For any who haven’t seen it yet, Axiom Verge is about as much of a love letter to the classic Metroid and Castlevania games as you will ever find. A PS4 exclusive, Axiom Verge takes its cues from the old side-scrollers, throwing you into a beautiful, dangerous world and letting you explore your way though it, unlocking new abilities and, as a result, new areas as you go. What really puts the icing on the cake however is that it was all the labor of love of a single man, Thomas Happ.
“I didn’t start off with Axiom Verge fully designed in my head. It really more started off as an exercise in game design. I wanted to deconstruct my favorite games from my youth and see what would happen if I took the best elements of each and put them together,” he explained.
While working at Petroglyph Games as a programmer, Happ started working on what would become Axiom Verge just as a side hobby after work and on the weekends. “Some people build model airplanes, some collect stamps. My hobby is making games.”
At the beginning, Happ “started off just by drawing map areas. Nothing inside each of the rooms, just a collection of rooms linked together with an overall flow… Gradually the theme of the game started to come together. The more I drew, the more it started to coalesce into a unified, consistent world. Around this time it went from a side hobby to really becoming an all-encompassing passion for me.”
One of the key mechanics of Axiom Verge revolves around ‘gliching’ enemies and the environment. Explaining how the idea came about he said, “It occurred to me while I was animating the first pass on Trace [the main character], sometime in March 2011. I was thinking back to when I used to make games glitch by swapping out cartridges during gameplay or using my Game Genie. It used to fascinate me as a kid that I could walk through a glitched wall into an area that was never intended to be seen. Or I could make enemies behave in strange ways. Sometimes it would freeze the game, and sometimes it would do something useful, but I just loved being able to experiment with all of that stuff.”
A year ago, Axiom Verge already having been in development for roughly 4 years, Happ switched to part-time at Petroglyph. Then, 6 months ago he quit his job all together and gave his full focus to Axiom Verge.
“A lot of people have told me they admire my tenacity for being able to stay dedicated to a project for so long,” Happ said. “I’ve heard people remark that I must be a workaholic to come home from my day job and then work on my own game as well. I don’t see it that way. It’s been a true joy every step, and there was never really a point where I felt like I was grinding. It started as a hobby and ended the same way.”
For more about Axiom Verge, be sure to check out the next episode of the Gamespresso PlayStation Podcast this coming Monday, April 6th, as Tom Happ stops by for an interview. Likewise, keep an eye out for Gamespresso’s official review of Axiom Verge in the days to come.