Studio: 24 Caret Games
This time around we’re looking at another game that toys around with the flow of time, this time Retro/Grade. This is one of the games I’d been forced to look into solo, thanks to the rest of the BrainLazy crew dividing and conquering a few of the other tables. I remember being absolutely hooked on the concept. You play the game backwards! You are unfighting battles. If you think about it, this game is not only non-violent, it is actually the opposite of violence. Not only that, but you play it with the guitar controller. Considering the fact that mine’s been gathering dust since I finished Rock Band 2, this’ll be a nice way to resurrect the peripheral. Seriously, we’re talking about a studio that came up with “Unplaying an epic shmup battle with a guitar.” How do you beat that?
Task: Say “Save the space time continuum!” Backwards
Ahem. Muh-oo-nit-nock mite sapes uth vase. (I went with the “reversed audio” version, rather than phonetic.)
Dev: Matt Gilgenbach
BrainLazy: What title would you like to discuss?
Matt Gilgenbach: Retro/Grade
BL: What was the inspiration for this title? How did you conceive of the idea?
MG: When we founded 24 Caret Games, we were working on a tech demo for a rail shooter game. I implemented a debug mode that allowed me to back up time and repeat sections of the game in order to tune the gameplay. Justin Wilder, the other 24 Caret co-founder, said that it’d be neat if we incorporated that into the game and had the player do something when time was reversed. I thought it was a really neat idea, but I couldn’t figure out a way to make it work with the rail shooter gameplay.
When we decided to self-fund an indie project, we came back to that idea and tried to think of a way we could make a game structured around time flowing in reverse. Undoing your actions made the most sense for gameplay. In order to undo your actions, you need to match timing and position. we figured a rhythm game would be a good fit since the object is to match up the timing. In order to make matching the position doable, we thought we should constrain the player movement to lanes. A guitar controller seemed like a good fit if we had 5 lanes or less.
BL: Does the game differ greatly from the original concept? What inspired the change and how did it evolve? Why did you choose your current direction?
MG: The core gameplay is the same, but we expanded on the original concepts considerably. We didn’t originally plan on having the Retro/Rocket power up, which allows players to reverse the flow of time and undo mistakes. We added more power ups, other types of player and enemy fire, and epic boss fights.
When we started 24 Caret Games in 2008, it was before Braid or Castle Crashers were released. We originally envisioned a short, simple, classic arcade style game, but since the market changed, we adjusted our scope to keep up with consumer expectations.
BL: Regarding being an indie developer. Are there any prototype games that never came to fruition?
MG: Our rail shooter demo will most likely never see the light of day. We were just planning on using it to pitch us as a team, but when we decided to do our own indie project, we wanted to do something unique. I also created a game to propose to my wife (A Mobius Proposal). I made it before Portal 2 came out, so I was unaware of any co-op puzzlers, and it seemed like a really good idea. I don’t think co-op puzzlers were the best idea after all. In both A Mobius Proposal and Portal 2, it gets a bit frustrating if one person has the solution and the other has to just follow instructions. I’m not trying to badmouth Portal 2. It was great, but I didn’t think the co-op mode was as good as the single player mode. However, I’ve been meaning to release A Mobius Proposal as it stands, but I just haven’t had the time.
BL: What attracted you to indie development?
MG: At most big developers, you can’t create something very interesting or original because the development budgets are so large that it is too risky to try something new.
BL: Would you ever work for one of the big developers/publishers? If you already have, would you ever go back to it?
MG: I worked for large developers before, and it wasn’t bad, but I much prefer doing something crazy and new rather than the 12th game in a series. Never say never, but I am happy being indie as long as I can make a decent living.
BL: Before we wrap up, would you like to tell us a bit about your studio?
MG: Justin Wilder and I started 24 Caret Games in 2008 after working together at High Impact Games and Heavy Iron Studios. After a month and a half of development on Retro/Grade, we submitted it to the IGF and received nominations for excellence in audio and excellence in design. We switched the perspective from top down to a side scroller before the IGF show floor build in 2009. In 2010, we worked to redefine our art style to something more detailed since we decided to target the Playstation 3, and we received the audience award at Indiecade later that year. We continued to polish the gameplay along with the visuals over 2011 and are putting the finishing touches on the game now.
And so we reach the end of yet another Indie Megabooth look back. (I tried to come up with a gag about doing the intro at this point, but I decided it wouldn’t fly.) A huge thank you to Matt Gilgenbach for telling us about his inspiration. As always visit the developer’s website to learn more, http://24caretgames.com/.
Join us Friday for another installment of our Megabooth coverage!