Here’s some tasty indie beat em up action for you! Paying homage to the genre is never an easy thing as our interviewee this week will tell you. Mike Wells is the solo developer of the intriguing Fallen City Brawl which evokes memories of our favourite arcade and 16-bit beat em ups. Adrian sent him lots of questions to find out more.
Thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule Mike. For those that are unfamiliar on who you are, could you please tell us a little about yourself.
Thank you for the opportunity to talk about Fallen City Brawl! I’m Mike Wells, I’m an indie developer based in the North West of the UK, I’ve been creating Fallen City Brawl for around 2 years now.
How did you get involved in video games Mike? Was it true passion at first sight?
I’ve always loved playing games, plus creating small games and demos. I grew up with a Spectrum+2 and enjoyed creating some basic games in BASIC. Target Renegade was one of my favourite Spectrum games, and introduced me to scrolling beat ’em ups. I then had a Mega Drive and played a lot of Streets of Rage, usually in 2 player mode with my brother. I’ve continued to play games ever since, working on game ideas and practicing pixel art.
According to your social media accounts, your upcoming title that’s being developed is called, “Fallen City Brawl”. Sounds intriguing to say the least, Would you be able to give a brief description of it and what inspired you to make this?
I’m creating the game with the intention of it being among the best in the genre, building on some of the foundations of those classics but adding a lot to it, particularly building in some of the developments that have happened over the years in one-on-one fighters, and really pushing the action and pixel art to make it stand out from the crowd!
Did you ever work on any previous games before starting work on Fallen City Brawl?
Yes, I’ve developed lots of small games and demos previously, including an R-Type style shoot ’em up, a platform shooter and a sprite-scaling driving game. It might be good to resurrect these projects in future, I quite liked some of the mechanics in them. Fallen City Brawl will be my first published game.
Fallen City Brawl looks amazing and has really captured the 16-bit/32-bit retro feel perfectly. How many hours have been dedicated so far on making this game and when do you hope to see it complete?
Thanks! I’m not sure how many hours in total, but I’ve been working on Fallen City Brawl for around 2 years, though not full time. I plan to create a Kickstarter to fund the cost of the game’s further development and completion. That will influence the completion date, I’m aiming for mid-late 2020.
Have you always been a fan of the beat em up genre and do you have a personal favourite beat em up?
The Streets of Rage series, especially SOR1 is a personal favourite. Some other highlights for me are Target Renegade, Golden Axe and Guardian Heroes for the Saturn.
I’m developing Fallen City Brawl to have the look and feel of a game that would be right at home in a 90’s seaside arcade – big sprites, thumping soundtrack. I really enjoyed Double Dragon and Final Fight in the arcades, there’s a lot of features in Fallen City Brawl that anyone who grew up with arcades will recognise – small things like the flashing ‘Insert Coin’ text instead of ‘press start’ for example. Fallen City Brawl has arcade blood running all the way through it.
With Streets of Rage 4 on the horizon, the side-scrolling genre seems to have had quite a big resurgence of late. Why do you think this genre is now making a comeback?
I think the growth in indie development has helped with this. I think scrolling beat ’em ups fell out of favour with larger publishers, as one-on-one fighters began to gain popularity from the time Street FIghter 2 hit. In a way, the genre has continued as core parts of other games – the Yakuza series for example. I think there was also a trend for games to be increasingly complex, whereas the best beat ’em ups are often quite simple to play (though with a lot of depth in their systems). The rise of indie development has meant that games can be created
Advances in game-making tools (I use Game Maker Studio 2 and also Aseprite for pixel art), and social media helping enable indie developers to have a greater voice have supported the resurgence too.
How have you aimed to make Fallen City Brawl stand out from the crowd and are there any clever game mechanics you can reveal to our readers?
One of the features I’ve worked on recently is destructible scenery. There will be multiple routes through stages – maybe you’ll smash through a wall by throwing an enemies into it, giving access to a new sub-stage. In some areas the floor might collapse with enough impact, revealing another route.
You’ll be accompanied by a Wolf in some stages, you’ll be able to command him to attack or defend, and train him up to listen more! I hope players will develop a bond with him as they play through the game.
The combat system will incorporate a lot of cool things from one-on-one fighters – depth in the combo system, RIOT moves which work like a ‘Super’ move and counters for example. Also, the fight continues when enemies are on the ground. Ground & Pound and submissions will be a part of the fighting, some characters will be especially good at the ground game.
You’ll be able to train between rounds, learning new moves and skilling up some basic stats like power and speed too. Same for the wolf too!
Can give us a brief breakdown of the games plot and key characters?
I’m still working this through. Story is important and I want players to feel invested in the world of Fallen City Brawl and the characters. I like conflicted characters, so nobody will be entirely ‘good’ or ‘bad’, everyone will have their flaws, these will either have led to their current situation at the start of the game, or will come to shape events as the story unfolds. The character in most of the clips so far will have a history of working in special law enforcement, undercover. His past will catch up with him! Revenge will be one of the key themes of the plot, will play out differently for each character.
Can you run us through a typical day working on Fallen City Brawl?
I start each element of the game with the pixels – so for example when developing the new gym stage, I start with pixeling the stage, and the assets that will be part of it, in this case the destructible walls and swinging punchbags. I then code those assets into the game. So basically I draw what I want to happen, then bring that into the game as closely as I can in code, using those assets. I then play, tweak, play, tweak again until it looks and feels how I want it to, then move on. I’m developing one stage at a time, and introducing new features as I go along.
Once the game is 100% complete, what platforms do you hope to release the game on?
My aim is to release the game on PC and also current consoles – PS4, Switch, Xbox one.
Where is the best place for our readers to keep up to date with the games progress and development?
The newsletter is where I share the latest game clips and screenshots too. Its free to sign up on the Fallen City Brawl website, here’s the link www.fallencitybrawl.com/subscribe
Are there any other games that you have in mind to develop after Fallen City Brawl?
Right now, totally focussed on Fallen City Brawl, and will continue to support the game long after its release. I do like the idea of developing a ‘Chase HQ’ type driving game – really pushing the pixel art visuals and action past what could be achieved at the time Chase HQ was developed. For now though, the focus is 100% Fallen City Brawl.
If you found yourself actually inside Fallen City Brawl, which fictional video game fighter from any game would you choose to work alongside side you and why?
Awesome question! Robert Garcia from the King of Fighters /Art of Fighting series can handle himself, Goh Hinogami from Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution always impressed me with vicious Judo skills too. Outside of one-one-one fighters I’d say Shiva from SOR 2/3. Outside of people, I’d say the Trico from The Last Guardian, wonderful character and would balance things up a bit when outnumbered!
What are your favourite console and your top 3 games of all time?
Favourite console of all time would have to be the Sega Saturn. Some wonderful exclusives, and conversions of NEO-GEO’s top games too. There was something about the system’s underdog status too. Sega’s AM divisions and third parties like Labotomy (Exhumed, Quake) pushed the machine so hard, squeezing results from it that it really shouldn’t have been possible.
My top 3 games of all time would probably be Streets of Rage 1, ICO, Shadow of the Colossus. Some other great games that might make it into my top three depending on what day you asked me would be Command and Conquer, The Last of Us, Chase HQ, Street Fighter 2 SCE, Flashback and Resogun.
If you had a chance to live in a video game for a day, which would you choose and why?
A day in the world of Fumito Ueda’s ICO, Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian – spend the morning exploring the castle in ICO, ride the Trico for a while and then fight a Colossus before tea. Wonderful games and a unique world with a fantastic atmosphere.
If you share a few drinks with a video game character who would you choose and why?
Well, a night out drinking with Kazuma Kiryu from the Yakuza games would not be dull! I should mention, there will be a bar-fight stage in Fallen City Brawl which will rival Road House’s Double Deuce!
Adrian & Anthony
Please check out Anthony’s Atariage forum Neo Geo thread here.