Old School Gamer Magazine chats with Tommi Vikstedt, Jr., Project Manager at Dreamloop Games, who breaks down the fun of “Stardust Galaxy Warriors” on the Nintendo Switch. One part beautiful new shooter, another part old-school arcade-inspired fun, Stardust Galaxy Heroes is another frenetic experience on Nintendo hybrid console.
About Stardust Warriors:
As a new recruit to Stardust Galaxy Warriors, an interstellar peacekeeping organization founded by the eccentric trillionaire Archibald Stardust, you will take on a 10-level campaign mode and battle your way through different worlds facing myriad enemies big and small while experiencing a story chock full of wry humor, stunning graphics, and even a few surprises. Choose from five different characters, each with their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and upgrade via RPG-like mechanics such as boosting weapon damage, armor effectiveness, and many other attributes and stats.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How was this game created/born?
Tommi Vikstedt: Funnily enough, you could argue it started as a student project, though the entire thing has been rewritten more than once since. The initial idea was that we want to make a game that’s as fun and as easy to pick up as possible, and to me, side-scrolling SHMUPs have always been the embodiment of that. Didn’t hurt that they were supposed to be ‘easy to make’, too; though that turned out not to have been entirely true.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What was development like?
Vikstedt: Oh man, SO much happened… we went from being a random assortment of students to founding a company, working on a prototype for a Chinese company (that didn’t go all according to plan…) releasing the game initially on Steam, then losing over half of the team, merging with another company, then shipping the game on the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One as Stellar Climax. Then we worked on a bunch of other projects, entered into partnership with Remote Control Productions, established a contact with Aksys, and then a bit later here we are with a Switch port! It’s been both stressful and fun, but it’s getting less of the former and more of the latter with time, and regardless, I wouldn’t change a day!
Old School Gamer Magazine: What makes this game special?
Vikstedt: It’s a labour of love indie game that’s not made to be challenging or artistic or a mind-blowing narrative experience. It’s designed to be first and foremost pure fun that scales well for different skill levels, and that doesn’t make any sneaky demands – you start playing if you feel like it, with whoever, and you can stop whenever you want. It’s a game you can play solo, or with your kid, or with your mom, or with your significant other who doesn’t really play games – or you can get together with a bunch of hardcore gamer friends, and crank the setting to the max. Though, I do have to clarify that it’s definitely better enjoyed as a more of a casual experience.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What games influenced this one the most?
Vikstedt: I’ve been asked this a bunch, and people tend to be pretty good about naming possible influences for me, too… Ultimately I was not really influenced that much by specific games – for me, the motivation was to make a game that lets me relive arcade experiences from when I was a kid, playing side-scrolling shooters in hotel lobbies while travelling with my parents, or on a console at a friend’s place. I don’t really remember much details, just the pure enjoyment of flying right, shooting things, seeing a new enemy, a new powerup, just the pure flow of it all. I really wanted to recapture that childlike excitement of playing a game just to play a game.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Vikstedt: Haha, I guess I touched on this a bit earlier, but it’s definitely been quite the journey in general. I still remember vividly climbing to the stage at an event to take the second place prize for a game development competition with what could be considered the first prototype. I got an envelope, and when I peeked in after we got off the stage, there were couple of hundred of euros in there, and my first thought was something along the lines of “boy, we’re gonna get wasted tonight!” Back then that felt like a fortune.
I also think there’s a video on our YouTube of when we first launched the game on Steam, we did a countdown and spammed refresh on the store page and cheered when we saw the game up there.
Or how about that one time when a person asked us on Steam whether we planned to add support for playing just with the mouse, and I was like “nah, that’d be annoying to balance”, and we replied something along those lines. The person asking said something like “well, that’s a bummer, I have a disability so I can only use one hand, but it’s understandable if you can’t do it”, and I remember reading that at home and going, “oh geez, who cares about stupid balance, if it means one more person gets to enjoy the game”, and then when I got to work the next day it’d already been implemented and we pushed it in in a patch. That person then left a review that got screencapped and shared to Imgur and Reddit and went viral a couple of times… I guess sometimes good deeds do get rewarded. Though we also get a lot of crap about that, with people claiming we added that feature as a marketing stunt and/or orchestrated the whole thing, but I guess that’s the Internet for you.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Do you think preserving older game play mechanics in new games is important?
Vikstedt: Well, if they’re good mechanics, then certainly! Old or new, a mechanic is not inherently “sacred” – it either works and makes the game better, or it doesn’t. I guess we’ve had a bit of a trend where newer games tended to be less arcadey and more ‘realistic’ (whatever that means in some cases), but I think there’s definitely room for arcadey fun, and the market seems to agree, with Fortnite and mobile games and the success of the Switch all that.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?
Vikstedt: Does it have to be a single memory? I mean, this is gonna sound super pretentious, but depending on the definition, I am a ‘gamer’ to the core. If I’m not making games, I’m playing games, or watching somebody else play games on Twitch. Most of my life and my memories are experienced ‘as a gamer’. I don’t even know what I’d do without video games. Well okay, I do, I’d probably be equally obsessed with board games or something.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Who will enjoy this game the most?
Vikstedt: People who just want to have a bit of fun, but don’t mind a bit of a challenge every now and then, especially if they have friends to play with! One of our primary use cases was a group of friends who are about to head out, but maybe have an hour to burn before that. SGW is perfect for that!
Another scenario we keep hearing about from people is playing with their kids. It’s rated E for everyone, and it’s something that somebody between 30 or 40 years old would be familiar with from when they were younger, but is also palatable for kids today – or so I hope, anyway. We don’t really get a lot of feedback from kids, but we’ve head a lot of parents play it with their kids and were having a good time.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Bottom Line, why must someone play this game?
Vikstedt: Ughh, I’m always bad with these questions… I’m supposed to unleash a torrent of hyperbole about how SGW is the most amazing experience ever and all that. I mean, sure, it might be, depending on who you are, but it was explicitly designed to be a game that doesn’t scream “YOU MUST PLAY THIS”. That’s not really ‘fun’, is it? So many games these days want to manipulate or even force you into spending time playing them. We just want you to have a good time on your own terms. You pay a reasonable price, you get all the content, you play the game whenever you want, for however long you want, with whatever settings you want. So, bottom line, please don’t feel like you ‘must’ play SGW, but if you’re in the market for some arcadey fun, do check the game out!
Old School Gamer Magazine: How do you want this game to be remembered?
Vikstedt: As the first game Dreamloop made, kickstarting their crusade to bring fun back into gaming! Well, outside of Japan, anyway. Ugh, this was supposed to be short and to the point.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What next?
Vikstedt: We are looking to start working on another new IP in the close future, likely coming to Nintendo Switch too. And of course we have the next Stardust Galaxy Warriors game in our plans.
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.