Adrian caught up with Shinu from Shinu Real Arts, the dev team behind the intriguing Wings Of Bluestar. With each demo we are becoming more and more impressed with this project. Please check out the trailer below and more from the man himself. Any developer keen to release his project on the Dreamcast and/or the NeoGeo deserves our full attention! You can catch Shinu and updates on the game mostly on Twitter, but there is also a Facebook page.
Hi Shinu, it’s an honour to feature you and your fine-looking game on Arcade Attack!
The honor is mine. Thanks for having me on Arcade Attack.
Please tell us a little about yourself, and the establishment of Shinu Real Arts.
You are welcome! The Shinu Real Arts name started as a freelance artist, mainly as an illustrator and concept artists. However, I’ve always had the urge to create games one day, which is normal for any gamer who started from a young age.
I also make some short one shot comics, but paused everything since I started working on Wings Of Bluestar.
Before starting work on my actual game, I was part of a local indie studio of 3 people, specialized in mobile games, but we went different paths due to some ideology differences.
What is a typical day like with you and your team at your studio?
Even though I have a day job not related neither to art nor to coding, I’m fortunate that this job is only 21 hours a week and I have plenty of time for game development.
My actual team isn’t local, we are from different countries, 4 people, some I know personally and others from the net.
Everyone takes care of their own tasks and we communicate a lot, mainly via email for data share and detailed stuff, or messenger/WhatsApp for quick texting or voice messages. However, I’m the one assembling everything and putting it into the game, since I do the graphics, coding and sound effects.
Is Wings Of Bluestar the first game you’ve worked on?
No it isn’t, I’ve worked on some games in the past, but never released them due to various reasons.
My first game was a vertical shmup heavily influenced by the Shikigami No Shiro series, but I’ve lost all data and couldn’t continue working on it.
My second big game was planned for mobile, from the time I was part of a local indie studio of 3 people. But again, after finishing almost all assets and base code, I canceled it after the studio was dispatched. It was going to be a top down runner/shmup hybrid where the player controls a buggy tank.
So, Wings Of Bluestar is my 3rd serious and big game. It’s also way better than the first ones since I’ve learned a lot since then.
What kind of game is it and how did it come about?
Wings Of Bluestar is a horizontal shoot’em up. As mentioned above, I’m a fan of the genre and it was just natural for me to develop shmups, because I believe that I have enough knowledge about this type of game. All my previous unreleased games were shmups as well and I wish to specialize in the genre in the future.
The choice of a horizontal shmup over a vertical was actually a technical issue one. Because 2 years ago, I had no clear idea of a simple and easy programming way to switch between the Tate and Yoko modes in a vertical shmup, so I spared myself the trouble and went full horizontal (lol).
What games helped inspire it? I can see some great elements from R-Type and Thunder Force.
The main inspiration for me comes from Blazing Star, my favorite horizontal STG, I’ve put some related Easter eggs in Wings Of Bluestar, fans of the game have already spotted some.
And yeah, R-Type is on the influence list, as well as a lot of other horizontal shmups, like Progear, Pulstar, Hyper Duel, etc.
When I decided to work on a new shmup, I wanted it to have a lot of the main features I like from different favorite games from the genre. And the first thing I had to do were the visuals, which are the first aspect you see in a game. I wanted them to be unique, so I went for a hand painted style, which is actually my strongest asset, since I’m more of the artist than the programmer, so, neither 3D nor pre-rendered assets were used. I even refused to use shaders for long time, until people following the game insisted, so I had to add a few (lol).
The game looks incredible! The colours look so vibrant while the backgrounds and enemies are highly detailed. How much dedication has been put into this game so far and how many more hours to go to finally say it’s complete?
The game has been more than 2 years in development. I’m planning to finish it before late 2019. There’s a chance to release it even earlier, like mid 2019, since it’s around 80% complete for now.
As said before, I’m more of an artist than a programmer, so, I put more effort into the details and into the fundamentals of art, like composition, color theory and render. Add to this that I study a lot of other shoot’em ups by watching gameplay videos (easier to study visuals than actually playing them) and analyzing the design, color schemes, composition etc. And I had some great feedback from the community as well, so, I always work on the visuals when people do tell me something like “the visibility is weak there”, “this element hides something” etc.
Just about every gamer enjoys a good shmup title. We for one at Arcade Attack certainly do. But what you do believe will make Wings Of Bluestar different from the current shooters that others are offering and being conducted in the video game industry?
That’s quite the challenge, seeing all those great shmups being released.
First, I had to make the game up to the level in terms of gameplay. So I’ve made two ships with different controls (a 3rd unlockable ship is in consideration), different weapons and different scoring systems. The game also has a combo system (different for each ship), so hi-scorers can have their fun. add to this a risk system that rewards you with Risk Stars and points when you are too close to enemy bullets. The Risk System is also implemented in the gameplay, since the player needs to carefully use the ship’s powerful weapon and save it for needy situations, since it’s “risky” to venture without it being ready.
However, Wings Of Bluestar has also something different to offer, something that I myself couldn’t find in many shmups I’ve played and which is the main reason people not familiar with the genre don’t see a shmup game worth the full price.
With this, I meant how short in terms of gameplay time shmups are, except for us fans who keep re-playing for hi-scoring and 1CC-ing, non shmup fans won’t play the game that many times.
That’s why I decided to put a lot of content into Wings Of Bluestar, content that you unlock as achievement/trophies, or that you unlock by spending Risk Points that you earn from the game.
The first time I’ve experienced this content unlocking fun was with SoulCalibur on the Dreamcast; I had a ton of fun gathering in-game money and then spending it on unlocking content. So I’ve made sure to put that into Wings Of Bluestar; the game will have a huge gallery, character biography, a shop, a sound test and more stuff to unlock.
Another feature in Wings Of Bluestar is its story mode. While I’m not a huge and dedicated fan, I still like some good visual novels. So I’m planning to make the story mode as a visual novel fragmented between stages, it’ll offer dialogue choices and lead to different endings.
Sounds pretty great! How many levels do you hope to create for Wings Of Bluestar and do you have a personal favourite boss within the game?
First I was planning to make as many stages as I can and offer different paths for the player to choose from. But then I noticed that it’ll take a long time, because the game’s stages are long, on average 5 minutes without boss fight and they are detailed, have progressive and changing scenery and usually change scrolling. So, for a very small indie studio, I can’t afford a lot of stages. That’s why I made a survey on the studio’s Twitter profile and the average result was 7 stages. Right now the game has 6 and I may go to 8 + a secret stage to unlock.
As for the bosses, my favorite one is the fifth one, since it’s so huge and can’t fit in one screen, it’s made of 4 parts and each part fills a whole screen. You move to the next part when you destroy the one above it. But I may like the sixth boss better, it’s still being coded though; it’s a long snake that comes from 7 different spots and the player needs to memorize them, something like that snake boss from R-Type, but more advanced.
Once Wings Of Bluestar is complete. Where can one play this game for them to experience the action and when do you hope to get the game released?
Like every game producer/developer, I wish to release my game on every platform possible, even retro systems. But due to budget and team limitations, the first release will be on Steam, because it’s easier, then on the Switch and PS4 if the game makes enough funds on Steam. After that and if the game is successful, I’ll try my chance porting it to systems like The Vita, the Dreamcast and the NeoGeo. But that requires extra effors since I have to rework the visuals for weaker systems. Add to this that I have no idea on how to code/develop for those older systems, so I’ll need external help if I decided to retro port the game.
If I decide to go retro, my first choice would be the Dreamcast, but the NeoGeo is a possibility too, depending on which one is easier and how much external help I can get.
What are your top 3 favourite video games of all time and why?
Talking shmups, I’d say Blazing Star first; the visuals and sound effects of that game blew my mind back in the days when it came to the local arcade. It also has that 80s anime vibe that I love a lot.
Second is Shikigami No Shiro; once again, I like animes and the game is 100% in the style.
Third place goes for Ikaruga; the 3D visuals and the orchestral music of that game are just phenomenal. Add to this the level design and the original yin-yang gameplay system, that was so great.
However, I’m more of an J-RPG fan and the only reason I’m not making an RPG is that it’s way too much work for me. My favorite all time game is Grandia 2.
As for you and your co-workers, what do we plan on seeing from Shinu Real Arts after Wings Of Bluestar?
I wish that the studio specializes in shmups only, like those great Japanese studios like G-rev or Cave. And I already have a clear idea of the shmups we’re gonna work on after Wings Of Bluestar, it’s a vertical one with tons of RPG elements.
But, and sadly, if the shmup genre is no longer in demand, we’ll move to platformers in the Megaman style, because ,as mentioned earlier, I only make games that I like and am familiar with.
Do you have any advice for those that would like to give for those that plan to start their own indie practice to make titles like what you’re doing now?
Well, this may sound harsh, but they should be aware that making games isn’t easy, both mentally and physically; you’ll spend tons of time on your desk drinking cup after cup of coffee, so, you need to do some sports to counter that. Add to this how the market is more relying on advertising than a good product, which means, even if you release the greatest game ever made, no one will like it if they never have heard of it, and that may have a heavy mental effect on the developer. Some of my indie developer friends already experiencing depression before even releasing their games, by fearing that it’ll fail after all this effort and sacrifice.
Now for something positive. As for developing games, modern software’s made it easy and one doesn’t have to be a great mathematician in order to code, hence, a lot of software doesn’t even require coding, but I highly recommend to learn coding because it offers unlimited possibilities. The only hard things to learn are art and music; those take a lot of time and dedication, but not impossible.
But if you intend to find a team, don’t be the “Idea Guy”, it’s very bad and a real joke (meme) in the indie game development community. You should be able to contribute with a real developing skill, like music, art, coding, sound effects, special effects etc. Otherwise you’ll have to pay your team members with real money, as employees, if you have nothing else to offer.
And once again, advertising and creating a community is as much important as making a good game. So, work on those as early as possible, even from the sketching stage.
Thank you for your time today Shinu, we wish you all the best with the game. One more before you go, if you could share a few drinks with any video game character, who would you choose and why?
This is weird, because this character doesn’t even talk. So, the video game character I’m the most attached to right now and with whom I’ve spent most of my time in a game, is my Skyrim character. I’ve been playing and modding that poor game for years (and still) using the same character, that I now feel so familiar with to the point I want to have a drink with.
Adrian and Anthony