Old School Gamer Magazine chats with CounterAttack: Uprising devs Tyler Boyes andRei Boyes to find out what makes this one fun and deeply-rooted in retro gaming fun.
About CounterAttack: Uprising:
Developed by Relative Games and currently available on Xbox and Steam, CounterAttack features up to 8 online players and 4-player local co-op – delivering intense multiplayer action in a side-scrolling shoot ’em up.
In CounterAttack: Uprising, humanity is faced with a mechanical apocalypse. Beings known as “Automatons” are hellbent on the complete eradication of the human race – assembling an unstoppable armada and laying waste to everything in their path. With nowhere to go, humanity is forced to rush the Experimental Space Fighter program into production with 8 pilots leading the charge – each with their own ship and special ability supercharged by powerful Quantium:
- Ayumi (Tactical Nuke)
- Biff (Big Biff Beam)
- Marcus (Meson Shockwave)
- Joe (Overcharge)
- Sarah (Quantium Shield)
- Sloane (Fighter Squadron)
- Carl (Plasma Strike)
- Jinx (Hack Wave)
Fly solo or team up with other players in couch or online co-op. Build your ultimate ship by unlocking powerful upgrades – including special abilities and 600+ attachments ranging from engine turbos to full weapon conversions. Leverage the combination power-up system to create new weapons from scratch – and make your mark with a unique fighting style!
Old School Gamer Magazine: How was CounterAttack: Uprising born?
Tyler: Me and McAvidity, one of the musicians, used to play hours and hours of games after school growing up. One that we kept coming back to was co-op Gradius. When I moved away to study we kept playing games online, but no matter how hard we looked, we couldn’t scratch the Gradius itch. There are a few co-op shooters, but none with the customization and progression we craved. So one day I said to myself “Fine, I’ll make it myself. How hard could it be?” Turns out it’s hard, but CounterAttack was born!
Old School Gamer Magazine: What is your role in the game?
Tyler: I’ve done most of the programming, level creation, attachments, netcode, and integrating it all together.
Rei: I assisted porting to consoles and graphics / asset creation, as well as managing and setting up the storefront and business side of things.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What has development been like?
Tyler: More work than I anticipated… by a lot! When I first started I was working at a startup on their mobile app, so CounterAttack work was limited to the weekends. It was fairly slow going at first. I would occasionally post builds on /r/gamedev to get feedback as I went, and play the builds to death with McAvidity. It was like this for the first few years of development, sharing the build and iterating on feedback. Slowly a community started to build on Steam and Discord, which provided invaluable support and encouragement. In many ways I consider the community part of the dev team.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What makes it special?
Rei: CounterAttack: Uprising is deceptively simple – at its core, it’s a horizontal scrolling space shooter but has vertical modes, tank levels, 3D “StarFox”-like levels, and a compelling attachment system that allows players to create new ways to play. The level and campaign editor add a dimension of replayability but I think what truly makes CounterAttack: Uprising special is the online co-op. Four, or even 8-player games, allow players to specialize in certain roles and completely flip the gameplay. Eight player is nothing short of pandemonium: players with Auras can supercharge others, players with high dps-targeted weapons focus on bosses, crowd control builds ward off sneaky drones looking for a kill, multi-beam builds that drench the screen in bouncing lightning, chaos builds that randomize attachments to keep you guessing, survivalist builds, etc. It will provide a whole different experience than playing solo, which is why you can only get that from CounterAttack: Uprising.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What games influenced CounterAttack: Uprising the most?
Tyler: Gradius V, Raiden for sure, but also non-SHMUP games like DotA2 and Terraria. A big part of CounterAttack: Uprising are the attachments, which are analogous to items in some other games. Many of the attachments and abilities in CounterAttack: Uprising are inspired from DotA2 and Terraria items. “Painted Target” after Starfury is from Terraria and the multiplicative stacking “critical hit” formula was taken from DotA2.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Rei: There was a bug where every time you died, it spawned a new ship. We discovered it when testing an alpha build of an online game. We didn’t make it to the end, but by halfway we all had 8-9 ships for around 40+ in total which was chaotic and kinda hilarious.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What were the major lessons learned?
Tyler: Some of the best features start as bugs. “Fixing” things isn’t as important as fun.
8) Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Tyler: Interesting question. There certainly is a benefit to it, that simple and older mechanics can be fun in a different way than fully featured modern AAA games, and the success of emulators show I’m not the only one. It can also bring people together. I’ve been told multiple times from different older players that CounterAttack: Uprising was the first game they were able to play with their kids where both parties were having a blast. Some folks don’t have the time to get into the latest co-op games but can pick up a shooter and blast enemies to bits in seconds. I can’t imagine my dad playing GTA Online, but he can easily play a “simple” build in CounterAttack: Uprising.
Old School Gamer Magazine: The marketplace is crowded. How do you think you stand out?
Tyler: Cross-platform co-op, deep customization, and replayability beyond reason. The main reason I created CounterAttack: Uprising was that I couldn’t find a SHMUP that had everything I wanted. This is still true: online co-op SHMUPs are severely lacking and I think there’s room for several more. It is niche, and getting online gameplay right can take time. The cross-platform aspect adds a layer of implementation complexity that makes it cost prohibitive for many smaller studios. CounterAttack: Uprising was in many ways a passion project for us, and I don’t think it would have been greenlit at a big studio.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How have your previous experiences in the industry helped this game?
Tyler: I’ve worked on several other games, in teams and on my own. Several prototypes that never shipped, and a few that did (like Voice Commander on Xbox One). One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that sometimes you have to completely cut a feature or idea. Sometimes a mechanic or approach just isn’t going to be fun, and the game is better off without it. When you’ve worked many tireless hours on it, it can feel almost like cutting off your own leg. But if that leg is dead, it has to go!
Old School Gamer Magazine: How do you want CounterAttack: Uprising to ultimately be remembered?
Rei: Maybe CounterAttack: Uprising will be remembered as an ambitious idea that managed to accomplish more than a few of the things it set out to. I hope players will be playing online for years to come!
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s next?
Tyler: I’ll be watching uploaded gameplay, reading reviews, keeping active on Discord, and working on the next patch. CounterAttack: Uprising has dedicated players who provide some of the best feedback and suggestions. With a larger audience I look forward to more great ideas and fun games. And, when nobody is looking, I’ll sneak in a few more attachments!
Old School Gamer Magazine: Anything else you’d like to add?
Tyler: I’ll be playing lots of online co-op CounterAttack: Uprising after launch and hope to see many new players! Fly dangerously 🙂