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Marcel Rebenstorf kindly tool the time to answer a few questions for this month's AUM interview
Q: What makes Rigid Force Alpha unique?
A: Rigid Force Alpha is a modern interpretation of the classic side-scrolling shoot’em up genre. Games like this became very rare since their heydays in the late 80s/early 90s. In terms of gameplay RFA offers easy to learn weapon and scoring mechanisms as well as large varieties of enemies and, of course, a wealth of huge boss enemies.
Q: RFA looks great! How big is your team and what does each member do?
A: Our team is fairly small and consists of only four people, where I am doing the vast majority of tasks by myself – RFA is mainly a personal project after all. However, I am accompanied by Alexander Poelloth, who is responsible for the deferred rendering pipeline, as well as the main menu coding. And last but not least we have two awesome musicians on board: Lauri Turjansalo, known for his retro synth music project Dreamtime, and Michael Chait, who has already worked on a number of indie game soundtracks such as for Elliot Quest, Belladonna and Heart & Slash.
Q: What’s the most important piece of code for a game like yours?
A: The foundations of a shoot’em up game like Rigid Force Alpha are good player controls, a powerful bullet pattern system and – perhaps most importantly – a flexible enemy behaviour manager.
I would say that especially the latter one is the most important element for us. A game like RFA depends on interesting and challenging enemies – you can’t simply serve the player with one and the same predictable type of enemy over the course of several levels.
The systems we implemented allow us to create a large variety of different enemies with relatively low scripting effort. The system itself takes care of standard behaviours like spawning, despawning, movement, animation and gameplay interactions. This way we can focus on programming only the core features of an enemy, with a few lines of code.
Q: How did you manage to mix those gorgeous backgrounds with the “real” game so well?
A: I think this is all about choosing a solid, consistent style for each level, and then finding challenges that feel natural to this setting which the player can interact with. For example, in one of RFA’s levels you battle your way through an industrial facility built inside a volcanic landscape, where you have to evade different mechanical devices, steam pipes and magma flows. On top of that, you also have to face special enemies which also make use of the level’s theme, for example one that is equipped with a flamethrower. This all mixed together creates kind of a cohesive and persistent gaming experience.
Q: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made while you were developing RFA?
A: That would be to initially rely on existing tools. For example, I thought it would be unnecessary to write a special development tool for placing enemies inside the level, because hey, WED and GED could easily be used for this task. When I finally went over to crowd a whole level with enemies and then also added unique movement paths for each instance, things got ugly really fast. Seeing dozens and dozens of boxes in front of me, each assigned with a certain action as well as a path entity, was totally incomprehensible. On top of that, every minor change required rebuilding the level and restarting the game, which is really a killer when you just want to implement some minor corrections.
In the end, I went over to writing my own editor for that purpose. With this tool, I can simply place enemies, assign behaviours and control their path points at runtime, which is an incredible time saver. I can only recommend writing specialised tools if it makes your life easier with solving recurring tasks. The time spent for tool development compensates for the time fiddling around with existing tools.
Q: What are the top 3 game development tools you couldn’t live without?
A: Blender, Photoshop, Crazy Bump.
Q: How do you plan to sell the game?
A: RFA will most likely be sold via online distribution at a reasonable price. I’m not sure yet whether Steam will play a role in this or not – but we will surely find out during the next months.
Q: Please give us a few tips for the beginners out there.
A: Start small, never give up, experiment and have fun. And always get as much feedback as you can. Developing a game from concept to finish is a long journey, it can be both fun and frustrating, but it’s worth every minute you spend on it.
Thank you a lot, Marcel!