It’s not often a non-gaming friend of the site/show starts their own indie game, so here’s our pal Mark Nosworthy (Noztech Games) to tell you more about his game Survivors, an updated take on the Speccy classic Cyclone. It is at an early stage but you can keep tabs on its progress via the main site; Twitter; Facebook; and Instagram. So Mark has already got more of a social media presence than us! Adrian (as always) does the honours…
You are obviously a huge fan of the ZX Spectrum. When did you first play this great computer and what games on the system bring back your fondest memories?
When early home computers like the Spectrum and C64 came out I was hooked, I begged my parents to get me a 48k version, so from recollection I must have had my first taste around the mid to late 80’s.
At the time, games like Sabrewulf/Jetpac (pretty much anything by Ultimate) were my favourites, I loved the gameplay and was impressed by what could be achieved from such a limited palette.
At this time, I remember picking up a game by Vortex called Cyclone, the gameplay was addictive and I loved the fun flight model and challenge of saving crates and people whilst under threat from the cyclone, it was simplistic but great fun.
Can you give our readers a quick background of your yourself and how you got the idea to create a new retro based game?
In terms of my background, I’ve always had deep interest in art and programming. At school I did pretty well at art but chose to go straight into employment rather than advancing educationally and it was some time before they became prominent aspects in my career rather than hobbies in the background.
With the emergence of the internet I managed to get a trainee programming role creating a website for an insurance company I worked for, and as my experience increased, I started to couple my interest in computer graphics with my newfound programming skills. This gave me the chance to learn Object Orientated Programming and from here on my only real blocker to progress was an idea, and a package that I could use to develop my game. These things came in the form of a nostalgic look back of what I enjoyed in games and the availability of the Unity Engine for game development.
When did you first start working on Survivors, what’s the plot of the game and what have been the biggest challenges in getting it done?
I started working on Survivors in different forms about 4 years ago. Although Ifelt I was creating a game at this point, I was in reality becoming familiar with the process of creating a game and the tools/planning required. About 2 years ago, I effectively started again, took the useful elements from what I’d built and crafted the core assets for what I needed to create Survivors.
In terms of the plot, you are a pilot who has crash landed on a planet. You have no recollection of how or why you are there, but you quickly release from your first planetary interactions that you are not alone, you have like many others on the planet been a victim. You are however a Survivor and your goal is to save as many as you can, fight off the horde and escape your predicament.
The many of the challenges I faced fell into two camps:
The first is the game balance. As I started off on this re-imagining of my original Cyclone experience, it became clear to me that games in modern times, need more depth, this in turn necessitated more features (e.g. elements such as weapons and collectibles, enemies etc).
These things all require careful balance, it’s not straightforward and there’s no magic bullet, therefore it requires many iterations of testing to get it right. There are a number of occasions where I’d literally spent weeks on code,creating what felt like a great game feature only to bin it when it just didn’t feel right.
The second element was a story line. Again, this went through many iterations, as the levels were created to try and craft something engaging. The inherit thread never really changed, however I didn’t want it to just be a basic arcade game, but have a back story, to me that was important. Why are we on this planet? What happened to us? Who else is on this planet? These are all answered through milestones you reach, as you play through the levels, increasing your engagement with the characters and the planet’s inhabitants.
What made Cyclone so special to you, and were there any other games or media that helped inspire Survivors?
At my core I’m a visuals man first and many of the games I played, had strong visuals coupled with engaging gameplay.
As per many favourites, Cyclone featured isometric graphics which I loved, and a freedom of movement through the flight model which I don’t recall in anything other than flight sims which in reality were a totally different genre. I loved 3D Ant Attack which had a similar visual and gameplay style of impending peril.
What gameplay mechanics or innovations do you feel help your game stand out from the crowd?
For me I don’t believe there is much comparable currently in terms of its style of gameplay and engaging story (where I’m initially targeting mobile deployment). I wanted something that you could pick up and put down at convenient points to fit around busy lifestyles, but also has an engaging narrative to run alongside the action.
It’s a gamble, people may not want it, but I hugely enjoyed creating it and I hope that it’s something people can engage with. I mean who doesn’t like shooting aliens, upgrading ships and boss battles?
When do you hope to complete the game and what platforms do you hope to get the game on?
Initially I’m deploying the game through mobile, so iPhone/iPad, then onto Android and to be honest I’m then open to demand if we’ve got that far in terms of engagement.
I’m working on the final aspects of gameplay balance currently, completion of some of the final game models and testing, my aim is to have something ready for market in the next 6 months.
Have you ever created any other games before Survivors and if so, can you reflect back on your earlier games?
I have been involved in a number of varying ventures in gaming, but this will be my first to market. Initially I worked on a game with a team under the name of Eikon-Games which has now disbanded. It was a great bunch of guys with an ambitious FPS in our sights and I worked on the graphics as part of an indiedev team. However, the combination of working on the game whilst living our daily lives, and the instability of our gaming engine (I think we changed three times in total) made progress really challenging and after around 10 years I just couldn’t foot the time required, became frustrated with the experience and decided to drop out. Although I harboured my desire of creating a game, it was some time before Survivors became something that was viable for me from a personal time commitment.
Are you a personal fan of the C64 mini and what is your view of the huge growth in retro gaming?
Yes, definitely a fan. I have the C64 mini, I have a SNES mini too and the Switch and games like Shovel Knight are absolutely awesome. For me, although I hugely admire the technical achievements of modern games, I can’t carve out the time to really become engaged with them, they are too deep and extensive. Retro games offer that nostalgia, they are fun and provide an instant return on short term investment of your time.
Can you recall your fondest gaming memories while growing up?
I think I have to say my fondest memories were forged in games like Elite and arcade classics (Ghosts and Goblins and Driving games like Pole Position). I had deep interest in a really eclectic set of gaming genres, but I just loved the challenge of playing them and had a real appreciation and desire of what went into making games both technically and artistically.
If you could share a few drinks with a video game character who would you choose and why?
Ok so strictly speaking this character isn’t retro but it would be Nathan Drake or Sully for me, the stories those guys could tell…