Friday, September 29

Interview with Florian Emmerich of THQ Nordic on Sine Mora EX

If you’re a big fan of challenging old school side-scrolling shooters you’re in luck, Sine Mora EX has officially entered the building! An upgrade of the classic Sine Mora it has been refined visually to look absolutely stunning while some tweaks have been made to its infamous difficulty level to help make it more accessible to people who aren’t quite as hardcore. I was able to get some time to interview Reinhard Pollice, one of the leads behind this updated version of the game, to discuss the game, the changes that have been made, and the nature of how things work with an entity like THQ Nordic.

Starting with the standard opening question, you're given the mic at a gamer conference of some kind and are asked to pitch Sine Mora EX to the fans in attendance. Go!

RP: Sine Mora EX is a horizontal shoot em up game with a unique time mechanic that serves as your hit points. Time is also further woven into the gameplay by being able to manipulate it to use it for your advantage. We balanced the game in a way that it works for both newcomers as well as hardcore shoot em up players to provide the right challenge for everyone.

Taking a look at any screens or video of the game it has obviously gotten quite a graphical overhaul from the original Sine Mora, can you elaborate on the most meaningful updates have been aside from the visuals? 

RP: As you noticed we updated the visuals considerably to provide an up to date eye candy experience. Besides that the main areas of design work went into proper re-balancing the game and implementing local multiplayer modes. There is a story coop mode and 3 distinct versus modes for added fun and being able to enjoy the game together with a friend.

I remember when playing the original on my nVidia Shield tablet it was downright hard in places, and that's for an old school shmup fan. Has anything been done to retain the tough as nails stuff while making it more accessible to people who aren't quite ready for the full challenge without some warm up?

RP: Yes, we added a difficulty level for entry level shoot em up players to offer the right challenge curve for both experienced and new players.

The most memorable things from the game, for me, were the formidable bosses. Was anything done to juice them up further or were they great enough as they were?

RP: We did minor tweaks gameplay to the boss fighting experience.

I've seen mention of the added ability to play the game cooperatively. How does that work and is the game's difficulty adjusted when you add someone? Is it drop-in / drop-out or something you set out with and then need to stick with throughout?

RP: You have to start a coop mode game. The second player gets a special vessel that has the ability to shoot in all directions making it a very useful support tool to aid you in combat. Balancing wise its the same but the second player receives just 1/4 of the damage the main player gets.

I've also seen that there are some Versus modes included now as well. Can you elaborate on them?

RP: Sure, so the general idea is to offer some easy to learn minigames to spice up the overall package. There is a race mode where the screen scrolls horizontally and you have to dodge obstacles – the players who survives the longest wins. Then there is a deathmatch mode where the aim is to shoot the other player until he has no „health“ left. The last one is a dodge ball mode where there are generators behind each player that need to be shot by the other.

I normally deal in independent developers but I've been curious about the structure and approach of THQ Nordic and, from the outside, it seems a bit non-traditional. Would you say your team has the central support from them but are able to act somewhat independently?

RP: We had a very small team working on Sine Mora EX that all worked on the original and had the passion to make a great game even better. Our approach was very hands on and only had one goal in mind: to deliver the best possible Sine Mora experience and to achieve that goal we pulled every string.

Looking over the summary of offices THQ Nordic has they're spread all over the world. Where is your specific team based or was this a collaborative effort with people in multiple locations?

RP: The project team for Sine Mora EX was distributed. The majority of the actual developers was based in Budapest, Hungary but actually not working out of the same offices.

Did anyone on the team have a direct connection to the original title or was this an acquired license that your team was then charged with revitalizing?

RP: Most of the team members worked also on the original Sine Mora. If possible and if there is interest we try to work with people that already have some hands-on experience on a franchise as this gives everybody a head start when diving into a project based off an established franchise or game.

Did working on this give you and your team some ideas you'd love to implement in a future game that you weren't able to put into the conversion since, for the most part, it is already established?

RP: We have a lot of further ideas for Sine Mora and we hope that one day we can work on a completely new game in the series. Working with something established always gives you some constraints and being able to work completely free would open up some new possibilities.

On the heels of this conversion are you likely going to pick up another acquisition to work on? Any hints at what that next project may involve? 

RP: We have so many projects that we could start and unfortunately its pretty difficult to give hints without teasing too much. However we believe that at least one game that we acquired together with Sine Mora would be a perfect Switch game.

I wanted to thank Reinhard for taking his time to answer these questions as well as Florian and Bryden for helping to coordinate it all for us. Sine Mora EX is available NOW on the Nintendo Switch eShop!