Old School Gamer Magazine chats with Two Bit Hero developer Ezekiel Rage to find out what makes this nifty retro adventure a special one.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How was this game born?
Ezekiel Rage: I like to dial back graphics as much as possible during early development, to focus on the main hook of the game. That is something I learned when I first started doing 2D games, because if I focus on visuals too early in development I tend to only see the graphics, but the gameplay will be lacking. So gameplay first is the general idea. So when I started putting sprites into the game instead of cubes, I thought about a minimalist style. Black and White games existed for a long time, so it just grew out of that in a natural way.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What is your role in the game?
Rage: I am the sole developer. However, that does not mean I made all myself. I created the maps, areas, design, level layout, sound effects, concept and ideas as well as most of the graphics. Some graphics were provided to me while the music was created by the talented Trevor Lentz, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with before.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How did you get involved in the industry?
Rage: I started at an early age when I was 14. Back in the day indie game development wasn’t a thing and the internet was very basic and slow. It was the time of the N64 and like every teenager back then I wanted to make my own N64 game, which of course never happened. Funny enough, I started many projects during those early years and one of them even got released on Steam last year. So I kinda did make a game in that style, albeit sixteen years too late ^^
Old School Gamer Magazine: What has development been like?
Rage: Development on Two Bit Hero was rather smooth, at least until the beta release. I am experienced in this kind of design, doing it for almost five years now, so I know what to expect. Of course, limiting myself makes things both easier and harder – easier because I know my limits, clearly, harder because I need to figure out a way to do things within the set limits. I believe if one can do anything at all, the game will suffer. Limits are good.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What makes this game special?
Rage: The limits I imposed, really. Metroidvania games, or Retroidvania as I like to call this, are a dime a dozen but this game has very strict limits. No colors other than red eyes and lasers for the enemies and green for friendly pickups (well, and the blue superhero intro, but that is not playable) which means every area, every room, everything in the game must be unique. There is not a single room in the game that is repeated somewhere else. And then of course there is the glitch in reality, which changes the reality you are in. And while Map A and Map B are technically the same map, they are very different in terms of progression.
Then of course there is the map – a not so traditional and yet very old-school approach to map making. You can zoom out and, depending on your screen size and resolution, can see a lot if not all of the entire map you’ve explored, almost as if you drew it onto a piece of paper by hand.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What games influenced this one the most?
Rage: Castlevania – Harmony of Dissonance. Not only did I take a lot of the “two maps same layout” ideas from that game, progression is also similar. I generally love Retroidvania games, of course.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Rage: Late during development there was this bug I just couldn’t fix, no matter what I tried. It took me days of agony and brain melting until I realized it wasn’t a bug, it was a feature I built into the game myself for some stupid reason. That day, many a tooth was ground…
Old School Gamer Magazine: What were the major lessons learned?
Rage: Boss design, as strange as that sounds. I am generally not very good with boss battle design, a criticism I get a lot and it’s mostly true. Because this game has so many bosses, however, I had to come up with various different ideas and some of them can be expanded and built upon for other games, benefitting future projects greatly^^
Old School Gamer Magazine: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Rage: Of course. I am not only talking about the tried and true things we came to expect in games, but also more old, obscure ideas. As an example, I like to experiment with in-game maps. Sure, the tried and true method of displaying a map – white lines, blue squares, dark background) – works but why not experiment with what older games did? In NES games for example one had to draw their own maps – pen on paper – but that gave you a full layout with all the details you put into the game. This is also where the idea for the map system in Two Bit Hero was born.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?
Rage: Back in the day, when the internet wasn’t a thing and magazines ruled, it was always so exciting for me to buy a new game that, thank the makers, turned out to be as excellent as the totally unbiased (in no way bought by the publishers) game reviewers claimed it was. It was like a box of chocolates, you never knew what you would get. Or a candle in Castlevania ^^
Old School Gamer Magazine: How do you want this game to ultimately be remembered?
Rage: Fun. Really, my ambition is it to create games that are fun. If people remember it because they were entertained, that is all I need
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s next?
Rage: Next up is Citadale part 5, the part where I take all the criticism from Citadale part 4 and address it as best as I can. This means I will release it and be proud of it, people criticize it even more and I am devastated and try to do better next time. And you know what? I kinda like that part, too.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Anything else you’d like to add?
Rage: Play BioMech. Seriously, play my game BioMech. It is not only one of my best games, it is also one of my favorites. I love this game. Play it! Oh and be nice to people online, the world is bad enough as is. Try to be nice.