Power Up (working title).
Xbox Live Marketplace / ETA Spring 2013.
I attempted such back in those halcyon days of adventure writing programs and a certain rubber keyed home computer (only to be met with horrible consequences). Within the realm of independent game development original IPs are embraced and revered, often these creations are light years away from any ease of achievement.
Those projects which avoid falling by the wayside are realised by the skilled of hand and mind, eager to capture our imaginations and offer us thrilling play. I wouldn’t resist the chance to write about such a work and from my first, Cybernoid (on said ZX Spectrum) to my love affair with the Thunder Force series, shmups are a genre I’ll absolutely share a fondness for.
Project: Power Up.
Psychotic Psoftware aim to launch a first foray onto Xbox Marketplace next year, courtesy of Live’s Indie Games service and a “from scratch” exploration of the XNA development tool kit. Power Up (current working title) began in earnest at the turn of 2012 and has since reached a definitive halfway point.
Describing itself as a traditional horizontal shoot-em-up is a humble underestimation in our opinion. Battle Club Gaming preview what promises to be a most exciting 2013 release and were fortunate enough to speak with Power Up’s UK based designer, artist, programmer, composer, press relations, blogger…
Battle Club Gaming: Thank you for taking time from your schedule to speak with BCG and it’s community, could you introduce yourself sir? Invite us into the mind of a veritable renaissance man!
Psychotic Psoftware: Certainly. I’m Mike, and Psychotic Psoftware is basically just me. I’ve been making these little games as something of a hobby for years. It’s a labour of love for me, creating art and music of all sorts of style for games of every genre I can manage. Sometimes I’d try to make the scrolling beat-em-up I always wanted to. Sometimes I’d take a game mechanic I always loved and thought was underused, then make my own little game around it.
Until recently, I was trapped within the ageing, now defunct (but still wonderful) constraints of Shockwave game development. With XNA, I can suddenly make an Xbox game! Also, it never really occurred to me to actually try and share it with the world… not until now.
BCG: There has been a fantastic response to Power Up, from inception you’ve not been shy of charting game development and sharing those details. Great idea… sounds like a common sense and cathartic work style?
Mike: That’s exactly what it is. I’m not precious about it. The way I see it, I’ve got a lot more to lose by introverting the process like I used to. I suppose it was a lack of confidence in my own abilities… I still feel like that, but it occurred to me that I’m hardly alone in feeling like that. By keeping my work to myself I found myself without anybody to show it to. Sure, in the past my friends knew that making indie games was a quirk of mine, but that was about all I’d hoped for.
A couple of years back I had a crack at sneaking some of them onto Kongregate. As expected, they went pretty much unnoticed. What I did see was a lot of good games from established indie labels topping those charts. That’s when I decided that enough was enough. I pulled my little titles from the internet in general and disappeared to do a bit of research with a view to upping my game a bit.
In November 2011, I took a tutorial in making a basic XNA shooter, and very quickly it became apparent that I was going to finish this game. From the moment that Power Up took its most basic form, I found myself inspired and signed up to Twitter, shouting from the rooftops about everything I was doing and everything that was confusing me about programming.
The community was hearing me and people were really helpful, throwing hints and links my way. Very quickly I saw the power of an online presence and have since worked hard to remain present and growing. I recently set up a Facebook page, YouTube account, a blog and even the beginnings of my own website.
Sharing what I’m doing has become a big part of what I’m about now. I’ve made a lot of good friends and contacts and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Automated Float Bombs incoming!
BCG: Mission brief us sir, are the rumours true… is the Earth doomed? Can you share with us Power Up’s story synopsis.
Mike: The Earth is most certainly doomed! Let’s see then… well, In a nutshell, some very serious lizards have turned up with quite an army and wiped out the vast majority of humanity in a bid to claim the planet’s resources.
You know… It’s your basic invade, wipe out, take over plot! Trouble is, in clearing the last of Earth’s escapees from the solar system, they neglected one particularly potent little prototype fighter…
And there we go. That’s where you’re thrown into the game. It’s just you and the ships on board hologram, H.A.T.I (Holographic Artificial Tactical Intelligence). All that’s left is revenge. You and H.A.T.I. have to basically take the fight to those scaled scumbags and give em’ what for!
BCG: Can we take a glimpse into stage locations, will we see five levels based around one particular world… players seeing cut scene dialogue boxes between each?
Mike: Yeah. I originally had ten levels pencilled in, but after doing a quick production plan, soon realised that this wasn’t very realistic. As I’m learning the ropes and want to actually finish the game, the first compromise was its length.
I condensed Power Up down to pretty much the following…
- A level in the debris of your fallen mother ship.
- One orbiting the enemy world.
- One in the arid desert surface of the planet.
- One in the enemy’s central super-city.
- A finale on a journey to the planets core, climaxing with one nasty showdown.
At this point you’re to fly the powerful little ship into the planet’s centre for a spot of mutually assured destruction! It’s hardly Shakespeare, but as catalysts for a bit of pew-pew, there’s definitely been worse.
Closing out level 3, MISCraft spotted!
BCG: Declassify the weapons system, there’s a customisable progression for players here, hence the name Power Up?
Mike: Well, when I started, I wasn’t sure I could even get a spaceship to shoot a bullet, let alone change what that bullet would look like and do. The moment I’d figured that out I went into a kind of design frenzy and when I came to, days had passed and I’d pretty much designed and implemented five different types of weapon, each with different ideal uses.
- You have your straight shooting laser.
- Then there’s your spread, which isn’t as strong as your straight shooter though does become slightly more powerful and multiplies with every few power-ups.
- Next is your rear shot. Like the front one but backwards, slightly weaker, but faster-repeating to balance this.
- Then, your side shot, actually a top and bottom shooter with a bit more width than the other shot types.
- Finally, there’s your comparatively weak and short range, but very fast repeating plasma cannon!
The weapons each have ten levels of power-up and when you really get going, they constitute quite a light show!
Obviously, I’d recommend going for a balanced levelling of the weapons as I’ll be throwing in enemies from all directions. But I’ve left it to the player to decide how they want to power these weapons up. You don’t want to blast a heavy duty frontal assault to smithereens only to be caught short from behind.
BCG: Speaking of the name, are you likely to actually change it? As a working title – Power Up… that’s pretty succinct. You have another in mind though?
Mike: Yeah. Power Up was always the working title through the various incarnations of my space shooter over the years. It is succinct, though slightly generic.
More recently, I was going to name the ship “Weapon – F” and name the game after it. That still might happen but then again, none of my following seems to have a problem with Power Up as yet (and I really like the way the logo sits on the title screen).
Maybe closer to the AppHub submission I could take a little poll and change it round, but for now I like Power Up… they like Power Up (I think).
Plasma-whipping through the enemy’s super-city.
BCG: Never sure if Kickstarter game projects add to development responsibilities or diminishes them somewhat. This was not a road taken by you, but was it ever a consideration?
Mike: Definitely, and on and off, it still is. The trouble with doing a Kickstarter for me is that I’m not sure I’ve really earned the right to say “Hey, I haven’t made anything yet, but I really need software. Here’s the bill. Can you pay for it?”
Of course I could do with the start up capital. Until I get my own stuff I’m just borrowing resources from friends and that’s no way for any self respecting game developer to work.
If having to beg and borrow becomes a boundary to releasing my game then I suppose I’ll have to take the Kickstarter route at some point between now and then. For the time being though, I’m hoping to make Power Up and earn the respect of my prospective audience for future projects.
I do worry that people funding it through Kickstarter might feel that I’m obliged to compromise my integrity more than I’m actually willing to. It’s a can of worms really and I’d rather have the freedom of just doing this for me, then sharing my progress with anybody who’ll listen.
BCG: Can we chat a little about future plans? Having made much headway with Microsoft’s dev tool set, your scheduling for an Xbox Live spring 2013 release. How will XBLIG pricing or points work for future Power Up players, does Psychotic set such a thing?
Mike: That’s a very good question… and one I don’t yet know the answer to.
I suppose I should have researched all that before I set out, but the truth is I didn’t expect to get this far! Let alone even submit a game! I’m still quite giddy when I play through Power Up. I wouldn’t know where to start with beta tests and putting it into the real world.
Still, twelve months ago I didn’t know how to move an object around the screen with an Xbox pad. It’s all just another challenge to overcome. Mistakes will be made and lessons learned, but rest assured I’ll figure it out!
As for price points… hey, it’s my first go. If I get a choice about price points, it’ll be a one off payment for a copy of the game and it won’t be expensive.
Trouble… in the form of a RedPIN swarm.
BCG: Forgive me Mike, just casually throwing more work at you here… two player option, could it be done?
Mike: Oh yes, I think so. Though that would mean stretching my budget for another usb Xbox pad, now wouldn’t it!
Yeah. I’m pretty sure it could be done and it’s something I’ve given much consideration to. Though as you might expect, even the code for something as simple as Power Up can get a little complicated for a beginner. Much of it is rather an unnecessary tangle of functions and failures-to-properly-function.
I’m not sure I’d have a working game this side of 2015 if I threw that particular spanner into the works now. I think the best idea for me would be to finish Power Up, research the use of multiple pads and the general ramifications of doing so (because you can be darned sure there will be some) and who knows, if Power Up does well enough to generate a sequel I think I can safely say you’ll find a player two in the mix somewhere…
That said, I pretty much end the universe at the end of this game’s story. I’m not entirely sure that there’s much further for the story to arc! …naaah! There’s always a way to bring heroes back from the dead.
BCG: Psychotic’s blog mentions creating a variety of Shockwave games previously, are those titles still out there and available to support / download?
Mike: Nope. I’m afraid I pretty much pulled the lot in a bid to reset the machine, so to speak. I might very well use some of the ideas in my new games but much to my dismay I don’t really think there’s much of an audience for old Shockwave player-fuelled games now.
You can see a few screenshots from some of them on my blog and maybe I’ll talk about them in future. Who knows, there might be an unexpected surge of demand for me to dust them off and put them out again, but they’re probably best chalked up to experience.
Keep updated via Psychotic Psoftware’s website and information hub (links below).
BCG: Your five all-time favourite games, off the top of your head… go!
Mike: Right! Er… In no particular order here’s an off the top of my head list of some of my happiest gaming memories… Target Renegade – ZX Spectrum, Moonstone: A Hard Day’s Knight – Amiga, Theme Hospital – PC, Tenchu – Return From Darkness – Xbox and World of Warcraft – PC.
Funnily enough, those games came out in the order I played them. I know there are not many particularly modern ones there, but of late I haven’t been as invested in playing as I have in making.
I can however, vouch for all of those games as awesome for completely different reasons! Each and every one of them is a complete gem, worthy of seeking out and fully indulging in.
BCG: Fans currently awaiting gameplay footage can look forward to the end of October we hear? Can’t wait to see the lizard scum get what they deserve, we’ll include links to Psychotic’s YouTube channel and blog page sir… where else can people find you on social networks?
Mike: I’ll actually be releasing the first bit of moving footage on the 5th of November. As that’s Bonfire Night here in the UK, a night synonymous with pyrotechnics and fireworks, it somehow seemed fitting.
I’m a bit technically limited at this point, so to get a nice flowing frame rate my best option appears to be pointing a camera at my monitor and hoping. People seem to like the charm that comes with my guerrilla approach though, so if I can’t improve on that between now and release of the trailer at least it’ll have charm going for it… If I manage a better quality between now and then, it’ll be a bonus.
And yep, I’ll be updating the Bonfire Night trailer to my YouTube channel and pretty much anywhere else that will have me. I know people have been asking to see these screenshots finally moving. I wouldn’t want to let them down.
The beautiful journey…Win Power Up concept art.
Level 4 stage boss – The Walker awaits you! Psychotic Psoftware and Battle Club Gaming are giving worldwide site members (old and new) the chance to win Power Up concept art. Not a member of BCG yet? Then register on the site and Join the Club! Simply post in the comment section below for your immediate entry. Our winner will be randomly chosen on the 8th of December 2012.
Mike is no stranger to the gaming industry, having previously worked on GBA and mobile phone titles as a 2D artist, or as a published music producer with a penchant for coding a myriad of diverse mini games. His dedication to creating Power Up and bringing future players a top notch gaming experience is an interesting open process.
As Power Up continues its evolution, progress is documented via Psychotic Pspeaks a blog page dedicated to sharing this learning experience, echoed brilliantly with Mike’s YouTube uploads – note those gorgeous time-lapse production video clips… quite a welcome and novel approach, very much appreciated and enjoyed by a growing fan base.
BCG and it’s community extend massive thanks to Mike and Psychotic Psoftware for taking time out from the project to speak with us. We’ll be following Power Up’s evolution via it’s social media feeds and we look forward to a second quarter 2013 release on XBLIG.