At a Playcrafting event for Halloween I got a chance to check out many little games coming out soon. One of these games was Swimsanity!, an upcoming four player underwater shooter. Recently we got a chance to try to game out, but I wanted to learn more about it. Thankfully the opportunity presented itself. I got a chance to talk to Khalil Abdullah, the lead developer of Decoy Games, his brother and partner Ahmed Abdullah, and Decoy Games' artist Chris Venne about the game.
TechRaptor: So I'm here with Decoy Games. You guys brought Swimsanity!. Can you just give me the quick elevator pitch on what Swimsanity! is?
Khalil Abdullah: Sure, yeah. So Swimsanity! is a four player underwater shooter with competitive and cooperative game modes where you can play with or against your friends. The basic concept is that you play this character called Mooba, who is an underwater warrior. As he does damage his unleash power will grow, and then you can unleash Swimsanity, which is one of many different power moves in the game ranging from like an attack shark, raining down bullets from the sky, your typical medic.
On top of all this we have a bunch of different game modes. So we have competitive game modes like a simple death match, a 2v2 death match, we have capture the flag, elimination. On the flip side of that you can also play all together on the same team. We have adventure with a full blown story mode, boss battles, and also survival mode as well. On top of all that you can also play the game online against your friends around the world, and it's going to be across multiple platforms as well.
TechRaptor: So about how long would you say you put into making this game so far?
Khalil: So, I mean, the concept started a long time ago. Like nine years ago. This started off as a school project. The actual game development, its been in the works for about two and a half years, so this build that you're seeing here is about two and a half years old.
TechRaptor: So, Swimsanity!. Why don't you take me through real quick about how you would go about making, say, a level for the game?
Khalil: Sure. You guys want me to handle that one too, because this falls back in my ballpark.
Chris Venne: You're on a roll.
Khalil: So, depending on what the actual skill is, the actual hands on parts of the task we kind of compartmentalize, but the actual... everything design-wise we come together, like we kind of hash out ideas, then once we decide what it is we dish things out. The only reason I'm saying that is because, even though I designed the levels, the ideas for the levels that we did all came together, the brainpower behind it was all three of us.
But as far as actually designing the levels, I literally went pencil to paper with eight by eleven pieces of paper stuck up on my bedroom wall and I literally like built out the whole level.
Chris: There's paper prototypes of every single dynamic.
Khalil: Yeah. Once that was kind of mocked up, I put the template of it in the game. Then when they see my template, they then touch up the backgrounds. So Chris does the backgrounds, Chris and Ahmed do the backgrounds together, Chris does the assets and stuff for the backgrounds.
TechRaptor: So when you're making the backgrounds, how would you go about doing that?
Ahmed Abdullah: Ah man, it's really... We try to reinvent everything under the ocean, like we do a lot of Google photos and also look at games like Rayman was a huge game for us, seeing how they did their underwater levels. Even Ori and the Blind Forest, just the way that they did a lot of effects in the backgrounds. We kind of took that and kind of changed it to our own. So we typically start from the front and go to the back. Add some kind of post processing blur layer to it.
TechRaptor: And then when it comes to the general character designs, how do you guys go about that?
Chris: Wow, yeah, character design actually went through... I want to say like six different iterations? It started off very generically. We were trying to build like essentially a standard humanoid. You know, the regular proportions of any human being but then threw a helmet on top of them and fins and called him a scuba diver. As we continued to work through the game we just found that we thought there was a lot more we could do with the main character to make him kind of more immersive, catch your attention, get you excited about playing Swimsanity!. So we started to toy around with some of his dimensions, making his head bigger, making his hands bigger, and you'll see that actually plays a pretty big role in our storyline.
My ultimate inspiration in creating the character was kind of two-fold. One, Mega Man. We were big 90's gamers and I think we took a lot of inspiration from characters like Mega Man. In the colors and pallet that we used to bring that character to life, I tended to kind of lean way towards my interest in Power Rangers more as a kid.
Khalil: And sneakers.
Chris: Yeah, and sneakers. Actually a lot of our color waves in the game for different things have come from different pairs of sneakers that I've been in love with since my adolescence, childhood, etc. So...
TechRaptor: Why sneakers?
Ahmed: Good question. I want to hear this too.
Chris: I am a huge sneaker enthusiast!
Khalil: He has a lot of sneakers.
Chris: I'm a big time sneaker enthusiast. I kind of fell in love with sports, specifically Michael Jordan, very early on, probably when I was nine.
Khalil: I like how he elegantly says 'sneaker enthusiast'. Sneaker head.
Ahmed: Again, to reiterate the question, why sneakers?
Chris: 'Cause they're gorgeous! They're art in, uh... like to me they're the coolest capturing of art that I've ever seen. You get to put them on your feet and they actually capture utility as well. So for me sneakers are a total branch of things I love. It's hip-hop, it's sports, it's art, and it's me looking fly as hell. That's why we bring those four together.
TechRaptor: The Swimsanity! design principles. Looking fly as hell. There we go, I like it.
Khalil: That's our tagline.
Ahmed: FAH design.
TechRaptor: Put that on the trailer. Looks fly as hell. So to try and get back to it...
TechRaptor: No it's all okay! It's a lot of fun. I'm having fun. So... you're mostly showing off this multiplayer mode right here, but there's also a single player story mode. So how are you guys going about making that?
Khalil: We don't want to reveal too much, but it's going to be kind of your retro-type of story mode. Something you can just jump right into, you kind of got your old school baddie. But everything in the story is a different experience. We have five different worlds, and each world gives you a different experience with a big boss, but also the way you traverse through the level changes every time. So it might look like a platformer going from left to right, being chased from one side. Another one might look like combat styled, just defeating a lot of bosses.
TechRaptor: So underwater levels kind of have an infamous reputation as far as games go, so why make a game based entirely underwater?
Chris: Because we want to mess everything up for what everyone has understood to be good and bad in games. We want to switch it all around.
TechRaptor: There you go.
Khalil: I mean... I think the reason underwater levels get such a bad rep is that no one makes underwater games, they make games and try to think of a gimmick to change it up, and I think underwater design doesn't get a lot of thought into it. Typically what they try to do is slow the game down when the game is fast paced, but this game is all built for underwater play. So from start to finish we knew that the game was going to be completely underwater, so we made sure the speed made sense and the pacing made sense and what not.
TechRaptor: So Swimsanity!. When will I be able to play it?
Khalil: You will be able to play it mid next year. So around April, May time period. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter at Decoy Games. We will be announcing that release date as we get closer to it. The official release date.
TechRaptor: And what will I be able to play it on?
Khalil: You'll be able to play it on Xbox, PlayStation, and Steam. We're also very hopeful for a Switch release as well. It's not official, but we are very hopeful.
TechRaptor: Alright, well thanks to the three of you guys for talking to me, this game is cool looking and I'm glad I got to see it.
Ahmed: Thanks, man.
Khalil: Thank you so much.
We'd like to once again thank Khalil, Ahmed, and Chris for taking the time to talk with us.