We’ll be working on a review for Side Decide, so I got in touch with Brendan Votano to talk a bit about the game and its journey to the Switch. Come check it out!
PS4Blog: Good morning! Thank you for joining us today. Could you please help us get started by telling our readers a bit about yourself and your work?
My name is Brendan Votano, and I make games under my studio moniker Blue Volcano, based in Sydney, Australia. I got into games at a very young age – the Sega Master System was my first jam! – and I always thought it would be where I wanted to work. After traveling the world for several years after school, I settled back into a regular rhythm and established Blue Volcano Studio as an outlet for the creative ideas I had formulated.
I am a jack-of-all-trades developer who loves all aspects of game development – programming, design, prototyping, and art – and likes the freedom of being my own boss. The work I do changes like the breeze, and I usually have multiple projects on the run at the same time. I find this prevents me from burning out on something. During those breaks, I will often find new inspirations for the projects that are on hold, so it usually is beneficial to work in this way. That said, there are some projects that maybe have taken a little longer than they needed to be completed. As my games are not yet fully sustaining the business, I do client work and also teach programming and prototyping at a local college to keep the lights on.
PS4B: Side Decide is now out on Nintendo Switch. How would you describe the game to someone who’s new to it?
Side Decide is meant to relax and challenge you at the same time. It is a puzzle game that will remind you of your childhood as the stages are made from colorful wooden blocks. But don’t let the nostalgic aesthetics confuse you, as underneath lies a game with plenty of challenges for seasoned players.
Your task is to roll a wooden block to the end of the level but to do so, the shape on the side of the cube must match the upcoming space. Each side of the cube features a different kind of shape, and you can only roll onto a block with the corresponding shape and alignment. Rolling onto a circle allows you to rotate your cube, opening branching pathways to help you achieve your goal. Teleporting, wildcard, and falling blocks all add challenge to the mix. The music has a soft ethereal feel that adds to the experience, so no matter how tough a stage, you will remain relaxed.
PS4B: How long did it take to develop the game? Did you run into any hurdles or challenges along the way?
Far too long. Hahaha! Side Decide was initially developed for mobile back in 2013, but the project was shelved shortly after prototyping, as mobile was moving towards the Freemium model – a path I didn’t want to go down. I hate the idea of building games around mechanisms to get players to pay. It feels shady.
Every now and then, I would return to the game and build out a few stages. But it was quite a laborious task. I managed about 20 hand-crafted stages, but I thought that to succeed in the puzzle game genre, you need lots of stages.
A few years later, while on a sabbatical in Seattle, I met puzzle game developer Ty Taylor of the Quantum Astrophysicists Guild. Ty is a master of puzzle creation, having developed hits such as The Bridge and Tumblestone, and he took an interest in the project. He offered to build a puzzle generator for the game, which ended up spitting out over 200,000 levels. From there, it was a case of whittling it down to 121 of the best. Not long after that, I changed platforms to PC and finally released it on Steam in 2021.
A friend (whom I’ve started a new company with called Animatica Studios) lent me their Nintendo Switch dev kit, so I set out to release the game on Switch. It started well, but then I ran into technical difficulties with Unity and the Nintendo SDK leading it to be shelved again as several client projects had come up.
Finally, in 2023 with some breathing room again, I figured out the issue (a convoluted Nintendo SDK thing) and finished the game off. Only ten years on from the initial concept! Then came Nintendo certification. When someone tells you it will take months for certification, they are not wrong, especially for someone who has not gone through the process before.
PS4B: Are there any differences between the Steam version of the game and the Switch version we now get to play on Nintendo’s console?
The games are largely the same except for a few visual changes.
Depending on the reception, I may add more stages to the Nintendo Switch version of Side Decide:
PS4B: With Side Decide now out on Nintendo Switch, what is Blue Volcano currently working on?
That depends on what day of the week it is. Ha! I am working on a new project with Animatica Studios we are hoping to have a vertical slice finished by early next year. It’s an action platformer RPG with giant robots game that’s leaning into all the sentiments around AI at the moment. Then there is the music game Illuminary, which has been on the back burner that I want to jump back into and push towards a release within the next year.
PS4B: And that’s all the time we have for today. Is there something else you’d like to add before we go?
I’m always up for a chat and to talk about game development. Thanks for giving me the time and supporting indie developers. And enjoy Side Decide!