Old School Gamer Magazine chats with the team behind Slayin’ 2 to find out what went into making the indie gem on the Nintendo Switch.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How was this game born?
Tom “Reggie” Schreiber (Owner, Pixel Licker LLC): After the first Slayin was updated, I wanted to work on something different. I spent the next 2 years making a game called Treasure Buster and then worked another 2 years with FDG Entertainment on a game that was ultimately cancelled. By that time (December 2016) I felt like enough time had passed where I could think about new ideas for a Slayin sequel. I wanted to play with the idea of the “2” in the title and think of things that could be “double” of something. This is where the 2 plane idea came from. And since so many people had requested multiplayer on mobile, I felt like I needed to add coop to the sequel. I also planned on expanding the inputs from one button to two, but ultimately, it ended up being three. I also wanted to push the game to the next era of gaming by setting the look and feel in the early 90’s era arcades I grew up in. In general, I would like every Slayin title to progress like this, where each game moves into a later era of gaming. But since mobile is a tricky platform to add input complexity, I also decided that it would be better as a PC or console game where players could use a physical controller.
Dominik Aicher (Producer, FDG Entertainment): Following the huge success of the world’s first endless action-RPG on iOS back in 2013we teamed up again with Pixel Licker’s creative mastermind Reggie to bring a fresh and modern experience to both newcomers and fans of the original alike.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What was your role in the game?
Tom “Reggie” Schreiber (Owner, Pixel Licker LLC): I was responsible for all design, art and programming. Matt Creamer made the music and sound fx. Early on, I approached him about the project and he was happy to join me for the three years of fun that followed.
Dominik Aicher (Producer, FDG Entertainment): As Co-Producer I supervised the whole project, gave creative feedback and advised Reggie on game design decisions.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How did you get involved in the industry?
Tom “Reggie” Schreiber (Owner, Pixel Licker LLC): I started back in 2000 as an environment artist at Capcom, working on the Maximo series of games on the PS2. After that, I moved around a bit looking for something that was a fit: EA, Locomotive Games, Gaia Online and a smartphone developer call The Playforge. Near the end of The Playforge, I released Slayin and it did well enough for me to try being an indie. I have been making my own games ever since.
Dominik Aicher (Producer, FDG Entertainment): I started at FDG Entertainment as a working student to finance my masters degree which I then cancelled to dedicate myself full-time in the gaming industry for this is a dream come true.
Philipp Döschl (Co-Founder / Executive Producer, FDG Entertainment): Before founding FDG Entertainment in 2001, Thomas and I were already had a Dreamcast related website, called Dreamcast [email protected]! We were quite successful with back then and were among the 2 biggest german Dreamcast websites. It was a great time and we loved the console. It didn’t pay off on the financial side, however the experience we gathered was priceless!
Old School Gamer Magazine: What was development like?
Tom “Reggie” Schreiber (Owner, Pixel Licker LLC): The first year was a lot of sketching at coffee shops and amassing of ideas. I would spend the first half of the day laying out code and prototyping and the second half drawing. The story was less of a concern in the beginning so almost all of the initial game code focused on the feel and the game systems. I also tried to keep my routine fresh by spending some weeks focused on art instead of code to give my designer brain a rest and to let some gameplay ideas marinate. By the end of the second year, I was ready to show the game at BostonFIG, an indie show in Boston. The feedback from players was very positive and reminded me that there was a player base that remembered the original game fondly.
Dominik Aicher (Producer, FDG Entertainment): When I joined the project most of the game’s basics were already set and done, so for me development was all about balancing, fine-tuning and polishing the core aspects to get the best possible user experience out of the game.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What makes this game special?
Tom “Reggie” Schreiber (Owner, Pixel Licker LLC): Like the first game, Slayin 2 tries to simplify concepts that action RPG’s have been adding complexity to for decades. It might be an influence of my time in mobile development and growing up in arcades, but I always prefer simplicity when designing a game. I want the basics to be easy for anyone but I want there to be more meaty systems in place for people who spend time with the game. I miss those kinds of games and I think they are still relevant, even if they aren’t the trend.
Dominik Aicher (Producer, FDG Entertainment): As simple as it may seem at first glance the love is in the details of Slayin 2. It’s amazing how much thought Reggie put into the gameplay. What starts out as a simple “bump into enemies to kill them” quickly turns into a complex variety of attacks with every new character and weapon you unlock.
Also the OST by Matt Creamer is unlike anything I ever heard in a game. It really gets you pumped for action!
Philipp Döschl (Co-Founder / Executive Producer, FDG Entertainment): The big time gap between Slayin’ and Slayin 2 (about 7 years) and two different target platforms (mobile vs. Nintendo Switch) feels like working on platforms from different generations. You can do completely different things as soon as you have access to physical gamepads, as the controls are much more precise. One of my favorite features of the game, besides the OST by Matt Creamer (Retro City Rampage, etc.) is that you can play the game in 2 player co-op on one Switch.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What games influenced this one the most?
Tom “Reggie” Schreiber (Owner, Pixel Licker LLC): I wasn’t thinking of any specific game when making Slayin 2, but I am sure there are nods to old Capcom arcade games in there, especially when designing bosses. I was playing a lot of King of Dragons in the early days of the project, so that was probably an influence on the art and enemy design. The combo system is definitely influenced by Cave shmups. I have always liked game systems where you are trying to push your kill count within a limited time window.
Dominik Aicher (Producer, FDG Entertainment): Slayin
Old School Gamer Magazine: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Tom “Reggie” Schreiber (Owner, Pixel Licker LLC): When we showed the game at BostonFIG, I was amazed at how many university age students came up to me and asked for pictures or told me stories of how they played a ton of Slayin. As a developer, you don’t always think of how the world around you can be affected by your work. You sit in your office with your head down, making stuff. When you release it, it is just out there with a life of its own. Hearing how people were happy to see the series was still being developed really gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling. I would love to do more shows in the future, if only to get more direct feedback from the players.
Dominik Aicher (Producer, FDG Entertainment): Due to the COVID-19 crisis our office went into lockdown just when we were about to conclude testing so we all ended up testing the final builds at home which proved a bit complicated at first due to hardware allocation but it was a really awesome feeling to finally see the game on my own TV screen at home playing as if it was already released.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What were the major lessons learned?
Tom “Reggie” Schreiber (Owner, Pixel Licker LLC): One very risky decision in the early days was to make the game on PC. Without any real understanding of the Steam market or how tough it was becoming for indies, I ignored the reality of what the market would be like when the game was done. You have to imagine what the market will be like in 2 years when you are looking to release. Over the course of developing Slayin 2, I read a lot of articles by indie devs who launched and where dead on arrival. I got more and more scared as these articles painted a grim picture of the Steam landscape. I was lucky to find a publisher who had a way to get the game on a console. But the realities of PC development are not exactly friendly to indies who are not looking to develop a community and constantly interact with their player base.
Another lesson learned was that I should get prototypes into player’s hands early on. Feedback is something developers don’t always like to hear if it conflicts with their design plans. But all developers need to develop the skills to take feedback and disseminate the relevant information into something that can improve the game. I find that if I get feedback early, I am less precious about ideas I have implemented and more likely to change them for the better. Going forward, I want to use sites like Discord to cultivate groups of people who can offer good critical feedback.
Dominik Aicher (Producer, FDG Entertainment): Balancing is a very delicate thing that mustn’t be rushed. As our first real Coop-Title Slayin 2 was a whole new experience and really challenged testing and development when it came to multiplayer modes. As this was my first title ever acting as a producer for me personally everything about this journey was a new and exciting lesson.
Philipp Döschl (Co-Founder / Executive Producer, FDG Entertainment): One of the biggest lessons learnt is that you should consider your tool chain before starting the actual production, especially when it comes to the question “which engine should we use?” – and chose the engine depending on the target platforms and the game you want to do. This can save you months of additional work, porting, blood and sweat.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Tom “Reggie” Schreiber (Owner, Pixel Licker LLC): I am not sure if mechanics have really changed much in the last few decades. You still move stuff around a 2D plane on your screen and try to align it with other things and press buttons at the right times. We just add thematic elements on top of that to give it a flavor and then add more systems on top of that to add complexity. I definitely think 2D is the ideal presentation for Slayin, because understanding spatial relationships is key. And 3D cameras are terrible at presenting spatial relationships to a player.
Dominik Aicher (Producer, FDG Entertainment): It’s hard to really think of innovative gameplay mechanics nowadays when seemingly everything has already been done in other games. Nintendo shows us that the very basic gameplay of their first titles are still doing pretty well today if you just know how to add a fresh note to it. That is what we’ve tried with Slayin 2 – taking the fun and addictive gameplay of the first title to the next level, not just with new characters and content but with an extra plane and much more abilities for players to interact with the game to give it a new turn.
Philipp Döschl (Co-Founder / Executive Producer, FDG Entertainment): Absolutely! When creating a new game, you need to give people things they already know and new things. Also, people have certain expectations for a given genre. This genre core mechanics are always present and haven’t changed a lot in the past decades. It’s similar to cars: they always had 4 wheels, seats and a steering wheel but nowadays cars offer so much much. And it’s the same with games. Super Mario Odyssey is still the same type of 3D platformer as it was on N64. There are about 20 years between both games, some things are familiar mechanics, such as how the jumping works, but also new mechanics that haven’t been there before and differentiate it from the others, such as the mimicking enemies with the use of your hat. Almost all games are a mix of old and new.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?
Tom “Reggie” Schreiber (Owner, Pixel Licker LLC): As a kid, I loved going to the mall on my bike to spend what little money I could scrounge up at our local arcade. Even if I blew through my quarters in the first 10 minutes, I would spend hours watching others play. That atmosphere is something I miss a lot now.
Dominik Aicher (Producer, FDG Entertainment): Extended Sunday mornings in pyjamas with my older brother playing Sonic on Sega Megadrive.
Philipp Döschl (Co-Founder / Executive Producer, FDG Entertainment): Just got my PC-Engine mini recently. Those days, when I was around 10 years old, were among the most intense for me. We played countless multiplayer sessions in Bomberman, completed Ys I & II over and over again, were puzzled about the german opening of Dracula X, etc. And the best thing is that I can experience the same games again with my son – and he loves them as much as I did back then
Old School Gamer Magazine: How do you want this game to be remembered?
Tom “Reggie” Schreiber (Owner, Pixel Licker LLC): I would love it if in 10 years, some kid who played Slayin 2 with their siblings or best friend could reminisce about their happy memories of playing the game together. I don’t need it to be famous, just fondly remembered as a part of someone’s gaming history.
Dominik Aicher (Producer, FDG Entertainment): Slayin 2 is my debut as a games producer and therefore will always keep a special place in my heart. Everyone involved put a lot of love and dedication into this game to live up to our high quality standards. My hope is that players around the world will recognize this love for detail and maybe in a couple of years people will look back at it saying “It may just have been a casual game but, man, I loved slaying those cute mobs with my brother, sister, kids or friends.”
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s next?
Tom “Reggie” Schreiber (Owner, Pixel Licker LLC): After 3 years, I should take a rest, but my mind is full of ideas. My 7 year old daughter wants to help make a game, so I am working on a prototype with her. It is called “Butterfly Space Princess”, because, she’s 7 and awesome. After that, I have potential ideas for a Slayin 3, but it depends on if Slayin 2 does well enough to justify the development costs.
Philipp Döschl (Co-Founder / Executive Producer, FDG Entertainment): We’re already working on a couple of exciting new games and started an internal dev team which I’m leading. It’s exciting times right now, sadly I can’t talk about the upcoming games yet…
Old School Gamer Magazine: Anything else you’d like to add?
Tom “Reggie” Schreiber (Owner, Pixel Licker LLC): Being an indie, you have to make a lot of sacrifices to make your dreams a reality. I really hope people can enjoy all the love and care I put into Slayin 2. Being on a console for the first time is a real thrill and I would like to thank everyone who helped spread the word and purchased Slayin 2!
Philipp Döschl (Co-Founder / Executive Producer, FDG Entertainment): Enjoy the games and stay safe!