I think the video and screenshots speak for themselves. If you’re fans of the 80s, arcades, flight sims, shooters, this game has it all. After it wiped the floor with me, I caught up with Daryl from Tri-Coastal Games to get the lowdown on one of the most eagerly anticipated retro indie titles of the year – Dystoria – out Monday 21st Feb on Steam.
Your new project Dystoria is billed as a cross between Descent and Super Mario Galaxy (two of our favourite games). How did you come up with the idea and can you tell our readers a little bit more about the game?
Hey thanks! We definitely love Descent and SMG too! The idea for Dystoria actually came while I was on holidays visiting my buddy Jay Martens. He thought it would be really cool to have a game where you cruise along and if you go over an edge then the whole map reorients itself to your new rotation. I thought it sounded cool too, so we started prototyping it on my laptop the same day and were pretty pleased with the results. It was cool because even a really simple map became challenging to navigate because of all the axis shifting. The brain-melting aspect of it was pretty fun, and as far as we knew, it hadn’t really been done before (sorry Kula World, I never knew you).
When I got back from holidays I showed it to Craig and we decided to stop development on our current project (which was getting way too big for two guys) and focus on this new idea. Naturally, being sci-fi lovers it was a pretty obvious choice to use spaceships and the zero gravity environment of space. And of course if you have space ships, they need to shoot, and if you can shoot, you need enemies to blow up so the game started to take shape and eventually became the Dystoria that you see now.
Who does what at Tri-Coastal Games and how can you be on three coasts if you’re a two man dev team?
Craig Grierson does all the 3D modelling and is responsible for a lot of the game design, level design and quality assurance. I handle the programming, art, music and sound FX. Being a small studio, of course, we both end up wearing a lot of different hats, so our job descriptions are pretty broad. But we like it that way. It’s more fun.
As far as the name Tri-Coastal goes, we are from Canada which as far as we know is the only country that has three coastlines. So… yeah. We try to be educational and patriotic all at the same time (we like! – Ed).
Are you both fans of Tron? Needless to say if this was in the last Tron film (which was supremely boring in my opinion) it would have made it a whole lot better! Did any other 80’s nostalgia influence Dystoria?
Absolutely. I mean, who doesn’t love Tron? I’m not sure I can be friends with someone who hated Tron. I do agree that the last film was a teeny bit dull, but Daft Punk and some wicked visuals managed to keep the magic intact for me. There were tons of 80’s influences for Dystoria like Star Wars, The Last Starfighter, Flight of the Navigator, and pretty much every 80’s arcade game ever. Musically, I tapped into influences like Depeche Mode, New Order Pet Shop Boys, Sylvester Levay (Composer of the Airwolf Theme) etc. The vibe we wanted to create for Dystoria was to capture a lot of the nostalgia of the 80’s game and movie culture but without going the route of pixel art and chiptune. It was a bit of a risk, but I think we pulled it off. And don’t worry, we still love 2D 8-bit games (some of our best gaming memories are in 8-bits), we just wanted to do something different.
The 6-axis 3D feel of the game looks phenomenal. What program/language did you develop the game in and how did you create such vibrant visuals?
Thank you! We definitely spent many, many months just refining the movement and feel of the game so I think players will be pleasantly surprised with how tight the controls are. Dystoria was developed in Unity Engine, which we have grown to love in spite of its many quirks and surprises. Craig is a whiz at Maya for modelling, and I use Substance Painter for texturing, Photoshop for artwork and UI, and Propellerhead Reason for music and sound FX. Achieving the visuals is actually a pretty simple process, but it took a lot of iteration before we really settled on what we liked.
The main concept was to use mostly primary colours (inspired by the 80’s Star Wars arcade game) and just a handful of secondary colours. Another thing to note is that we don’t use any engine lighting at all during gameplay, so it really helps the colours pop against the darker backgrounds as well as giving a good performance boost.
Dystoria reminds us a lot of StarFox on the SNES. Is it fair to say that your title focuses more on labyrinth pillaging/escaping as opposed to straightforward levels and big boss battles? If so, what made you choose that direction?
Well I think we have a balance right between the being a straight up shooter and a labyrinth puzzle game. There is no shortage of enemies to blow up, but you do it at your own pace while trying to navigate your way through each sector. There are simple puzzles involving switches and doors, moving platforms, deadly moving lasers and blocks that can be blown up with bombs. While you are finding your way through all of that, there are enemies all over so there’s a pretty steady flow of action. We chose that direction because of feedback we got from early play testers. They loved the 6-axis labyrinth part, but wanted to shoot more stuff. And of course we did create an epic boss battle, because what retro game is complete without that?
Any plans for a sequel? What else have you guys got in the pipeline?
We have definitely talked about making Dystoria 2 already. It really depends on how well Dystoria does on Steam and if there is a demand for it. I can tell you this though, if we make Dystoria 2 it will have multiplayer because that would be rad. As far as other games in the pipeline, we do have something up our sleeve, but I think we’ll wait till we have a successful launch before we jump off that cliff. We want to make sure that we are free to support Dystoria as long as needed.
As you’re probably aware, we’re massive retro gaming fans here. What was your favourite console growing up and games to play on it?
The NES hands down. It was mind-blowing to me as a kid. The first time I played Mario at a friend’s house I came home with bloodshot eyes and blister on my left thumb. It was awesome. I have fond memories of rage-quitting Double Dragon 3 (hell, are those ninjas even possible to beat at the end?), endless hours of Metroid, Castlevania, Zelda 2, Super Spike V-Ball, Contra, DuckTales, Gradius… I could go on but you get the idea. I still play my NES on the regular.
If you could share a couple of drinks with any video game character, who would you choose and why?
Princess Zelda. I’d really like to know what all the hype is about and why she gets all the attention instead of poor Link.
Thanks Daryl! We wish you all the best with Dystoria and your future projects. Readers – you can buy Dystoria on Steam from 21st Feb!