I first met Ian Stocker at Indie Press Day two years ago as he was promoting an early version of Escape Goat 2. A year later and his dexterous puzzle-platformer had been in the PAX10, was picked up by Double Fine with a publishing deal, and had launched on Steam. Another year passed and we finally caught up with Ian to discuss adding a game designer skillset to his expansive career as a music / sound designer along with his next project Soulcaster 3.
Ian’s career in the game industry began with creating a 45-song soundtrack to Mythri, a licensed Game Boy Color role playing game that unfortunately never released. While the game never saw the light of day, it provided the portfolio and connections to land him a gig composing the music for the Nintendo handheld ports for titles including Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. From there Ian continued to do music and sound design for upwards of 40 titles over the course of 10 years.
“I got a unique opportunity to observe like 40-plus projects from start to finish and I got to see the pre-production of design documents and the early production and the crunch time at the end and post launch. So after seeing patterns emerge, I started to develope a philosophy about how games should be made.”
Those lessons pushed Ian to start experimenting with making his own games. Starting small and taking inspiration from early 90s PC games, he tackled his first project Soulcaster. Mashing elements from several genres, the crux of his dungeon-crawler-tower-defense-action-strategy-rpg was taking on the role of a wizard who summoned the souls of three classes of warriors to fight through hordes of monsters. In the same year, he iterated on the design and made a sequel improving on it’s aesthetic gameplay.
With the experience of Soulcaster in the bag, Escape Goat took inspiration from his wife’s favorite DOS game, Jetpack. While he knew he wanted to tackled a grid based puzzle game, the original concept for Escape Goat was more in line with a Metroid-like adventure. However, his early prototypes revealed issues. Ian’s philosophy is that massive design documents can be more of a hindrance than help. His preference to game design is an iterative approach, seeing what makes a game fun and interesting. The earliest adventure mode version of Escape Goat wasn’t compatible with puzzle design, so he focused completely on the single puzzle rooms and brought that design to completion.
It’s been five years since Ian started making games. While he’s still supporting his biggest title Escape Goat 2, he has been hard at work on a sequel to his Soulcaster series. With Soulcaster III, Ian is tackling realtime lighting, procedural generation, more advanced A.I. as well as a bevy of new features pushing his game design skills even further. And while he can’t reveal too much in it’s early stage, I know we’re already looking forward to seeing more.
You can keep up with Ian on his blog where he has posted regularly since he first started designing games. Also be sure to pick up his previous titles, including the big hit and our personal recommendation Escape Goat 2 that will sure to have a new content pack.