The Swindle is a Steampunk Cybercrime Caper about breaking into buildings, lacking their systems, stealing all the cash and quickly running away again before the police show up. Brad grabbed a chat with Size Five Games’ Dan Marshall to find out more.
For those who don’t know you, could you tell us a bit about yourself and the kind of games you make? What are the kind of games you like to play?
I tend to make quite silly games, really. Funny stuff, I guess. I’m technically a one-man-band indie dev, but I surround myself with freelancers who are WAY more talented than I am, and that helps make me look more competent than I really am.
I like playing a lot of stuff, but I’ve always had a soft spot for platformers, it’s what I grew up with, from BBC Micro games to Sonic and beyond, I think that’s where my real passion lies. But I like trying my hand at playing/making as many different types of thing as I can.
Your studio, Size Five Games was established at a time when the economy of the world was… well, let’s say it wasn’t so great. What made you decide to set up your own studio? And how big is the team?
Hah, the opportunity was there. I’d pretty much finished Time Gentlemen, Please!, and the contract to make Privates was nearly finished, and I was made redundant from my job about a week before I was going to quit, so I got kind of lucky and lunged at the opportunity with full-force.
The Swindle is now out for the PlayStation Vita (as well as other consoles), but for people who haven’t heard of it, how would you describe the game?
It’s a procedurally-generated burglary simulator, in a Steampunk/ Cyberpunk world. You break into buildings, hack their computers, steal their money and run away again before the police catch you. You can then spend the cash
you’ve stolen on new kit and upgrades, to take on bigger and more-dangerous heists.
The first time I saw the trailer for The Swindle, the two games that immediately came to mind were Steamworld Dig and Stealth Inc. What was your inspiration for creating this game?
It’s actually based on this old game I started making *decades* ago, when I was a kid. When I’d finished Privates and my mind turned to what I was going to do next, that idea had always kind of stuck out and I went for that.
It’s embarrassing to admit, but The Swindle was actually started sometime around 2010, before either of those games, I think? It’s more inspired by the fact I like the idea of stealth, but stealth game tropes really piss me off. It’s my way of making a stealth game that I’d enjoy.
The game was first announced a few years ago but then went on hiatus for awhile. What kind of problems were you having with the game and how did you manage to overcome them?
The game had a couple of key issues. The main thing was that the buildings were hand-built, but encouraged you to re-visit them and improvise new routes by having an AI director patch up the areas you’d been to and adding more security. It was one of those ideas that sounded great on paper, but just didn’t kind of work properly. The other thing was the human guard AI, which never really gelled with the rest of the game properly. I was playing Spelunky and realised that predictable guards and procedurally-generated buildings would fix all the issues with The Swindle, so I knocked together a prototype.
The core gameplay’s exactly the same, but those two elements really helped it shine.
You’re working with Curve Digital to bring The Swindle to the PlayStation Vita. Were they a studio you sought out or did they approach about doing this game? How has the development process been working for you?
I know one of the founders of Curve pretty well, and he approached me, I think? Honestly it seemed a pretty sensible way of getting the game on consoles: I love my job, I like designing explosions and tinkering with game design, but messing around getting it running on different hardware doesn’t interest me at all, so getting someone else to do that was a no-brainer.
Working with grown-ups is WEIRD, they want things to a schedule and you have to think through some stuff like showing characters smoking, or rude words in the random name generation stuff.
Now that things have wrapped up on The Swindle, what are your plans going forward? Any new big projects you’d like to talk about? Maybe The Swindle 2: Even Swindlier?
Ha ha, as my mind’s wandered after wrapping up development I’ve had some ace ideas for things to do. Whether that’s a sequel or as a DLC update or whatever, I don’t know. Might just leave it as-is, rather than endlessly tinkering.
After 5 years though I think I’m done with this Universe for a bit, ready to try something different, for a while.
Outside of your game, what other games are you looking forward to playing?
Oh, the same as everyone else. XCOM2, mainly. No Man’s Sky, obviously.
One of the main goals in The Swindle is to steal as much money as possible. What has been your personal best heist in the game? What is the benchmark that players should try to beat?
I haven’t been keeping track! The real high score is now quickly you can complete the game – I think I did it in 70 days once, but I could probably do better than that if I tried.
Before we go, is there anything else you’d like to say to the Vita audience? Anything you’re dying to get off your chest but I wasn’t brilliant enough to ask?
I don’t thinks so, you were brilliant in ALL your questions. I’d like ask the Vita audience to keep supporting the console, though. It’s an amazing bit of kit and I *love* playing games on it. Like most people, I just want to see more and more stuff for it, it’s wonderful.
This interview first appeared in issue four of The Vita Lounge Magazine. For more exclusive interviews and content in the magazine soon!