Finding success in the independent gaming industry is, among many other difficulties, a struggle against time. CEO of Micropsia Games, Marco González, knows this all too well. He and his team have been working on The Watchmaker: Time’s Collapse for almost three years. But, after an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign, Marco has had to find the resolve to keep his project alive knowing the end is not yet in sight.
“Not having met the goal in Kickstarter was painful for us,” Marco admits, “but we knew it was complicated. We have to keep looking for sources of financing to finish our project.”
Micropsia Games is a small studio located in Santiago, Chile. As a part of their long-term plans, Marco says they hope to become “the most important company in Latin America in the next 5 years.” We asked Marco what began his passion for gaming and made him want to become a developer despite the challenges.
“We are a generation that was born with video games,” observes Marco. “What motivated me to be a game developer is the freedom of creation that it gives you which I have not found in any other work.”
Funding issues are not an uncommon obstruction for small developers, but Marco has already determined to stick with it for the long haul. Perhaps, this patient determination is tied into what Marco credits as the inspiration for The Watchmaker: the realization time is limited and we must, therefore, use it wisely. “The game is born from our own fascination with time,” Marco elucidates, “having the premise that we are aging rapidly.”
Like many artists, Marco’s personality is part of what has given life to this project. He and the team at Micropsia Games have certainly woven their love of gaming and a respect for how the passage of time affects our lives into their work. You see, The Watchmaker, according to Marco, is more than simply a reminder that life is short, but that with time our identity changes. The game follows the protagonist Alexander, a clock maker who has somehow lost control of time. Marco says the player observes Alexander age while time passes in game, thus creating a sense of being pressed against the clock. The story centers on how time affects Alexander’s relationships with the people in his life. Marco explained that each level is specifically designed to represent one of the characters who impact Alexander’s life. With the focus on the turning cogs of time, the whole game is appropriately dressed in a steampunk aesthetic.
The demo for the game, which is available for download currently on Steam, utilizes a unique mechanic where Alexander ages as you play. Instead of a health bar, you have to keep our redheaded protagonist from reaching his 90s. A pack on his back shows you his current age (just in case the gray hair and receding hairline aren’t enough). You can “heal” a little bit by using what I am going to refer to as time stations that set your aging back around 10 years from whatever age Alexander has reached. Thankfully, his athleticism seems to stay unaffected. At 70, Alexander was still spryer than I am.
The game’s puzzles, if the demo is anything to go by, are surprisingly and satisfyingly difficult. Though the demo can be completed in around 15-20 minutes, it took me about 40 to really figure it out. The combat was simple, robots sprayed me with an aging gas (it literally makes you older) and Alexander uses a force-like ability to fight back. Of course, this was only a first look, and the boss teased at the end appeared suitably able to put up a good fight.
Overall, the demo showcased an intriguing concept with a distinctive storyline, and the aging system adds a remarkable but fitting level of difficulty. The demo also features some existential quips about the nature of time, suitably reflecting what Marco hopes the player will take away from the game (aside from enjoyment, of course). “Our life is coming and we do not appreciate it,” he explains. In particular, Marco says the fact we are so inundated with technology, and with all the time we spend working on our careers, we miss out. “We are more concerned about uploading a photograph to social networking pages, “he says, “instead of enjoying the moment.”
We asked Marco what his future plans are, or if it was too early to ask that since Micropsia Games is still working on figuring out how to complete The Watchmaker. Of course Marco, not wanting to waste any time, admitted they were already looking toward the future. “Clearly, it is not early. Our company has long-term plans.” He says that along with wanting to grow the studio to become the most influential in Latin America, they also plan to one-day relocate. “We are also planning to migrate to another country where there are more opportunities for us,” Marco added.
In the short-term, however, Micropsia Games still has big plans for The Watchmaker, and Marco also teased another project already in the works.
“For now, we want to sell The Watchmaker for PS4, Xbox One, create a DLC with the story of Thomas who is one of the antagonists of the game, and perhaps play the game for VR. We are also working on the concepts of our new game.”
We asked Marco what that future game might entail, even if he could only give a small hint. He said they were not ready to give details just yet, but that it would also involve puzzles and have a similar aesthetic to The Watchmaker. The mechanics, however, will be very different.
What does the future hold for Marco, The Watchmaker and the team at Micropsia Games? Well, only time will tell. But, we hope their struggle against the clock won’t last for too much longer and we will soon get to help Alexander get time back under control.