Thursday, 23 May 2024

Axiom Verge: The Journey of a Passionate Indie Game Designer

Axiom Verge

Many game designers find solace in collaboration, leveraging the strengths of others to create their vision. However, there are rare individuals like Tom Happ who possess the talent and determination to single-handedly bring their game to life. Inspired by the iconic 8- and 16-bit games of his youth, Happ embarked on a five-year journey to create Axiom Verge, a complete game showcasing his expertise in coding, sound design, art, and storytelling.

The Accidental Designer

Tom Happ’s path to game development was unintentional. Initially majoring in physics, he stumbled upon a computer science course in college, which ignited his passion for creating games. After graduating, he faced difficulty finding a game programming job and instead pursued a graduate program in computer animation. This experience provided Happ with a well-rounded understanding of the game development process. After spending a decade working on various titles, Happ felt the itch to create a game entirely on his own, fueled by his unwavering talent and dedication.

Crafting a Unique Experience

Happ started conceptualizing Axiom Verge in 2010, meticulously designing 90% of the art assets before writing a single line of code. Drawing inspiration from his favorite games of the 8- and 16-bit era, he envisioned a game that combined elements from Contra, Bionic Commando, Blaster Master, and Rygar. As development progressed, Axiom Verge took on its own personality, resembling the original Metroid in its mapped environments. This led Happ to incorporate tiled environments and a versatile firearm as the main weapon. Additionally, he introduced the concept of intentional game glitches, allowing players to explore a hidden side of the game.

Embracing Glitches as a Feature

Happ has always been fascinated by glitches in games. To provide players with a unique experience, he intentionally designed Axiom Verge to incorporate glitches as an integral part of the gameplay. Throughout the game, players will encounter areas with flickering and corrupted tiles, which can be cleaned or made worse using the Address Disruptor tool. Glitches can affect enemies and even cause walls to break down, granting access to hidden rooms. Happ also implemented a Game Genie-like passcode system, enabling players to experiment and potentially break the game.

Unraveling a Mysterious Universe

The opening of Axiom Verge introduces the protagonist, Trace, who finds himself in a futuristic yet desolate world after surviving a building collapse. Trapped in an alien landscape, Trace encounters mutated creatures and remnants of a once-thriving human civilization. To uncover the truth behind this strange universe and his presence within it, Trace must rely on an impressive arsenal of over 20 weapons and 60 other items and power-ups. Each weapon can be upgraded through power nodes, providing players with a range of destructive tools to adapt to different situations.

The Long and Winding Road

For over four years, Axiom Verge has been Tom Happ’s labor of love, initially developed as an evening and weekend hobby. As the game gained recognition, major publishers like Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft showed interest. Ultimately, Happ signed with Sony, receiving an indie pub fund scholarship that guaranteed marketing support and an advance on royalties. However, this venture has not been without its challenges. Balancing a part-time job to cover expenses, Happ has dedicated himself to working on Axiom Verge seven days a week.


Axiom Verge is the culmination of Tom Happ’s passion and talent as a solo indie game developer. Its nostalgic gameplay, creative weapons, and intentional glitching offer a truly unique experience for fans of classic 8- and 16-bit games. As the release date approaches, gaming enthusiasts eagerly anticipate the arrival of Axiom Verge, hoping that Happ’s unwavering commitment to his project remains steadfast.


Q: What inspired Tom Happ to create Axiom Verge?
A: Tom Happ drew inspiration from his favorite 8- and 16-bit games, aiming to create a game that paid homage to their gameplay mechanics.

Q: How does Axiom Verge incorporate intentional game glitches?
A: Players will encounter areas in the game with flickering and corrupted tiles. Using the Address Disruptor tool, they can clean up or amplify these glitches, affecting both the environment and enemies.

Q: What weapons and upgrades are available in Axiom Verge?
A: Axiom Verge offers over 20 weapons and 60 other items and power-ups. Players can upgrade their weapons through power nodes, increasing damage, range, and size.

Q: How did Tom Happ manage the challenges of developing Axiom Verge?
A: Despite facing financial hurdles, Tom Happ dedicated himself to working on Axiom Verge seven days a week, ensuring its progress and eventual release.