After a good 15 minutes of confusion, running around the mob-packed last day of E3, rapidly emailing and texting PR contacts, I finally found Death Stair creator Matt Dudgeon. With some tragic booth mix-up, Matt ended up on the outskirts of the show floor, set up at a cocktail table with a laptop, two controllers, and Death Stair ready to go.
I played as many big games as I could at E3, taking time with games like Zero Horizon Dawn and Battlefield One (both of which were stunning). You know what? Taking the time to chat about weird indie games without the booming flair of E3's standard AAA marketing machines was an absolute treat.
Death Stair is a charming, rough-around-the-edges indie game that doesn't pretend illusions of grandeur: it's a small, silly party game. That's what it wants to be and that what's great about it. The game is an asymmetrical multiplayer game that pits one to three players against a much more powerful Gunner who is trying to take the others down with absurd rag-doll physics and beachballs.
Silly couch co-op is a reaction to ultra-serious AAA matchmaking games
Basically, three characters try to run up a staircase and the other player gets to be a jerk who shoots at them with beachballs, dodgeballs, and land mines. I might classify it as a 'slightly-larger-than-mini' game. To reference the game itself: it's a competitive stair climbing game.
As a couch co-op split-screen game, it has much of the same appeal as a Mario Party mini game, with about the same amount of competitive spirit: this isn't the flashiest next-gen shooter to become an expert in, Death Stair is more of an excuse to sit and play something casual with a few friends without all that stress.
"We're happy with making the kind of game you can play while having a beer and talking with a friend," said Dudgeon. "These days you don't see much split-screen co-op from AAA games, it's a bit of gap that indies have started to fill. Growing up there was something great about split-screen."
Way too many stairs
"It really just started as a little game jam project," explained Dudgeon. "The theme of the jam was something like 'way too many' so we ran with that. While other groups were making games with way too many zombies or enemies, we made a game with way too many stairs and ammo. Because, hey, why not."
After that initial game jam, Matt and his co-creator Adam continued to work on the game and have had a gradual build towards a presence at E3 (regardless of that presence being a cocktail table). A successful October, 2015 Kickstarter campaign raised $13,150 AUD from nearly 200 backers.
The game began picking up some traction in the creators' local Australian bars as well as with a few YouTuber and Streamers - and even parents have been taking to it:
"There was some French video that took off of people playing the game. So, you know, France was definitely on our list of places to release! ... We've also had a good amount of success with parents playing with their kids. There's a lot of big violent games out there now, it's nice to have something colorful and easy for kids to get into."
The game headed to PAX South and East as well as SXSW earlier in 2016 and PAX Aus in 2015. Death Stair has already been Greenlit on Steam and plans to officially release in mid-August of this year.