A few months ago I wrote a bit about the platform action shooter, Featherpunk Prime. It took a really different concept and surrounded it with some quality gameplay and a cool soundtrack. I liked my time with the game and its unforgiving difficulty, so I contacted the developers, Super Hatch Games, and asked a few questions. Dan Jeffery was kind and gracious enough to answer some questions on Featherpunk Prime and games in general.
[First things first, I had to ask about the idea of making an action game about a Flamingo. If there was one thing that instantly stands out about Featherpunk Prime is the lead character. I don't know how many games feature a flamingo that the player controls, but I'm fairly confident there are not many.]
What were the origins of the Featherpunk Prime idea? Flamingos and cyberpunk dystopia - how did that come about?
Stephen, the other half of Super Hatch Games has got a thing for birds. He bought a big bird encyclopedia; there's so many interesting creatures in there. The flamingo really stood out for a number of reasons, we thought it was quite distinctive and a little wacky. From a character design point of view, flamingos have some interesting poses and their articulation allows for some interesting animations. Basing the game on birds was a great source of inspiration. In all honesty, I'm not totally sure where the dystopia came from, i think it seemed like a natural thing to go to for the both of us. We thought it was an interesting choice to mix a bright and vivid dystopia with mechanical birds. With a dystopian future, it's easy to imagine a hostile force against you at every turn.
[I had to know if there were any games that had direct influences on Featherpunk Prime. In my write-up, I noted that the game reminded me of Darius, Thexder, and Cybernator. Dan's answer surprised me, but I really should have known.]
Were there any games that influenced the ideas behind Featherpunk Prime?
I was probably unconsciously influenced by games such as Turrican and Mega Man. On the surface FPP appears to be most similar to these games, in terms of the weapons and the firing mechanics.
Believe it or not, one of the primary influences is Rogue Legacy. I had been playing it a lot when we started and it permeated a lot of my thoughts at the time. Featherpunk Prime ended up quite different though. Rogue Legacy feels really satisfying to play, but is pretty difficult for most people. By just playing, you earn credits and can purchase/upgrade more items, while learning to get better along the way. I just think it's a cool journey to go on. I wanted to make that journey more streamlined and less frustrating. It's cool to see some reviewers pick up on it!
Another big influence, believe it or not, is Geometry Wars. This is almost the game I played the most on Xbox 360. I just love getting into the zone. I wanted to mix my two favourite genres for years, the platformer and the twin stick shooter. We always new it was going to be a risk, and probably a niche game. A player really needs the experience and muscle memory of both genres to get the best out of it! We do try to ease the player in at the start, but it's wild how differently people get on with the game.
We were also influenced by Spelunky in terms of the level generation and the level progress. I had a level generation prototype that I made a while ago based on Spelunky, a series of handmade 'rooms' attached together and their contents randomly swapped. I decided to build on it for FPP.
Another game that inspired us was Super Crate Box, you'll see that in the 'random weapons' that appear each floor. Originally we were going to make the game more silly and have a random theme each floor, so you'd be quickly going from one location to the next, but we thought more consistent progress and a more serious tone would be much better. Though there's still a lot of playful elements.
[I am always interested in what people around the world grew up playing. As enthusiasts of the hobby, I feel these experiences can connect us in the same way that music, movies, TV, and books do.]
What games did you grow up playing and obsessing over?
Super Metroid, I often to say, is my favourite game, so you'll probably be able to see some influences from there! There are loads of things to like, I love the style and the atmosphere, the discovery and the journey that you go through. I really love Samus' physics and the tactility of all of the enemies, I think you definitely see those elements come through.
I love that era of games, some of the decisions in Super Metroid make it hard for me to believe it is just nostalgia that draws people back to 16-bit games.
What has the response been since release?
Sales have been steady, but in quite a small volume to be honest. We've struggled to get the word out, I think its hard to convey the strengths of FPP and to distinguish it from other platformer games. It might be an indication of the state of indie games on steam, or the platformer genre might be saturated, as some have suggested to us. Its heartening to see people really have fun with it in videos or at expos though. Still, it is early days and we'll carry on supporting it. I've got some ideas for updates that I'm really excited for!
[I really hope that Featherpunk Prime finds its audience. I think it is a quality title for fans of the action platformer with a unique setting and character.
Come back tomorrow for Part 2 with some detail on the upcoming updates for the game!]