Glad to hear it! When Infernax first launched, the semi-hidden Contra-style Gun Mode set a tone of creativity that you’ve maintained through a handful of amazing updates. Heck, the run-and-gun mode even supports co-op now! How did Gun Mode (accessible via the Konami code) come about, and what kind of impact does it have on the story and gameplay?
From the get-go, the point of making a nostalgic game was not to just make it look like it came out of the 80s. We wanted the player to feel like they were back in their granny’s basement, high on sugary cereals and juice pouches – back when [young gamers] still had a fertile imagination, yet to be broken by the inevitable passage of time, along with a very loose concept of what can even be in a game.
Before the Internet became a fad, unfounded videogame rumors were plentiful. Every schoolyard had some sort of variation of “if you beat the Mario minus stage 100 times, you’ll see the princess naked,” or “if you beat Zelda without getting hit, you’ll see the princess naked,” and who can’t forget “if you beat Tetris without dying you’ll see the princess naked”? There was a lot of seeing princesses naked back then. We wanted that, but what if it was actually true… except without naked princesses.
So back during the Kickstarter campaign, Simon was streaming a ton, like every single day he’d stream game development, some Infernax, some Zombidle. Most of it was just fun stuff like “let’s code a cheat that gives you a gun, or a bike,” because it’s a lot more entertaining for viewers to watch a guy have fun making their own game than to watch someone fix bugs in an inventory system.
Since [Gun Mode] was a cheat, we never intended it to have any impact on the game itself. It was meant to break the game in the first place, like how Game Genie codes had a chance at bricking your save. If you were playing with the gun, you knew what you were doing, and it wasn’t playing the game as intended. That was until we decided to add more playable characters and figured that if we were going to test out all the use cases for [other characters], we might as well do it for Gun Mode too.
I’m starting to see a pattern where we make game-changing decisions over inside jokes. It's probably not what people should take away from this, but it’s been working out for us so far, I guess.
Speaking of which, around the Halloween season, the shotgun-wielding Stranger was added as a third playable character. Players just need to start a new file with the name “Stranger” to access him. How does this character fit into Infernax’s medieval world?
He doesn’t really. It all loops back to the schoolyard rumor concept. He’s not in there to make sense; he’s in there because we refuse to acknowledge that time moves on and that we’re anything more than a band of slightly taller teenagers with responsibilities, and [because] adding a mix of every 80s horror/slasher movie tropes in our medieval video game was hilarious when we said it out loud.
More early concept art for Cervul
At last, we come to the recent “Deux or Die” update that adds 2-player local co-op, a single-player tag team mode, and Cervul the squire as a playable character. Was co-op always planned from the start, and what kind of work went into implementing the feature?
It’s something that had been in the back of our creative director Etienne’s mind for a while. We had toyed with the concept way back before the launch, even before we had multiple classes. We never could really make it work. It was missing something, and we were running out of time to figure it out. Once we launched, I don’t think we even had a week to breathe before [Etienne] came back with, “So, can we work on co-op now?” He really wanted it.
So we spent the last year [working] on it almost exclusively. We maybe took a month and a half for the Stranger update, since it was just adding a new character. But adding a character that’s entirely different from the base hero so [that] it doesn’t feel like you are just playing Jimmy and Bimmy – that takes a long time. It wasn’t just gameplay. We had to make sure he fits in the world we built, that he has a place in the lore.
Concept art for Cervul
How does Cervul differ from Alcedor, the main character, and does his presence impact the story?
Cervul is a support character. His arcing axes tell you that from the moment you set foot off the boat, killing monsters on his own would be a hellish nightmare, pun intended.
Being a squire means he is not attuned to magic like Alcedor, the paladin, so he uses tools to help his lord with his quest. That doesn’t mean he’s a pushover, just that he complements the hero of the story.
We had a lot of fun writing him in [as] some sort of mix between Burt Ward’s Robin and a 1950s retired middle-class Englishman.
We’ll be reviewing the co-op mode in the near future, but we have a few questions: How does co-op impact the difficulty of the game? How are gold and upgrades shared between both players? And can a stronger player carry a weaker player through the game?
That’s part of why it took us over a year to add it in, figuring it all out. The game had to be rebalanced to take into account the added firepower, so that means more enemies, traps, harder bosses.
The fun part of designing the economy is that it actually works in character: Alcedor is the Lord; he carries and spends the coins. Factually, the gold pool is shared, but everything you purchase is either just for Alcedor (Cervul doesn’t have potions flasks or spells) or you purchase for both characters at the same time. Armors and weapons upgrade come in packs of two [in our game], like it was back in the [old] days. What, you’ve never heard the old saying, “Buy a mace, get an axe for free”? Medieval marketing, man.
Every kill awards XP for both players, and both players spend their XP how they want. That’s how Cervul upgrades his tools too. The added enemies help there since Cervul’s progression bottleneck is XP.
As far as carrying a weaker player through, it was kind of the plan. We wanted to give people a reason to come back to Infernax a year after, and what better way to do it than to give them a way to share the game they like with a friend? The experienced player can play Cervul and help their friend through. The new player gets to experience the story for the first time, and in return, the other person gets to play a new character and see the game in a different light.
That’s all in theory, of course, [based on] the assumption that people that like our game have friends... which is a given. With such impeccable taste, they have to, right?
Your math checks out. The “Deux or Die” update added new Achievements to the Steam version of the game and new Trophies to the PlayStation version, but the Xbox version doesn’t seem to have gained any new Achievements. Will the Xbox game get more Achievements in the future?
They should be live by the time you read these lines, logistic issues.
Phew! Speaking of the future, do you have any more updates planned for Infernax before you move on to your next big project? Have you considered adding a New Game Plus mode?
[We are not] currently planning anything for the near future. Since we’ve been working on Infernax for thirteen years, we just might be all a bit Infernax-ed out.
A wise man once said, “Never say never,” though, so who knows what the future holds?
Finally, is there anything you’re proud of about Infernax that we haven’t already touched on?
It’s not … a thing but just the whole experience of making it. I’m incredibly proud of our team for basically defying destiny and sticking to our beliefs that Infernax had to exist and that people would like it. Some might call it reckless; I call that… reckless… passion?
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Infernax costs $19.99 on Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, and Steam. We'll have a full co-op review soon!