Interview with Thomas Altenburger of Flying Oak Games on NeuroVoider

by Justin Nation - September 11, 2017, 5:05 pm PDT
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NeuroVoider hit the eShop at the end of last week and it delivers a great roguelike shooting experience. Check out our interview with the lead developer from the eve of its launch!

Jumping into the already-crowded field of roguelikes on the Nintendo Switch, NeuroVoider changes things up a bit with some intense twin-stick shooting action that ramps up in difficulty quickly if you’re not working to keep the loot flowing for new upgrades. Thomas, one of the co-founders of Flying Oak Games and the primary game designer and developer of NeuroVoider, took the time on the eve of the release of the game on the Switch to answer some of my questions.

You're at a big show where everyone is given just a few minutes to introduce their game to the crowd, they pass the mic to you. What would you choose to give as your summary of NeuroVoider?

TA: NeuroVoider is a rogue-like twin-shooter with explosions and tons of weapons to loot in order to build the perfect rampage machine. Did I mention explosions?

With that in mind, where you ended up with the game, is that identical to what you set out to do? I'm sure at the core the game is as intended but were there features or elements that were either added to the game or removed over the course of its development?

TA: Yep, it's accurate, especially the explosions part. There's a lot of features that were built or cut during the development, the game went through an early access and we built the game with the community, week after week. I remember that the explosions design were talked a lot, we went through 3 different styles of explosions, and we ended with a procedural explosion generator which can make explosions to generate other explosions.

Playing the game there's absolutely no doubt that it is pretty well equal parts a twin-stick shooter and a roguelike. On the shooter side what games would you count as inspirations for the way NeuroVoider plays?

TA: The obvious one is Nuclear Throne, but there's also a lot of Borderlands there. Believe it or not, but TowerFall was an inspiration too.

On the roguelike side?

TA: We'd be more into Risk of Rain, Dungeon of the Endless, or maybe Teleglitch.

Having played a lot of twin-stick shooters in my time, it's probably one of my favorite genres, one thing that really got my attention when I first played it is the scale of things and how up-close you are on the action. This opens up a lot of room for intricate and gorgeous details and it also somewhat changes the action, for me, to be a bit more intimate and personal. You'll still wipe out groups of enemies but you're not afforded a lot of range to do so. Was this the intention or is it just a function of the art and style you wanted?

TA: Being in the middle of the battle is definitely a design choice. We wanted the game to have an hack'n'slash feel, having packs of dozens of enemies and blasting them with a couple hits. Shooting tons of enemies at once, looting all the items they dropped, the thrill of getting badass...

Somewhat related to the previous question, the overall look and feel of the game reminds me most of games in the 16-bit era where you'd get this terrific and colorful sprite work in the game. Were you inspired by that generation or did it just work out that way?

TA: Surprisingly, we have been inspired by recent games! Dungeon of the Endless is one that comes first to our mind, the Amplitude team achieved an art direction that is very unique, having dark environments yet extremely colorful by mixing color that don't seem getting along well at first, but in the end are just perfect together. That's the kind of achievement we wish to match with our game.

On the heels of going over the great visual look of the game I have to give my compliments to whoever made the soundtrack. It's fitting and superb! Who gets the credit for such great music?

TA: The one and only Dan Terminus! He's a French prolific darksynth artist. The music of the game is from his album The Wrath of Code. If you liked the soundtrack, you'll be blown away by his next album.

I've been floored by the diversity of weaponry I've seen in the game at the attribute level. For each type of weapon things range from pea shooters to hulking monsters but I've also seen gear that's so great I've had to use it. A case in point would be the melee weaponry. In general I haven't used it, preferring to take enemies out at range rather than up-close, but I got a bladed weapon that did explosive damage and I couldn't pass up the chance to use it. How many attributes would you say are at work under the hood driving weapon diversity?

TA: It's something close to 20 I believe. We really wanted to make an item generator like the ones in hack'n'slash games. Like in a Diablo game or in the Borderlands series, items can have several random modifiers. That's what lead us to make such weapons and parameters. We wanted players to have high expectations when they find a golden item, and then go in the inventory to try the newly acquired beast.

While I initially upgraded my mobility systems purely based on the attributes once I played through several times I really began to notice how much more of a pain it was to use anything touching the ground. In particular the escalators in some areas are so easy to miss when the action gets intense and going the wrong way on one when you're a walker or a roller absolutely kills you. Do you gain additional mystic powers for every cry of anguish from gamers who realize this mistake too late?

TA: Yeah, and we're fueling this anguish directly into some demonic rituals to appease the game development gods.

With the game having been out for a while now on Steam and the other consoles how well would you say it has been received overall?

TA: Fairly well, but still looking for a rocket jump.

Being a small team of two what would you say are the biggest hurdles you've faced as indie developers and what has the process looked like so far in becoming Nindies?

TA: It's been a long road consisting in sending mails to Nintendo for months and ultimately getting a devkit. In the end, they are a super lovely bunch of people.

Having talked to indie developers located all over Europe what would you say about the independent games development scene there in France?

TA: They are the best buds to have! Very open, very supportive, cheerful, inspiring, and keen to share super valuable knowledge. Well, they rock.

With the Switch clearly firing on all cylinders and there being a strong Nindie presence in the eShop already what would you say to the Nintendo fanbase looking for their next purchase to help encourage them to make it NeuroVoider?

TA: Do you really want me to talk about explosions again? Because that's how you get me talking about explosions again.

Now that NeuroVoider will finally be released on the Switch do you guys have your sights firmly on what you're planning to do next?

TA: Yes! We already have some new stuff coming about NeuroVoider, and we're also working a new project, which should hopefully release next year.

As I mentioned at the top I really want to thank Thomas again for neglecting his getting to sleep on the eve of the launch of the game to answer my questions. NeuroVoider has already exploded onto the eShop for the Nintendo Switch, be sure to check it out!

Cross-Posted from Nindie Spotlight

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