Published on September 10th, 2012 | by Joshua Philipp1
From the Devs: Meteor Storm Escape
From the Devs is a new daily feature where we find indie games with potential, and let the developers tell you about their projects. Today we have Sean Butler, developer of Meteor Storm Escape.
TechZwn: What’s your game and what’s it about?
Butler: Meteor Storm Escape is a retro styled apocalyptic driving/flying game. You could call it an end of the world stunt-em-up!
A Meteor Storm has hit your city. Escape the cataclysm on your futuristic Hoverbike. Weave across country and avoid the meteors as they smash down into the landscape around you.
Ride into valleys and up hills into the air. Use every millisecond of hangtime to perform twisty- turney stunts before you slam down into the ground again. Land correctly and you can boost forward even faster.
With retro graphics and pumping psy-trance music, Meteor Storm Escape delivers a visceral dramatic experience with a strong reminiscence factor.
TechZwn: What makes your game unique?
Butler: We like to think its a unique combination of ingredients really, retro graphics, more-ish gameplay, procedural generation, no-killing policy but still compelling and dramatic.
Meteor Storm Escape is retro, we like retro games, they remind us of when we were young and computers were special and futuristic. Its retro but not pixel art, clean straight lines and a flat ￼shaded aesthetic. Do you remember when computer graphics were futuristic, we are trying to feel that feeling again.
The landscape is generated with procedural algorithm. Randomised mountain heights and smooth rolling curves joining them together create an infinite rolling landscape whose hills and valleys can be used to zoom high into the air. The procedural algorithm that generates the landscape in Meteor Storm Escape switches to a new iteration every day. So you have a full day to practice and get better on the track in front of you. Tomorrow is a new day, a new track and you will have to learn its curves anew.
Non violent, even kids can play it, but still very dramatic. The title says it really, Meteor Storm Escape, you hop on your futuristic hoverbike and speed away across the undulating landscape weaving to avoid the meteors that smash down and explode around you. No enemies to shoot, something we were keen on.
TechZwn: Where did the inspiration come from?
Butler: We are gamers, wanted to make a game that we wanted to play so all the while gameplay has been shown to as many people as possible. Our first game Indigo Bunny wasn’t very good in comparison, we deliberately put ease of development first and had a naive understanding of the iOS market. This time the game is made for us, this is the kind of game we want to play on our devices, we hope this will show in the gameplay, and that you will too.
There was this post on TigSource back in 2007 which showed lovely wireframe gourard shaded graphics, its the kind of approach i’d been fiddling with in little hobby game engines for years so when the opportunity came i knew it would be a possible approach.
Sitting on my desk was a copy of National Geographic that had an advert for the Prius. I really liked the paper and simple low poly approach they had done for their images.
In another life i made that other kind of video game, you know not indie. In My Sims Racing DS there was a stunting system that is similar to the one used in Meteor Storm Escape. That one had to be good for kids so its significance in the game systems was reduced and was universally overlooked by the reviewers but it was an awesome gameplay where spinning in mid-air gave you boost if you landed properly. I was quite proud of it at the time.
Ideas float around our heads retro shaded, plastic looking, strange lighting, challenging gameplay ideas We all fiddle around with different ideas in isolation but seeing something created by another online like these above kind of gives you permission to go for it.
TechZwn: Is there anything you saw in modern gaming that you’d like to change or build on with your game?
Butler: Meteor Storm Escape has an incredibly dramatic end of the world scenario. This drama drives the gameplay but no guns and the player doesn’t have to shoot enemies.
A few of us on the team making Meteor Storm Escape have kids. Any parent who has a boy will be all too aware of the issues surrounding children and toy guns. It seems every new intake of boys in preschool works out some way of playing with guns no matter how you control their access to the concept of killing and shooting.
I’m not totally about quashing violence, it does exist in the world and eventually kids do need to learn about it and be able to handle it. However working from home means I want to be able to share what i do with my son. This means if possible a game shouldn’t be about killing the enemy as a goal.
Years ago, on another project where i was the lead programmer the player travelled the world finding treasures and who uncovered an artifact that gave unparalleled power! While there were plenty of opportunities to leap across gaps and so on with a whip, the player could have used it to defeat the locals willy-nilly. There were a couple of conversations about this with the designer and producer but it seemed a side effect and I didn’t raise it early enough in development to make difference to the project. So Meteor Storm Escape has a dramatic scenario, a compelling motivation, and a threat to life, but and for me its a big but, you don’t have to kill the locals to win.
Doom changed the market for video games by being a serious advanced video game that was comparable to or better than anything else out there and still you could play the first few levels for free with a demo. If you liked it then well, buy the rest, and the rest is as they say history. Consoles had created a locked in audience that relies on advanced pre-reviews and hype. When the iPhone came along the market quickly changed to one where you can play a game
￼for free and then decide. I like free to play, done well it means a game stands on its own quality rather than hype. I’m not talking about facebook style nickel and dime to play faster and tell your friends manipulation. Create a fun compelling experience and people will want to play it. Free to play means more people can find out for themselves whether your game is any good and at no cost to themselves. If they like it, well there are plenty of opportunities to extend their experience or explore greater variety with extra missions, ships, etc.
TechZwn: Is there anything else you’d like to say or talk about regarding your game (or gaming in general)?
Butler: We are in very early pre-production in a game we call Archipelago where you play as a kid in micronesia or the polynesian islands piloting your small wooden sailboat by currents or clouds and birds paths or the stars between islands buying and selling produce as you go. We’re working on making a rolling ocean with waves that are always moving so the ocean surface feels its really alive. Right now seems challenging but if we can pull off the correct oceanic feel with procedural algorithm then the world could be enormous.
We live in very good times as game developers. The gaming public at large has become aware of indie games and is looking beyond the big three platforms for its interactive entertainment.
New properties explode overnight, Angry Birds, Tiny Wings, etc all came from nowhere and have now become household names. The old consoles worked on a model that involved licensing and controlling the market in effect creating stagnation. The new phones and tablets not only bring new players, but they also bring new opportunity for play not infront of the sofa, but around a table or on the back seat of the car. With a tablet and the right game a toddler and granny can play a game together in social ways that wasn’t possible before. We’re all very lucky.