Sunday, June 18, 2017

Interview with Roger Valldeperas of Parallel Circles on Flat Heroes

Parallel Circles was founded by two former developers for TTGames. Deciding to venture off on their own to pursue their own ideas their first offering, Flat Heroes (see preview), is a game whose looks are deceiving. Due to its minimalist vector graphics screen shots don’t give the game credit, but once you start to get into the groove playing with its tight and responsive controls the brilliance can click pretty quickly. Many thanks to Roger Valldeperas (@InspectorRoar) for taking the time to answer some questions on this upcoming Nindie title!

What's it like going from a big-name studio, working in a large team, to forging your own path and working in a very intimate one? What's the general balance of it being empowering versus a bit terrifying since this is your company's first project?

RV: It can be overwhelming, in a way it feels great because we are doing what we want and we can work on projects that motivate us and that we truly believe in, but of course not having the stability and security of a big company is sometimes haunting. It's also a big change having to worry about sales, marketing, PR, taxes and all that coming from just working for some hours and then going home and not worrying about anything until the next working day. But at the end of the day making our own projects clearly outweighs all these little issues for us.

1-Player Campaign Evasion Action!
Having been a small fish in Steam's absolute ocean of content initially with the Early Access path what's the contrast as you're making your way to the much more limited current Switch market? Given what you know do you think the Switch can become a real hot spot for Indies? Is there anything you think could improve their situation overall?

RV: Steam is becoming over-saturated and it's really hard to stand out at the moment, and that's especially true when your game features a minimalist graphic style that to some people will just look like square placeholders and its strongest feature is the control and game-feel. So definitely, we hope on Switch Flat Heroes will have a bit more of exposure that will hopefully invite more people to give it a go.

We don't have much more info than you in terms of Switch support for indies, but as far as we can tell they are doing a pretty decent job and have been really inviting, it's quite clear from the many great indies already announced for Switch.

What made you decide on the extremely minimalist art style for the Flat Heroes?

RV: That's a long story, but basically one day the two of us decided to start a little 2D game and I was going to add a simple sphere just to have something to work with but Lucas insisted in making it a square, just because he loves squares. Then we coded some basic movement and it felt awesome controlling that little square around so we started thinking on what we could do to with that and began Flat Heroes. We had some discussions about the style and since we are both programmers we decided to try a code-driven graphic style, where there are no sprites, every shape is created and animated in code. We liked how it turned out and just kept going with that style, since having a more complex style would probably result in noisy situations where it's not 100% clear what's going on. The simple shapes and flat colors allow us to have more intense scenarios without being chaotic, although it's quite a nightmare from the marketing perspective -_-

4-Players Can Tackle Campaign Levels to Improve Your Odds
The control in the game is absolutely a central part of its hook and overall some of the movement feels reminiscent of Super Meat Boy. Was that an inspiration for the move set or was there another influence that helped define what you were shooting for?

RV: Thanks! The control is indeed one of the strongest features of the game and one of our main focus when working on Flat Heroes. Super Meat Boy was one of the inspirations, probably the most important one in terms of control, the really tight controls and quick movement was something we wanted to have in our game, one of the initial ideas for the game was making a competitive multiplayer Super Meat Boy-like (we started with the versus modes, although the other modes have become more important now). We also loved the first N-ninja game which kind of made us want to focus more on the enemy behaviour than the maps themselves. At the end we're really happy with the result and especially how it feels while at the same time being substantially different to these games (Super Meat Boy has become way harder for me after getting used to Flat Heroes, and I always miss the dash there)

In terms of gameplay I have been surprised at the mixing of styles in Flat Heroes. It will feel like a puzzle game one moment and then suddenly throw in elements that require quick thinking and top-notch evasion skills. On top of that I've seen signs of other styles of play. Did you start out with this ambition or have you just seen opportunities throughout the development process and embraced them?

RV: As I said before the game started with the control of a square, we had nothing else in mind by then we were just enjoying how we could move around with that little square, and it was great. So from there we wanted to make a game that allowed everyone to enjoy moving around as much as we did. But you cannot expect everyone to just pick up the game and immediately get all the subtle accelerations and moves so we decided to add some levels for tutorialization, which are a bit puzzle-y because this way players can focus on perfecting how they move while at the same time we introduce them to the nature of the levels, being able to memorize the level if they need to. But the actual game we want people to play is not about memorizing levels, is about being able to get out of all situations with the move-set provided, it's about moving around. That's why recently we have added the survival modes, because although you may have a general idea of the enemies that are coming it's not about memorizing them, it's about learning how to get out of the different scenarios.

I hope I'm not ruining any surprises here but Level Bosses?!? Really?!? While many games have let me down in terms of boss challenge I'll also go on the record saying that at least one that I've encountered is a complete bastard to beat as well. This is a game of shapes that starts out feeling like a straight puzzler in the campaign mode, what kind of evil people are you?!?

RV: Well, that's when the fun starts really! To be honest when we first decided to have bosses in the game and made the first one we though it was really fun, but it turns out we had become too good at it by then, so that first boss we made is not even in the game now because of how hard it was for most players a(although we'll bring it back), we've been making the bosses easier and easier until players could beat them, so be ready!

Having been blown away by the single-player content and replayability in the title I'm amazed to know I still haven't even gotten to the fact that it supports local multiplayer as well. What has been your approach to each and did the game start out intending for both to be fully viable in their own right?

RV: That's another one of the features we are most proud of, we always wanted a campaign that was possible to beat with single-player, because we know most people won't always have friends to play with, but we also wanted to let players enjoy it with their friends. So we decided to design the enemies and the levels in a way that the whole game can be beaten in single-player, but bringing in friends will make the game a bit easier the more players there are.

So players can choose to play with friends, where the game is a bit easier and welcomes players of any level of experience, requiring less concentration and making it a bit more like a party game (in multiple events we've showcased the game it's been a real pleasure seeing friends, families, couples and many non-experienced players enjoying the game). Or, for more experienced players, they can try to beat the game in single-player, with an experience similar to Super Meat Boy, which is more demanding but at the same time gives an extra satisfaction knowing you could do it all by yourself.

3 Players Try to Survive
Assuming you have success with Flat Heroes do you all have any general ambitions on what you would hope to get the opportunity to explore next?

RV: We do have many exciting future projects in mind! Most of them a bit more risky and experimental than Flat Heroes, depending on how this goes we'll choose the safer options or the more resource-consuming, risky and unique ones.

Many thank for Roger for taking the time to answer my questions! Flat Heroes is currently in Early Access on Steam with no final schedule yet announced for release. If you'd like to sample the game's survival mode a demo for PC can be found here or on Steam.