Probably Archery

Probably Archery Interview with Matthew Carr

Matt Carr
Matt Carr of South East Games.

Hi Matt! Tell us about yourself!

Hi! I’m Matthew Carr, a programmer and along with my cousin Shane, I co-founded South East Games. Down here in Australia our games industry has been through a tumultuous time over the past few years. I was lucky enough to work at places like THQ and The Creative Assembly/SEGA Studio Australia before they went under, but also was able to do similar work in the virtual reality training simulation industry for a number of years working as the lead programmer on massive multi-year projects.

While I still do some contract work and consulting for simulation developers and other indie developers to keep myself fed, these days I’m fully committed to as near to full time indie game development as I can manage.

Tell us about Probably Archery!

Probably Archery is our ridiculous archery game where you have control over the shoulder, elbow and wrist joints in your two arms and need to manipulate them to grab an arrow, nock it, aim and fire at all sorts of stuff from simple targets, to charging berserkers or a hangman’s rope. It’s often described as QWOP or Surgeon Simulator 2013 meet archery. Of course, it’s only like those games in the general concept of how the controls work; in execution and content it’s very different.

The game was originally built for the 7DFPS (Seven Day First Person Shooter) game jam in August this year, but we decided we had to expand it into a full game after the fantastic reception it received. Our goal is to get the game onto Steam through Greenlight and have a variety of single player target challenges and scenarios, as well as a bunch of crazy multiplayer modes. We’re also putting a lot of effort into our Oculus Rift support, Razer Hydra support, and the game will be available for PC, Mac and Linux.

Probably Archery
Yeah you’d best be supportin’ on Greenlight!

Why is it called “Probably” Archery?

During the 7DFPS week Shane and I had a lot of discussions about how we should name the game. We wanted something that conveyed the tone of the game without being too on the nose or self-serious. When we finally came up with “Probably Archery” after dozens of discarded ideas it made the most sense to us. It conveyed this notion that we, the developers, didn’t really know what archery was like, but decided to make an archery game nonetheless. We also thought that a screenshot might not properly convey the tone (this was before apple-head men), but if accompanied by the title “Probably Archery”, it might make people do a confused double-take and have a closer look.

Have you been watching some of the Let’s Plays that are getting posted of people playing Probably Archery? They’re hilarious!

Of course! The sheer number of them is overwhelming though on so many levels. We’re at once completely unable to watch them all because we wouldn’t have any time left to work on the game, and at the same time compelled to keep refreshing Youtube to see how many new ones have been posted.

It’s so exciting to see these new emerging avenues for showing off your game. More and more it’s obvious that this is far and away the best time to be an indie game developer. Games that need to be seen to be understood now have a great way to reach their audience when in the past there was really only the route of releasing a demo which has a lot more hurdles for developers and players.

Probably Archery
As if shooting from the ground wasn’t hard enough :C

What’s it like to watch someone play your game and struggle by design? 

It depends on the reaction of the person playing the game. If they’re enjoying the challenge of the struggle the way we hope people do, then I love it. My reaction to the other type of player, the one that gets genuinely frustrated and can’t come to grips with the controls, has changed over time. After the 7DFPS version I felt the need to overhaul the controls to remove a lot of the frustration because I was really bothered by the inability of a lot of players to “get” the controls after extended playtimes. What I found though was that almost any simplification of the controls made the game less fun, making me more confident in the controls we have now.

So since then my focus has been more on trying to convey the controls in-game without a wall of text like we had in the 7DFPS version. I’m also watching how people play to see what is and isn’t ‘clicking’ so we can try to find the best, most efficient way to convey the controls going forward. There’s still some tweaking to do here and there and we have the Razer Hydra motion controls coming soon which are very different, but a lot of fun.

So while I think a lot of people noticed that characters in the game tend to have apples for heads, I believe I saw a fish tank in the trailer at one point? What’s up with that?!

How did that get in there!

Before we defined what would be in the demo, we were working on a lot of features that will be in the full game. One of these is the ability to customise your character for the multiplayer modes which will include the ability to pick a different head. I can’t tell you why, but for some reason the natural next option after balloon head to me is a fish bowl head with a little fish swimming around. So Shane had built the fish and bowl and although we weren’t going to have the time to get multiplayer into the demo, we still wanted to include the fish. Having the Rambo style headband on a balloon wouldn’t look as cool as on a fish bowl, so we were able to get it into the ‘They drew first blood’ level.

We really wanted to have fun with the development of this game as much as possible. At the end of the day, the majority of game development is really tedious, hard work. Coming up with silly things to throw in has made the whole experience more enjoyable. We’ve even put things in that some people might think ill-advised like the “You Defeated” text in the Berserker level which looks like bad English to most players, but is funny to any Dark Souls players out there. My philosophy is that if Shane and I like it, then it’s the right thing for our game. That, I think, is very core to my idea of the indie philosophy. There’s no focus group or market research here, we make decisions that seem right to us and we can only hope there’s players out there that share our sensibilities.

Probably Archery
Balloon-head army!

How did you guys come up with this idea?

We had been working for quite a while on another, very different sort of game and were getting a little burnt out and wanted to spend a bit of time making something different. We started throwing ideas around for a game we could make in around a week and might be something people would enjoy. The idea of an archery game where you awkwardly control the arms and try to shoot guys charging at you or other players was too good to pass up and being somewhat of a “first person shooter”, we could make it as a part of the 7DFPS game jam which was about a week away at that point.

The idea to take it further and build this full version was really the result of the game getting on the front page of Reddit and the absurd amount of Youtube videos being made about the game. Seeing so many people enjoying the game gave us a lot of motivation to continue it. We had a lot of ideas about what to improve and what to add and this was a really great opportunity to be able to do that.

How does the multiplayer work in the game?

The most obvious mode to put in the game is a pure stand-off. Putting one player across from another player and saying “GO!” is really all that’s needed for hilarity to ensue. The inherent nature of the controls creates the situation where the faster you go, the worse your shot will be, but at the same time you want to be quicker than the other player. We had a mode like this in the 7DFPS version of the game which was a lot of fun, but fleshed out and polished in this full version it should be fantastic.

Besides that though, based on the single player levels released so far, you have to expect we’ve got a lot of dumb ideas we’re throwing around for multiplayer like arrow power-ups or sieging/defending castles or forts. It’s probably safe to expect to be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with your friends against hordes of apple-headed berserkers too.

How is development going on the game? What are you guys currently working on?

Surprisingly well considering running a Steam Greenlight campaign is almost a full time job… well… obsessively refreshing the stats page is at least. We bought a Razer Hydra and got that mostly implemented in a few hours. It’s a fantastic way to play the game, but now the slow part is updating all the interface elements for the Hydra mode, adding controls instructions, calibration instructions, etc. Once we’re finished with that we’ll roll that out into a new build for anyone who has pre-ordered the game.

Networking is one of the areas I have the most experience in and multiplayer is thankfully fairly painless from here as I’ve already written the majority of the network code. I’ve also been able to get a jump start on the server list system as I recently worked on one for the Oculus Rift favourite, “Lunar Flight”, and will be using something very similar.

Besides that I’m working on tweaks based on watching people play the game on Youtube and am beginning the process of reverting quick fixes. What I mean by that is that at the end of development of any game (or in this case the demo) when you’re somewhat time constrained, there’ll always be a number of elements you need to get finished and implemented in a way that is completely fine from an end user perspective, but perhaps is not best for future development. So a few things need to be re-engineered to better support more content being added to the game and easily updating what’s already there.

Finally, Shane is working away on the art assets for the rest of the game and any updates and improvements needed for what we already have. We aren’t stopping at fish bowl heads…

Probably Archery
Feelin’ safe in a palisade.

It’s currently available for purchase, am I right?

It is. Our friends from the Humble Bundle have set us up with a Humble Store widget on so we’re able to sell pre-orders of the game and have a way of giving out keys for the game at this stage which is great. It was cool to find out they’d already played the 7DFPS version of Probably Archery at the Humble Bundle/Store office.

What’s great about the pre-order is that we can give out new early builds to anyone who picks it up and then, if we’re greenlit, they’ll not only be able to get the game through the Humble Store system, but they’ll also get a Steam key. Whether we’re greenlit or not though, the game is being developed and will be finished. Obviously if we are lucky enough to get onto Steam the potential market is a lot larger and we will be able to do more for the final game, as well as create more free post release content.

How can gamers support the game, its development, and your team?

The most important thing right now for us is the Steam Greenlight campaign. We launched the campaign fairly quietly and had what would have to have been one of the slowest starts in Greenlight history, but now it’s going quite well after some great coverage. Even still, it’s still very early and there’s a long way to go so every vote is really appreciated. It’s hard to convey on a Greenlight page everything we’d like to about where the game is going, but I think people will be really surprised at how substantial and polished the final product will be.

Otherwise, as mentioned, we have the pre-order of the game available now and new early builds will be rolled out through that as development continues.

Thanks for taking the time to answer all these questions!

Thanks a lot for the interview!


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