Let’s Interview: Banjo-Kazooie and Mario + Rabbids Composer Grant Kirkhope

Here at Gaming Reinvented, we’ve interviewed quite a few people involved in creating famous video games.

We’ve interviewed Tomoya Tomita, the composer for Wario Land Shake It and Kirby’s Epic Yarn. We’ve interviewed Randy Linden, the person responsible for porting Doom to the SNES and making the Bleem emulator in the PS1 era. And well, when it comes to YouTubers and fan game creators, we’ve interviewed dozens of them by this point. From Kaze Emanuar to SKELUX, from Source Gaming to the Lonely Goomba, the list of interviewees on the site is something to behold.

And today? We’ve got another great interview for you. Yep, it’s a full-blown interview with Grant Kirkhope, the composer responsible for such hits as Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle and many other games alike. So, if you want to hear what it was like writing music for those classics (or just what kind of crazy things nearly gotten in Mario + Rabbids), keep reading, or watch the video interview below:

Cause this is gonna be one hell of an interview…

So, let’s start with the obvious backstory question first and foremost. How did you get into composing music for video games? What made you want to get into this field?

It was completely by accident. I’d been in rock bands as a kid, and that’s all I ever wanted to do. I went to music college (the Royal College of Music in Manchester) in 1980, did a four-year classical trumpet degree and when I left I went back to playing rock bands.

Then my friend Robin Beanland announced he’d got a job. I was surprised, no one I knew got a job. He went off to work at Rare to write music for video games.

A year soon went by, then he said “You know Grant, you’d been on benefits since you left college, why don’t you try to do what I do?

I said “I don’t know, I’d failed all the exams at college and only passed the last year by the skin of my teeth since I didn’t understand harmony at all. So, I bought some new gear, composed some music I thought I’d be good in video games and sent some demos to Rare. I didn’t get an immediate response, but a few years later I got a letter from them saying to come down for an interview, and then got the job.

Either way, your first major project was Donkey Kong Land 2, a port of Donkey Kong Country 2 for the Game Boy. What was it like converting the music from the SNES to the Game Boy?

It was tricky. In that time, Rare did all their Game Boy games in hex, no MIDI file or anything. I was like “how the hell am I going to do this?”

So, Dave Wise came across and showed me how it worked (very quickly) on my first day, and it was really hard. I actually said to Robin “I’m going to have to resign, this is too hard, I can’t actually do it”. However, he said to ask Dave back tomorrow and write down every step that he tells you to do. So, I did this, wrote down every step-in order (like number 1, press Alt 4, number 2, type this, etc) in real parrot fashion and then I kind of understood it then. Heck, I quite enjoyed it in the end, and thought it was quite fun to get the music to work on the Game Boy.

So yeah, I liked it in the end, but the start was super scary.

Indeed, it actually worked out really well. The music sounds incredible, especially given the limited technical capabilities of the system.

Yeah, a lot of people like that. A lot of them talk about Stickerbrush Symphony on the Game Boy, which amazes me. It’s Dave’s music, it’s just me trying to make it work on a Game Boy. Dave should take the credit really.

True, but you did the technical side and got it working.

I suppose, I get that. But he wrote the music.

Either way, I guess you moved onto Project Dream after that?

Well, I did the Game Boy, then I moved to GoldenEye straight after that.

What was that like? Did you have any rules or restrictions from the movie company about what music you could use?

We had free reign then, which is quite bizarre. They’re very protective about the Bond license these days.

So, Graham Norgate was doing Blast Corps and GoldenEye and once he’d beaten Blast Corps, he asked whether I’d be interested in working on GoldenEye.

I said “Are you joking, I’d love to do it”. So, I did Game Boy in the morning, GoldenEye in the afternoon, that was the agreement.

In answer to your question, we were told we could use the Bond theme as much we wanted to, and it was fantastic for me. I mean, I love Bond.

Hence, we brought a CD that contained all the music from the Bond movies, so I listened to them and tried to piece it altogether. It was brilliant trying to piece it altogether, great fun.

Hmm, seems GoldenEye in general was a project the team had quite a lot of free reign on…

Yeah

Did you work on any other games between GoldenEye and Banjo?

No, that was it. I just worked on GoldenEye, then one day Tim Stamper (who was the boss of Rare) and Greg Mayles (who was the lead designer) showed up and just said “could you please play your GoldenEye music”

I was like “alright, I’m gonna get fired because they think it’s crap”. So, they sat listening, I played the tunes and then they said “right, you’re gonna come work on Dream with us”

To which I was like “yeah, that’s fine, just need to finish on GoldenEye” and they were like “no no, you’re finishing GoldenEye right now”.

So, I moved to the barn where the Dream team was and started working with them.

Talking about Project Dream, it changed quite a lot in development didn’t it? What was the idea behind the music before it became a Banjo game?

Yeah, I never worked on the SNES, just the Game Boy and N64. So originally it was gonna be on the SNES, then just about when I switched to Dream it got switched to the N64. It was going to be a very Zelda like open world 3d exploration game, then I just changed to Banjo.

Okay. How did you come up with the audio direction for Banjo-Kazooie?

I thought that Banjo-Kazooie were very odd characters, being opposites (like Banjo’s a bit dumb and Kazooie’s a bit snazzy and sarcastic) so I tried to get the music to match that.

I hit on the idea of this tritone thing. It’s the furthest point in a musical scale, so I wondered if I could work it in somehow.

At the time, I’d been listening to quite a bit of Danny Elfman, and so that kind of gave me the idea for the direction here. I just stumbled upon it really.

And as it worked well, I just used it through both of the games.

One of the songs quite a few people remember is the Gruntilda’s Lair theme from the original game. What was the thought process behind this one? Like how it’s inspired by the Teddy Bear’s Picnic song? Or how it faded into each area as you went to it?

I just wanted to find something really kooky that summed up Gruntilda. I guess the bear thing worked into the idea because Banjo was in the adventure, so the two aspects meshed well and you got a plodding along, witchy tune that summed up her (Gruntilda’s) character perfectly.

So, I just wanted to find something that was a memorable tune that really matched the characters again.

Another thing people like and remember from the series is how you take a single tune from the level, and subtly remix it based on where you are and what’s going on in the level. What was the inspiration behind that?

Yeah, we did the whole channel fade thing. When I first got to Rare, Greg and Tim were very keen for me to play the Lucasarts games (especially Monkey Island) since they loved said games a whole lot. And in the early Secret of Monkey Island games, they had that channel fade thing working like in FM synthesis; not quite MIDI files but just using the FM chip on the sound card. They loved how it worked with the IMUSE system and said they’d love that to work in Banjo. So, when you wander around, the music would change (same tune but a different arrangement based on the area).

That meant I had to work out how to make that happen, figured out how it’d sound in my head and then have the coders figure out how to get the software to support it afterwards. Hence all the music for one level would be in one MIDI file, and different channels would play to change the feel of the song in different areas.

Have you seen any of the remixes of these songs on YouTube?

Yeah, it’s awesome. Usually when people remix my stuff, it turns out better than my version. Least most of the time!

It’s also super flattering people want to do that to my music really. I never dreamed that’d ever happen to me, so I love when people do arrangements of my work. They have some really good ideas too.

Cool. Still, favourites now. What’s your favourite song in the Banjo series?

That’s tough that one. I guess my favourite’s probably Mad Monster Mansion.

Yeah, I like that song. Great haunted house tune!

Also, Freezeezy Peak and I guess Atlantis when you get to Banjo-Tooie. Love that song too.

I’d say those three are my favourites.

Talking of Banjo-Tooie, did your music change direction a bit when you moved from Kazooie to Tooie?

I don’t think so. I just tried to keep that same feel in Banjo-Tooie. It’s just a continuation really.

Okay, some may have gotten slightly darker, and having boss battles at the end of every level meant I got to remix every level’s song in that style. But it was just a continuation really.

Are there any songs you wish you’d done a bit differently?

I do get asked that a lot, and honestly no. I’m a really bad polisher, and am really bad at going back at changing things. My first idea is usually the only one I have, and if that’s bad, I’ll just start again. I don’t like messing around with stuff, I just make a mess of it and it just gets worse really.

So, no, I wouldn’t change any of the music I’ve written in my entire career. It’s all worked out great.

Donkey Kong 64 now. What was it like composing music for that game? Obviously, you had a lot to live up to given the great soundtracks in past games.

Yeah for me I guess I was doing Banjo-Tooie, DK 64 and Perfect Dark at the same time…

Jesus. That sounds tough.

I know. It was a hectic time that was.

So, my main thing was to try and keep DK different from Banjo-Tooie. Wanted to make sure it didn’t sound the same.

And in general, I always thought DK was a darker sounding game. David Wise’s Donkey Kong soundtracks are amazing, but they are quite dark. So, I felt I made DK 64 a bit darker than Banjo, with the toy factory level being quite haunting and the spooky level being quite haunting too. That and Gloomy Galleon.

I really tried to keep it slightly darker than Banjo.

You certainly did that well with the Mad Jack boss theme!

Oh yeah, I love that one.

Onto Perfect Dark now. What was that like? Was it like composing for GoldenEye?

I thought that was different. It was more electronic. The X-Files was very big, and I kept thinking of that and Blade Runner when composing. I mixed orchestra and synth back then, and I tried to make it as good as I could. I really enjoyed working on it really.

Perfect Dark was a great game in general too. Great story, great team, great fun to do. So that was something different. Fun to do something that wasn’t a jolly platformer.

Either way, Rare soon moved off to Microsoft. So what kind of songs did you like composing in that era?

Grabbed by the Ghoulies was great fun. I mean, haunted house games are great fun to do because of their atmosphere. It’s spooky and comical. So, it was good to do that.

But I guess the high point for me was doing Viva Pinata. That was the first time I got to use live orchestra, so it was a proper 100-piece live orchestra in Prague. That was spectacular to get to do that. Utterly brilliant.

Yeah, it was certainly a great game that one. Wish more people had played it to be honest.

Yeah. I think people loved it, but they also thought it was a bit cute. But it’s not cute, it’s actually pretty deep when you get into it. Hard to get it to work properly.

That seemed to be an issue with quite a few Rare games in the Microsoft era didn’t it? They were great fun, but their style was perhaps not the best for the Xbox’s audience…

Yeah, I think Banjo-Kazooie Nuts & Bolts suffered from that. You know, if you think about it now, Nuts & Bolts is a bit of a predecessor to Minecraft because you can build what you like.

Banjo-Kazooie Nuts & Bolts Game Cover

I think with Nuts & Bolts though, the issue people had was that it was a Banjo game more than anything else. If it was a new IP like Minecraft, I think people may have looked on it a bit more fondly.

But Banjo was always a platformer series, so people were a bit hesitant to play a spinoff which was totally different to that.


I think you’re right about that. If it was a new IP, it would have gone down a lot better.

Still, the visuals and music were nice, and the storyline was well written…

Yeah, when my son was young (he was born in 2002), so when we went to America he was starting to play games. And him and his friends really loved Banjo Nuts & Bolts. That was their favourite. When his friends came to our house, that was the one game they wanted to play because they didn’t know about the first two Banjo-Kazooie games and just got engrossed in building vehicles and seeing what they could do with all that stuff. It was funny how that’s the way it was.

I think Microsoft missed the boat there. They didn’t realise that little kids who didn’t know Banjo would love that kind of game.

Interesting that. Seems Nuts & Bolts could have been what Minecraft is now if Microsoft had marketed it carefully enough.

Still, did anyone Rare ever think maybe insulting the original Banjo series in the game’s story may not have been the best idea?

That’s the style of Rare’s humour right. That was all part of their way of doing things. That was how it was in Banjo-Tooie and Banjo one, so I think we wanted to keep that same irreverent humour in because it’d lead it all together.

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And did you have any involvement with Banjo-Kazooie Grunty’s Revenge on GBA?

No. That was Jamie Hughes. Jamie Hughes was a guy who started at Rare after I’d been out for quite a while and he was in charge of putting all that together. So, he did all that.

Do you think he managed to match the feel of the previous Banjo games with that game’s soundtrack?

Yeah, I think Jamie did a great job. I like Jamie, he’s a good guy.

What made you move on from Rare anyway?

I just became unhappy with Microsoft; didn’t like the way they were running the company and I just felt my time was over.

Like, I love Rare. I thought I’d be at Rare for the rest of my life. I absolutely adored it with the Stamper brothers and family there. Loved working for them. They’re just fantastic guys and they have great ideas for games.

When they left, it just lost all its magic to me. It just wasn’t the same place any more, and I just wanted to leave.

And when you did leave and become indie, how did you decide what projects to…

I didn’t do that straight away. I moved to Baltimore and worked at [] games and made that game Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning. So, I was still a staff guy then.

After that I became a freelancer.

And when you become a freelancer, you need work right? To make money to pay your bills and all that?

But yeah, I was pretty lucky. First game I touched was Mickey Mouse Castle of Illusion…

That was a really good game!

I loved working on that. I’ve got a friend of mine called Jamie Taylor who’s an audio guy from Britain who
went to live in Australia, and he was working at Sega Australia. So, he was working at Sega Australia, and said “Grant, I’d love you to work on this game” so I agreed.

It was fantastic working on that game.

I can imagine. What was it like working on it, trying to reimagine the game’s soundtrack for a new era while keeping the feel of the original intact?

Yeah, I wanted to make sure it all fit well. I’d written some original tracks and used some tracks of theirs, so I wanted to make sure I was very true to the original game with them. Cause everybody loved that game.

However, I also wanted to add a bit of ‘me’ in there, so it was a fine line to walk overall.

But I was happy with the way it turned out. Honestly, you never know with those things. You’ve just got to wait to see how people will receive it when they play it, and I tried super hard to be respectful to the original music. Then for the pieces that were new, I did my usual stuff.

So really, I was super careful about all that.

Yeah, you did a good job with the Castle of Illusion soundtrack. Did you have any favourite songs?

God, it’s hard to remember that now. It’s quite a long time ago.

Erm, I can’t remember. It’s so long ago I’d have to get it out and listen to it to answer that.

But I really did enjoy all of it, and it was a great experience working on the title.

Either way, after that you worked on quite a few 3D platformers, like Yooka-Laylee, A Hat in Time, Lobodestroyo and what not…

Lobodestroyo Artwork

Yeah, they asked me to do it. Sometimes I get asked to do guest tracks, and I sometimes do them and sometimes not. That’s because sometimes it feels like people they can just get me in to write a track to get more money off Kickstarter, and I don’t agree with that.

I’ll do it if it’s a genuine love of the music I write or what not, but if people try and use me to make money, I don’t really like it.

But Lobodestroyo were great guys, and also doing Yooka-Laylee was great too. Those were my old friends with back on Banjo at Rare, and it was great to work with them again.

With Yooka-Laylee, obviously you tried to get something similar to Banjo there, but what did you try and do to make it stand out from its inspiration?

I think with Yooka-Laylee, the very first track I wrote (the jungle track which they put on Kickstarter), I wanted to make sure that had all the bits from Banjo-Kazooie rolled into one. For the rest of it… well hopefully I’m a better composer than I was back then, so I tried to keep the best bits from 1 and 2 while adding some new stuff to mix it up.

And what was it like working with David Wise on this project?

Erm, me and David have been friends for a very long time, so it was very easy to divide up the music here, and it was obvious which bits would be Dave and which would be me here. Don’t forget Steve Burke did music here too.

So, we all had a bit of a chat about it, and it was just obvious that since it was in a Banjo style, I should handle the majority of the music. However, for the next games Playtonic do, Dave might do more or Steve might do more, depending on the type of game.

But yeah, because it was a very Banjo like game, it was very easy to work out the bits I should do and the bits Dave should do there.

Another one of the memorable bits about Yooka-Laylee was the story, which seemed very much like it was poking fun at the Microsoft buyout (Hivory Towers buying the smaller company, Capital B being the villain, sucking out literature for profit, etc). Was this a deliberate choice by the company?

Oh yeah. Remember, some of those guys left well after me, and went through the whole Kinect Sports thing.
So, I guess they weren’t happy about that.

Capital B Picture

Mario + Rabbids now. What was it like working on the music for a Mario title like this?

That’s like spectacular. I never dreamed I’d get to touch anything like that. I mean, Mario’s the best-known character in the world, probably next to Mickey Mouse. To get to work on a game with him was just unbelievable.

Also, the team in Milan and Paris are just such great people. Like, I had really good fun with those guys. I talked for two-three years about doing another game with them. We’re all best friends now.

So, having Davide Soliani (who I’m great friends with now) working me has been such a great experience. It’s been a really amazing process. And I think that’s one reason why the game is so great. Because the people in Milan and Paris were so respectful of getting to touch Mario, everyone worked so hard to make it the best it could possibly be. Because you know, you don’t want to be known as the guy that breaks Mario, right?

You can really feel the passion in that game cause of how hard everyone worked on it. It was a real labour of love from start to finish.

Yeah, the humour is especially amazing there. It’s almost like Rare wrote it…

Yeah. That’s because Davide is such a massive Banjo-Kazooie fan. He wanted to give me the project because he loved the Banjo games so much that he wanted to get that same feel in Mario + Rabbids. To get that same sarcastic humour in there.

Let’s not forget the language barrier either. I mean, they’re Italians, so it could be quite hard for them to understand some aspects of the series, and so they did a fantastic job considering all that.

They love that kind of slightly irreverent poking fun at people humour like in Banjo, and that’s why I was on the project. Cause they love Banjo so much.

And hey, talking of irreverent humour, we all immediately fell in love with that Phantom song. The one where he mocks Mario in the form of an opera sing and all that. What was it like working on that tune?

Yeah, I mean, Davide wanted to have an opera song in a game for 15-20 years or so. He just never had the budget to do it.

So, the minute he had the chance, he said he wanted to get an opera boss in the game.

A lady called Christina Larva wrote the lyrics, and I then just put the music together. And well, I had to demo the song with me singing!

Oh god… That must be have been hilarious!

I know. What’s more, originally there was supposed to be an opera version, a rap version and a metal version for the three parts of the battle. But at the end of the day, we decided those versions didn’t work very well, and we couldn’t quite get act two in either. Cause yeah, act two was recorded, but it was animated. That might turn up at some point on a soundtrack or something. Who knows.

But yeah, that was super great fun to do.

Act 2? Isn’t that the one where he says you haven’t hurt him very much and you should be ready for his greatest hit?

Yeah, that’s right. It is in there, but it wasn’t in the game cause we didn’t have time to do it.

So back to the rap song for a bit now. How would that have been represented in the game?

I think the Phantom was going to wear a leather jacket for the first metal act…

A metal jacket?

Yeah. Still, I did write it, it’s all done. It just never got recorded.

Because the idea was to get the opera singer (Augustine, I forget his full name) to do the rap and metal version as well. So, he had the same voice. But they never got that far, they just didn’t work very well.

So, we decided it’d be better if we kept it entirely as opera. But as I say, if those recordings still exist, the ones with me doing it… I hope they’re never released cause they’re awful.
But it was good fun.

Do you think there’s a chance someone (like you or Ubisoft) might post them on Twitter one day? Perhaps for a bit of a laugh?

Well I guess Ubisoft could release the songs in a month or two.

Even the lyrics would be nice to have…

Yeah, I don’t think it’s out of the question. I think they’ll just do it for a laugh someday just to take the piss out of me, eh?

It’s probably better than you think it is…

Eh, it’s all good fun. I don’t mind really.

The final boss song is also really amazing in Mario + Rabbids too. How did you come up with that one?

Well, we looked at the [Mario] games and thought that Bowser has never really had a theme really. In all the Mario games, there’s never been anything that’s consistent there.

So, we thought that I should to try to write a theme that would fit Bowser. So that’s what I tried to do. I tried to keep the same theme and make it as big as I could. But Davide getting saying “Bigger, bigger, bigger, more choir!”, so when I started the game I didn’t realise it’d end up being so epic.

It’s a really gigantic, epic theme, and you don’t think Mario games are going to end like that. It starts off pretty jolly, and ends up pretty dark. So, with darker themes comes darker and bigger music, and I was just also trying to come up with a memorable theme Bowser might use in the future too.
I don’t know, but that was my plan.

Sounds rather Galaxy like!

Yeah

Probably better than Odyssey’s final boss theme (though that’s great too).

Well, everyone’s got tastes right? The way I wrote it was that it was right for Mario + Rabbids, and that it might stick to Bowser in future.

On a less positive note, one game that your name was associated with that got a bit of controversy was Fur Fun. They pushed your name quite a lot on Kickstarter.

kewpie-jazzy logo

That’s the thing, I get contacted all the time by people saying they’d like to use my music in their game, and I always say “Yeah, I’m interested, what’s it all about”. So, I said that without really knowing what it’s about it, it got to the point it was something I didn’t really like and I said “Sorry guys, I don’t think I can write for this. It’s too close to Yooka-Laylee”.

I just felt something wasn’t right about this project, so I just backed out.

However, I should have paid a bit closer attention to that at the start. That was a big mistake.

Ah well, everyone makes mistakes at some point. So, are there any other interesting games you’re working on at the moment? Like other indie titles or what not?

Well, I’m working on stuff right now. But you know, it’s games you just can’t talk about.

I mean, I am doing the DLC for Mario + Rabbids right now, but everyone knows that. Still, it’s great fun, especially given it’s DK. It’s great fun doing music for a game with DK.

Will it have any references to DK 64? Like how the Rabbid Kong theme was based on Jungle Japes?

Who knows!

And if Nintendo ever contacted you about a 3D Donkey Kong game (like Donkey Kong 64 2) would you be interested in composing for it?

Of course. My job is to write music and I really enjoy it. When people ask me to do great projects like that, you can’t turn things like that down. It would be such great fun to do.

Doing Mario + Rabbids with Davide has been a great experience, and I’d never turn down anything like this either. As long as I’ve got the time to do it, it’s the best. It’s so good.

Yeah, David Wise did Tropical Freeze, maybe you could do a Retro made 3D Donkey Kong game!

I have to admit, I do think that DK needs another 3D outing, so maybe Nintendo or Retro Studios might do it one day.

But erm, I think I’d like to see another DK 3D game, it’d be great.

Think there’s a possibly Playtonic Games might make one in future?

Well as long as they’ve got enough to get the license from Nintendo! Anyone can get the license from Nintendo, it all depends on whether Nintendo will let them have it.

Ah, just curious whether Playtonic could become the next Rare…

Playtonic Games Logo

Yeah, I think they could be. They could certainly do it, they’d just have to let Nintendo give them the chance.

On another note, would you ever be interested in porting music again? Like you did for Donkey Kong Land 2 back in the day?

Erm, I don’t know. I don’t mind. I did do remixes for the Mario + Rabbids game. Remixed DK tunes and Peach’s Castle from Mario 64. So, I don’t mind remixes.

It’s quite good fun, and you do learn things from another people’s music. You learn how they’re different to yourself, how they treat harmony, etc.

So, I’m up for anything really. As long as it could and I get the chance, I don’t mind.

And would you be interested in Smash Bros at some time along the line?

Well if they asked me, I’m sure I wouldn’t say no!

Wonder if they’ll use Mario + Rabbids songs in the next Smash game?

Yeah, I wonder. You never know, do you?

It’d be neat to see those songs remixed…

Yeah, I get that.

Have you ever considering composing for any projects outside of games?

I did a movie last year, it’s called the King’s Daughter and has Pierce Brosnan in it. And I’ve done a few shorts as well.

The Kings Daughter Poster

So, I’m certainly keen to do something movie stuff.

Also, I’ve just written my first full on concert piece, which is called Kirkfeld. It’s a trombone concerto. There’s a guy called Ian Bousfield who’s probably the best trombone player in the world, and we’ve been friends for a while, so he asked me if I’d write a piece of music.

I said I’d give it a go (having never written for the format before), and wrote this kind of trombone piece that he’s playing on his trombone tour right now. Japan, England, he’s been on a bit of a world tour playing it. Been amazing really.

My first bonafide concert piece!

Hmm, maybe I could get some more people interested in this concert. I’m sure all those gaming sites would love to talk about a concert Grant Kirkhope is involved in writing music for…

Yeah, no it’s been at the international trombone festival in California last year, and he’s due to play it in Glasgow next month. So, I tried to write a kind of Hollywood soundtrack there. The sort of music I like to write for video games, except for a trombone soloist.

Wow, that sounds great! However, did you hear about the new Mario movie that’s coming soon? Would you want to write for that at some point down the line?

Yeah. I would love to write for that, it’d be my absolute dream. To be the composer would be fantastic.

It’s by Illumination isn’t it?

Yeah

I would love to do that then. If there’s any way I could do it, I would. It’d be fantastic fun.

It’d certainly have a great soundtrack if you were responsible for it!

Well yeah, but I just feel like… you know, I know Mario inside out and I’ve already written for live orchestra, so I could do it easily. So, I’d love to work on it. It’d be a great project to work on.

And have you ever considered working on other Nintendo Ips? Like Zelda, Pokemon, etc?

Yes. My favourite game of all time is Zelda a Link to the Past. I love that game and I love the music in that game, so you know, I’d love to have a go at working on a Zelda game. But it’ll never happen.

But it’d be fun to do a Zelda game, since I love that stuff so much.

Well you never know! Breath of the Wild certainly changed up the feel of the series as far as music is concerned, so you getting to work on the soundtrack for another game wouldn’t be too unbelievable…

Over the years, a lot of people have remixed your work and posted their remixes on sites like YouTube. So, are there any remixes or covers you think are really good?

Oh, there are so many! Err, Family Jewels, they do great stuff. Then there’s that Poop Poop Fart guy, he’s fantastic as well. Err, there’s that Endigo guy, can’t remember his name. Think he’s Scandinavian. He’s in a metal band but did a fantastic version of the Phantom’s song. So yeah, there are so many out there. They do my stuff way better than I do, I’ll tell you that!

Eh, don’t be too harsh on yourself! Your original music is fantastic, and their covers and remixes are fantastic too!

Glad you like it.

Moving on now, what games have been the most fun to compose music for so far?

That’s really hard to answer. Like, I’ve liked working on all the games I’ve worked on, I really do. But I guess the first Banjo is special in my heart. Also doing Mario + Rabbids was amazing and I guess Viva Pianata too, that was a great one to do as well. But I’ll say those three probably right now, it may change but I really enjoyed all the music I’ve worked on. I’ve been so lucky to work on the projects I’ve gotten to work on. It’s been a real lucky ride.

Are there any other games you feel more people should listen to the soundtracks to?

Well, I did a game called Dropzone last year, which is a very synthy game, and I hadn’t done one of those for a while. It’s on my website, and I’d like people to listen to that. I like to write for that sort of thing, it makes a change from doing all the orchestra stuff.

So that was mostly synth with a bit of orchestra mixed inside, it was more Perfect Dark really. So, I guess I’d like more people to listen to that. I really enjoyed doing that one.

Do you have any favourite composers outside of your own music? Whether they’re in the video game industry or another form of media?

I guess video game wise that’s a tough one, but movie wise it’s John Williams. He’s a great one. Like, I’ve listened to his three Harry Potter soundtracks over and over. They’re my textbook that I learn from, he’s such an amazing composer.

And I guess Danny Elfman too. So yeah, I guess those guys.

Either way, that now concludes our interview. We hope you liked it, we certainly tried to discuss every game Grant Kirkhope was involved in over the last few decades or so, and managed to find out quite a bit about the development for games like Mario + Rabbids in the process. Who’d have thought the Phantom originally had a genre switching song? That Donkey Kong 64 was meant to be darker than Banjo-Kazooie? Or that Davide Soliani wanted to have an opera song in a game for many years?

Not us, that’s for sure!

But still, what do you think? Tell us your thoughts about the interview and everything revealed in it via the comments below, social media or the Gaming Latest forums…

And remember to check out Grant Kirkhope’s website and social media profiles too. They’ve got tons more samples of his work, including songs from games most of the internet hasn’t even heard of!
Thank you, and good night!

Let’s Interview; Dragon’s Lair, Doom and Bleem Developer Randy Linden

Well, it’s interview time again here at Gaming Reinvented! Yep, after a few weeks of not posting anything, we’re back talking to all kinds of industry figures about their experience developing video games. We’ve got developers, composers, YouTubers… heck, we’d go as far as to say 2018 could be the best one yet for Gaming Reinvented’s interviews.

And no better example illustrates this than today’s interview. Namely, one with a very interesting video game developer called Randy Linden.

So, who is he? Well, have you ever played that port of Doom for the SNES?

Messed around the Bleem emulator on PC (before Sony sued the company behind it)?

Or perhaps even tried out Dragon’s Lair back on the Amiga?

If so, that’s Linden’s work. He’s been involved in tons of games over the years, on every console from the NES to the Amazon App store, and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

So, relax, pull up a chair and settle down for part 1 of our in-depth interview with Randy Linden about his experience working in the gaming industry! It’s going to be great!

Starting with a bit of personal background stuff. Who are you? Can you tell us a bit more about yourself?

I’ve been a programmer for 35 years now: my first published title was an almost-unknown game called “Bubbles” for the Commodore 64 similar to the arcade classic “Centipede,” but other titles I’ve worked on are probably more familiar: Dragon’s Lair for Amiga (the first time full-screen full-colour animation was streamed from floppy discs on a home computer) and DOOM for the Super Nintendo.

Above: Dragon’s Lair on the Amiga was one of Linden’s first games

I’ve also done non-gaming software as well: A database program called “Paperback Filer” (later renamed to “Pocket Filer”) for Commodore 64 and 128s, a Commodore 64 emulator for the Amiga called “The 64 Emulator”, a PlayStation emulator called “bleem!” for the PC and “bleemcast!” for the Sega Dreamcast.

My latest project is “Cyboid”, a full 3D FPS that’s like “Quake” and runs on Amazon Fire devices (TV Stick, TVs and Tablets) and Android devices (Tablets, Phones, TVs and SetTop Boxes.) Cyboid has single player, split-screen two-player and multiplayer online for up to eight. The game runs well, even on low-end hardware like the Fire TV Stick.

Cyboid Screenshot

What about your gaming history? How did you first get interested in video games?

Our school received a Commodore PET, one of the first available computers worldwide and we were allowed to book time on the machine to learn how to program, although most of us used it to play games!

The system used cassette tapes for storage and there were two or three games that changed my life: Space Invaders, Adventure (the classic text game) and Lords of Karma, but it was an adventure-style game where you could save your progress by entering the machine-language monitor and typing in a command which saved out the block of memory with the game variables to tape — when you wanted to continue playing, you loaded the game, switched tapes and then loaded your saved state and then ran the game.

Were there any you remember fondly from that time?

Sure! Here are a few of my all-time favourites:

  • Space Invaders (Commodore PET) was a virtual clone of the classic game, but all done in 6502 assembly instead of BASIC
  • Parsec (TI99/4A) because it improved on the classic “Space Invaders” with unique alien graphics every few levels
  • Xevious (Arcade) was a vertical scroller that had pseudo-3D graphics and had hidden objects you discovered by bombing the ground below
  • Venture (Arcade) had a bunch of “rooms” with unique monsters which required different strategies to defeat
  • Dragon’s Lair (Arcade) used a laser disc to show a video instead of using graphics — the controls and timing was all pre-programmed, but the animation was awesome
  • Lode Runner (Commodore 64) had unique gameplay and tons of levels
  • Forbidden Forest (Commodore 64) had great graphics and one of the best sound tracks on the C64
  • Frantic Freddie (Commodore 64) also had an awesome sound track
  • Sword of Sodan (Amiga) because of the massive animated characters (as tall as the full screen), a programming achievement at the time
  • Metal Gear Solid (PlayStation) had awesome gameplay, great graphics and sound, tons of challenges and unique gameplay throughout
  • Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64) for the real 3D graphics and immense levels
  • DOOM (PC) a “hall of fame classic” that introduced network gameplay to the world
  • Quake (PC) another true classic that brought 3D to PC all done in software

And how did you get started in video game development anyway? Did you want to make games from a young age?/

I was always fascinated by arcade games — the graphics, sounds and gameplay — much more than winning, and that drove me to play more and more so I could see what the next was like!

The first game I wrote was called “Barriers” on the Commodore PET — it was really simple: a vertical wall starts at the left side of the screen and moves to the right where there’s a space ship you control. You can move all around the screen and shoot a laser to blast a hole in the wall as it’s moving closer. If you make a big enough hole for the wall to pass by without touching your ship, the next wall was a little bit faster.

Over time, my programming focus changed to projects which presented unique technical challenges, often in the category of “that can’t be done” for various reasons (hardware, software, CPU speed, memory, etc.)

Onto your game development history now. What was the first game you ever created? Did you work on anything interesting before Datastorm for the Amiga?

When the Commodore 64 was released there was a bundle that included the monitor, computer and a desk to put everyone on. My mom bought me that one year for my birthday and I wrote my first “professional” game called “Bubbles”, a clone of the arcade classic “Centipede.” — I say “professional” because it was actually published by a company and I was paid for it!

There was a start-up company in Toronto called “Syntax Software” that had just released a game called “Cyclons” which was available at the local computer store. I looked up the company and the owner’s name was “Randy”, so I knew fate was calling! So I called the owner and arranged a meeting. I worked at Syntax part-time for a few months doing various programming jobs and eventually demo’d “Bubbles” … and the rest is history!

How did you get involved with Visionary Design Technologies anyway?

VDT was a start-up that I founded and ran from my mom’s basement — VDT’s first title was “Dragons’s Lair” for the Amiga.

I had always been fascinated by “Dragon’s Lair” and one day I started calling companies which sold arcade games to track down the laser disc from the game.

I rented a laser disc player and used the “Sunrize Industries” digitizer to scan some of the images — the digitizer used coloured filters and required three passes for each frame of animation.

Eventually I contacted the company which made the digitizer and told them about the project …
They sent a prototype of their next-gen digitizer which could scan images much faster and didn’t require any filters. Many years later, another company was started by the same owner of “New Horizons” — that company is “Roku” — cool, eh?

What about Sullivan Bluth Interactive Media? Seems like quite a jump going from Datastorm to Dragon’s Lair here…

Actually, Dragon’s Lair was done about a year before DataStorm — and Sullivan Bluth Interactive Media was founded after they saw a demo of Dragon’s Lair.

Dragon’s Lair was one of those “impossible” games that I knew was possible on the Amiga because of its unique hardware capabilities — the game required took a huge amount of work, but it achieved a milestone for gaming and home computers in general.

Here’s something interesting: The game requires six disks to fit all of the graphics and sound data, but the entire program is only 8K bytes — yes, eight kilobytes total!

Continue Reading…

Let’s Interview: Kirby’s Epic Yarn Composer Tomoya Tomita!

Here on Gaming Reinvented, we’ve interviewed all kinds of creators in past interviews. We’ve talked to game developers working on fan games and indie titles, such as Mushroom Kingdom Fusion, Super Mario 64 Last Impact and Soul Reaper. We’ve interviewed YouTube personalities like Guru Larry Jr, SidAlpha and The Lonely Goomba.

And then we’ve even talked to a fair few artists here as well. Like SmithyGCN or Teslagrad’s art director Ole Ivar Rudi.

But today we’re talking to someone with a bit of a different role. Someone who you may have heard about from playing Wario Land Shake It, Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Yoshi’s Woolly World.

Yep, this time we’re talking to ex Konami and GoodFeel composer Tomoya Tomita! It’s quite the interesting interview too, covering everything from Konami’s work practices to the development process for Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Wario Land Shake It.

Tomoya Tomita

So, if you’re interested, here it is. Here is our exclusive interview with Wario Land Shake It composer Tomoya Tomita!

First things first, a quick personal question. Can you tell us a bit more about yourself? Who are you?

I was involved in video game sound production for a long time. My oldest work is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III for the NES, whereas my newest works are Yoshi’s Woolly World on Wii U and Poochy and Yoshi’s Woolly World on 3DS.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: The Manhatten Project NES Box

My roles have included creating not just music, but also sound effects, voice recordings and managing the projects with sound programs all in one.

Before then, I played in a band as a student. I usually played drums, but sometimes I played the guitar as well.

After that, I had a hobby of making music with a synthesizer by myself. I was entirely self-taught here.

And how did you get started with video games? What was your first console?

I wanted to make music my work, and luckily found a job at Konami. I was first in charge of Game Boy games, then moved to MSX and then found myself working on Nintendo systems.

Are there any particular games you’ve really liked over the years?

I like so many games. If I had to choose, Half-Life, Skyrim and Gears of Wars were favourites. Horizon Zero Dawn was excellent too.

What games did you think had amazing soundtracks?

It’s an old story, but Solstice on NES was shocking.

How did you get interested in composing music for games?

I started out by free playing guitar. I think that was the first time.

Did you ever want to use your music skills for other media? Like say, film soundtracks, TV soundtracks or just as a musician selling CDs?

Of course, I’m interested in all of them. Someone please introduce me! 🙂

Actually though, I’m currently making music alongside Tara Dion, a musician based in the UK.

Onto the games industry side now. How do you first get started composing music for video games?

First, I will try to understand the project

Then I’ll check the artwork of the character and the background.

I imagine what kind of sound is ringing there

And I will make a prototype of music and sound effect

Then discuss the direction of the sound with the director

It seems you originally started at Konami back in 1988. How did that come about? How did you get a job as a composer at the company?

At the time, Konami published recruitment articles in music magazines. I came across one when looking for work, and got a job through one of those articles. I may have been lucky there.

What was it like working there? What was it like working on games in the Castlevania and Goemon series?

Nooo! It was very tough working there. The working environment was the worst.

We stayed at work almost all day, with Goemon’s production being especially tough every time. The days went on so long I could hardly go home.

I don’t want to recall it. 🙂

Either way, you eventually moved over to GoodFeel to compose music for their games. What inspired that move?

During the last few years at Konami, I wasn’t working in sound production any more. So, I decided to leave Konami, and join the company founded by the Goemon team.

Was it very different working at GoodFeel compared to Konami?

Yes, because the sound staff was me alone. I managed to control everything myself

This meant I was able to work very freely, with any long meetings, and was able to use all the time for sound production.

Once you were there, it seems like your first project was composing music for Wario Land Shake It. So, what inspired the soundtrack for that game? Was there a certain feel you were going for?

I was nervous, because I hadn’t composed music for a long time. But once it began, it was a fun job. The music tools had evolved, and I enjoyed using them.

It was also the first game you worked alongside Minako Hamano on. How did you two decide what songs each of you would be composing?

I didn’t work with her. Nintendo sent three songs over, with a note on one saying “This is Wario’s song”. I think that was the song she made.

Ed’s Note: We confirmed that the songs Nintendo sent over were Stonecarving City:

Glittertown:

As well as the theme for Wario’s garage played in the intro.

Continue Reading…

Let’s Interview: Mega Cat Studios!

In recent years, video game collecting has become big business. Spurred on by an increase in YouTube channels dedicated to the hobby and retro gaming as a whole, we’ve seen hundreds of thousands more gamers buying games and systems from the olden days, with the legions of new stores and sellers popping up to fill the growing market.

This has caused… various effects on the market. Like say, a huge increase in the prices for rare yet popular games like Earthbound. Or a somewhat worrying trend towards repro carts and bootlegs being sold by morally questionable stores and eBay sellers.

But it’s also caused another affect too. Namely, an increase in new games for classic systems!

Yep, thanks to the collectors’ scene, we’re now seeing new games released on the NES, SNES and Mega Drive (among others) long after the systems were originally discontinued. These include everything from games revived from cancellation (like Nightmare Busters) to all new originals by upcoming companies like Coffee Crisis.

So today on Gaming Reinvented, we’re gonna talk to one of those companies. Namely, Mega Cat Studios, a company known for creating new titles for the NES and Sega Mega Drive among various others.

Here’s our interview with the company!

Starting with a quick personal question. Who are you guys? Who are the folks behind Mega Cat Studios?

We’re a team of people with life-long pixel romance.  Some of us have been working together on contract work for over a decade, and others are enthusiastic travelers we met along the way that have a shared vision for making the games we want to play.

And how did you get started with video games in general? Was the NES a large part of your childhood?

Most of us grew up with a steady diet of pixels, whether it was the Commodore, Genesis or NES.  We’re lucky to have an opportunity to do something we love.  I’m sure there’s a ten-year-old version of us cheering that we’ve had the opportunities we have.

Are there any classics you remember from your youth?

  • NES: Castlevania, Shatterhand, SMB 3
  • Genesis: Sonic & Knuckles, Shadowrun, Comix Zone
  • SNES: Mega Man X, Parodius Da, Zombies Ate My Neighbors
  • C64: Impossible Mission, Last Ninja Series, Turrican Series

 

How about… less well received ones? What games do you remember being terrible?

This was the most interesting to talk about.  I think all of us had a different experience with a Clearance Rack video game.  Anticipation for the NES is one of my most vivid let downs.  I’m sure many of us had a similar diet of 1-2 games per year across all holidays, and having one of them be Anticipation was the gift equivalent of a gut-punch.

What about current gen games? Do you still play them?

Indie gaming is absolutely where I spend most of my current gen game time.  I think it’s common for lots of retro game fans.  When Breath of the Wild came out, we had at least two weeks of broken sleep schedules and missed weekly sprints.  I know Andy is heavily invested into buying any wrestling game that has customization options, and then heavily investing himself into making a ton of luchadores. “There are some great pro wrestlers out in Mexico, someone has to do the right thing and get them out there. No one else was going through the effort to make a painstakingly accurate La Parka. I’m just happy that I can help”.

Either way, onto the company now. What caused you to start Mega Cat Studios?

Contract work is the backbone for what we do right now, like many Indie studios.  We’re all grateful for it.  Now that we’re bringing some of our own concepts to life, it rounds out the rest.  Any creative maker wants to have more autonomy over the projects they’re investing themselves into.

7./8. What about the name? Why a giant cat? And what about the logo? It’s kind of amusing to see the cat with a controller where its eyes should be/cartridge hanging from the collar…

Aside from having the actual Mega Cat at our office, there’s just lots to love about cats.  Aside from being incredible companions, their expressive facial expressions and unpredictability is definitely endearing.

Mega Cat Studios Logo

However, the thing that’s most different here is the choice of platform, since you seem to be designing games for retro consoles like the NES and Mega Drive. Why? Why those rather than PC?

PC games are actually our focus, they’re just much larger projects that take more resources and effort to achieve the quality standard we want, but the retro games are always going to be part of our identity.

And why the NES and Mega Drive in particular? Do you have any plans to make SNES games? How about games for early 3D systems?

We have some SNES & Dreamcast projects in que, but there’s no timeline in mind at this point.  Pixel art and good games are timeless.

Either way, let’s start with Log Jammers. Why a zombie themed sports game?

Zombies are just one facet to this arcade thriller’s roster of colorful characters. We’ve also got a rad surfer, a champion lumberjack, and a hometown sports hero.  Fantasy arcade sports games are made with couch co-op in mind.

Was this the one that inspired your site’s ‘zombie’ gimmick on the staff page?

Actually, that gag comes from Zack’s eternal hunger and his foreknowledge that he will one day have to eat our brains.

Continue Reading…

Let’s Interview; SuperVektoroids Developer PixelStrike Games!

As you’ve probably noticed, we’ve been interviewing a fair few people here on Gaming Reinvented recently. We’ve interviewed Power Level Studios about Soul Reaper on the 10th of August. We’ve talked to ARTAKE Games about their Zelda Twilight Princess reimagining on the 17th.

And well, with Ole Ivar Rudi of Rain Games discussing Teslagrad just a day ago, that makes it three interviews in August already! That’s got to be a new site record!

But we’re not done yet. Oh no, now we’ve got another team doing an interview here! Yep, today we’re talking to PixelStrike Games, a studio known for working on an interesting virtual reality games for devices like the Oculus Rift and Gear VR! They’ve been working on an Asteroids type game called SuperVektoroids, which can be seen in the trailer below:

So, if you’re interested in finding out more about them and their work… keep reading!

Well, you know the drill now. Who are you? What’s the background for the people working at PixelStrike Games?

PixelStrike Games is Damien Labonte (me), the game designer and art/audio guy, and Sina Masoud-Ansari, also the game designer and coder. We are from Vancouver BC, Canada and Auckland, New Zealand (in that order). It’s just the two of us so we have many hats to wear.

And for that matter, how did you get started with video games?

Neither of us have done anything really like true video games. I have some experience with a virtual world for children app, and Sina is a research programmer at the University of Auckland. This is our first serious foray into a true video game.

Any favourites you have from your childhood?

Damien: I remember watching my brothers play Space Duel. Compared to Asteroids, the colours were mesmerizing. I guess I’m a big fan of Color, because when I first saw the NES my brothers brought home, the first NES game I saw was Castlevania, and I remember saying, “Look at the colours!”

Sina: I was about 4 years old when my dad got an IBM 386, so I’ve been a PC gamer my whole life and grew up on Doom, XCOM, Civilization and Ultima games. XCOM is probably my favourite and every few years I get nostalgic about it and start up a new campaign.

Onto game dev next. What inspired you to start up a video game development company?

Damien: I was a big 3D gaming aficionado, as buggy as it was to get working. When the Rift Kickstarter happened, I knew that I wanted to make a VR game. It was destiny! We met on Reddit when I asked if anyone wanted to team up and make a VR game. And Sina answered the call. And we have been working on this game ever since.

Sina: For me it was definitely the magic of VR. I was at an NVIDIA conference some years ago when they had demos of the Oculus Rift. This was before the DK2 was available for purchase and I remember feeling like I was in a dream. I raved about it to everyone and started spending time on the Oculus subreddit where I met Damien.

How about the name? Where did Pixel Strike Games come from?

Sina and I futzed around with names for a while. Our original name was going to be Z-Bucket. As in, pass me “ze’ bucket” because of VR motion sickness. Well that was clearly not a great name. Then I saw a video on YouTube showing how Lichtenberg Sculptures are made in glass with electricity, and PixelStrike Games was born.

Did you have any previous game development experience before starting up the company?

Damien: Yes, I was the creative director of a company called Cackleberries, an online game world for young children, basically simple apps for education. I work in Animation now, as a background supervisor.

Sina: None! I remember watching the Indie Game movie and coming away from that with a desire to make something. But never followed through with the idea until I started getting into VR.

Super Vektoroids is an arcade shooter played in VR. So why did you choose that genre? Did you have a lot of memories of the original Asteroids game?

Damien: Space Duel more so, which is really just a clone of the original asteroids with different art. It had an impact on me when I first saw it. I certainly loved visiting the arcade, I suppose one had to use their imagination more back then, maybe that’s what made the games special.

Sina: I did for sure, I have fuzzy memories but I remember playing a lot of Asteroids (or some imitation of it) on PC as a kid. Making Super Vektoroids is kind of my way of showing appreciation for those simple games.

What about the VR aspect? It’s not often developers seemingly start their careers with a VR focused game…

VR just adds a lot to the experience, it’s like 3D on steroids. Seemed like a no-brainer to us.

And how did the name come about for this game? Vektor is pretty obvious, but Vektoroids? What’s the story behind that?

Well it’s a vector art styled game. Where you shoot asteroids. And enemies. And your super of course! Plus, VektorRoids 🙂 I know, we are super clever.

It seems the game was an entry in a ‘VR Killer Apps’ contest, and did pretty well too (ranking as a finalist overall). Did you expect that?

We don’t like to have expectations. If you don’t have expectations, you won’t be disappointed, only pleasantly surprised. So, it was a nice surprise 🙂

The trailer showcases some of the different ships, including one with dual lasers, a few that seem to go at super speed and an extremely small ship among others. Can you give a bit more detail about their specific differences and abilities?

Each ship has a slightly different control feel, plus a different weapon. We wanted the players to try and feel out which ship they liked best. The ships differ in turning rate, speed, weapon reload speed, and how fast they come to a stop. The VFO is very instant stop and start, and can maneuver very well, (if a bit unwieldy) where the Looney Lander is very low drag, so it keeps on floating, which is great for backwards shooting. We are going to be adding another layer of difference in the amount of shields each ship has, so each will have more obvious pros and cons. The ships aren’t balanced yet, thus early access so we can tune the game more to its core audience.

How about some of the enemies? The trailer shows a few, but can you describe a few more of the enemies, their designs and AI patterns in a bit more detail?

There are quite a few enemies, starting with small and quite dumb seeking enemies, enemies that can avoid your shots, spirally and zigzagging enemies, some that split into smaller enemies, some that shoot lasers, bullets, heat seeking missiles, enemies that dart at you when you get too close, to the more difficult shielded enemies that take a lot of shots to break their defenses. If early access does well, we would like to add in mini-bosses as well as a final boss. Fingers crossed on that!

Vektoroids Enemies

Is there a story or ending to this game, or is it entirely points based? Because I know it has a points structure and its very arcade like, but it also seems to have worlds and other more complex additions not found in games like Asteroids…

Again, if early access does well, we would like to add a simple narrative (we have it all planned) that would take the player through a storyline and various areas to defeat bosses and new enemies per zone. I’m really hoping we can get that chance. But for now, it’s a score chaser, but a fun one at that. There are lots of enemies to keep you challenged.

There’s also a few references to a ‘Vektorverse’ on your site. Is this something you plan to build on going forward, like a fleshed-out universe where games based on this one is set? Or is it just a quick joke?

We want the Vektorverse to be its own world, within a world. It’s no joke that you are the Only One who can Save the Vektorverse from the Glytch Armada.

Saving The Vektorverse

Graphically, it’s a very unique title, with a bright and trippy looking vector art style. Obviously, that’s partly inspired by the original Asteroids game, but what other influences were there here?

I had a Vextrex and it was a magical device to me. It was extremely unique at the time, and vector style still carries a lot of appeal I think. You don’t see that many games using it. All the old vector games are definitely an inspiration for Super Vektoroids. It was quite a challenging process to figure out how to create the look, but we feel its successful.

And how about for the music and sound effects? They certainly fit the game well, but was the thought process behind them? What games or media were influences here?

The music in the trailer is a temp track that Sina found at the last minute. It was a perfect fit, but the music in the game will be a blend of more contemporary techno with chiptune elements scattered about. Currently I’m creating the music for the game (plus there are tracks from DarkArps as well), using Spectrasonics Omnisphere, Plogue Chipsounds and Chipspeech, and a Maschine Studio. It’s nice to actually put this equipment to use! The sounds in the game are mostly generated using BXFR, a free sound maker that is quite authentic to the old sounds from the arcades. We really wanted the whole package to feel right, updated to now, but paying homage to the Golden Age of Arcades. Nostalgia is important to us.

A few questions about the release process now. Despite being on multiple VR platforms, it’s seemingly not planned for PS VR at the moment. Could that change in future?

We definitely want this title on PSVR. But we need to get funding from early access to carry on. So, we are starting on GearVR, for which the game was designed. We would like to get Super Vektoroids on as many systems as possible. Ataribox has certainly piqued our interest.

What about a non-VR version for other consoles? Seems like some people might want to play it there for the gameplay mechanics, even if the VR aspect isn’t available…

Yes, that is planned. You will just miss out on all the 3D particles and explosions. It’s really a treat for the senses in VR. But it would also be great in 2D, though I can imagine how much fun you would have using touchscreen to play. It’s very much a gamepad game, though we would support on-screen touch controls.

Okay, marketing wise you seem to have all the social media boxes checked. But which sites seem to be bringing you the most interest in your game?

I suppose we’ll find out when we drop our Early Access trailer. We have a subreddit on Reddit (r/supervektoroids), but it’s pretty quiet there at the moment. It’s hard to manage all this with just two people who have day jobs. I do all the social stuff, and find Twitter to be the most enjoyable.

And have you approached the mainstream media or influencers about the game? How has that gone for you?

Not really yet. Once we are in Early Access, I’ll be knocking on a lot of doors. We are hoping word of mouth really helps too. Marketing is probably our Achilles heel.

Either way, assuming the game does well, do you plan to create any sequels for the title? What would they be like?

Oh, most definitely, if Sina’s wrists can take it. He has to be coding like a madman, and it takes its toll. I don’t want to give too much away, but think Multiverse., and a whole lot of friends on the other-side. The war doesn’t end here.

Do you have any ideas for other games you want to create after Super Vektoroids is released?

Yes, we want to make a title that works with the touch/wands. And is multiplayer. Super Vektoroids is a single player experience, but more players equals more fun.

Finally, what advice would you give someone wanting to get into game development? Any words of wisdom here?

Damien: Make a game from your heart. Don’t make a game you think will be popular because it’s the current trend in games. You will just end up among countless others who also thought the same thing, plus, the current hot theme will change by the time you are done anyhow. Look into your own self and find the joy you have for games, and base a game off that. Don’t make games for money, make them for the joy inside you that you have toward gaming. You will probably be far more inspired that way, and less likely to give up halfway through. Because there are lots of moments of doubt, frustration, worry. There are a lot of hurdles in game design to jump over. But you can do it. Be original, because you ARE original.

Sina: Adding to that, from a development point of view, if you’re just starting out try to make very small projects that you don’t expect to release because you learn so much about how to architect a game from the first attempt that will make your next project more efficient to work on. The most surprising thing for me is the amount of time I spend on ‘non-game’ code such as menus and supporting different VR platforms and controllers. I’m reeeaally looking forward to writing some gameplay code and fun mechanics!

And that concludes our interview. But wait, what was that?

Yep, it’s a new recommendation for once! Unlike every other developer we’ve interviewed on this site, the folks at PixelStrike games AREN’T merely recommending you start small and work your way up.

Instead, they’re recommending something else a lot of prospective game devs need to listen to. Namely, make the game you want to make, not the game you think will make a quick buck.

It’s good advice really. Remember, people have seen the endless attempts at copying popular games. They’ve seen all the Minecraft clones and open world survival horror games and asset flips littering the Steam storefront. They’ve seen the Mario copies plastered all over the Google Play Store.

But they don’t buy them. They know they’re soulless garbage put forward by a lazy and uninspired developer looking for a bit of quick beer money. People can tell when a project has passion put into it, and these ones don’t.

So, heed Pixel Strike Games’ advice there. Make the title you want to make, not the one you feel pressured to create for sales. That way, you’ll make a truly inspired game rather than a lazy knockoff that’ll likely do nowhere near as well as you think it’ll do.

Either way, check out PixelStrike games on their various social media accounts, and give your thoughts on our interview here or at the Gaming Latest forums today!