When Vertigo Games’ David Galindo decided to develop a management/sim game he could have easily followed the trends of the moment, popped out a restaurant sim or farming game and called it a day. Instead he chose oil drilling, which was both interesting and risky – especially since one of the biggest drilling disasters in history exploded just as The Oil Blue was set to launch. David spoke with Gamezebo about the inspiration behind The Oil Blue and the unique challenges he faced marketing it.
To start off, please give us a brief history of Vertigo Games.
Vertigo Games started as a “company” about ten years ago when I was in school…I was pretty much the only one making all the games up until a year or two ago, when I started to contract out some help with my music and art design. Right now it’s a three person team trying to get started in the world of commercial gaming, and we couldn’t be more excited.
Both the game mechanics and the theme of The Oil Blue are quite unique. Where did the inspiration come from?
It came from a drawing by someone over at the NeoGAF forums, showing a unique take on the game Worms. It was a blue ocean crashing into some rocks, and it just make a really deep impression on me…like a game needed to really be set in that kind of environment because I had never seen anything like it. After giving it some thought I decided to create a mining-like game, but gave it a little twist- instead of mining for minerals, it would be for oil.
Why oil? Wouldn’t it have been easier to jump on the farming or restaurant management bandwagons?
Oil was such a unique idea and few games had ever attempted to really do anything based around oil so I thought, hey, why not give it a shot? I live in West Texas, where I’m fairly surrounded by pumpjacks and oil culture, and it always intrigued me.
Around the same time that The Oil Blue was released, the BP oil spill disaster happened in the Gulf of Mexico. How did this impact the game’s launch and your marketing efforts?
Ultimately I think it hurt the game more than anything else. There were a few cash-in attempts by other indie gamers that would blatantly reference the oil spill and just tack on an oil spill skin onto generic gameplay scenarios, and my game on the description alone would seem to be another one of those cheap rip offs to bloggers who don’t know anything about the Oil Blue. I know for sure that we didn’t get picked up by one portal in particular due to the themes alone, and that just plain hurts.
The Oil Blue was conceived of before the BP disaster happened, yet you received flack about the game, both from media outlets (like the ridiculously inaccurate gametrailers description: “level up as you destroy the world’s oceans drilling for oil in this unique puzzle simulation indie game” and from forum posters, some of whom even insinuated that BP paid you to make a game that puts oil drilling in a positive light. What has the fallout been from this? Do you think it has helped or hindered game sales?
As far as the community goes, a bit of both. It’s really hard to say whether or not the BP spill has directly affected people’s perception on whether or not to buy the game, but it’s certainly been an interesting ride. I never took any of it personally, mainly due to the timing of it all…because who would believe me when I would say the concept was made back in November?
One person suggesting making a version of the game that would donate a portion of sales to oil spill victims, but that seemed completely transparent to me that I think it would have brought even more bad publicity. I knew that, no matter what I said, I was going to be fighting a losing battle when it came to people’s opinions on the game and the oil spill.
Does the old saying “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” ring true for The Oil Blue? Do you think the game would have sold as many copies if it hadn’t gotten caught up in the oil spill controversy?
I really can’t say at this point…but I would say that, if I had a choice, I would rather have not had any controversy. But who knows.
In your recent blog post on Gamasutra you said that you were pretty happy with how the game has sold so far, and were already thinking about a sequel. Can you give us any more details about what we can expect?
I think by next year we’ll be further away from the oil spill disaster that the game will be able to stand on its own, hopefully without any controversy. But because of that I think I’ll be able to push the game to the limits a bit more…give the player more to do, and more consequences as well. It should be a blast to make!
Can you give us any hints about any of your other upcoming projects?
Right now we’ve just entered our submission to the indiePub Competition, a game called Liquisity 2. It’s a fun pseudo-platformer set in an array of various aquariums. The full game will come out later this year, but you can grab an eighteen level preview on the main entry page.
Any last words for your fans?
Thanks for all the support! I really couldn’t be doing this without you all.