Jon: Let’s start off with yourself and your journey to becoming a game developer. How did you get into it? Were there any specific motivations?
Jacob: Since I was a kid I loved film and video games so naturally, I wanted to pursue one of them as a hobby. As a child, video games are abstract and it’s easier to wrap your head around how movies so I ended up going in that direction. While in film school I became curious about game development again and played around a bit in Game Maker. After graduating I continued messing around with game dev for a few years until something happened and I realized how much more I loved game development over filmmaking.
I’m an introverted perfectionist as well so the collaborative nature of filmmaking was always something I struggled with. Being a solo dev is way more my speed.
Jon: How was development before partnering up with Armor Games Studios? Has siding with them eased the process at all?
Jacob: Before being backed by a publisher I had a typical full-time office job. The first 6 months of development I would get home from my actual job and then work another 4-6 hours on the game. I didn’t realize how exhausted I was until partnering with Armor Games Studios and switching to game dev full time. So yeah it’s been a million times easier mainly in that my mind isn’t split between two responsibilities. I still work about the same number of hours.
Jon: When you start working on ITTA do you have a specific process you stick too?
Jacob: No, not really. I make coffee but that’s about it. I also watch anime in the background… not sure if that’s part of a process though.
Jon: Can you take us through a typical day in the life of Jacob Williams?
Jacob: Incredibly boring haha. I wake up around 7 a.m. because my fiance, Emily, has a real job. Take my 2 dogs out, go to sleep till 9ish, wake up, then I just work on whatever I have on my to-do list until around 6 pm when Emily gets home. After eating dinner I go back to work till around 1 am.
Jon: Alright, let’s get to the game. To start, ITTA is the name of the main character. Why ITTA? Does that come from anywhere
Jacob: I was going through a lot when I came up with ITTA. In fact, I came up with the idea for the game the day I woke up in a psych ward. Itta means “gone” in Japanese and that’s what I had been feeling for so long, that I wanted to be gone. That was the point I decided to try and turn all this awful shit into something I could focus on. There are themes of displacement, depression, self-harm, etc that run throughout the game and I think “itta” as a term relates to all of them in some way.
Jon: Can you tell us a little about the world that ITTA is journeying through?
Jacob: I can’t say too much but it’s an island containing gods, failed heroes, beings on religious pilgrimages, etc. While the environment tells a vague story on its own, there are characters and bosses that know more about its origin and history.
Jon: The bit look suits the game perfectly. Was that the aesthetic you were going for the whole time? Did you ever think about taking the art style in a different direction?
Jacob: Originally the game was a bit more colorful and arcade-y looking but I’ve always been hugely inspired by Sword and Sworcery so the game has always looked similar to how it does now.
Jon: Watching the trailer and the videos you post, the game looks absolutely chaotic. Did you know you wanted to create a bullet hell game from the get-go?
Jacob: The original idea for the game was Zelda 1 + Nuclear Throne so kind of. As the game continued I realized a bosses were by far the most enjoyable part of the game so I took it in more of a Titan Souls/Shadow of the Colossus direction. I also found the traditional bullet hell aesthetic and patterns more enjoyable. Classic bullet hells, as well as Enter the Gungeon, inspired the change.
Jon: The bosses you come in contact with look super cool. My favorite one is the death looking guy with no face. What were the inspirations behind the boss designs?
Jacob: The inspirations come from a pretty wide range of sources. A lot of typical ones such as anime and manga, but there’s also The Gardens of Bomarzo in Italy which have been a huge source of inspiration in regards to environment and boss designs. I also take quite a bit from different mythologies and religion.
Jon: With this being your first commercial release, do you have any expectations going in?
Jacob: I have expectations in that I want to be able to pay bills and make the next game without struggling too much financially. Maybe that’s too much but I think it’s impossible to have no expectations.
Jon: Any advice for aspiring game developers?
Jacob: The only advice I think I’m qualified to give is that aspiring game devs should post their work early and often. If you don’t put the game and yourself out there then nothing will ever happen.
ITTA will be available on Steam and you can wishlist the game now!