Earlier this month we reviewed Sky Racket, an unconventional, and yet so addicting shoot’em up from indie developer, Double Dash Studios. In fact, it has been one of our most played games so far.
This month, we got a chance to interview the men behind the phenomenon to pick their brains and to gain some insight into Sky Racket’s early development, the fears of self-publishing, and of course, the long term goals from this talented team.
wwg: Reading some of your responses from the Steam forums, we know that Arkanoid and Wizorb were the primary influences for the development of Sky Racket. What other games influenced the creation of the game?
DD: Actually, we only found out about Wizorb long after we were already deep in development, so it wasn’t one of the influences. If we had to pick a few games, I believe Arkanoid (actually the block breaker genre as a whole), Fantasy Zone and Parodius would be the main influences, which I believe it’s easy to see amongst the whole non-sense aesthetics in the game.
But we had a lot of influences peppered throughout the development. Sonic & Knuckles, and Sonic Mania by extent were big influences to the way we present the levels, change the backgrounds during gameplay and from one Set to the other, and also to how we present the story throughout the game. Megaman, Kirby and Marvel vs Capcom also served as influences in some of the aesthetics, NiGHTS and even Doom were big references on how we did the games combo system.
We also have some non-game influences such as Steven Universe, Adventure Time, with the colors and cutesy characters and Astro Boy, with its simplistic character design that was a very big inspiration for RacketBoy very early on.
wwg: What were the early development ideas like? Did you always want the game to have a distinctly retro look or did you initially envision Sky Racket to be in full 3D? What were the advantages/disadvantages your team faced at the beginning of development?
DD: For the visuals, we were actually really quick in deciding the art style and references. We are big fans of Pixel Art and the first version we made of the game was for a GameJam with the “Arcade” theme, so it was a perfect fit! We’ve worked a lot with 16bit-like visuals before and felt we could do a very faithful rendition of late 80s arcade and early 90s consoles, something like a long lost Mega Drive or SNES game.
We never envisioned it in 3D, it was always supposed to be a 2D retro-inspired shmup-like game. We would only put 3D in the game if it emulated something that those l systems could do back then – and we actually thought a lot about it – like Sonic’s Special Stages, Sega’s Super Scaler (as in Space Harrier and OutRun) or all the crazy things the SNES did with the SuperFX chip and Mode 7. The latter actually came to fruition with some of the “wavy” effects in the water, those dizzy moments and some of the crazier stuff later in the game.
Honestly, our biggest challenge was defining the Core mechanics. Mixing block breaker and shoot’em up meant we would have a hard time finding a good balance between the two genres. So getting the controls and the difficulty right was kinda tough (we still feel like we can do better with it and improve that balance even after so much time working on the game).
wwg: There are tons of humor in the game. As we were playing, we noted hint(s) of creativity from your team (like shaking the stick left/right to get rid of the clinging cats). Where there any other ideas your team came up with that didn’t make it to the final build? If so, why not?
DD: Yes, definitely! I mean, I believe most teams have enough ideas to make a second game when they’re working on something, haha. We have concepts for more worlds, each with a different gimmick, just like the ones that are already in the game. We also thought of some interesting game modes, enemies, bosses, a lot of stuff that didn’t make it to the game. But the reason is simple: We had a set amount of money and time invested in the project. Once we knew how much we had to work with, and how long we wanted the production cycle to be, we made cuts and choices so we could make sure that we would be able to polish the game as much as we wanted. We’d rather have a game with less content but great quality. If we tried to make too much, it might not feel so good to play or look as good.
wwg: Your team decided to create, develop and self publish the game. Being an indie game studio, marketing, and advertising cost can take a significant amount of financial strain on your team. How was the decision made to self publish Sky Racket versus finding a publisher to offset most of the cost?
DD: Sky Racket was our first release, so it was all uncharted territory for us. It still is, we’re always learning something as we go. We didn’t really feel secure with self-publishing, but we knew that closing a deal with a publisher didn’t mean our problems would magically be solved either… So we decided to have people on our team that would be working full-time in marketing and advertising, as a self-publishing effort, and we would keep that effort even if we closed a deal with a publisher, later on, to make sure that we were doing as much as we can while we also learn to be as independent as possible.
During development we talked to a few publishers, big and small. We were always open to that possibility, but we ended up not closing any deals, sometimes because we didn’t like the deal, and sometimes because we were just rejected. Sky Racket can be a difficult game to market: it doesn’t fit any genre, and the one closest to it, Shoot ‘em Up, is very niche. It’s like we’re selling tangerine to people who like apples and oranges if that makes any sense.
wwg: Sky Racket is receiving tons of accolades and recognition from the gaming community. Are you and your team surprised at all the positive praise the game is currently receiving?
DD: It makes us super happy that people have been enjoying it so much! Of course, it’s what we wanted, but we didn’t know what to expect, so yeah, we’re pretty surprised. There have been some very fair criticism as well, but it makes me happy to see that even people who have something to complain about in the game, are still recommending it.
It’s been great to see some people dissecting the game and trying to understand the lore, doing all missions and achievements, we’ve even had a few fanarts as well. The Twitch community, especially in Brazil, have been amazing! A lot of streamers have been playing and recommending to other streamers, some viewers even bought the game as a gift so they could watch someone else playing.
wwg: Last Question (I promise!): What’s next for the Double Dash Team and what does the bright future hold for series? Sky Racket 2, perhaps? …..hmmm?
DD: Right now we’ve been discussing what our next project should be! We have tons of ideas, but we need to be extra careful with our decisions before jumping into a new project. But we’ll definitely be sharing whatever it is we’re working on with everyone who enjoyed Sky Racket.
As for a sequel… we don’t know about Sky Racket 2 yet, haha. We have a TON of ideas: some cut from the game, some we thought about during production, a couple of spin-offs, and some that came up from watching people play and theorize around the game. We also had a few nice suggestions from players, and we are always looking for ways to make everyone happy. But we’re still working on updates. We want to work on a bit of content while we try to get it to consoles in 2020 so that players can still get a couple of nice surprises throughout the year.
Thanks for the interview, guys! Good luck with your next big project! – walawalagames