Old School Gamer Magazine chats with Horizon Shift ‘81 Creator Paul Marrable to find out what makes the retro shooter a special one. Encapsulating so many fun moments from the Atari 2600 era of gaming, Marrable’s indie title is an absolute gem.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How was the game born?
Paul Marrable: Horizon Shift ‘81 is actually a sequel to Horizon Shift, which I released on Steam back in 2015.
The basic premise was to cram all my favourite 80’s arcade games into one and try make something that still feels new. So with the sequel, I wanted to do that again…but better.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Any fun/interesting stories during the development cycle?
Marrable: Depressingly, I don’t think there are. I’ve basically been on a cycle of get up, do a little work on the game, go to my real job, come home, spend some time with the kids, then spend the night working on the game. That’s pretty much been every day for the past year.
A moth landed on my monitor once…does that count…oh and I sneezed at one point. That’s about as exciting as it got I’m afraid.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What did you play as a kid and how did it influence this game?
Marrable: I was a child of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, so I was all about arcades. I did have an Amstrad CPC 464, which I learned to code on, but it was all about arcades for me back then.
I pretty much loved playing any arcade game back then, but the ones that really stuck with me were the early shooters, Galaga, Centipede, Robotron, Defender etc…All my games are pretty much attempts at recreating the feel of playing them games back in the day.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How did the game affect you as a developer?
Marrable: Good question, I’m quite a bit fatter for start.
I had a lot less time to work on this one compared to the previous games, due to having 2 kids now and a more demanding job. I think I’m now a more efficient programmer and developer. I’ve also got a better idea of where I can take shortcuts and what really matters in the long run.
On my older games, I could spend ages getting the menus and title screens looking just right. For this game, I basically just threw them together and hoped for the best. Deep down players only really care about the gameplay, so that’s where I should be spending the bulk of the time.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s your biggest regret about the game?
Marrable: There’s two that stand out, the first one was that I couldn’t get leaderboards in the game for launch as I requested the servers to late into the development of the game. I hope to patch them in and add to any other formats we release on.
Secondly, I messed up the age rating in Russia, which lead to the game getting pulled in Europe just after launch, which I think hurt the game quite a bit.
Basically, the game was submitted as 3+ game, but as one of the menu messages has the word ‘Damn’ in it, it was pushed to a 16+, blasphemy I believe. So the game had to be pulled and patched.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Anything you would have done differently?
Marrable: Other than the leaderboards and the age rating thing, I would have worked a bit harder at getting the game released earlier. The games were supposed to release 6 months ago, but due to family and work commitments, it kept getting delayed. The eShop was a lot less crowded back then, so I think the game would have had better visibility. Also, I probably wouldn’t have released two days before Christmas.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Why do you think people should appreciate the game?
Marrable: Good question, I’m not completely sure they should. There are so many amazing indie games out there, it’s hard to say why someone should play my game over any of those.
Saying that, if you’re a fan of shooters or arcade games, then I think you will like Horizon Shift ‘81.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Did any of your prior experience in the industry help you for working on this game? How?
Marrable: Yeah, I’ve been making games for about 30 years now. I wrote my first game when I was 7, on my CPC 464. I generally find the technical stuff gets easier and easier after each release until it barely becomes a consideration anymore. I still struggle with the creative stuff though, like coming up with new gameplay ideas and level design, those never seem to get any easier.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Any other stories you can share that will help readers connect with what the development cycle was like?
Marrable: I really wish there was. This is my 10th game release now, so it’s all become pretty standard. Development is basically me sitting in front of a PC, listening to a podcast and eating crap…with the occasional flurry of typing.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What do you want people to take away from their experience of playing the game?
Marrable: Another good question… blowing stuff up never gets old.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Anything else you’d like to add?
Marrable: Just want to say a huge thank you to every everyone who has bought the game and also the mags and sites that have covered it. The response to Horizon Shift ‘81 has been fantastic, easily the best response I’ve had for one of my games so far.
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the author of the book, “The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews With Cult and Classic Video Game Developers,” from McFarland And Company. Featuring interviews with the creators of 36 popular video games–including Deus Ex, NHLPA 93, Night Trap, Mortal Kombat, Wasteland and NBA Jam–the book gives a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of some of the most influential and iconic (and sometimes forgotten) games of all time. Recounting endless hours of painstaking development, the challenges of working with mega-publishers and the uncertainties of public reception, the interviewees reveal the creative processes that produced some of gaming’s classic titles.