I'm Tom Happ. I made a game called Axiom Verge that launched on PS4 on March 31 and is coming to Steam tomorrow! I spent my evenings and weekends for the last 5 years making Axiom Verge and made everything in the game: programming, art, music, design, writing, etc. I've been blown away by all of the amazing reviews, with more than 24 independent scores of 9/10 or higher. Jeff Gerstmann gave us his first 5/5 score he's given out in 2 years!

Dan Adelman was head of the indie business at Nintendo of America for 9 years before he left to work directly with indies. Dan's been helping me with all of the business stuff related to launching Axiom Verge. Ask us anything!

My Proof: https://twitter.com/AxiomVerge/status/598507087530827778

Edit: AMA is over now!! Thank you everyone for your questions!!! Please check out the game when it releases tomorrow on Steam!!!

Comments: 193 • Responses: 43  • Date: 

MrKenta9 karma

As someone who has been waiting for a new 2D Metroid for over 10 years, is there any chance I'll ever be able to play this game on a Nintendo system?
Also, is there anything about Metroid you disliked and made sure to not include/do differently with Axiom Verge?

AxiomVerge8 karma

The chances of being able to play on a Nintendo system sometime in the next year are pretty good.

Some things I tried to explicitly not do were slow/floaty movements and jumps, the repetition of acquiring missile/bomb expansions, doors that are unlocked by firing certain guns (as opposed to adding a puzzle mechanic), map stations that fill out the map (more a Super Metroid criticism)...

ytrepus8 karma

Hello! I absolutely love Axiom Verge. It's by far my favorite game since I was a little kid. I could go on and on about what I love about it but will run out of space! Just got my platinum trophy today! Thank you so so much.

A few gameplay questions that I was wondering if you could answer:

1) So far I've found three different weapons in the Secret Areas. Are there any more? Any chance of a passcode to have all of the secret guns in one save file, or some other way?

2) Passcodes in general -- are there any interesting cheat passcodes, other than Justin Bailey and the ones that most people know about that you use to open areas in the game? If so, are there ways to discover these in-game, or what would you recommend to discover them?

AxiomVerge7 karma

1) If you've found all 3 different weapons, you're doing very well! Very few people have done this. Currently there isn't a way to get them all in a single save.

2) There are a lot of cheat passcodes. Be careful as they disable trophies/achievements for the current save if you use them. At least one is hidden in "plain sight". I'm expecting that with tomorrow's PC release, they show up in public quite soon (reverse engineered by players) but if not, I'll be drizzling them out over time.

andhof-mt7 karma

Tom,

You mentioned on Twitter you used monogame for the majority of Axiom Verge. Coming from the games industry, you probably had a lot of opportunities to learn first hand the best resources for picking up a framework like monogame.

In your opinion, what are the best resources (specific books, tutorials, etc.) for learning about game development and mastering a framework like monogame?

I think this would benefit many Reddit users, because getting a start in game development is difficult with so many languages, frameworks and opinions scattered about.

AxiomVerge3 karma

You're not going to like this, but I hardly ever read programming or game development literature. I had a definite advantage in that I studied computer science in college, but, when it comes to games, I learned the most from working with other people's code or from trial and error. A background in programming (like basic object oriented design, algorithms, etc.) will help you spot what is good and what is bad.

For XNA/FNA/Monogame in particular, look up Shawn Hargreave's blog. One of the best.

xenobia1447 karma

A question for Tom: A lot of people keep comparing Axiom Verge to Metroid, but what other games heavily influenced it's development?

A question for Dan: When you were working at Nintendo of America, were you the guy who would ring people to tell developers they had made it onto Nintendo's Indie Developer Program following their application, or was it somebody else who did that?

AxiomVerge4 karma

Many games, most notably: Contra, Rygar, Blaster Master, Super Mario Bros, Revenge of Shinobi, Symphony of the Night, Star Control, Phantasy Star, Dead Space, Mass Effect...

ParadoxZ136 karma

Thanks for making Axiom Verge, it was such a brilliant game.

One question I have, was there meant to be a water themed area originally? There is quite a few hints scattered around that suggest that.

AxiomVerge6 karma

There was going to be a small outdoor ocean-themed area - basically three or four rooms worth. It was a lot of assets to make for something that didn't add very much. If you have the soundtrack, the bonus track would likely have been used for that area.

chimbraca6 karma

What is your favorite Metroid game? What is your favorite Castlevania game? What is your favorite game outside the Metroidvania genre?

AxiomVerge6 karma

My favorite Metroid is probably Metroid Prime, and my favorite Castlevania is either SotN or Dawn of Sorrow.

Outside of the Metroid genre, it's a tough call; possibly Mass Effect or Final Fantasy VI.

frownyface6 karma

You've sometimes said that the game is made with Monogame, and sometimes say it was "Originally made with MonoGame", which makes it sound rewritten, but you still rely on MonoGame support. Can you elaborate a little on that aspect of the game's development?

AxiomVerge3 karma

It started as XNA, but once Microsoft withdrew XNA support, I hard to look elsewhere. So it uses Monogame for PS4/Vita and FNA (which was based on Monogame) for desktops.

aett5 karma

Love the game. My 4-year-old also enjoys watching me play it for some reason - he calls it "the creepy game".

Tom, what was your process when you came up with the unique abilities and weapons in the game? I was pleasantly surprised that they didn't borrow liberally from other Metroidvania titles.

AxiomVerge4 karma

My rule is that every item/ability should have a unique behavior in the way it moves or controls. A lot of games will just rely on Rock/Paper/Scissors methods where all weapons are the same but have some attribute on them like Fire/Ice/Electricity making them more or less effective on different doors or creatures. Coming from the RTS world I think this is really boring and tried to stay away from it. Once you have those restrictions you start to come up with a lot of different ideas, more than I could put into one game.

coveryourheart5 karma

Tom! Thanks for this super cool game. A friend and I played it together just like we would play SNES games as kids. Two questions.

1) I've had trouble piecing together the ending from in-game letters and the ending cinematic. What's the significance of Athetos' appearance at the end? (Are you allowed to answer that?)

2) Any sneak peak into future projects you've got in mind?

AxiomVerge5 karma

1) The Phawx has done a good job of piecing together much of it, here (SPOILERS): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OX9Fw2HwyZs

2) I'm thinking the next game will have more of a melee focus, maybe with some RPG-ish elements.

neyya_ketty_erma5 karma

Hi! Thanks for this amazing game, I can't wait to play it tomorrow.

My question to you: What were some of the obscure challenges you faced while developing the game? I'm talking about non obvious stuff that most us wouldn't even think of.

AxiomVerge3 karma

There are quite a lot of these! Some of the basic ones have to do with the requirements/expectations of certain platforms. For example, PSN Trophies - did you know they have to add up to a certain point value, and that this value is different based on the length of your game? Then Steam Achievements look outwardly to be the same, but the way you implement them in code is entirely different. So you end up having to learn many different ways of doing the same thing.

chimbraca5 karma

How do you decide whether or not to patch an exploit used by speedrunners in your games? The ability to patch the classic -vania games would greatly impact the speedrunning community, so it seems like a hard decision to make.

AxiomVerge2 karma

I've patched things that could end up crashing the game for non-speedrunners, like the Shards glitch where they keep on firing if you switch weapons mid-shot. There is an end-boss glitch which is patched in the PC release because the end-boss was made unintentionally hard when I fixed an even worse earlier bug, causing me to redo the AI to come up with something that could be repeatedly defeated by speedrunners while still being difficult for normal players. Since the boss is now much more predictable, the exploit doesn't serve a good purpose.

WhiteZero4 karma

Hey Tom, I asked this on a Steam forum thread, but it must have slipped past you:

In regards to PS3/PS4 (Dualshock) controller support on PC: For those of us using an XInput wrapper with our PS3/4 controllers (so they work with every other game), is there a way to override the button displays so we can see the DualShock icons?

Perhaps even a config file change that defines which button prompts are displayed? Assuming you don't have to cut the Playstation buttons due to licensing.

AxiomVerge1 karma

The DS4 icons should work out of the box. But I don't have a way to force them for DS3 or other controllers. I'll definitely give it some thought.

mmm_doggy4 karma

If you could go back and change something about Axiom Verge, what would it be?

AxiomVerge3 karma

I might remove some of the notes. Most of them were meant as more of a kind of "flavor text", but I've had some people think that if they don't collect all the notes, they are missing the story, or that the amount of notes takes away from the number of items you could otherwise find.

robertrence4 karma

What made you decide to use the randomly placed secret areas?

Did you ponder changing the ending based upon completion percentage and time?

There are two weapons, each with six letters in their name, are they connected to the password system at all?

AxiomVerge2 karma

The secret areas are inspired by things like Super Mario's Minus World and Metroid's Secret Worlds, which weren't planned by developers, but glitches. The reason for the randomization is to replicate the effect you get of something that isn't designed by a human.

There are minor differences in the endings based on completion % and time.

There aren't any passwords hidden in the names of the weapons, but that's a good idea!

kingmatuba4 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA. I love Axiom Verge's music. My question is about the music on the level Kur. What are the words are saying and in what language? And also, what inspired you when composing your tracks?

AxiomVerge9 karma

I believe the language is Hindi, and I have no idea what she is saying - I purchased it on a sample disk of Indian singing; maybe someone can enlighten me :-)

DoomRager4 karma

What games do you see coming out now that you think will serve as inspirations to future indie developers (just as metroid with you)?

AxiomVerge3 karma

I'm thinking that 30 years from now it'll be Minecraft, Plants vs. Zombies, and other games that people who are now kids will want to re-invigorate as they grow up to be coders.

chimbraca4 karma

Spoilers!

To my knowledge, players have found three secret weapons, the Heat Seeker, Fat Beam, and Scissor Beam. Are there any more we haven't found yet? 24 slots for 23 weapons seems rather suspicious! Is there any way to increase the chance of finding a secret weapon?

AxiomVerge3 karma

I believe you've found them all. You can only find one in each save; once you've found all 3, it will randomly select which one appears in the next game.

PeteHuf4 karma

Do you have any tips for putting together a demo build for a metroidvania? I'm hoping to show off @BiodromeGame at Seattle Indies Expo in August. This will be its first expo booth, so any demo tips would be much appriciated!

AxiomVerge5 karma

Definitely put all of your polish into that demo. If your game is long it can sometimes be helpful to make a special demo-only level that skips right to the best parts so you can show off to journalists. Make sure your screen is in a visible location on the show floor; if it gets quiet, play your own game so that people get intrigued by what's on screen.

aakasht054 karma

If you could take the world and characters of axiom verge, what genre would you like to put it in? Similar what popcap did with Plants vs Zombies and Garden Warfare.

AxiomVerge6 karma

An RPG a la Mass Effect :-)

cantfindone3 karma

My question: What do you think about Sony's Pub Fund?

AxiomVerge6 karma

I think it's great. Sometimes people balk or turn to kickstarter hoping for more funding, but the thing about the Pub Fund is you get huge marketing support. You'd have to spend hundreds of thousands to millions to get the same level of exposure the Pub Fund gives you. Don't look that gift horse in the mouth!

Zephusa3 karma

Hey guys! I was spectating Axiom Verge while my brother played it, I must say, that game is amazing.

My question is, what was the inspiration of the art style you went through? My brother and I are HUGE Metroid fans and this reminded us of Super Metroid very much which is what we liked so much about it.

Also, any chance of the soundtrack being released in physical form?

Thanks!

AxiomVerge3 karma

The art style began as more of a NES-Rygar/Shatterhand/Ninja Gaiden style but eventually changed to a more Metroid/Kid Icarus/Super Mario style owing to my desire for more easily telegraphed destructible "brick" behaviors.

We have plans for a vinyl soundtrack at some point.

chimbraca3 karma

Spoilers!

It's been found that any password starting with AXIOM gives the warning that trophies will be disabled, but to my knowledge, no other effects have been found. Can you give us any hints? =)

AxiomVerge3 karma

Beat the game in Story mode, then pay close attention to what happens next.

Octangula3 karma

Which came first: deciding to include a certain code that is a direct reference to Metroid (not saying which one because it's a bit of a spoiler), or deciding to make the protagonist male?

AxiomVerge3 karma

The protagonist was definitely always a male ... I wanted something halfway between Scott Pilgrim and John Crichton (two things which don't blend well at all, but both deserve a bright magenta leotard).

vespene_jazz3 karma

Any plans for an Xbox version ?

AxiomVerge4 karma

That's definitely something we want to do, perhaps for 2016.

AxiomVerge3 karma

Dan meant to post this, but it wouldn't show up (maybe we're not allowed to?) Here you go!

Hey everyone - thanks for all of your questions! Both Tom and I have to run, but we'll try to check back and answer some of the questions we may have missed.

If you don't already have the PS4 version (and hey, even if you do!) please be sure to check out the Steam release tomorrow! And if you enjoy the game, we'd really appreciate it if you could tell your friends and spread the good word!

Thanks again! This was a lot of fun. Definitely want to do one of these again sometime!

http://store.steampowered.com/app/332200

DMcCallister2 karma

I loved Axiom Verge to the point I could not put it down. It has been awhile where I could not wait to wake up in the morning to play a game. (I think the last one was Dragon Warrior IV) Do you have plans on increasing staff to put out additional products? Surely you can't always do everything, but if that is what it takes to create games as fun as this I will wait patiently.

AxiomVerge1 karma

I might get an intern or the like to help with QA, Social Media, etc., but I don't like the notion of having a staff. Can't speak for Dan, though :-)

Hrash02 karma

Hey Tom, great to hear from you. Congratulations on your success---you earned it!

The level design in some areas of your game was just sublime. And this was in two dimensions. Since your game is essentially a love letter to the Metroid games, is there any chance you guy will do a sequel or spiritual successor to Axiom Verge in 3D, à la Metroid Prime? I'd love to see some of that level design prowess in 3D.

AxiomVerge2 karma

Well, I really don't have the throughput or resources to make such a game (also I don't think I'd like leading the large team I'd need to make it), but, never say never.

Caos22 karma

Axiom Verge has a Linux port, was it a priority for you guys or just a side-effect of using MonoGame/FNA?

AxiomVerge3 karma

A bit of both. Despite using FNA it was definitely non-trivial to get it working in Linux and OSX.

punkerdante1822 karma

dude how the frick do I beat that bug boss? It's the one that like leans back and shoots a couple enemies at you sometimes. I can't beat him.

AxiomVerge2 karma

Stand out of his spitting range and continuously shoot up at an angle. When he opens his mouth to fire, jump backwards; your last few bullets will hit him and he'll sting the open air where you were standing. Repeat this. My personal favorite weapon for this is the Turbine Pulse.

jcl9452 karma

Hey Tom, first off, I really enjoy the game, and can't wait to finish it. Having played the original Metroid on flaky NES, makes the glitching feature in your game really bring back good childhood memories. Are you planning adding any additional content in the future? Thanks for all your work!

AxiomVerge5 karma

No, just some minor tweaks like the map reminders in the Steam version. I'd rather just work on a sequel/prequel.

malkil1 karma

In an otherwise almost perfect game, why did you decide on making the attacks of the final boss pretty much impossible to dodge?

Other than that, I absolutely loooooved the game! Awesome soundtrack, too.

AxiomVerge1 karma

While most of the other bosses gestated for about 5 years, the final boss went through a big change around September or October when I realized it didn't really fit with anything else I wanted to do, and I redesigned it completely. The damage sponge nature of the boss wasn't a problem initially because of a bug that made the boss really easy - like so easy people actually complained. So I fixed the bug and now the boss was too hard. The new version of the boss (releasing tomorrow) is much more predictable and should be defeatable with little or no damage if you are incredibly skilled.

jazzmanlarry1 karma

Can't wait for this game to come out on Vita! My question is what's next? This game took 5 years to make, do you think your next project will take less time now you've got a blueprint of sorts?

AxiomVerge1 karma

It should. Also bear in mind that most of those 5 years I was only able to work on it 10-20 hours a week, which shouldn't be an issue now that I can work at home.

larrrk1 karma

What are the odds of us getting a Tiny Uruku and Drone plushie? :D

AxiomVerge0 karma

We're working on it :-)

fartsinabox1 karma

Love the game, get a lot of looks with the shirt I bought from you guys too :3

One thing I thought was interesting about the game is that a lot of power-ups are kind of just out there in the open, as opposed to something like Metroid where basically every one has its own little room and special holding device.

I was just wondering if you had any insight about that decision? I thought it made it feel a bit more interesting, I never really knew when I'd find something and it didn't feel like some person came here before me and specifically left stuff for me to find.

AxiomVerge2 karma

Glad you like the shirt!

Giving every item its own special room can work to some extent, but it also endows it with a bit of an "adhering to formula" feel; if you know there is always going to be a special statue or other feature when there's an item, you won't have incentive to explore other areas as much.

ndgamer4life1 karma

been really excited for the vita release! Hopefully you guys can get the tools you need soon. I'm a huge metroid fan and a developer myself and always wanted to make a metroid style game so you guys are a big inspiration to me personally. I'll be getting it on steam and i already have it cross bought on ps4/vita, and wouldn't be surprised if I get it on 3ds too if you release it. I'm wondering, do you need any more developers for support or upcoming projects?

AxiomVerge1 karma

Not any time soon (like not in the next couple of years).

IsaacTM1 karma

Another question, if I may: What's the current fastest time of completion (any %)? Tom, what's your personal best (if it isn't the WR)?

AxiomVerge1 karma

I think speedrunners are doing it around 38 minutes; my own best is more like 2.5 hours (I'm no speedrunner).

Synophiz1 karma

I've been hearing that the PC version has leaderboards. Are the leaderboards in-game or rather just steam integrated?

AxiomVerge1 karma

They're currently on the steam page. Once I have enough players to actually have a board, I'll be adding it to the game itself.

SiberianHAMMY1 karma

Congratulations on the good reviews for Axiom Verge, Tom! My main question is what's next for you? I want to remain close to whatever games you decide to work on.

AxiomVerge1 karma

Probably a sequel or prequel...I'll definitely tweet about it on @axiomverge and post onthe home page when it starts coming together.

J_Carro111 karma

Hello Tom, congrats on your game doing well! I was wondering how do you gain inspiration to create the concepts for your games?

AxiomVerge2 karma

Basically ... just live your life. Watch movies and play video games. I find it helps to doodle as often as possible when at work or school.

chimbraca1 karma

Spoilers!

To my knowledge, there are two scenes after the credits, depending on the stats screen just before. Are there any more that we don't know about?

AxiomVerge2 karma

No.

IsaacTM1 karma

Serious question: You've already been asked about the games that you've been influenced by, but what about movies? Have any of those heavily inspired Axiom Verge's atmosphere and aesthetic?

Not so serious question: Do you have a spare Steam key just, like, laying around?

As an aside, the game looks awesome and I'm very much looking forward to playing it. Super Metroid is a top-10 game for me and seeing another game in that mold but distinctly different makes me happy.

AxiomVerge3 karma

City of Lost Children, Pandorum, Brazil, I am Legend (not even joking). Not a movie, but Farscape definitely was an influence.

ytrepus1 karma

Hi Tom! Are there any plans for incremental updates to the PS4 Axiom Verge? Additional weapons/levels/trophies/challenges etc?

ps I was very sorry to hear about Max. I hope the family is doing ok. Good luck with the new arrival on its way!

AxiomVerge1 karma

In a couple of weeks (after I get back from the Nordic Games Conference) I'll be merging the PC code to PS4, which adds the map reminders, volume controls, and major tweaks to the final boss behavior, but there won't be any big DLC in the Destiny sense.

TheLambbread1 karma

Hi guys! Thanks for taking the time to do an AMA, as well as appearing on C&G Live yesterday. Ps, thanks for the code! I immediately redeemed and started playing and instantly knew why it'd been praised so highly. I'm expecting a complex and thoughtful journey, what advice do you have for me?

AxiomVerge2 karma

I'd say don't be afraid to get lost. Use your glitch ray on every enemy you see. If it's the PS4 version, play on Normal - Hard is way harder than I'd meant it to be.