thankful I am that Axiom Verge can support the tens of thousands of dollars this is costing.   We have also begun a malpractice lawsuit - but this is a years long process that is just in its infancy, and may not really cover the overall costs anyway.

Alastair's First Birthday

Alastair's First Birthday

I wish I could reciprocate what Axiom Verge and its customers have done for us.  But I don't get that much time to field questions in the comments, Steam forums, or Facebook.  To be honest I don't even get to work a full 40 hour week, even though I work at home now.  We regularly see a number of therapists and doctors - a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a speech therapist, a feeding therapist, 2 audiologists, a neurologist, a GDI doctor, various surgeons - as well as the associated scans and tests.  It's hard to stay focused on anything for very long with so much going on.  I've become that flaky person we all know who agrees to do something but then never replies to urgent mail about how the deadline is tomorrow and nothing's been done.

A lot of people say, "don't worry about work, focus on your son" - but bear in mind my work is directly correlated with my son's well being. Rather than just being a hobby, Axiom Verge (and whatever else I do in the future) has now become necessary for supporting him and his medical needs for the rest of his life. 

Thanks for understanding.


Feels Like Coming Home...

I’ve been waiting a long time to be able to say this: Axiom Verge will be coming to Wii U on September 1 in both the NOA and NOE regions!

When I first announced Axiom Verge about 4 years ago, there was tremendous excitement from Nintendo fans who had been waiting for years for a true 2D Metroid-style action/adventure/exploration game. Because of some technical issues, however, I wasn’t able to launch it on a Nintendo platform straight away. Some people were understandably upset:

The Nintendo games of my childhood are what inspired me to make Axiom Verge. Metroid is probably one of the more obvious influences, but it’s actually a lot more than that. Axiom Verge actually started out as an exercise in game design. I wanted to deconstruct my favorite games from my youth and see what would happen if I took the best elements of each and put them together. The Bionic Commando’s grapple hook and Rygar’s Yo-Yo in the setting of Blaster Master and Shatterhand. I wanted to see what would fit together – and just as importantly what wouldn’t work.

You can still see some of those influences:



Axiom Verge

Axiom Verge

Blater Master

Blater Master

Axiom Verge  

Axiom Verge


But the influence of the olden times doesn’t end there. Remember glitches that would show up in the game if dust got in the cartridge? Remember Game Genie?

I used to love playing around with that thing. I used to love seeing what would happen if I started up one game and then swapped out the cartridge. It used to fascinate me as a kid that I could walk through a glitched wall into an area that was never intended to be seen. Or I could make enemies behave in strange ways. Sometimes it would freeze the game, and sometimes it would do something useful, but I just loved being able to experiment with all of that stuff. So I included glitching as a primary mechanic in the game.

There’s also another deep connection between Axiom Verge and Nintendo. Dan Adelman, who’s been working with me on the business and marketing side of Axiom Verge for almost 2 years now, was the one who started up the indie games business at NOA about 10 years ago. He’s helped tons of indies get their start from World of Goo to Cave Story to Shovel Knight.

So for so many reasons, Axiom Verge truly belongs on a Nintendo platform. It was only because of Blitworks’ amazing technical skill that we were able to make that happen, and I’m grateful for their work on the pixel-perfect port. Even though the game’s been out for a little while on other systems, the Wii U version is probably the best one. It’s the only console version to support leaderboards for the dedicated Speedrun Mode. And the Wii U GamePad will allow people to have the world map viewable at all times without pausing the game – or to play Off-TV.

It’s been too long in coming, but Axiom Verge is finally home.

Vita and More


So, last week we finally submitted the Vita version of Axiom Verge to Sony's certification system. For all console platforms this process takes some time - how long is beyond our power - but it's on its way.  As soon as it's passed we'll know when we can release and announce that to the world.  Given how we really wanted to release it last year, it's definitely going to be as soon as we can - without it being March 22nd (AKA Day of the Tentacle, among other things).  And it's free for anyone who has the PS4 version.

Again, much thanks goes to Tom Spilman of Sickhead Games for making it even possible.


And More!

Also coming are Wii U and XBox One ports!  Sickhead games is again doing the XBox One port, while BlitWorks is handling the Wii U sku.  We don't know exactly when they'll release yet but it'll be this year, and definitely after the Vita release.  We plan to have playable demos for both at PAX East (April 22nd - 24th); hopefully by then we will also have more details to share about them.


Vita Status Update

For months now, I’ve been saying that the long-promised Vita version of Axiom Verge is just around the corner and apologizing for the delays. My hope was that I would be able to get it out to everyone and not need to bore everyone with a lot of technical details as to why the port has been taking so long. But as we come within a month of the 1-year anniversary of the PS4 launch, I felt I owed the community a more detailed look at the issues we’re struggling with, where we are in the process, and how much further we have to go. The tl;dr version is this: we have a list of mostly known issues that we are working through and we really, really are getting quite close.

Since you’ve heard me say that we’re getting very close before, though, let me go into more detail about why I think that’s the case. For people who already paid for the PS4 version with the expectation that the Vita version was right around the corner, this isn’t meant to serve as an excuse for the delays. As a consumer, you shouldn’t have to care about what’s going on in behind the scenes. All you should have to know is that you’ve paid for something that included a promise for a Vita version, and you still haven’t gotten it yet. Many of you are upset about that, and that feeling is 100% justified.

So here’s the good news: the game is ported. It runs and is playable! Anyone who has worked on a porting project can tell you that that represents the biggest hurdle. Going from ported game to polished and shippable ported game is much easier than going from non-ported game to ported game. In fact, one of the reasons I couldn’t give a status update on the port before was that there was nothing to show. It was all plumbing and wiring. It’s only when you get everything hooked up and hit the switch that it goes from 0-100 pretty much overnight.

So from here on out, our focus is on cleanup, polish, and bug fixing. Here is the current list of known issues with the game. Some of these sound like major issues, but in most cases, it’s just a question of going down the list and implementing each feature or isolating a few bugs. For the most part, this list is not necessarily in the order of which these issues will be tackled; rather, it’s primarily in the order of ease of understanding. Any feature listed as critical is something we feel we cannot ship without.

The proper way to read this is not to add up all of the different timeframes to come up with the total time. Many of these things will happen in parallel. For example, fixing the graphics glitches is part of general QA. Fixing the memory issues will also help with load times. And so on. In fact, when I first started drafting this update, the list was quite a bit longer. In the time it took me to record the video, the to do list had shrunk by about a third.

I am extremely tempted to share our internal target dates for completion, but I am going to restrain myself from doing so, since I don’t want to fail to meet expectations and continue to disappoint those of you who have been so patient and supportive. However, I am very comfortable in announcing that we’re in the home stretch. It’s everyone’s top priority, and we’re getting closer every day. Thank you all for your continued patience and support.