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Michael Schaefer kindly took the time to answer the questions for this month's interview.
Q: What type of game is Starlaxis? What is the player supposed to do?
A: Starlaxis is a explosive mix with puzzle and action elements. The player has to build commands with the "command-cubes" in the "puzzle-zone" to control his ship in the area at the bottom of the screen - that's the "action-zone".
The cubes are falling with slow speed to the bottom of the puzzle-zone. While a cube is falling, the player can move it to the right or left or to the bottom and even can turn it around. To move the players ship, he have to build commands with the cubes. For example, if the player wants to move his ship forward, he needs to put a "B" and a "2" together. Or if he wants to attack, he needs a "D" and a "7". Of course, the commands are changing depending on what kind of ships the player uses in a level. The commands that the player can use are shown at the left side of the screen.
To win a mission, the player has to fulfill different goals, depending on the level. In some levels, the player has to destroy all the enemies, collect something, beat a boss or protect someone. Some words to how you can loose the game: if the cubes are blocking the entry of a new cube, the game ends (like tetris). So you should make sure that the cubes don't end up that way; you can clear the cubes if you put three of the same kind together or if you build commands.
If your ship gets hit by an enemy and if your shields and energy are down, your ship will not be destroyed, but a fire line will appear in the puzzle-zone, blocking a complete line for the cubes. So if you are were hit some times, you don't have too much room to place the cubes anymore and your adrenalin level will grow... ;)
Q: I know that you plan to create 40 levels for the game, and from what I know you’ve already implemented 30 of them. How do you make sure that the game doesn’t become boring after a while?
A: Well, I created 4 new bonus-levels so the goal is now 44 levels, among which 42 are now finished! To make sure that the game doesn't become boring I implemented in almost every level new things to discover. Here are some examples:
- new enemies appearing with new attacks;
- black holes or space mines you have to overcome;
- boss fights;
- you can get new ships and commanders with different "special moves";
- you can buy upgrades for your ships, in order to increase their attack power, shield, tempo and energy points (only if you have enough taloons, the money in the game! ;))
- for every level you win you will be rewarded with taloons, depending on how good you were; you can also retry the levels in order to get a better ranking and more taloons;
- some levels are presenting special challenges; as an example, one level is played under water and there are water bubbles that hide parts of the puzzle-zone and the cubes!
- in another one a boss hacked a "virus" in the puzzle-zone and the controls are mirror-like reflected: right becomes left, up becomes down, etc;
- and so on... :)
Q: How does the multiplayer component of your game work?
A: The players will fight each other, but I am thinking about implementing a cooperative mode as well. There will be fights in special areas, and even racing levels through areas filled with asteroids and mines where the quickest player wins! Four players can play on a single PC, and you will be able to unlock more multiplayer stuff if you do really well in the single player missions.
Q: How did you create those great looking effects for explosions, power-ups, combos, etc?
A: I used some particle functions ("easy particle 3" is really good! ;)) but for the most things I uses sprites and bitmaps. I played a lot with different parameters like scale, bright, alpha, etc. and was surprised what you can get even without shaders (but my game includes a few shaders as well).
Q: What was the most difficult problem you’ve faced while developing the game and how did you solve it?
A: The biggest problem was creating the models and the characters cause I'm not good at that... I solved it using the right people (greetings to Blattsalat and Nhung ;)) and a little bit of money! ;)
Q: I see that you have used the services offered by BlackBowSoft, a famous company, for some of your models; from what you know, are they interested in smaller scale, indie projects as well?
A: Of course they are, but you should bring a big bag of money along with you ;)) I think if you are a company it's okay, but for a single person their prices might be too much. Actually, they did only one ship for the game but I just wanted to test it.
Q: Did you start looking for a publisher?
A: No, first of all I want to complete the game. My dream is to create games for Niintendo Wii someday, but we will see...
Q: Any piece of advice for beginners to game development?
A: Hmm, I can also say what's said before: choose a project that you can fulfill with your amount of time and money! At the beginning, about 3-4 years ago, I wanted to create a round-based strategy game and worked 2-3 years for 5 levels! Only then I recognized that if thins works this way, I will finish the game in 20 years!! Don't make this mistake!
That was a hard lesson, but I gained experience at least. So at the end of last year I started the new project and changed the whole gameplay. Thank God, I could use all the already paid ships and characters in the new game and now finished 42 levels in about 1 year. ;) Oh, and make sure that your game has an unique gameplay or uses new elements.
Another hint: read all AUM magazines, you will find many good things for your games and hints how you get the best results for your projects with 3DGameStudio! ;)
We will be giving away 10 free copies of the game as soon as it is released; just sign up to our free newsletter at email@example.com and you will be registered for the contest automatically!
Thank you a lot, Michael!