Game development is hard. Independent game development can be, in many ways, much harder. Add in the fact that your business partner is also your spouse and you’ve got a whole other set of challenges. Luckily for the husband and wife duo of Michael and Lisa Migliacio that makes up Intropy Games, their passion for games is a shared interest. Not only are they making games together, but they’re becoming closer and learning more about each other in the process.
Growing Up as Gamers
A lot of kids that grow up with video games are easily enamored with them as a form of interactive entertainment. Games allow children and adults alike to truly escape into other worlds and interact on new levels. Michael and Lisa can relate to that feeling.
“I started off as a kid always wanting to make games for a living,” Michael says. Dating all the way back to his youth, gaming has always been a huge part of his life. It helped mold him into the type of person, and husband, that he is today. Not surprisingly, the same can be said for Lisa.
“There was this program made by Maxis called Klik & Play,” Lisa explained. Klik & Play was a computer program in the mid-’90s that simplified the game-creation process and let players make basic games very quickly and easily. “That thing was so awesome. I just made a crap-ton of games off of that thing and it’s what got me into technology.”
Making Games Together
Fast forward all of these years later, and technology is now a huge part of their lives as a couple, as well as the chosen field of their professional endeavors.
“Lisa and I actually met as interns at a major tech company in southeastern Minnesota, where our relationship just sort of grew,” Michael says. “It’s where we started our grand adventure together.”
That grand adventure has now brought them into game development.
“We know that there are people out there that are currently being underserved in the game market,” says Lisa. “Since I know these kinds of games personally, we thought, ‘Hey! Why don’t we try to make some games?’” And that’s exactly what they’re doing.
Looking to the Stars for Inspiration
Their game, Astral Breakers, is about coming together to have fun and be creative. It’s a falling block puzzle game. At first glance, it looks awfully similar to other games like Tetris or Candy Crush Saga—but with some unique twists.
“We came up with the idea of having zodiac signs as a theme,” says Lisa. “We thought it would be really neat to have the constellations as silhouettes and characterize those in some way. It gives you a built-in character—everyone has a zodiac sign!”
But their ideas for the game went much further than that. The zodiac you choose affects not only the visual backdrop of your play screen, but also your gameplay. Where and how many blocks drop is determined by the zodiac sign you choose.
Astral Breakers requires strategy and planning, much like the games from which it draws its primary inspiration. The game is being designed to appeal to anyone who has a Wii U in their home.
Spirit of Cooperation
Both Michael and Lisa have learned a lot through this process. It hasn’t always been sunshine and butterflies though—they have disagreements as well—but they’ve learned how to cooperate to work things out.
“It has brought a lot of insight to me and made me a lot more sensitive to different perspectives on gaming—someone that has similar interests and experiences to me, but from a different vantage point,” Michael said. “I don’t really think that we would have had the same type of experience working with anybody else.”
This mindset of cooperation carried through in the design of Astral Breakers itself.
“We wanted to figure out a way that we could distinguish our game from other puzzles games out there,” Michael says. “So we came up with this cooperative mode that would let both players team up and try to prevent the computer opponent from damaging both of them.”
As the game progresses in this mode, players rack up combos that can be used to slow the progress of a large “supernova” in the middle of the screen. The supernova will eventually happen, but the fun comes in seeing how long you can last.
It’s still intended to feel intense and exciting, just like when you play against someone, but it’s also a cooperative atmosphere. When combined with the fact that both players will be sitting side-by-side together while playing on the Wii U, it creates a dynamic that has been missing from most recent games.
“Puzzle games work best when you get two people playing cooperatively or competitively on the same console, side-by-side,” Lisa explains.
Another feature of the game allows you to make your own custom zodiac sign by using the Wii U gamepad to “point plot where you want the stars to go,” Lisa says. In doing so, you’re no longer limited by just the standard zodiac signs, and can instead create your own constellations from scratch.
Astral Breakers is able to bring something that is both fresh and familiar to an industry that is increasingly saturated by copycats and imitations. By choosing the Wii U as the platform, Michael and Lisa can effectively reach a huge audience full of children and families. Astral Breakers will be easy to pick up and play, but will also offer lots of depth for anyone who wants to dig deeper.
Michael and Lisa are planning on releasing Astral Breakers exclusively for the Nintendo Wii U at the end of June in 2015.