Co-Optimus: Anything else that's different with your game from other shooters of this type?
Terry: To keep things interesting, I try to introduce something new on each level. It could be an enemy, a weapon, a type of force field that you interact with, etc. Or it might be a level design concept that combines multiple objects that you already discovered. The majority of cave-flyers are still built with 2D graphics. Retrobooster uses 3D graphics. It takes more effort, but it is a good complement to the 2D gameplay. It also allows for more voluminous explosions and other effects.
Co-Optimus: Is this a game you’ve been wanting to make for some time, or something that’s a starting point to another game you really want to make?
Terry: This is the game I always wanted to play. I had little ideas for it years before I started programming it and just got tired of waiting for someone else to make it. A few times I had a dream about this one level with creepy monsters, which you will encounter about halfway through the full game. I would say more about it, but I want to keep some surprises. It's now my favorite level.
Co-Optimus: What are some of the influences on the game’s overall design and story?
Terry: Plenty of classic thrust ship games. Asteroids and Oids were big favorites of mine. There is also influence from Protector, Protector 2, Choplifter, and even Doom. These games mainly influenced the mood and controls, but I am trying to come up with level designs and challenges people have not seen in a cave-flyer before.
The story is far from profound. It is the quintessential underdog story and mainly serves as an excuse to change the appearance of the levels and nature of the threats as you progress. I want to tell some of the story visually, to imply much of it with the settings and backgrounds. This should add atmosphere and leave room to expand on the story later if I want.
Co-Optimus: Is the game on course with what you had planned when you initially began its development, or have there been changes to some things or features you’ve had to put aside for another time?
Terry: It is mostly on course. The biggest addition to my original vision is the survival theme, which naturally fell out of the strong emphasis on skill-based flying. I should have seen that coming.
Plenty of other details have changed, but nothing that distorts the original vision. There are ten weapons instead of the original four, a handy laser pointer coming out of your ship, and I have had to generalize the physics more than expected to get some enemies to walk proficiently on other moving game entities.
Co-Optimus: From a co-op perspective, what all does the game have to offer? Will it be restricted to local co-op? Are other co-op modes, e.g., a “survival” mode, planned for the future? Can players help each other out in some way while playing?
Terry: Local co-op only. Networked multiplayer could be fun, but it would take much longer and be extremely difficult without another developer on the project. I decided to leave it out mainly to keep the scope of the project at a reasonable size.
Players in a co-op game of Retrobooster can be at very different levels of mastery of the controls. This makes much of the co-op fun come from one player nurturing another. There is also plenty of opportunity for players to gang up on swarms of enemies and defend one another from them. One time an enemy crawled onto my ship, and my pal shot it off.
The biggest problem with co-op right now is that it works best in games where you can't die, where there is always a partner around to help you out. If I am to remain true to the survival theme of Retrobooster, then your co-op partners die. A lot! There is a way to resurrect other players by giving a ship if you have an extra, but the levels must remain beatable by a single player. I'm still thinking of adding bonuses or extra sections to levels that can only be accessed during multiplayer games.
It would be good to design a separate co-op mode without death and levels that require at least two players to beat. That's a huge task and probably will not make it into the first release. If the game sells well enough it is definitely a future possibility.