Here we are with yet ANOTHER exclusive interview for our readers, this time with Enrique of Indie Developer Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team. This can only mean it’s time to dim the lights, sit down with a big ol’ bag of popcorn and wiggle under your duvet.
For all our readers and the other people who may just happen to stumble upon the Full Sync Gaming website, why don’t we start by introducing yourself and the rest of the team?
Hi everyone! My name is Enrique Corts and I’m part of Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team, a group of four game developers working hard on Rise & Shine, our first title for consoles and PC.
And how about a little bit of an introduction into Super Awesome Hyper, *pauses for breath*, Dimensional Mega Team. How did you guys all meet? What made you want to start a studio by yourselves? And what was the inspiration for the amazingly long name?
When the smartphone revolution started, suddenly it was possible once again to be able to make and market your own games with a small team and lots of passion. It was back to bedroom coding just as it was in the 80’s.
My partner and I were working full time as game artists for the same company and one of our programmers was a friend of mine and a clerk at PC City really wanting to get out of there. We bought a couple of iPhones and an iMac and made our first game for mobile platforms, Pro Zombie Soccer, on our free time. The game was a small hit that allowed us to quit our 9 to 5 jobs and start our own dev team. Later on, more people came and went as the indie dev life is not for everyone, especially if you want to start a family and need job security, so the current shape of the team is two programmers and two artists.
About our name, well…We wanted to have something that people would recognise instantly, although we understand it is impossible to remember our name exactly…haha. So mission accomplished!
With some of you having worked on big titles in the past like Plants Vs Zombies and Worms, what’s the main difference between working on big titles like those and starting our own studio?
Well, the biggest difference I see is the team size, which leads to decisions being taken much, much faster than on a big project, where your feedback has to go through a lot of hurdles and get documented to make it into the final game, if so. In our team, we make important decisions for the project we are working on really fast. Sometimes so fast that new team members have had a tough time adjusting to this way of working together.
Now the pleasantries are out of the way, let’s talk about your existing games. My favourite title has to be Pro Zombie Soccer; normally I’d argue this should be football but I’ll let you off because I love all things zombie. For our readers who don’t know the game though how would you best describe it and what other titles have you developed?
Pro Zombie Soccer was our first game and the one that let us start our solo adventure, so I hold a special place in my heart for it, although I have to say it’s kind of a very punk project…haha. We went pretty crazy with that one in terms of story and gameplay. But it already has all things we like our games to have: Lots of polish, hardcore gameplay and a great, high-quality soundtrack. Is an odd cookie that gained us critical praise and healthy sales. Who knew the world was prepared for something so surreal! Apple selected it as Game of The Week and among the 30 Best Games of The Year on the App Store.
Our second game was Supermagical, a much more ambitious project where we took the gameplay base of Puzzle Bubble mixing it with Pro Zombie Soccer and added lots of RPG elements, story, huge maps to explore, minigames and again, a beautiful soundtrack. It’s a great adventure that was selected by Apple, just like Pro Zombie Soccer, as one of the 30 Best Games of the Year and was also Game of The Week at the App Store. We are pretty proud of that!
Both games weren’t huge hits but were profitable enough to keep us afloat, which is always our main objective.
Oh, and Supermagical is coming soon to PS Vita, by the way. We did not make the port ourselves, but we hope it’s gonna play great on the console.
Everything previously released has been a mobile title, but soon you have Rise & Shine going on sale, the studio’s first title for PC & Console. Tell us a little bit about the upcoming release.
Rise & Shine is by far our most ambitious title. It tells the story of Rise, a kid from Gamearth (the planet where the old video game characters live) that finds himself in the middle of the Space Grunt invasión, a race of big, muscular, full of guns guys from Nexgen Planet. He must use Shine, the legendary gun that can shoot different kinds of bullets to be able to solve all the situations he finds on his way.
We wanted to mix different genres on Rise & Shine, so this is not purely “just another run’n’gun” or “another indie puzzle platformer” at all. In fact, there are not many platforms in our game! Haha. We added cover mechanics and tricky skill puzzles you must solve on your way.
We are big fans of games like Another World, Limbo, Inside, Metal Slug or Gears of War, so I think there is a bit of all those on our game. It’s an intense mix that we think defies categorization on one single genre and we believe people will enjoy as it works really well together.
Also, I think the art plays an important role too, with hand painted levels that are 3-4 meter wide illustrations instead of the usual tile textures or repeating elements these kind of games normally use. And there will be lots of easter eggs and references to retro games we hope players will enjoy discovering.
Music, as in all our projects, is really well taken care of. The soundtrack is absolutely amazing, with some real instruments and even a soprano singer.
And what was it that made you decide to jump from the mobile platform to the more mainstream gaming hardware for Rise & Shine?
We are pretty hardcore gamers ourselves, so we always believed we’d be more at home making games for the platforms we use the most to play and where our more hardcore potential audience is. We were not comfortable with the direction the mobile industry seems to have taken, spending much more money on marketing or user acquisition instead of on the game itself. Also, free to play is not our thing, and most mobile users have decided they don’t like to pay for their games, so yeah, not for us, really.
Top ten games on the app stores rarely change at all with the big guys with millions on their pockets spending non-stop for that to be a fact, so yeah, it’s tricky for a small team to make even a dent on that climate. Mobile was fun while it lasted for us at least, but it was time to make a change.
Were there many differences between developing a game for a mobile device compared to PC and console, or did you just simply follow a similar process?
For us, it was a big change from mobile as we transitioned to Unity 3D as an engine coming from Cocos2d, an open source engine. We had to learn all the ropes of the new software, plus graphical power was not an issue anymore working towards PC’s and next-gen consoles, which was awesome.
Also, I had to personally learn to anímate characters with Spine, a new skeletal animation tool, which was fun but took its sweet time to start getting things with the quality I wanted.
OK, going back to the game itself, what was the inspiration behind Rise & Shine, because it’s very different from any of your other titles?
Yes, quite different. I always had the idea of playing with the world of video games and it’s peculiar “folklore” like they did a bit with the Wreck-It Ralph movie. When that movie came out I was like: “Wow, about time someone made something like that”, although my concept was a bit different. Rise & Shine is far grimmer and dark, breaking the fourth wall with the players constantly.
Also, I’m a big fan of games like Another World or Inside, where every step you take you encounter completely new challenges that make sense with the story and the world I want the players to immerse in. To make a game like this means a lot of work and prototyping, sure, but keeps things really fresh and challenging for the players. You can never relax!
Many people may see it advertised on Steam or the Xbox Store and think, “ugh, not another run ‘n gun”. What have you done to Rise & Shine to make it stand out from the competition and freshen up the genre?
Yeah, it’s very important for us that people don’t think this is another run’n’gun or puzzle platformer. Of course, there will be gamers who feel at home on those genres and will enjoy Rise & Shine too, but we want people to appreciate the effort we put on making things feel new and exciting.
First of all, we’ve got a story in the game. It helps the gameplay to flow better and also we can introduce some pretty funny and shocking moments for the players to enjoy. One thing, though; this is not the kind of game where you find “feelings” and lots of piano music. The story is fun in a popcorny way and the gameplay is pretty fierce, although the pacing is very different from games like Metal Slug.
We also introduced some cover mechanics inspired on the Gears of War games but translated into 2D. We think it works pretty well and they are fun to use.
Another of the gameplay additions to the game are the different bullets and modifiers Shine can use and will serve the player to solve all the skill puzzles and battles he’ll find.
So we like to call Rise & Shine a “think ‘n’ gun”…haha.
With hand drawn illustrations being used throughout the game an awful lot of hard work has obviously gone into Rise & Shine, did hand-drawing with so much detail cause any major issues during development?
Yes, treating every single level of the game as a huge illustration with different layers of parallax scrolling has been lots of work. We had to hire a freelance artist to help us out with that. We even thought it was not possible with a team as small as ours, but the graphical power of next-gen consoles and PC is already there, so it’d be a shame not to put them to good use. I think it really shows and Rise & Shine looks quite special!
And following on from that were there any parts of the development of this game that you were all particularly proud of and thought “wow, we’ve really accomplished something here”.
Yeah, as I said, drawing the whole backgrounds that way has been a true accomplishment for us!
Also, mixing a lot of gameplay elements taken from very different genres and making them work in a fun way has been tricky and meant a lot of work and prototyping, but we are very happy with the result.
Just a couple more general questions to tie things up; firstly for people looking but are maybe too scared to venture into game development and start up a studio like you have with Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team, what advice can you offer?
Don’t do it! Hahaha. It’s tough out there!
Nah, I won’t be the one saying that you cannot make this or that. I believe that with enough dedication and a will to do things properly you can get far, although I’m not a success case to be giving out advice. We realise we are nobodies and that we have achieved still nothing, but we try to use that on our own benefit to give our all at everything we do.
But yeah, one thing I’d like to say if you are starting out a dev team, it is important to make and plan for something achievable as a group. Something you can finish in a realistic amount of time to see how you can work as a team, to get to know your tools and each other. Then you can do something more ambitious and build from that.
A few years ago Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky directed “Indie Game: The Movie”, did you guys ever watch it and if so what were your thoughts? How closely can you relate to the trials and tribulations they all went through to release their games?
Yes, I’ve seen it several times and I love that movie. I devour every single documentary about the games industry I can find out there.
I totally relate to the devs and their projects there and the hurdles they have to skip in order for their games to be released and be successful. Every game you make as an indie developer is your baby and you love it to the bone, so when something gets in the way of your project or puts it in some kind of danger, makes you really stressed and anxious. It can even get to your mental and physical health. So, you have to be really passionate about this. If you feel like this kind of life is not for you is because probably it isn’t. I’ve worked in the AAA industry for 10 years and I know how cosy it is working 9-5 in a warm office with your paycheque waiting for you at the end of the month. I even miss that sometimes when it gets tough. And it is more common to have it tough than not on this job. But yeah, we don’t really have a choice. We have to make games because our brains have been wired this way I think…haha.
And finally for a bit of fun; do you spit or swallow? Sorry, I should clarify I mean your toothpaste when you brush your teeth.
LOL. I spit, of course. Lots of spitting.
And that concludes our chat with Enrique. Hopefully, you all enjoyed this one as much as we did and keep your eyes out for their new game Rise & Shine, hitting Steam and the Xbox Store next year. If you want to learn more about the Super Awesome Hyper Delusional Mega Team and their games, you can find links to all you could ever need below:
Rise & Shine Details:
Add Rise & Shine to your Steam wishlist HERE
Pre-order Rise & Shine on Xbox One HERE