I had the amazing opportunity to ask indie developer Locomalito (creator of the excellent Maldita Castilla EX: Cursed Castilla) ten random questions about his upcoming game Super Hydorah as well as his game design philosophies. Super Hydorah is a side scrolling space shooter that takes heavy inspiration from classic titles such as R-Type, and if Locomalito’s track record holds true, it is shaping up to be every bit as good as the classics. Please enjoy!
GS (GoombaStomp) – All of your games are developed using classic game ideas and theories. What got you into developing games like this as opposed to games with a more modern feel?
LM (Locomalito) – As a kid I spent hours in arcade rooms. I didn’t have coins usually, so I would just stand watching how other people play, and meanwhile looking at every detail of the game design. I learned to love those quick and challenging games, and somehow, that’s the kind of game I most understand now, and the kind of game I feel comfortable making, despite the old look of them. But also, I think those games are good for the present as an alternative, as they’re not big time wasters. People with many hobbies or personal projects that have little time find the arcade kind of game interesting now, as they don’t require long hours to spend, and also because they’re full action from the start to the end.
GS – What made you want to revisit and improve Hydorah rather than one of your other titles?
LM – Hydorah is my childhood dream game. I’ve spent my entire life thinking of what elements I like from shmups, and how I can make the best possible shmup with all of those ingredients. The original Hydorah (2010) was my best attempt, I did it with all of my might back then after 3 years of intense development. But time has passed, and I learned a bunch of new things that are definitively making it a much better game. It doesn’t only feature 5 new levels and an extra mode now, but also some extra layers of polish in the controls, weapons, level design, sprites and sound. Now for the first time I feel like I’m making the game I wanted to make, and not just the game I was able to make.
GS – Hydorah was arguably your biggest project. Has the development of Super Hydorah proved to be more challenging than Maldita Castilla EX?
LM – Sure. The amount of assets and program objects is bigger in Hydorah than in Maldita Castilla, but also the option for two players to play cooperatively [resulted in] a ton of work to do, as the game has been rewritten internally to support the behavior of everything and the reaction of enemies [now] that there can be two ships around. Not only that, but we also implemented some new rules to the standard in cooperative shmups. We made it so a dead player is not automatically re-spawned, but needs the standing player to get a “revive” item or reach a checkpoint, making things more intense, as the standing player has the responsibility to re-spawn his companion or reach the checkpoint alive.
GS – In terms of Super Hydorah’s setting, why was space chosen as opposed to places on Earth?
LM – I love the fantasy space landscape. It’s a setting where everything is possible, from aliens to old myths, exotic places, cyberpunk, ancient ruins or black magic. To put your mind far from what you know, it’s nice to have a setting in a distant unknown star. There I can easily create an asteroid belt of rubies, a water cylinder or a stormy vortex that emanates space jellies. Everything is OK! (*smiles*)
GS – What are the most crucial elements in a good horizontal space shooter?
LM – In my opinion, the most important thing is a balance between the feelings of constant danger and exploring the unknown. Also, a crucial element is fair play; the game has to be as hard as possible without being tricky. There must be time to react and a way to survive even in the worst of situations, and, when the player dies, he must have the feeling that he can beat that segment in the next try.
GS – What are the big changes coming in the updated Super Hydorah and how did you decide on implementing them?
LM – [There are so many changes] that it sounds ridiculous when we list them! (*smiles*)
Basically, there are 5 new levels (one of them divided into 3 sub-levels), 2 new weapons, a cooperative 2 players option and a special extra game also for 2 players. Controls are more precise now, with a combination of analog movements with something we call micro-inertia (hard to explain, but ship feels [effortless] in the players hand), and also we have things like a smooth camera movement following players. We also have better graphics with a better use of the color palette and extra details, and better sounds and music (every track has been mixed again). Of course, then there is a proper controller configuration and display options, with things like the detailed CRT effect we already used in Maldita Castilla EX.
Ah, and of course: achievements!
GS – How has it been developing for consoles as opposed to only PC?
LM -Every platform is pretty different from each other on the inside. Each one with proprietary things to implement, like achievements, saving options and such things. Consoles like the Nintendo 3Ds are especially hard, as they have unique features like dual screen or 3D, and we try to implement those features in a cool way. On the other hand, it’s much easier to implement and test controllers in consoles, as they have a standard.
Anyway, developing for big commercial platforms is always slower and harder, as the quality standards and the amount of requirements are much higher.
GS – Challenge was a huge part of Maldita Castilla EX’s gameplay. It relies on the player actually getting better rather than pushing them through for the sake of progression. How difficult is it to develop a game that is challenging, yet fair?
LM -I think that’s the harder part of developing the kind of arcade-like games that I do. I play a lot of my own games to check if they’re fun, fair and have a good rhythm. I take thousand of notes during my own plays to be sure everything is as perfect as possible. Often I use chronometers to evaluate the amount of pressure put onto the player, and to evaluate when I need to put a “breathe” area into a level, or how much time I need to give to the player between a signal of danger and an inevitable death. I think that balance is the single most important thing in the core design of an arcade game. That balance between danger, fun and fair play.
That’s what makes a players heart rate go up in an enjoyable way.
GS – Who is your favorite game developer?
LM – I admire people like Satroshi “Pac” Fujisima, Manfred Trenz or Pixel Amaya, because they made great games all alone, and they managed to put a lot of their own into those games.
GS – What is your absolute favorite video game?
LM – That’s pretty hard to decide, as I like video games of many kinds and it varies depending on the mood… but let’s mention a few ones.
I love Chelnov, because it is an awesome combination between platformer and shmup. Also Outrun 2, because it is a perfect evolution of a classic game. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night because… well, it’s just a masterpiece. R-Type because of personal reasons… it was the first super-hard game I beat, and it taught me a lot about patience and perseverance as a kid. Ghost n’ Goblins, because it always reminds me that I’m a loser, haha (In a funny way, I mean).
Another huge ‘Thank-You’ to Locomalito from the Goombastomp team for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do this interview! You can find out more about him on www.locomalito.com or on twitter @Locomalito. Make sure to check out my review of Maldita Castilla EX: Cursed Castilla, available on PS4, Xbox One, and Steam!