When we first started this site in 2014 we asked on Twitter if any indie game devs were happy to share their work with us and do a Q&A. Step forward Paul from Flump Studios, the creator of Horizon Shift, Pester and Hyper Bounce Blast. With each release he goes from strength to strength and with Horizon Shift ’81 (a retro take on the title of the same name) he’s finally getting the recognition he deserves. He’s truly a friend of the site and I’m pleased to introduce another catch up to discuss his latest title. HS81 is currently available on Switch with a few more conversions planned.
It’s been a while since Hyper Bounce Blast was released (2016). You took some time out due to family commitments, what’s it been like getting back to designing games and how much have you missed it?
Yeah, it’s been good getting back on the horse but really tiring. When I was working on Hyper Bounce Blast, I was a full time indie with one kid to look after. With Horizon Shift ’81 I had a full time dev job and two kids to look after, so this has easily been the toughest game to make. Luckily it’s all been worth it though.
Gaming has certainly moved on since 2016, what’s been the biggest challenge in getting HS81 finished and ready for multiple platforms?
I think the biggest change is that Steam is pretty much dead for indies now, so you’re forced to go down the console route. To be honest, so far I’ve found the console route to be a much smoother and pleasant experience. Developing and launching on the Switch was like a dream. It took a lot more optimisation than the PC version but other than that it’s been really smooth. I’ve just finished up the PS4 version, which has also been really nice to develop for. Other than getting the time to actually code, there’s not been too many challenges really, just took it one day at a time.
We loved the original Horizon Shift – what inspired the decision to make an old skool version of it?
The main reason I wanted to revisit Horizon Shift was I always felt like I’d missed some big opportunities with the original and after going back to it also felt like it really lacked some polish.
I can’t actually remember why I went full retro, it kind of evolved like that. Seems to work for it though.
How does Horizon Shift ’81 differ on the Switch compared to the PC version (on Steam)?
At the moment Horizon Shift ’81 is only on the Switch, just started work on the Steam version this week actually. There’s not going to be a massive difference really, the biggest advantage of the Switch is the Flip Grip, it feels like the game was made for it, but I didn’t even know about the Flip Grip until the week of release.
The Switch has such a vibrant and growing indie scene. What are your personal views and experience creating a game on the Switch compared to other platforms?
I think the Switch is the best platform I’ve ever developed for, everything just seemed to work and the submission process was super smooth. I think for a good while the Switch will be my lead platform.
The game feels so perfect for the Switch, would agree that this is the definitive version of the game?
Ha ha, at the moment it’s the only version of the game. I think the game will suit the Switch more than the other platforms though, especially with the flip grip. It’s also designed for shorter play sessions than my older games, so it sits nicely on a handheld.
How easy was it to adapt Horizon Shift to work on the Tate screen mode?
Oh that bit was easy. Unity makes that stuff pretty trivial to be honest. I think it was actually the first thing I worked on when starting the game, I always knew it had to have a solid tate mode.
I love the refined space invader feel of the game! Which games and features helped inspire your indie masterpiece?
Oh god, so many. Like the original Horizon Shift the idea was to merge all my favourite 80’s arcade games into one. The most obvious ones are Tempest, Asteroids, Breakout, Missile Command and Defender. There’s a ton more in there but there’s so many I don’t think I could list them all.
My favourite power up was probably the flame thrower! Do you have a personal favourite power up and we’re there any ideas that didn’t quite make it into the final game?
I think I’m with you, I like the feel of the flame thrower too, that was a tricky one to balance.
Yeah, there were a couple that didn’t quite make it. There was the duel ships which were in the original, where you have ships on both sides at the same time mirroring each other, but I couldn’t get it to feel right. It made everything a little too hectic and cluttered.
The other one was a lock on laser, which locked onto the nearest enemy and fired an instant laser, that one felt really cool but I had to cut it because I couldn’t get the balance right, it always felt too powerful against the smaller enemies and made the game feel a bit dull. Shame, I liked that one.
Would you consider releasing a physical copy of the game on the Switch?
I’ve looked into it and it’s just not viable on the Switch (ahhhh – Ed), the physical copy would need to be £24 and Nintendo demand price parity with their physical releases. Might look into a PS4 version though.
Is a sequel of Horizon Shift planned and could a multiplayer option be incorporated?
Nah, I’m not looking that far ahead, I’ve started on a new game which isn’t a sequel so just going to concentrate on that. I might go back and patch in multiplayer when I get a bit more time.
What’s next on the horizon (…) for Flump Studios?
I’m taking some down time at the moment, actually playing some games for a change.
I’ve kinda started the next game already but only just dabbling at the moment, I am pretty excited about it though. Also got the Xbox and Steam version of Horizon Shift ’81 to finish off, so still plenty going on over here.