We Sit Down for a Back and Forth With the Developer of RacketBoy

 

RacketBoy is a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up/block breaker mash-up from Brazilian game studio DoubleDash. After playing the demo for much longer than I intended (it’s a lot of fun) I had a chance to sit down for a chat with the game’s designer, Lucas.

Matthew Hardy – Tell me about yourself – who are you, where are you from, what’s your role in the game?

Lucas Thiers – My name is Lucas. I’m from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I’m the game designer on our team, and also an artist when needed. I usually take care of the game’s visual effects.

Matthew Hardy – How is the indie developer scene in Brazil? Is it easy to meet up with other developers in your area?

Lucas Thiers – Well, the industry itself is still a baby. We have a couple of good titles from Brazilian devs such as Chroma Squad, Toren and Relic Hunters, and lots of cool projects in development such as Tiny Little Bastards, Songs of a Hero, Satellite Rush and our very own Racketboy.
But there’s still much to be done to turn it into a solid industry, and many companies here from RJ have been discussing ways to solve our issues and make the industry grow.

Matthew Hardy – Are all the makers of RacketBoy from Brazil?

Lucas ThiersWe are all from Brazil, yes. Four are in Rio, and our musician lives in another state, to the south. We have a facebook group that brings devs from the entire country together and here in Rio it has been getting easier and easier to find other devs because we’re literally looking for them, haha! As I mentioned above, we are trying to join forces and help each other so we can make the industry grow. So yes, if you know where to look, it doesn’t take long until you can meet up with other devs and start your networking.

Matthew Hardy – Brazil is famous for being underserved by the games console industry, where does your inspiration as a video game maker come from…and how has the internet and smart devices (phones, tablets) shaped that?

Lucas Thiers – Haha, I hope that this fame goes away with time. There is actually a very large consumer base on Brazil, but there has been lots of issues such as piracy on the Ps2 era, or economic problems nowadays ( one US dollar is worth at least 3 Brazilian reais ) that really hinder our capability of acquiring games… As a matter of fact, during the SNES era, which is when I started falling in love with games, I had access to almost no cartridges, so the ones I had were really valuable to me. And I guess I just started to have this affection for the idea of discovering new games, which eventually just transformed into a huge passion for the whole subject.
Also, when entering the 64-bit era, I had a PC that couldn’t run any games, and almost no cartridges for the N64, so I basically played SNES emulator all day, ha-ha…and that was when I started being able to explore a bit about game making on the internet and play around with RPG maker, because I was totally addicted to SNES RPGs at the time. And that’s where I started trying to create something…I was 13 at the time, I guess.

Matthew Hardy – Referring specifically to RacketBoy, how did the premise come about? Was it something you alone thought up or was it brought to you…can you elaborate on the genesis of it?

racketboy pc game interview

Lucas Thiers – Well, the concept of mixing Shmups with block breaker came from a conversation I was having with a friend of mine who is a developer. He had this test where ships would shoot at you and you would bounce the shots back at them. I saw that and started discussing with him about how cool it would be if it were like an astronaut kid with a racket fighting spaceships.
But that was 4 years ago, and I always kept that idea in mind, and never could get a grasp on how to make the mechanics in a fun and easy way to play. I talked about it with the team, and they all liked the idea…but all I brought to them was that tiny concept. The solution for the mechanics came from one of our artists, Jandê. He was also the guy who suggested that we based the visuals of the game on the cute’em up style.
When we heard about the game jam’s theme: Arcade, we spent hours discussing, and decided to create RacketBoy….then everyone started shooting ideas and molding the game into what it became. Honestly, if I had tried to work on it based on what I was imagining alone, it would end up very differently, and not nearly as fun, hah.

Matthew Hardy – It’s a thing of beauty, so simple and yet just enough mechanics (with one button) that strategy becomes a big part of making it through the onslaught on enemies. I love how it’s not just hitting a ball back and forth rather, the mechanics of when to hit and with which side of the “racket” for trajectory and how the ball speeds up and gains in power the longer in it’s in play, it makes the game, in my opinion. Are you responsible for that level of deep thinking?

Lucas Thiers – That was the result of tons of discussion! The idea was to try and make the character somehow resemble the Pads you control on regular Block Breaking games because that’s already a very intuitive mechanic, isn’t it?
But we wanted our character to be human…so after some thinking from the whole team, we came up with the idea of making the collision be measured by that Striking effect that appears in front of the Character whenever you swing your racket. The ball basically bounces off of that semicircular form. That way you have the opportunity to learn how to control the ball’s trajectory after a couple of swings just like you learn to position your paddle in a block breaking game so the ball bounces in the right direction
Matthew Hardy – And that’s another great thing about the game, it instantly feels familiar

Lucas Thiers – I’m glad you think that way. I think we already got the Block breaking part pretty spot on, now we’re working on the Shmup feeling of the game because Shmups are very dynamic, they never stop, and we want to bring that kind of action into our game

Matthew Hardy – How long have you been working on RacketBoy and what features are you looking to put in the game? What kind of bosses will we meet?

Lucas Thiers – We never stopped working on it since July 17, when the jam started, hehe. We’re currently working on trying to show people our intentions with the commercial version of the game, trying to show what you can expect from a full level of Racketboy.
It will follow a Shmup style formula, where you will meet a variety of moving enemy waves, in patterns that can challenge the player to eliminate as many as possible with a well-placed Racket Strike.
A Mid-boss in the middle of the level, which will be based on classic Shmup bosses, the giant Ships/ Creatures that people are used to fighting, but all fitting our game`s universe – meaning, you won`t be fighting a huge ship, you will fight a giant banana-octopus and creatures like that, hehe.

racketboy game

Matthew Hardy – Yeah, I thought I saw a screen shot of giant killer banana, lol.

Lucas Thiers – Yep, I’m personally very excited to work on our Bosses because they will be something that is totally unique to our game and can’t be reproduced in a regular Shmup. The idea is to present the player with Bosses that try to be rivals to Racketboy, fighting him in laser tennis matches. I want the bosses in the game to feel like a boss in Megaman, and that is SUPER intense…but you feel great when you beat one.
The bosses will basically bounce attacks back and forth with you while doing their own routines to try and destroy you while you play a deadly tennis match with them, hehe. So imagine a tennis match where your opponent shoots lasers and bombs at you while you try to return the ball.

Matthew Hardy – I’m assuming RacketBoy will have the ability to change his assault like in other side scrolling shooters?

Lucas Thiers – Well, I’m still studying the possibilities, but you will definitely have ways to customize your strategies, there will probably be 3 ways to do so:

First, you can make a ball ultra-powerful by hitting it over and over again. I’m calling that final state a “SuperBall” (original, huh, ha-ha) and you will be able to choose the effect on the SuperBall. So, instead of just having that ball that goes through stuff, you might prefer to have a ball that spawns other tiny balls whenever it destroys a block or maybe one that causes small explosions per bounce.

Matthew Hardy – Or magnetize the enemies together?

Lucas Thiers – Or (my favorite one) a ball that explodes into a laser when you supercharge it. Dang, magnetizing is cool, like a black hole. I’m definitely writing that down

Matthew Hardy – There’s a lot you can do there in terms of action – there are a lot of balls moving around at once, if they all had different attributes – that’d look pretty interesting, I think.

Lucas Thiers – Yes, we just have to be careful so it doesn’t get too chaotic, to the point where you just lose yourself and die, ha-ha. I’m one that loves the bullet hell style. Racketboy can’t really have as many bullets as a Touhou game, because you have to move through great distances so you can strike the ball but I’m still going to create something that gives you hell, in a good way, hehe.
The other 2 ways are already in the game, but they’re going to be modified. You have power-ups that will affect your racket – so, big racket, power racket, slash racket, magnet racket, those kind of things will appear as power-ups you can collect during game play.
Have you ever played Parodius or Twinbee? It’ll be like how the bell works on those games, you can hit it and it changes, that way you can choose what you’re getting. I want something that follows that idea so you can choose your favorite racket power.
Also, we have buddies. There’s one in the game, and he’s currently just another power-up but buddies will be a different item in the game and you can also hit them and choose the one you want. They all have the same ability to take a hit for you, but they also have their individual skills, such as spawning balls, or lasers, or reflecting a shot for you every now and then.

racketboy game

Matthew Hardy – The “buddies” will be a second RacketBoy type that plays alongside RacketBoy?

Lucas Thiers – Something like that. They’re like that satellite some Shmups have, but with effects that make more sense in Racketboy’s universe. So far I only thought of them as tiny satellites that orbit around you.

Matthew Hardy – How long until it’s something we can buy?

Lucas Thiers – That depends heavily on our IndieGoGo campaign. If we get the money we need, we’re estimating nine months. If we don’t, we will have to work at a much slower pace, and I can’t even give you a realistic estimate – the money will basically allow us to work full time on the game.

Matthew Hardy – So, if everything goes to plan, nine months is a do-able time frame for the five of you? And then what, Steam?

Lucas Thiers – Definitely

Matthew Hardy – PewDiePie played your game on his channel. You’ve hit the big-time. What was that like for you?

racketboy interview

Lucas Thiers – Man, it was amazing! I love his channel, I also love Mark, sadly I didn’t really know Jack before the jam, but I love him too. It’s always a warm and fuzzy feeling to see someone play and enjoy the game you made. Even though it was amazing to see such a huge Youtuber playing it, we loved every single let’s play video that came out about Racketboy – and they’re quite some videos, haha.

Matthew Hardy – What would you like anyone reading this to know?

Lucas Thiers – Just let them know that we’re all super in love with this project; seriously, the whole team can’t wait to play it when it’s done. And that I’m inviting everyone to keep an eye open, because we will be showing that full level example very soon (with mid-boss + Boss and such.) And that not only do we need people to support us by making a pledge on the campaign, but also we want to hear what everyone wants to see in Racketboy. The more crazy ideas, the better!

 

RacketBoy is being developed by DoubleDash studios. You can play a small proof-of-concept demo here:
http://gamejolt.com/games/racketboy/80383

DoubleDash is also running an IndieGoGo campaign through October 13 here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/racketboy-shoot-em-up-block-breaking-madness#/story