Co-Optimus: Yum! How long has Dogfight been in development? Did you gain any useful feedback from the release of the Steam demo back in June 2022?
Anthony: We started working on Dogfight back in 2019, but it got sidelined for a while as other projects took priority. I think the delay was useful, though, because it gave us time to pick at the design here and there, and really figure out how to make it fun and bring personality and humor into it. Shoot 'em ups are conceptually really simple, but there's a lot of hidden complexity in there. A good shoot 'em up level is like a piece of music - there's a rhythm and structure to it, and the extra time helped us develop that sense of rhythm.
The Steam demo was useful, but I think we got some of the best feedback seeing people play the game in person at conventions. We set up a 4-player arcade cabinet and watched friends, families, and strangers all play together. It was really useful to see, oh, everybody dies in this spot, maybe we can message this thing better, or, wow, I didn't expect a player to do that, maybe that's something that could be fun to incorporate more of. Mostly, it was really encouraging, as folks had a lot of fun. A lot of people said, "Wow, this is like the stuff I used to play back in the day, why aren't there more games like this anymore?"
Dogfight's Level Editor
Co-Optimus: One of the game’s coolest features is that players can equip two weapons from an unlockable arsenal of 24 total weapons. How do we unlock new armaments, and do you have any favorite combinations?
Anthony: New weapons become available as you play through levels and earn stars, so you can go back, replay a previous level, and get a new unlock from it. For me, my loadout just depends on what level I'm encountering. The Bubble Gun is great when there's a lot of dangerous stuff on the screen, so I tend to pick that as a backup later in the game. The Wave Gun provides good screen coverage, so that's a pretty good combo.
My two favorite individual weapons are the Missile Volley and the Atomic Andouille. The Missile Volley reminds me of mecha anime where missiles are flying everywhere, and I'm a sucker for that stuff. The Atomic Andouille just because of how bizarre the idea is.
There's over 250 possible different weapon combinations, so lots and lots of replayability with trying out different loadouts. And that's just for one player! When you're going co-op, it's fun to strategize loadout combinations between everyone on your team.
Co-Optimus: What kind of power-ups or pickups can we find during levels?
Anthony: During a level, you can pick up power boosts and drones. I think those things will be familiar to many players and easy to figure out right away. Over the course of a level, you can boost your weapon's power from 1 to 5, so by the time you hit the stage boss, you can be slinging some serious firepower. The drones give you a little buddy that flies along with you and provides some backup.
Co-Optimus: How many levels make up the game, and how have you created replay value?
Anthony: The game has 9 levels with unique environments, unique enemies, and mega bosses. This goes back to the desire to let you play through the entire story in one sitting if you so choose, keeping the game a fun couch co-op activity for the whole family or when you have friends over. If you just want the pick-up and play experience, this is the approach for you.
As mentioned [earlier], as you play the game and collect stars, you will unlock new weapons that play and feel differently. We let you choose any two weapons for your plane, without restriction, so you can try to beat the entire game using only short range weapons like the shotgun and the sword, or only bombs and no bullets. It’s entirely up to you.
For the players looking for a bit more of a challenge, we have four difficulty levels and seven different speedrun settings. We are particularly proud of the way we integrated speedrun into the game. Each enemy you destroy will increase the speed of the game up to 1.6x speed, and each hit you take will reduce that speed. It’s up to you to get the best time possible clearing the game knowing that the more enemies you destroy, the [faster] time you’ll get, but the more difficult it will be. We can’t wait to see playthroughs of people using crazy weapon combinations to get the best times.
For a real challenge, try beating the game in Atomic difficulty, with a single life, single player, at 1.6x speed armed only with the Bubble Gun and Haggis Mines.
Co-Optimus: What kind of enemies can we expect to battle in Dogfight?
Anthony: We wanted to keep Dogfight grounded in the world of Sausage Bomber, which meant staying away from the usual staples of the genre: alien spaceships. This is not to say there will never be aliens or spaceships in the world of Sausage Bomber - who knows what the future holds. You’ll shoot big planes, small planes, tanks, helicopters, jeeps, etc. Most of the smaller enemies you’ll run into will look vaguely familiar, with a few surprises down the road. One of my favorites has got to be the massive weapon platform walker that shows up in the Soda Mountains. It was a lot of fun to design and animate, and it’s a blast to shoot down.
The mega bosses are certainly the stars of the show. We can’t wait for players to discover them all, especially the mega boss in the last level, which we won’t spoil for you.