Inside Pete- A KickStarter Project by Sector 32
I had the opportunity this week to talk to Piet Dewijngaert, the developer of the upcoming indie game Inside Pete. Sector 32 (the development team), led by Piet, are currently crowdfunding for the last little bit of money to create what they describe as “An action packed video game inside of a dirty human body.” The game is being developed as a mobile game for iOS and Android (though making a PC version is one of their stretch goals), and follows the story of a stranger diving into the muck-infested insides of a sick old man named Pete to help him get cleaned up and start life fresh.
We The Nerdy: I adore your kickstarter page, the illustrations and continual contact with your backers are all awesome (though the contest for the chocolate anuses was a little surprising to me) and I’d like to know why you chose KickStarter over other means of crowdfunding.
I’m also interested in the line “Why do something plain and easy when you can do it delightfully complex?”- is that a very important tenet in your development process?
Piet: No, that’s not so important. I was just anticipating on possible (and well deserved) comments. “Why would you want to make a game, and a website? Why not just focus on one?”. Well, because I can. And I want to ^^.
We The Nerdy: Your main character in the game, it’s namesake, is Pete. Your name also happens to be Piet, is there an autobiographical element to this game or is that just a fun little coincidence?
Piet: No, that’s no coincidence, there is a biographical element. I am getting older, just like Pete. I am getting fatter, just like Pete. 15 kilo in two years to be exact. I have a lot of demons running around in my body and brain, just like Pete. But more about that later.
We The Nerdy: Backers, fans, and followers are encouraged to get some background on Pete on the website you’ve created. I’ll be completely honest, I’m terrible at flash games and yours defeated me. Am I missing out on a lot of backstory because of that?
Piet: No, you really didn’t lose anything. The website and game take place in the same universe, and are both linked to Pete, but that’s about it. The game is the most important part. It’s pretty much all about the game. The website is just something extra I made, because I like to work on it. It’s still far from finished, by the way.
I can’t create the game on my own. I need somebody to work on the illustrations, because I’m not good enough. Same for animations and sound effect. That means I need to do a lot of delegating for the game, which I don’t like. I also need to take care about the funding and the promotion.
But I work on the website all alone. That’s fantastic. It’s easy, and I can do whatever I want.
We The Nerdy: I’d love to know more about how you brought your team together. How did you convince a team to come on board for a mobile game littered with butt jokes? Scratch that- I’d sign on to work on this game, so can you just share a little about the team?
Piet: I knew all freelancers before I started working on Inside Pete. I worked on professional projects with all of them. We trust each other, and we know each others specialities and weaknesses.
I have a lot of respect for the team. Each and all of them are very good at a certain area I’m not good at. I’m jealous of those skills.
We The Nerdy: Is there any symbolism in the journey through Pete? Traveling upward from the colon to the brain? Or was it just that the anus was an easy entrance, something a little different, a little funny, and something people would remember?
Piet: The anus is an easy entrance. It is absolutely of no interest at all for the story. You don’t even see it in the game! I use it in my promo video’s because I think it’s funny. It’s childish, and stupid, and it’s even worse because I focus on it. I think that’s funny. That’s the freedom you have when you make an indie game, and I make full use of that freedom.
We The Nerdy: Was there any point at which you guys sat down as a team to discuss the amount of toilet humor you’d be incorporating, or have you all been pretty much on the same page on that all along?
Piet: I’ve written the story, and planned out all of the gameplay elements before I recruited the team. I made a 70+ page game design document that I’ve sent to everybody who I wanted to work on the game. They all agreed to work on the game. So I didn’t have to make any second choices.
We The Nerdy: In the game, your units are color coded defensive cells, are they tied to specific types of real life immune system cells or is it just a loose association? How did you decide on upgrades and talents for each specific unit?
Piet: All the friendly units, or defensive cells, as you will, are red blood cells. In a real human body they are all red. I’ve created a few units with different colors because of gameplay reasons. Like this, cells with different abilities can be recognized with a quick glance, which is important because of the quick and intensive gameplay.
The upgrades and abilities of all friendly units are specifically chosen to get a challenging but balanced gameplay.
We The Nerdy: Can you tell me more about the enemies? Their names are incredibly interesting, and one of them looks like a saloon- is Pete an alcoholic? Will we be battling Pete’s physical illnesses and his demons?
Piet: Each enemy is based on a real person, event or situation I came across in my life. I have just exaggerated all of them for humorous reasons. They are all the kind of persons or situations a lot of people come across in their personal and professional lives.
Pete is not an alcoholic. He is not battling physical illnesses. However, he is battling mental problems and demons. He has to deal with them each and every day.
Doc (the only person left on earth who still cares about Pete) wants you to help Pete by cleaning up his body from the inside. But Doc didn’t even ask Pete. He doesn’t even consider that Pete is happy the way he is. Nobody does. People just assume Pete is unhappy, because he’s not like them.
After our interview, Piet contacted me again, this time to expand on how Inside Pete was born, and on the biographical element to the game. His explanation, which follows, really outlines the birth of the game, and the dark place that Piet left just before creating his game and character.
Piet: As I kid I always felt I was different, from a very young age. I didn’t like that; as most kids I just wanted to fit in.
When I grew older, in my pre-teens, I was very self aware. When I crossed somebody riding my bike in the streets, I would cross the streets or turn back. I also started to getting anxieties. I would be afraid to get diseases; I always thought something was wrong with my body. Going to sleep was also a problem. I knew I would wake up every night at least once with a nightmare. But I a whole range of nonsensical anxieties too. Like being afraid of ghosts and being kidnapped by aliens, or war starting in my country or my parents dying. When my parents went out to get a coffee, I would be so afraid I had to leave to house and go outside to breathe. But my biggest fear was: going crazy. I was really afraid that at a certain point I would end up in a closed mental facility.
In my teens I also started to notice my brain didn’t have an off switch. I would overthink EVERYTHING. Mostly in a negative way. I also started to feel very weird sometimes. I didn’t know why, what made it even more frightening. When I was about 18 I learned that was due to breathing very bad, or “chronic hyperventilation”. I girl pointed me to the fact that I was hyperventilating. She knew, because she had the same problem.
I finally met somebody with the same problem. That felt good. I was not alone!
But the real problems started after I graduated, when I was working. I started to feel worse and worse, very gradually. I was sick a lot. A doctor sent me to a specialist who told me I had ADHD. That felt good too, I finally knew what was wrong. I got pills, but the pills didn’t work. At all. Without really feeling it, I started to feel worse.
At this point I made a personal online project, named Inside Piet. It was mostly a portfolio site, but there were hints about how I felt inside on the inside. Pretty hidden, though. At this point I didn’t talk to anybody about my problems. Only to my wife and my doctor.
After a while, 90% of my energy went to masking how I felt, trying to keep sane, and not going under. It went on for years. When I look back I don’t even know how I survived. Until I cracked. I started to get reel bad anxiety attacks. A couple of times per week at first, to at least one per day. I even started to wake up in pure panic. I can’t even start to explain how that felt. I was in hell. I was sent to different specialists, but nothing helped. Most of them were just guessing, or I got responses like “you’re just stressed. Take it easy for a while”. Those were the worst.
At that point I created Inside Piet 2. Less of a portfolio site, more of a personal site. It was about the dark place I was in.
At a certain point I couldn’t take it anymore. I went to hospital (with a closed facility) where they treated people with mental problems. After VERY thorough tests, I got a diagnose, and pills. It took a few months until the pills kicked in. But then, I felt normal! I wasn’t afraid for the very first time in my life. I was free to live my life as I wanted!
That’s when I started to think about Inside Pete. No dark project, like Inside Piet 2 was, but something to celebrate my happiness. I started to work on the website but it just wasn’t enough. I wanted to work on a second project at the same time. Something bigger and different, but in the same universe.
And that is how Inside Pete, the game was born. The project was too big to create in the weekends and evenings, so I decided to stop working and work on Inside Pete (both the site and the game) full time. So I made a design project, used it to get some funding and gather a team. I invested ALL of my savings, a bank loan, and a capital investment of the VAF, an initiative of the Flemish Government, and started working. As hard as I ever worked. Every single day. Literally from morning until bedtime.
That’s where I’m at now. All basic building blocks of the game are finished. We need to polish everything, and create the levels. But we ran out of money. So we started the kickstarter campaign.
On a personal level, I’m free to talk about the mental problems I had. I know it’s a taboo. But I hope I can help people who are going through the same thing. Not just by showing they’re not alone, but by showing there can be cures. Even if you had mental problems for decades, that only got worse, and you are at the edge, there’s cure possible.