Co-Optimus: What was the inspiration for this game? There are a few different games, such as Rogue Legacy, Castle Crashers, and Ice Climbers, that I’m reminded of from seeing the trailer and playing through it some, but were there any particular games that influenced its development?
Sim: Actually, the main inspiration for this game is the original Vertical Drop Heroes (obviously… haha), and the main inspiration for THAT was an older Flash game called “We Want YOU”, which I think came out way back in 2009. If you search around a bit for screenshots of that game, you’ll notice a similarity right away! I’ve always dabbled in different genres whenever possible, and I felt the best thing about platformers is the sense of immediacy to the action. I combined this with my eternal fascination with random generation, which has been a key part of every single one of my games since the early days, and added a fantasy theme on top: result: Vertical Drop Heroes!
Another key influence for me is Spelunky, which is a wonderful example of brilliant procedural design. I’ve always loved procedural generation, and Spelunky just did it so well… the various enemies and traps led to a whole bunch of hilarious character deaths.
It’s funny you should mention Rogue Legacy and Castle Crashers, because those developers came up from Flash games as well! I am a big, big fan of Rogue Legacy, and Vertical Drop Heroes does have some similarities in terms of the randomised levels and the selection of heroes at the start of the game: but Vertical Drop Heroes takes a slightly different approach to random generation: rather than randomizing the room layouts, I decided to go for a totally destructible, emergent platforming system, with completely randomised levels.
Co-Optimus: How about the overall look and feel of the game? There’s a very distinct aesthetic to the characters, enemies, and levels.
Sim: I’ve always been a big fan of the distinct art style of Dan Paladin from the Behemoth, as well as (more recently) those amazing people at Mika Mobile, developers of Zombieville and Battleheart. They’re all incredibly talented! I draw all the art in my games myself, mostly for cost reasons, and seeing their work, I decided early on that developing a distinct vector art style of my own was something that I had to slowly learn over the years.
The main reason there’s this unique aesthetic to the game is because every single one of the characters, weapons, enemies, bosses and level components were all hand drawn by me. In fact, if you go back in time and play my games from the very first one, you can actually see the art style evolve over the years, before eventually settling into that signature Nerdook style of cartoony people with overly large heads.
Co-Optimus: What’s been the greatest challenge in developing this game? Are there any new features or abilities added for the PC version?
Sim: The biggest challenge in developing this game is having to learn a brand new langauge and program (Gamemaker Studio) after years of getting used to coding in Flash. Everything’s just different, and it took some time for me to get used to everything.
I’ve added lots of features to the PC version, but the biggest one (I think) is the inclusion of multiplayer. The original Vertical Drop Heroes had co-op play, but it was more of a single-screen exercise in pure chaos. Since players have to exist on the same screen, anyone lagging behind will be teleported ahead, with all the hilarious confusion that causes. As you can imagine, I’ve totally revamped that in the full PC version. Local co-op is now split-screen, and leads to plenty of crazy combos and funny events like blowing a hole under your “friend” and dropping him/her straight onto a pit of spikes. On top of that, I’ve also added local network multiplayer, which is something totally new for me. You can play it over the internet as well, actually, but that requires some tinkering around with VPN settings, and so on.
The original Vertical Drop Heroes didn’t really have many unique abilities, and I’ve added a whole lot of new skills for the HD version. Every character gets two abilities, a primary one with more charges, and a more powerful secondary ability with less charges, and this is randomised for each hero, with more being unlocked as you play. I’ve worked hard to make sure each ability has many different uses in different situations: players will eventually figure out that the Fireball not only sets things on fire, but breaks blocks (and chests!) as well: the Ice Bolt freezes blocks and makes them breakable by other missiles: Lightning Bolts electrify any water they pass through, slowly killing anyone trapped inside: you can deliberately fall onto a pit of spikes and swap places at the very last minute with a random enemy with the Swap ability... and so on!