Being 16 years old is hard enough. There is both school and dynamic changes in friendships and other relationships. For some, it’s when you get a job and start making money. Parker Anderson, the one-man show behind PlugWorld, took it all on and started developing a game that you can play all by yourself with one hand. He is now 17 years old and Weaponeer is approaching its big (paid) re-release on February 14th.
Although Anderson developed the game exclusively by himself, the re-release offers a few extra helping hands in the form of: VoxPop Games and charity AbleGamers† VoxPop was founded during the COVID-19 pandemic by current CEO Charles Yu and COO Marc Rodriguez. Yu jumped into game development shortly after college and worked in quality assurance in the Apple App Store ecosystem and elsewhere. Rodriguez also has a history in the gaming industry, including at Capcom and Rockstar Games.
The two created VoxPop to help projects like Weaponeer and developers like Anderson.
“I wanted to create a platform that indie developers can use to promote themselves and that influencers can also use to monetize their channels and fill the gaps between their sponsorships,” Yu said. “I wanted to create a platform where [developers] could live. You could make this your work if you’re really willing to work on it.”
VoxPop is a peer-to-peer game distribution and development platform – a storefront – that aims to connect developers and the streamers, influencers and perhaps most importantly, players in a way that “rising tide picks up ships”. The VoxPop website says, “We allow developers to use a small portion of their future revenues for users and streamers to help promote their games, giving developers exposure and influencers with a new revenue stream.”
Weaponeer, a retro 8-bit action platformer, is already available on Google Play and Itch.io, because when Anderson felt it was ready, he just released it for free. In the end, it gained enough traction for Rodriguez and Yu to see gifs and images of the game. There are only two things to worry about in Weaponeer, making it the perfect one-handed game. Wherever your protagonist’s sword is pointing, that’s where they go – that’s one button, and you can jump with one other button too. The concept is really that simple, but Weaponeer’s many levels are particularly challenging.
Rodriguez and Yu loved what they saw. Rodriguez noted how much it played like Sonic Spinball, a 1993 Sega Genesis game, and reached out. The two told Anderson about VoxPop’s “Made For” tag. In the Made For VoxPop version of Weaponeer, which hits stores on February 14, you’ll find what is essentially the definitive edition, with new exclusive content.
†[VoxPop] talked to me about finding a charity to donate the profits to because I really didn’t want the money,” Anderson said. “I thought that would be totally cool and they asked me if I had any charities in mind. They suggested AbleGamers.”
Anderson’s game wasn’t necessarily designed with accessibility in mind at first. But because Weaponeer was a mobile-first title that can be played with one hand, the game was already more accessible than many other projects. Between that and his desire to donate profits to charity, Anderson felt that AbleGamers was a perfect fit for him. So much so that he was willing to give the charity 100% of the profits, but founder and executive director Mark Barlet immediately shot that idea.
“He was like, ‘Hey, I want to give you 100% of the proceeds,’ and I basically said that was a terrible idea,” Barlet says. “I said to him, ‘I’m really flattered that you would want to do that, but I think you should keep some of the money because you work hard at it, you have to go to college and all you have is time, so make sure you get something out of the time you’ve spent on this.”
Anderson has teamed up with AbleGamers to re-release his platformer and says he’s learned a lot about game design and development. Barlet says that’s why Anderson should take some of the money. If he continues to design accessible games, he will need money or else the game development world will lose someone who is committed to accessibility.
“This game is really interesting and fun,” Barlet said. “Is it accessed on purpose or is it accidentally accessed? Or is it a mix of both? I don’t know, but in his conversation with him, he seemed committed to making an accessible game. But, you know, The Last of Us Part II is an accessible game, but it’s not a one-axis game [like Weaponeer]† I think the uniaxial thing is also an additional design challenge that makes this title stand out.”
After some persuasion, Anderson decided that 50% of Weaponeer’s profits would go to AbleGamers.
“I think we want to find an opportunity to share his experience and his work,” says Barlet of why AbleGamers decided to partner with Weaponeer’s Made For VoxPop reissue. “I think there’s something uplifting about a young man, a kid, who uses the available technologies to make a really cool game. I’m hopeful it’s commercially successful not just because [AbleGamers] is a benefactor of it, but also because it shows the power of what one person can do if he chooses to do it. I want this young man to have a bright future, maybe become an agent of change in the game industry, because he could use some of it.”
While VoxPop helped Anderon’s Weaponeer, Anderson also paid back the favor: He inspired the platform to create a charity feature for developers to do exactly what he does.
“Having the chance to talk to all of these developers about how passionate they are about their own projects, and how passionate they are about trying to make a broader impact outside of the game industry… making those ideas a reality,” Yu said. .
Rodriguez says VoxPop is the platform he wished was available to him when he was 17.
“What we’re trying to achieve, frankly, is to amplify everyone’s voice about where they want their passion projects to become profitable,” he said. “We want to be the place where a developer can become the next viral sensation, maybe like Among Us… but we also want to be a place where developers can just make a living by releasing games there.”
Rodriguez and Yu don’t expect a game to be the next Among Us, but they certainly wouldn’t be mad about it. They just want developers whose games might be eclipsed by other releases on traditional platforms like Steam to have a bigger impact through VoxPop’s peer-to-peer platform.
“I think there’s definitely a pressure when there’s someone else to appease,” Anderson said. “When you make something for yourself, you don’t really feel a lot of pressure – you make it until you’re happy with it [which is what he did with Weaponeer’s original release]† But if you’re making it for another party, and you have to make sure it’s right… for that platform, [you] feel that pressure for sure.”
He also felt the pressure to release a game where some of the profits would go to charity, although Barlet said the organization was just happy to be involved. But Anderson wanted to make the game better, more intuitive and more accessible. He tweaked how boosters work in Weaponeer, fixed moving platforms he found annoying in the first release, and dabbled with quality-of-life changes to improve the overall experience.
Anderson isn’t quite sure what the future holds for him – after all, he’s only 17 years old. He may continue with game development, but he is also interested in visual video effects. Right now, though, he’s focused on getting Weaponeer out and using VoxPop’s unique showcase to raise money for AbleGamers.
It’s the first time Anderson has made a game for anyone other than himself, and while he’s nervous about what that means, he’s extremely excited about the release of Weaponeer’s Made For VoxPop. Barlet, Yu and Rodriguez too.
“The Weaponeer falls on February 14, Valentine’s Day,” Rodriguez said. “It’s like a love letter to the indie game community, a community we all love.”
PlugWorld’s Made For VoxPop Weaponeer re-release will be available on PC on February 14, 2022 for $6.99. You can add the game to your wishlist here†