There have been a few platform-brawlers popping up on PC recently as people seem to be trying to fill that Super Smash Bros. shaped hole on the platform. Brawlhalla is one, Rivals of Aether is another, but perhaps the most explosive-looking one is the upcoming Check-in, Knock-out.
It’s a game about the double booked guests at a hotel fighting for their rooms. But this is no ordinary fight as the environment can be picked up and thrown at your opponents, slowly decreasing the landmass that you’re fighting on, meaning that it gets easier and easier to fall off to your death as the fight goes on.
Siliconera caught up with Nick Aarts, the producer of Check-in, Knock-out to find out more about it. In particular, how it evolved from a student project to what it is now, how different characters play with their unique abilities, and what some of the advanced moves are.
First off, is it true that Check-In, Knock-Out started off as a school assignment? Could you explain how that came about?
Nick Aarts, producer: Yes! It was January 2014. The assignment – which Tijmen and I did – was ‘Make a game in one week, and then add polish to it for two weeks’. So the first day we came up with the idea of making a multiplayer game with a floating island made of blocks, which you could throw at each other. This it what we had after day one:
We then asked Menno to make some pixel art for the game while me and Tijmen added more functionality and polish. We also made four characters with distinctive gameplay mechanics. This is what the game looked like after the initial assignment:
The core mechanics of the game have not changed since this version of the game. We focused almost only on the core of the game, which already felt really good back in January 2014.
Why did you decide to keep working on it after you finished the assignment? And what have you added to the game since then?
The week after the assignment was a week off from school. Tijmen, Menno and I went home to our families and friends and played the game from dusk till dawn, literally. When we came back to school and found out that we had played it so much, we knew we had something good. That is when we decided to keep working on the game. It just felt like the right thing to do.
What seems to be unique about Check-In, Knock-Out is the way players interact with the environment. Could you go into more detail about that and explain how it affects play?
Yes indeed! The interesting thing is that the players cannot interact with each other directly. The only way to interact with each other is to pick up the environment, and then throw it at someone else. When a piece of the environment is thrown, it is gone forever. This way the level gradually gets smaller. This makes for a natural difficulty curve.
You mention that each of the characters have their own distinctive playing style and abilities. What are these various styles and abilities?
There are 8 characters, which all have a different movement speed, jump height, double jump height, weight, and throwing strength. They also all have a different active or passive ability. The abilities range from very easy to use to very hard to use. A few examples…
Bob can fly:
Dr. Doctor converts objects into explosives:
Destiny picks up two objects instead of one:
And The Mind can steer objects around the screen before firing them:
One of the most appealing things about Check-In, Knock-Out is how explosive it feels. How did you achieve this and was it something that was important to you?
This is where we put a lot of time and love into. From day one of development we are putting in tiny effects which add to this ‘explosive feel’. Obvious things are screenshake and smoke particles. But there are way more subtle things. For example, when a character gets hit and blown away, his or her sprite stretches to accentuate movement. When a character dies off screen, which is inspired by Smash Bros. (we love Smash Bros.), there is a whole screen blur effect which adds to the dynamic visuals. When a character is hit, he or she freezes in place and flashes white for a split second (thanks JW!)
Are there any advanced moves in Check-In, Knock-Out that you have already discovered that may be similar to those discussed in, say, the Smash Bros. community?
I really love this question! There actually are a few advanced moves that we designed. The most important one is the counter. When you press the counter button at the right time you instantly throw back a block with greater speed. This is essential in securing yourself a room in the hotel. Each character has a double jump. When you successfully counter a block, your double jump resets. This means that you sometimes can recover from a situation which would otherwise be certain death. It just feels amazing when you pull it off!
When you are being hit by a block, and you press the opposite movement direction, you get knocked back less:
Or when you throw a block downwards, you automatically get an extra jump:
There are also some bugs, which we decided to keep as features. Normally when you pick up a block, there is a delay to pick it up where your character stands still. There was a bug that when you pressed jump at the same time as pickup, you skipped this pickup delay. We got so used to it that when we finally fixed the bug we found it annoying that we could not do it anymore. So we just made it a feature.
Do you plan on providing a means for players to set-up a tournament or something similar rather than playing single matches?
This is something we are still experimenting with, so I cannot answer this question with certainty. We are doing our best though!
Is Check-In, Knock-Out going to have any online play or will it be local multiplayer only?
Local only. Adding online multiplayer is going to double the development time. Also, the gameplay is very twitchy. A bit of lag could mean the difference between countering a block or death. We do not want to ruin the players experience because of this. Also, when you are not sitting on the same couch while playing, you can not make fun of each other!
What platforms are you hoping to bring Check-In, Knock-Out to once it’s finished? And do you have any idea of when might that be?
Check-in, Knock-out is going to be released on Steam for sure! After that we also are going to bring Check-in, Knock-out to at least PS4 OR Xbox One. Maybe even both! But this is not set in stone yet. The Steam version will probably launch Q3 2015.