Other than length how does developing a downloadable game differ from developing a full length game?
I think the main difference is that you have to come at the design from a different angle. When you pay $60 for a game, you either expect an epic, movie-like experience, or you’re looking for a sports game with like 5,000 real athletes with true-to-life stats (only .01% of which you will actually use when playing because you’re such a diehard fan of team X).
When designing Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond, we wanted to offer something that could be played in shorter sessions, but could also be played over and over again. The levels are meant to challenge you to improve your score, get a better time, kill more enemies than your buddy did, rank higher on the leaderboards, or find all of the collectibles.
We also have a difficulty mode called “F*ck This Sh*t”… I think the name speaks for itself. You die with 1 hit and the enemies fire twice as often. This is for those people that love a challenge, love Achievements and Trophies, and love playing other games that involve a safety word and vinyl pants.
The previous Matt Hazard game did not fair well with reviewers and consumers. What lessons did you learn from the first game that you are applying to the new one? What ideas/concepts did you keep from the first game?
For all of the reviewers that knocked us, there were a lot of critics that understood what we were trying to do. We made a lot of core gamers laugh. We all viewed that as a huge win. We also established a character that, even if people didn’t love the game, they still talked about him as if he was this beloved video game icon. We created a back story that resonated. Another win. These elements are sticking around.
As for lessons, we read a lot of the reviews and listened to what people said on the message boards. A lot of people were upset that they didn’t get to see more of the games that made up Matt’s backstory. We took that idea and ran. Also, people liked the collection of environments, but wished it was even more diverse. Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond is basically a collection of old Marathon games that were all sitting on the servers at Marathon Megasoft. These are all completely different games in totally different settings; a pirate ship, a Canadian Mountie base, a cruise ship. The humor, the diversity, and the whacky collection of characters were things that we kept and even expanded on.
What are the key components of a side scrolling shooter? What do you think is the most important design factor in this genre?
Key components depend on what you’re playing, I guess. Side-scrollers can be as varied as FPS games. To go back to the inspirations mentioned before, if you’re talking about something like Metroid, its lock and key puzzle upgrades and creating very specific enemy behaviors. For something like Contra/Metal Slug, the emphasis is the frantic pace, enemy variety, and the power and feeling of the weapon upgrades. If I had to categorize the types of play for those 2 examples, I would say that Metroid is a little more cerebral while Contra and Metal Slug are definitely more twitch or visceral (is that term too overused, yet?).
Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond definitely falls into the second category. I think the most important component is our pace. The game can be insanely fast at times with bullet dodging akin to Ikaruga. The amount of blood that coats the screen can be ridiculous (in fact, we had to tone it down more than once). The number of enemies rushing Matt and Dexter can be overwhelming. This is where we hang our hat. The game is over the top and begs the player to kick it up to the “F*ck This Sh*t” difficulty, just to see if they can survive.
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