In our continuing series of Indie Interviews, we were able to sit down with Bryce and Chris – the developers behind the Indie game Super Dino Hunter that we covered in To The Green. They were willing to talk with us via email about their game and experiences in the field. You can vote for their game on Greenlight or read more on their website.
TR: Can you tell us about yourselves and your experience?
Bryce: I’ve been playing games since the day I got Super Mario Bros 3 at Toys R Us. I met Chris on Ultima Online something like 18 years ago and we’ve been talking online pretty much every day since. We both bring different skill sets to the table that mesh really well together. I program and he does the art and animation. We also like to bounce ideas off each other that have been escalating into what you see today.
Chris: I’ve been making personal games as a hobby since 7th grade, almost 20 years ago. I also worked for Rockstar Games for a few years, so I have worked on everything from the smallest independent projects to AAA titles.
TR: Indie Gaming has a lot of platformers around these days, what made you decide to add another to the list? What do you think makes Super Dino Hunter stand out?
Bryce: The great thing about indie development is that it gives anyone a chance to make a game you want to play with features you think would be really sweet. A lot of time the big AAA titles tend to get pulled in too many directions in order to make the various executives and marketing teams happy which results in the “magic” being lost. We’ve set our game up to be a fun, quirky, weird, and completely unique experience with features that we ourselves would enjoy.
Chris: First and foremost, we are focusing on trying to make a game that is just fun. I would not claim that Super Dino Hunter reinvents the platformer genre or anything like that, but I do think the game has a unique combination of gameplay elements and setting, culminating in what we hope to be a fun experience for the player.
Techraptor: What inspired you to mix up Beat’em Up style action with Platformers instead of the more traditional platformer style action combat?
Bryce: I guess it kind of goes along with my answer to the previous question when I say we wanted to make something with features that we find fun in a game. Sometimes that just means cruising through a platformer-style level on a skateboard with a sword in your hand. Like you mentioned, there are a lot of platformers around – we’re just putting our twist on the genre.
TR: What inspired you to set the game in prehistoric times with dinosaurs? What things about that time interested you to explore with a game?
Bryce: Dinosaurs. Not the modern day laser-shooting mechadinos; just good ol’ fashion tasty meat-filled dinosaurs.
Chris: There just are not a lot of games out there with dinosaurs. Many of the more prominent ones that do exist are first-person shooters. Not that there is anything wrong with FPS games, I just want to see something else. Plus I just love dinosaurs. I really enjoy drawing dinosaurs. The stars aligned.
I do think prehistoric is a bit of an inaccurate descriptor though. Obviously, we are playing it a bit loose with scientific facts as we have dinosaurs and humans walking around at the same time. But we also have skateboards and trucks. So we’re not dealing with primitive humans either. Their technological progress is somewhere between the Flintstones and the Jetsons. We stopped short of laser guns and plasma swords though. I would describe the game’s world as one of cartoon fantasy.
TR: Meat seems to be at the core of the game’s progression, controlling unlocking levels, regions, as well as serving as the currency. How did you balance those things, along with scorekeeping for it, as well as making sure there was enough to reward those who looked around but not make it too long to get through a level for those going quicker?
Bryce: In some of the screenshots you’ll notice a Meat Counter at the top right of the screen. That’s your current meat score for that specific level. When you successfully complete the level, that balance is added to that area’s total as well as being used to unlock the next level. Maybe level 2 takes 10 meat to unlock and level 1 contains a total of 35. You could go through the whole area just doing the minimal amount of work, sure.. but you’ll be missing out on a good portion of the game. There will be plenty of secret areas, events, interactions and characters you will run into if you do a bit of exploring instead of trying to get the best time on each level. We also want to encourage people to replay completed levels using different equipment loadouts that were previously unavailable. You might not only find some new areas, but you might discover a different play style that you enjoy. We’ve balanced the minimum progression amount vs. the possible amount of points by leaving the choice up to the player. If you want to get the most out of the game, unlock all of the weapons, magic and items available, and get a chance to visit the hidden areas and read the dialogues we’re putting in, you’re more than welcome to. On the other hand, if you just want to speedrun the game, help yourself! It’s all part of the main theme of the game we’re going for: play how you want and have fun.
TR: Your game is notably light in tone by appearance of the item descriptions and such – in a time when a lot of games are more serious, what led you to make that decision?
Bryce: I definitely have a pretty screwed up sense of humor. I personally like games on both sides of the spectrum from the Castle Crashers, Borderlands, Magicka, No Time To Explain, and Portal types of humor as well as the more intense story-driven games like the Bioshock, Resident Evil, Zelda, and Half Life series of games.
I think we just wanted to include a bit of our own unique culmination of light-hearted humor in the first project we’ve both really sat down and poured our hearts into together.
Chris: There have been amazing advances in great storytelling in video games over the years. Games are an amazing medium to tell any kind of story you want, from dead serious to plain absurd. Ours is the whimsical story of a skateboarding dinosaur hunter and some of his friends.
TR: When working on designing the game what would you say were the biggest issues that came up? How did you overcome them?
Bryce: We consistently go overboard with every tiny aspect of the game. Every basic concept or feature we talk about ends up in some kind of over the top thing that we can’t live without. For example, we decided we wanted a magic system with some basic spells to make fighting more interesting. 30 minutes later we decided we’d have a magic bottle of EZ-Bronze spray tan that summons a mystical karate master to fight alongside you that will pile drive nearly dead enemies into the ground as an execution move.
As for overcoming that issue, it’s just a matter of at some point saying enough is enough, we have to release this game at some point. We begun to realize that time is our most important asset to budget while still maintaining the feel we want out of our game. For the most part, though, we just sat down and did the typical 15 hour a day game developer shifts for weeks straight to get it done. We’re both stubborn in that we refuse to skip out on features we think would kick some serious ass and bring a fun experience to someone playing our game.
Chris: Feature creep, without question. I think I have by far been the worst offender. I’m constantly thinking of things I want to add to the game and I’ll bounce it off Bryce and he will point out all the existing unfinished systems we have already. As Bryce said, you have to draw the line somewhere. It’s good to have him tell me no, otherwise this game would never be finished.
TR: You have a beta releasing in the near future, can you tell us a bit about what to expect in it, and what you are looking in the forms of feedback?
Bryce: We’re going to have a free demo for people to check out coming out relatively soon. We’ll be showcasing a couple of the concepts that will be a part of the full game. There will be a few “adventure” levels which are your typical explore, collect meat, fight dinosaurs, get to the exit levels which will take place in some of the different environments you’ll find in the world we’ve created. We will also be showing off two of our unique level types that we call “Meat Truck Defense” and “Egg Heist” that play into the story progression of the campaign. We don’t want to go too much into detail about either of those, rather, will leave it to your imagination until the demo is ready. There are some teaser screenshots on our Greenlight page you could check out for the time being.
TR: What has your experience been with Steam Greenlight and trying to get on Steam proper?
Bryce: Everything has been pretty smooth, actually. No real hiccups as far as the submission and voting process. I guess the most difficult part of getting ready to submit was gathering the content and picking out parts we liked to make a trailer. We ended up with several hours of video for a 1:34 video. Other than that we’ve received some really positive feedback and the community has been very supportive. It’s really cool to see the interest and excitement of random people on the internet.
TR: Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share?
Bryce: Hmmm, don’t think so. Thanks for the opportunity to interview with you! Hopefully you’ll see Super Dino Hunter on the Steam Store soon.
Chris: I’d just like to thank everyone for reading and if they are interested in the game to vote for it on Greenlight.