Tower of Guns Interview

Tower of Guns Interview with Joe Mirabello

At Pax East, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to see Tower of Guns in full motion on the expo hall floor. I was blown away by the concept of the game and by the care that had gone into both the trailer and the demo. It’s no surprise that when I had the chance to meet up with developer Joe Mirabello, I had a million questions about the game and his experiences in the game industry. We appreciate Joe taking the time to answer our questions and give us some insight into Tower of Guns and what it takes to develop an indie game solo.

Tower of Guns - Joe Mirabello
Joe Mirabello.

Tell us about yourself!

I’m Joe Mirabello and I’m working on a first-person shooter with roguelike-elements called Tower of Guns. I used to work for big budget games, but after the last company I worked for went out of business I decided to strike out on my own for a year. I founded Terrible Posture Games and have been working on Tower of Guns ever since.

Terrible Posture Games is a really interesting name. Is there a story behind the name?

Other than having well-earned the name, there’s no real story. Coworkers used to make fun of me for how un-ergonomically I’d sit in my office chair, and I’ve always been a bit slouched, so the name fits, but more importantly the URL wasn’t taken yet. 🙂

What are the unique challenges you face as a one man team?

To be fair, I’m only –mostly– a one-man team. My brother does the music, and I’ve got a lot of friends and family play testing and offering moral support and such.

Anyway, keeping motivated is the biggest challenge a one-man team faces. As a sole developer it’s easy to tailspin yourself into a demoralized state, which is at odds with the most important objective when you work on large solitary projects: keeping yourself moving forward at all times.

The next biggest problem is focus. Every studio has that problem, of course, but as a sole developer it’s very easy to get stuck for days on end on a minuscule problem that no player will ever notice. Sometimes that scrutiny is necessary, of course, but not when there are entire systems still to build. Likewise, having to do mostly everything myself, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed to the point of paralysis…you’re just not sure WHICH direction is the most important to take next.

Fortunately my wife steps in from time to time and acts as a producer–alerting me to when I’m wasting my time on something and questioning my reasoning when it seems that I might be working on something more for gratifying personal curiosity than I am for furthering the game’s progress.

I can make a lot of justifications to explain why I’m working so doggedly on something, but a lot of those justifications don’t hold up under external scrutiny. Having that kind of sanity check is invaluable.

Tower of Guns - Locations

You keep a public web log of all progress and changes you make to the game and update it on a daily basis. Why have you chosen to openly communicate all changes publicly in such a manner? It seems like a lot of work!

It honestly isn’t a lot of work, and the gains it gives me far outweigh the 4 minutes it takes a day.

First, it’s a good way to end the day–it ‘closes’ the day, if you will, and I can put aside thoughts of the project and get rest. Secondly, logging is self-motivating. I’ve been keeping daily logs of my work, be it art or coding or writing, for about a decade now actually, I’ve just never logged publicly till now. With larger projects its easy to get buried under the “scope” of what you’re working on, and logging is a tool to help you orientate yourself. When you can look back and see your accumulated progress in a more digestible format that can be incredibly motivating. Productivity fuels productivity, I suppose.

Third, logging is a way of holding myself accountable. Not to the public, as I doubt very many people actually read those updates, but just HAVING to post means that I strive to have something accomplished for the day that’s worth making note of. If I can’t make note of it on there, then I haven’t made any tangible progress towards completing the game. I can make whatever internal excuses I want (I was ‘researching’ or ‘prototyping’ or it’s ‘secret un-postable’ progress!), but mostly those are excuses. Keeping honest with myself is crucial toward finishing a large project.

Now let’s talk about the game! What inspired you to make a game like Tower of Guns?

First-person shooters are what got me into making games. Before I ever worked professionally I was modding games like Half-Life and Dark Forces. But when I worked pro I was working on action-RPGs and MMOs. I like those genres well enough, but I still wanted to work on an FPS.

And when the last studio I worked for (38 Studios) shut down in a very public debacle I came to the realization that if I was going to try something like this on my own, well, then, I certainly couldn’t do any WORSE than that studio had done, right? Perhaps someday I’ll go back to working on big budget games, but for now I wanted to focus on something where I’m the sole person responsible for success or failure.

Tower of Guns - A tower of guns

What made you decide to design the game as a single-sitting experience? Also, what can players expect to see change with every playthrough?

There were a few reasons that I went the single-sitting experience route. It maximizes my particular strengths as a developer and minimizes my weaknesses. It also lets me focus on a very specific scope. It also really caters to my own attention span these days.

As for what changes with each playthrough, there’s a “pool” of rooms that can spawn, and within each room there are several kinds of enemy configurations that could spawn, and within that there are various randomization parameters that change what you fight. Likewise, the pickups scattered around the level are randomized, the stuff you find at secrets are randomized, and the loot that drops is randomized. It ends up for a pretty re-playable experience. I’ll be honest with you though; it’s not “procedural”. There IS a finite limit to the geometry content you experience, but I’m just hoping to give people more gameplay for their money than they normally see in a single-player FPS.

How does the gun-modification system work?

It’s pretty simple, actually. Many of the guns you use in ToG have inherent qualities, say, a shotgun has spread, or a rocket launcher has splash damage. Most games do that, there’s nothing new there. Where things get interesting is that in ToG you have a slot for an additional quality, which you can acquire by finding them as loot or buying from a shop or things like that.

So you can have a shotgun that normally has spread fire, and then you could stack that with a rocket launcher mod for it that gives your spread shot splash damage. Or, the reverse, if you have a rocket launcher and pick up a shotgun mod for it, well, rockets start flying everywhere. It gets pretty crazy, and it’s been tricky to balance, but I think it’s worth it for the amount of fun it adds to the gameplay.

What is your favorite feature in the game thus far?

That’s a tough one, as I’m always working on something exciting as my next steps…but right now I really like the variety of ways you can play Tower of Guns. You can play the game very cautiously if you want, clearing each room very thoroughly and that’s a totally successful strategy, but it’s an interesting game to speedrun too, because you’re never quite sure if you’re going to draw accommodating rooms/loot or you can’t rely on just straight repeat-and-refine for speedrunning–you still have to react differently depending on what you roll. I just hope I can maintain this breadth in the final product.

Tower of Guns - screenshot

When can we play it!!?

It still has awhile to go still, and while I’ve been toying with the idea of pre-orders, the game is still very much a wear-a-hard-hat experience. Regardless, I’m hoping to have it in more player’s hands soon! If you want to know when you can play it, sign up for the mailing list at! And don’t worry, I won’t spam you with tons of emails.

How can gamers help you and support the game’s development?

At this point, it’s mostly about me keeping motivated. So PLEASE, please please, go vote on Greenlight for the game: and tell your pals to do likewise! Additionally, there’s the aforementioned mailing list you can sign up for at

Finally, if someone is incredibly eager to lend financial support to further ToG’s development, they can always buy a bunch of copies of an e-book I wrote a few years back called ‘Armpit of Evil’. Yes, it’s purposefully silly name, but it’s been pretty well received! : )

Here’s a link:


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