Co-Optimus: What have you learned since you first made “Vertical Drop Heroes” and has that helped with the transition to PC?
Sim: In the original Vertical Drop Heroes, the level generation engine was literally a random generator. It was completely possible to get stuck due to not having the right skills to escape the current generated level, which is.. not very good. For Vertical Drop Heroes HD, I’ve redesigned the level generator completely from scratch, and it now generates pre-designed “chunks” of the level, while varying the details of each part, while ensuring the players will always have a way forward.
I’ve made many, many games with randomly generated parts over the years since the original VDH, and I’ve found that a careful mix of pure randomness and predesigned parts are often the best way to go. I’ve also learned that many of a game’s most memorable parts actually come from the emergent situations caused by a complex interplay between the game’s systems, and hopefully the randomised mix of enemies and skills will lead to many fun moments for the players!
Also, for this transition to a full PC version, I’m working with Digerati Distribution to handle the PR, marketing and distribution side of things: there’s only so much one person can do, after all. They’ve done an awesome job so far of taking that part of the business off my shoulders, and we look forward to many more projects together in the future.
Co-Optimus: Why incorporate roguelike elements instead of a straightforward RPG loot or level mechanic?
Sim: I’ve always been fascinated by random generation, long before the current wave of roguelike elements in games (which makes me VERY happy!). I think every single one of my games so far have had random generation. Here’s a partial list:
- Cluesweeper: Solve a randomised murder mystery, minesweeper style!
- Vertical Drop Heroes: Randomly generated Platformer RPG!
- Zombies took my Daughter: Fight through a zombie infested, randomised city!
- Monster Slayers: Assemble a perfect squad to fight through randomised battles!
- I Am An Insane Rogue AI: Take over randomised buildings as a crazed AI!
And the list goes on! Therefore, a platformer RPG from Nerdook Productions is highly unlikely to be a linear game, and while there are level and XP aspects in the game, I’ve decided to focus on the procedural generation to generate a fresh experience each time!
Co-Optimus: What lead to the decision to make a co-op game?
Sim: As I’ve said, I’m a big fan of having emergent situations occur in a game, and nothing creates emergent situations better than having another fellow human by your side. The sheer unpredictability of a human brain just leads to many possible situations in the game, most of which I have never imagined, but will undoubtedly happen when players get their hands on the game.
Having twice as many skills and twice as many brains in a game leads to many, many times more fun, and making the most fun experience possible for players is the ultimate goal of any game designer!
Co-Optimus: What’s been your experience so far with the Steam Greenlight program? Has it proven to be a good way to get the word out about your game?
Sim: I went into Steam Greenlight fully aware of the various stories about it: long months spent languishing in “the system” for some games, while some other games going viral and breezing past Greenlight easily. Vertical Drop Heroes has been there for close to 5 months now, and is still slowly accumulating the votes required to be Greenlit, so I guess it’s a process where a majority of developers will just have to be patient. There are a LOT of games there, after all, and it’s getting more difficult to get your game noticed out there!
I think it’s been sort of useful for collecting feedback about my game from a wider audience, but mostly I end up seeing it as a long process to go through before I can sell my game on Steam.
Co-Optimus: Do you already have plans in place for what’s next?
Sim: I don’t have any solid plans yet. A lot of it depends on how well Vertical Drop Heroes HD does, and if it’s a commercial success, I’ll definitely be updating many more of my games and bringing them to the desktop. As a man once said, in my all-time favourite book series: “Plans can break down. You cannot plan the future.. The wise man steers!" –Paraphrased from Discworld ;)
Co-Optimus: What are some of your favorite co-op games?
Sim: On the PC, I used to spend many hours playing Real Time Strategy games with my brother against teams of computer AI in Starcraft and later, Warcraft III, though I am not quite sure if that counts! I’ve also spent many hours on Diablo 2 and the original Left4Dead with my friends back in my university days.
I’ve recently gotten into board games as well, which have enjoyed a healthy resurgence into the mainstream recently, and we’ve been having great fun playing games like Ghost Stories and Gears of War: the Boardgame! I’ve even taken some time off to design home-made variants for Descent 2nd Edition… which is probably proof that men will always enjoy doing what they spent all their free time doing in their youth!
We'd like to thank Sim for taking the time to chat with us and answer our questions. Vertical Drop Heroes HD is available now for just $4.49 from GOG.com, and the Steam Greenlight page for Vertical Drop Heroes HD can be found here.