Breakthrough Gaming Interview: Switch ‘N’ Shoot

Galaga, Space Invaders and Defender are all games that define the shoot ’em up genre. Matt Glanville however tweaks the classic arcade formula and strips back the gameplay so that one button controls everything. Switch ‘N’ Shoot maybe simple enough to control but having one button control both shooting and moving at the same time makes it hard to master.  Breakthrough Gaming talks to Matt about this unique indie title that recently came out on the Switch.  

Say you’re at a gaming festival and they have no clue what they’re getting into how would you entice them to play?

A lot of the time the big red button does the enticing for me which is the reason why I wanted it. I normally describe it as a retro shoot ’em up with just one button. That’s kind of like often enough for people to be like ‘Ok What? How does that work’? Then they have a go and its really hard. That’s basically my elevator pitch, it tends to do the job.

I love the music in Switch ‘N’ Shoot which retro games inspired it?

The chiptune music is very similar to the Megaman games. It just has this amazing energy you need in that frantic situation. It’s not so repetitive that you get bored of of it hearing it over and over. I’ve played it for over 100 hours at this point because I’ve been making it and I’m still not sick of it (laughs).

The better you get at it the more music you listen too as well. 

Yeah that’s the cool thing about it. I cut off the music when you die so there’s an incentive to hear more of the song

That was definitely my incentive along with the high score of course. So Switch ‘N’ Shoot is on a lot of platforms now what is your ideal way of playing it??

I guess I have two if we’re talking about the awesome kind of experience of playing the game, I really like the arcade cabinets. In the USA we have full size, coin-op arcade cabinets with one big red button in the middle.

Everything is bigger in America including the Switch ‘N’ Shoot arcade cabinet.

I remember you brought one to Norwich.

Yes, that was actually a smaller version like a desktop version. For the authentic arcade experience, it’s got to be that. Not that I’ve been able to play on one of the full size ones because they’re all in America but that feeling of having one big red button is really cool. If I’m going for my high score I go for a mouse because they’re so small the time to press is really, really tiny. With the arcade button there’s more of a press in with a mouse it’s just a quick click. I find I get a better response time. That’s how I got my high score anyway. Actually I tell a lie I got a new high score on the Switch.

Has anyone beaten your record because it’s an insane record? 

Yeah by a long shot I’m no where near the top there’s people who have been getting 2 or 3 thousand on Switch and on the Steam leader boards there’s a guy sitting on the top with 7000 I think he has. He got to like sector 9 and I think sector 10 on the Switch which I can’t get near. It’s bonkers.

Have you got any advice to be that good?

A lot of people are inclined early on to spam the buttons, well the button (laughs) but that doesn’t really work because ‘A’ you kind of forget which direction you’re moving and ‘B’ you don’t hit many aliens that way so while you survive you don’t really get a very good score because you’re not hitting anything. So precision is generally a good tactic. I also find that maybe spamming two or three shots at a time like in little bursts tends to be the best middle ground so you get the precision while you’re aiming freely while firing a few shots at a time so you can account for some misses which could hit something behind it. That’s my preferred technique.

What appealed to you to create such a simple game that harkens back to the style of games in the 80’s? 

The look and feel for it was something that came out of the design so the gameplay mechanic came first. A lot of people ask me where it came from and I don’t really have an answer it just sort of popped into my head one day. This simple idea of boiling down a shooter to one button where you’re moving constantly and you press the button and you start moving the other way. That complete idea was just fully formed in my head one day for some reason so I tried it out and thought; ‘Ok cool this timing works’. Having these aliens come from the top at the time it was just white squares I didn’t have any graphics or anything. I was just prototyping it. I then had to decide what are these things? What’s these things moving left and right on the bottom? What’s these things coming down from the top? This all looked a lot like a retro shoot em up. Let’s just make it look like one of those. Go all out and double down on the low-fi simple block colour style and from there everything wrote itself really having the arcade cabinet artwork along the sides was a nice way of tying all that together and getting some nice high fidelity art flanking the low fidelity art in the middle. So I spoke to an old friend of mine from college, Paul Duffield he’s a professional illustrator and he did the arcade cabinet artwork and did an awesome job. It all just came naturally from that decision to create a retro shoot em up which is a natural fit for the gameplay.

How much does it mean to you to have Switch ‘N’ Shoot on the Nintendo Switch?

It’s really really awesome. I know a lot of people say this but for me it’s absolutely true I grew up playing Nintendo. My first games console was a SNES. I’ve always played Nintendo and I look up to Nintendo’s games and Miyamoto’s games as masterpieces of design. Having my game on a Nintendo console is just so awesome. It’s like beyond words. It still boggles the mind looking at it on the little library screen when I boot up my Switch it’s on there now and I’m like ‘huh’. I finally made it (laughs).

Is it selling well?

It is yeah I don’t know specific numbers but it’s done really well. My goal was to outsell Steam and it did that really really quickly and the Steam version has been out 2 and a half years so that’s been really awesome. 

So you worked on some pretty big titles before you decided to make indie games such as the Oddworld games what made you step down from working on these bigger budgeted games? 

For me it was like a calling in the back of my head which comes and goes over the years but gets really strong sometimes. It’s this urge to work on my own things which is how I started out by originally making games as a hobby like 15/20 years. I made some RPG maker games called Legion Saga way back in the day. I would sit down in a room on my own and make the whole thing. I didn’t do music or anything we used to just rip music from commercial games like Final Fantasy, it was how the community worked back then, it was pretty bad. It was really rewarding for me to do the whole thing myself to let this stream of creativity loose. The process of working with other people is amazing and you can get amazing things done the team I worked with on Oddworld were really awesome. I have no doubt that game will be amazing but it’s like for me personally I stumble a bit on the collaboration process. When I’m working solo I can run with ideas and can try stuff and do stuff without having to filter it through with other people. There’s this element of things getting lost in translation or you have to explain or sell an idea to someone before it gets implemented. I find all that quite frustrating. I’d rather just do it, you know. It’s going ok so far (laughs).

What I’ve noticed while playing Switch ‘N’ Shoot was it’s incredibly tough and unforgiving yet quite addicting at the same time. I always want to go back and boost my high score a little bit each time. Why do you think it has this addicting quality?

I guess their is this personal desire to better yourself which is quite an innate thing for some people. Ironically I don’t really have it that much.  I’m not really driven by high scores unless the game really clicks with me. It has to be a good game first and foremost. With Switch ‘N’ Shoot I tried to make the core gameplay feel good even if you don’t get a high score, it feels good to hit the button to see these big bullets flying out and seeing the aliens explode into blobs of goo. That feels all chunky and nice and tactile so that was a big part of it. Another thing was the rapid reload when you die you restart within a few seconds. That was a super important thing for me to do right, to let people jump straight back in so then you don’t have to think if you do or don’t want another go (laughs). That compulsive low response time is a huge part of it.

My favourite part of the game is collecting the power ups when you keep getting them it’s really satisfying watching your little peashooter become this super sonic death ray. Were there any other weapon ideas for power ups?   

Yeah there were a bunch of things that I thought of but didn’t really get round to implementing them. Some ideas were this little drone that would sit next to you and fire shots at the same time as you. Some other stuff involved modifying the ways that you can shoot for example holding the button to fire a big shot. My friend gave me the idea of a power up that was active until you pressed the button again so instead of firing when you press the button it was constantly firing until you next pressed the button. It was like a mega death ray almost but you’d have to change direction at some point because the aliens are coming down that’s when it turns off so you have to keep it going as long as you could. I did have to draw the line somewhere because this game needed to get shipped so I kept it simple. 

Switch ‘N’ shoot is available to purchase now on Nintendo Switch and Steam.

Breakthrough Gaming Interview: Evolutis

Fernando Cruz is a passionate anime lover and devoted independent games developer and producer.  Having this deep admiration for Cyberpunk themed worlds he and his small team are creating a 2D story driven adventure game with a stylish free flow combat system. Breakthrough Gaming talks to Fernando about the stunning work he and his team are putting into Evolutis. 

Fernando with the creator of the Shenmue series, Yu Suzuki

How would you describe Evolutis to an uninformed player? 

I’d describe Evolutis as a playable anime, that’s how we like to call it. We always dreamt about having a game where you could instead of watching an anime you could be playing it. So our main inspirations were Akira for animations and Ghost in the Shell for backgrounds. The game is divided into chapters but there is a lot of freedom so as you can see in the trailers the character is walking in the city so you can go and enter the arcade. We’re still thinking of having some playable arcades in the arcade area. You can go to other places and buy some food and things like that. The main goal in the game is to have good exploration to get the player engaged into it so they get more connected with the characters and the Cyberpunk world. You’ll be playing as 3 main characters and they’re facing hard times in their life. Our goal is to really make the player attached to these characters. 

We also have diversity in our gameplay so hand to hand combat, exploration in some parts it’ll be up to the player whether your character talks or draws the gun. You won’t be facing the same enemies over and over again. There is a purpose in everything you are doing and it’s up to the players to make up what is going on in the world. It’s like a thriller and suspense type of game. 

This sounds very ambitious having a variety of gameplay styles. Is that a challenge for you in development?

Wow a lot. Especially for the animations in order to make it look like a playable anime because we cannot cut the transitions. If you play normal 2D games you don’t see the transitions, you don’t see the character move his arms to hit and coming back to a neutral stance. In Evolutis it’s different we have all the transitions and it takes a lot of time and effort to make it look good. One of the publishers that tested our demo went ‘wow’ when you press the button it looks so beautiful like an anime. I think we’re making pretty great progress. It’s challenging but developers need to take risks or you’ll just be creating a common game. I’m not sure if you saw that David Cage, the creator of Heavy Rain and Detroit Become Human tweeted about us. I‘ve never met him before however I’m a huge fan of his and wow man, I was speechless. It was pretty awesome to be recognised by a such a person.

Evolutis has award winning Games Designer David Cage intrigued.

Yes, I was going to ask you about how that felt. How did the game catch his attention?

He mentioned a person called Alisa. I think she saw one of out tweets and she tweeted him and then I checked on her she follows us and David Cage

What’s the significance of the name Evolutis?

I’m not sure if you’re familiar with transhumanism and homoevolutis. So we are homosapiens and and we will become homoevolutis in the future. So that’s why the game is called Evolutis.

Is a Cyberpunk themed game something you always wanted to do?

Yeah but we’re not focused too much on the cyberpunk world that their is a government killing everyone. I think this is too generic. We’re more focused on the characters and what they’re going through in their lives, you know.

What are the differences between the characters?

Chelsea is a famous wrestler but in her life she’s a lonely person. The only thing she has in her life is her cat. Despite the fact that she makes a lot of money her life isn’t very happy. People may see her as a strong, awesome person because she is a wrestler and everyone wants to be like her but deep inside her life it’s totally different. It’s something that I believe happens to people who thinks a famous person’s life is perfect but it’s not like that at all.

Damon, he has just lost his wife, he’s in a deep depression. He’s thinking about killing himself in the beginning because he doesn’t see how to move on without his family. Throughout the game he’ll find out that maybe his family is still alive but the player will have to decide whether he’s going crazy or it’s really true what is going on

And finally Derrick he’s a drug addict, he’s really emotional so he doesn’t consider a lot before taking action. He just does the first thing that comes into his mind. Damon has more control over himself as his is a CEO of a company. Damon is more manipulative though and Derrick is a good person but he lets his emotions take control of himself.

What I found really impressive are the little snippets of combat that you post on Twitter. It looks very fluid; it looks very stylish. How do players pull off those moves?

It’s basically the same mechanic as the Batman Arkham games but in a 2d way of playing. In the trailer you can’t see the indicator above the enemies’ head for you to dodge enemies’ attacks and pull off combos. It’ll be quite similar. As Chelsea is a wrestler her body is her weapon. It’s different from the others Damon is more skilful with a gun while Derrick is not as skilled.

So they all play completely differently?

Yeah totally

Do you play these characters individually or do you jump between characters?

So it’s like you play as Damon in a chapter and then it changes to Derrick and then it changes to Chelsea. You start playing little segments with each of them and then there is a part in the game when they’ll all be connected. Of course I can’t say too much about it right now.

So in terms of development how big is your team is it only a couple of you?

We have 3 members 

And what’s the pros and cons of working in such a small little group?

The pros are that you can have a lot of ideas and work closer. I think it’s easier to manage. The cons would be you don’t have a lot of people for marketing which means I have to spend a lot of time out of development so I can do this, which sucks. We’re in talks with some publishers, some of them are really interested. I believe when we sign our contract with a publisher it will be better for us regarding these circumstances. Right now it’s a challenge to manage all these things.

The voice actors have also been very helpful all of them worked on Dragonball Z and Gundam. They help us a lot through Marketing on there Twitter pages 

What stage in development are you in?

I’d say 10% 

Have you got a release date in sight? 

It’ll probably be in 2020 

That’s quite a futuristic date, very fitting. Where can people pick up Evolutis when it comes out? I know it is very early days but would you like Evolutis to appear on consoles?

I’d love for Evolutis to appear on consoles at the same time it’s being released on Steam. It’s very early to say right now but we aim for it to be on all consoles.

It’s so common now to see indie games appear on Steam and a year later they appear on consoles and I love playing indie games on the Switch they’re perfect playing it on the commute to work.

I have a Switch too. I prefer playing indie games on Switch then other platforms. I love Playstation and Xbox as well and of course Vita. I think it’s pretty cool to play on Vita too.

The Norwich Gaming Festival 2018

Situated at The Forum in Norwich City centre, the Norwich Gaming Festival is a unique event allowing game developers to showcase their passion projects to the public. This is Breakthrough Gaming’s second time attending the festival with the event soaring in popularity since the last visit in 2015. Check out some of the indie games I’ve uncovered along with the chats I had with the developers of these games.