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July 20, 2016

High Iron Studios: Slingwitch


In a quiet basement on the upper north side, another developer is working late into the night. Veteran game developer and founder of High Iron Studios, Greg Shives, is four years into his solo journey of making the game Slingwitch. Wanting to do less managing and meetings, Greg left his director role in the video game industry in 2005 to pursue his own creative ideas, independent of the large studio environment.

"I wanted to test myself and see what I'd learned. To say I got what I was looking for is an understatement," says Greg, laughing. "I am responsible for everything now. Animation, art, modeling, game design, user interface, coding, marketing...all of it. If there is a hat to wear, I'm wearing it."

In the game Slingwitch, you play as ancient tribal shaman who faces off against one to three opponents, racing to select and channel powerful elemental magics and medicines in order to win your freedom. Touted as a player vs. player (PvP) delayed-phase spell-caster, the game's unique approach isolates gameplay to focus solely on spell selection and timing in order to test your ability to plan and execute strategic decisions under pressure.

At a time when most indie developers are focusing on mobile platforms, Slingwitch is being developed for the desktop. "The desktop is where I prefer to play games," says Greg. "It's a great space to develop for, but the expectations for visual fidelity and design result in a heftier workload than mobile." The game has garnered enough attention in the gaming community for it to gain digital distribution rights on the popular PC game portal Steam and will be available for purchase by the service's 125 million registered users. "The PC is home for competitive gamers. Specifically, competitive MOBA players who are looking for tight, team-based game play experiences, but with smaller player team sizes, which Slingwitch provides. The game is also designed to provide a faster, 3D alternative to popular digital TCGs such as Blizzard's Hearthstone."

It is an ambitious attempt even for a small team, let alone for a team of one, but with an open beta and release window (Q4 of this year) in sight, Greg sees light finally beginning to seep into the the tunnel. "When people ask me what making games independently is like I jokingly refer them to Ernest Shackleton's famous arctic expedition ad: "Help wanted for hazardous journey: Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success."

You can learn more about the game and follow along with Greg's development at slingwitch.com.