A billboard was partly responsible for getting Chris Wade (CDM ’15) to DePaul. An avid gamer, Wade noticed posters on campus for “Octodad,” the popular video game created by a group of DePaul students, when he visited as a high school student. “I thought it was interesting,” Wade says. “At the time, it was not even on my radar to do game development.”
Wade was still undecided on a major when he moved to Chicago from the suburbs of Cleveland. The greater appeal was the lure of a bigger city and the fact that friends from high school were heading to DePaul as well. But at orientation, the computer game development major caught his eye again.
Fast-forward eight years, and it’s clear that this major was the right choice for Wade. In addition to being a developer and artist at Austin-based Owlchemy Labs, Wade is the creator of “Sausage Sports Club,” a Nintendo Switch game that was released in July 2018 to nearly uniformly positive reviews.
Wade began working on “Sausage” at DePaul. As an officer of DeFRAG, CDM’s student group for those interested in gaming, Wade attended a conference in California where a presentation on physics engines—the underlying tool set that determines how physics works in games—motivated him to start experimenting.
“In most games, you don’t have much control over your character,” Wade explains. “You’re this box character who can’t interact with the world that much. But in “Sausage,” you can make your character’s head flop around, so you have movement and jumping. You can even move your whole body like this crazy worm thing.”
The four main characters in “Sausage” are huggable animals with elongated necks who bop across Sports Club Island, competing on a reality show to try to win athletic matches while striving to demonstrate sportsmanlike behavior. “They have personal problems with other characters in the world, like one might be mad that a friend is bragging about a poem he wrote that he won’t share,” Wade explains. “Your character has to convince him to share it by beating him in a sports match, which is the way they solve problems.”
“Sausage” is lighthearted, zany and fun, but Wade worked for years to develop the game and make it commercially viable. He took on contract projects to stay afloat while he perfected “Sausage” at Indie City Co-op, a game developers’ coworking space in Chicago.
When Wade felt that “Sausage” was finally ready for the masses, he approached Nintendo reps at a gaming convention. He believes that meeting the reps in person was a key step toward selling his product. “When I sent a follow-up email, they remembered me and knew I was serious about my game,” Wade says.
Making connections in the industry has been vital for Wade, and he’s grateful for DePaul’s assistance in that regard. “The biggest thing that I took away from DePaul is that you build a cohort of fellow students doing good work, and you give each other feedback and lift each other up,” he says. “That ultimately turns into your first professional network.”
Indeed, another DePaul gaming student recommended Wade to Owlchemy. The company approached Wade after college, and then again in 2017. At that point, the timing was right, so Wade accepted the offer. “The kind of work they do aligns really well with the kind of work I like to do, which is physics games and funny games that are nonviolent, family-friendly and colorful,” Wade says. “I’m learning a lot.”
Outside of work, Wade is playing around with some new ideas—top-secret prototypes at the moment—and preparing an update for “Sausage.”Look out for wobbly, bobbly cats to grace Sports Club Island soon. “Then I will be done with it,” Wade says. “But long term, I’ll continue to make games for myself, and if they succeed, I’ll hopefully move on to even bigger games.”