Old School Gamer chats with Ste Wilson; Director, Programmer and Developer at Bare Knuckle Development who discusses the brand’s new shoot-em-up Super Mega Space Blaster Special and how his love and appreciation of retro titles, as well as the need to challenge himself, fueled the creative process.
About Super Mega Space Blaster Special:
Old School Gamer: How was this game born?
Ste Wilson: After working for a long stint on our bigger console title, The Flawless: Art’s Tale I needed a break. I decided to set myself a challenge; make a full-featured Steam game in four weeks and Super Mega Space Blaster Special was born. I then spent a day or so creating a really simple, completely unnecessary story about the Earth’s atmosphere becoming polluted and humans battling aliens to allow them to take over their planet.
Old School Gamer: What was your role in the game?
Wilson: This is my first solo project, so I did everything, from programming to graphics, to sound.
Old School Gamer: How did you get involved in the industry?
Wilson: I’ve been programming and gaming since I was a kid. I worked in various web dev roles and worked on small flash games for a while. After working abroad in Asia for about 10 years I decided to move back to the UK to follow my dream and start my own indie games company, Bare Knuckle Development Ltd. Since then I’ve collaborated with other game companies, taken part in game jams, and worked ceaselessly on The Flawless: Art’s Tale.
Old School Gamer: What was development like?
Wilson: On this game development was really fast-paced. I wanted to create a Steam game with loads of features for a really low price in only four weeks. I used a semi-agile style by creating a working build and then adding a feature and testing with friends. After testing I’d create the next build based on the feedback and add another feature, then I’d test it again with the same people and so on. I did this until I ran out of time but I got nearly all the features I wanted in the game.
Old School Gamer: What makes this game special?
Wilson: For me, there are a few things. From the large feature list for the low price to the nostalgic retro feeling, you get when you play couch coop with a mate. But the thing that truly makes it special for me is how the game really does have that old-school easy to pick up hard to master feeling, getting to the boss is a real challenge and you get a real sense of accomplishment when you blast it into space dust.
Old School Gamer: What games influenced this one the most?
Wilson: Super Mega Space Blaster Special was influenced by both retro games of yesteryear and modern space shooters. Games like Asteroids and The Galactic Plague inspired the single screen shooter gameplay. Fantasy Zone and Super Fantasy Zone were huge inspirations for the boss, I love those games and the feeling they gave you when you defeated the bosses and that twinkly sound played, and all the coins dropped out. It was also inspired by modern shooters like Bit Blaster XL and Super Startdust HD.
Old School Gamer: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Wilson: Four weeks of working long hours on a coffee drip led to many clumsy mistakes and spillages. I wouldn’t say it was particularly fun or wild but I did spill a cup of coffee all over my desk and had to quickly dance around moving all my gadgets before they got destroyed. We are wild up in Manchester lol.
Old School Gamer: What were the major lessons learned?
Wilson: I learned that it is possible for a solo dev to make a full-featured Steam game in for weeks. I also learned to keep well organized and applications like Trello really help. I also learned to keep coffee and other beverages away from my desk.
Old School Gamer: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Wilson: Yes it’s very important but its also important to expand on them in creative ways. Mixing in retro mechanics with modern mechanics can give the older gameplay a new lease of life making it feel fresh again.
Old School Gamer: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?
Wilson: It has to be playing Final Fantasy VII on the PS1 with my brothers. After years of green-screen gaming on an Amstrad CPC-464 followed by some 16bit action on a Sega MegaDrive (Genesis) this game absolutely blew us away. From crying when Aerith died to finding out the truth behind Shinra and Jenova the whole game was an amazing experience.
Old School Gamer: How do you want this game to be remembered?
Wilson: As a simple yet fun feature-packed retro space shooter that is great value for money. We also want to continue supporting the game into the future and hope to add a few more feature as free DLC.
Old School Gamer: What’s next?
Wilson: Back to work on our Metroidvania action-RPG “The Flawless: Art’s Tale” for PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Steam (Win/Lin/Mac).
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.