Radical Fish Games’s CrossCode feels like the type of indie game that you wish there was more of out there. As Lea, a stranger in a strange land who just lost her voice as well as her memories, log into the MMO-game-within-the-indie-game CrossWorlds to solve the mystery of her amnesia. Take an energy-ball-shooting mechanic like the egg-fling from Yoshi’s Island, add it to a NieR: Automata-like super-slick combat system, sprinkle in Zelda-style puzzle-solving, and mix it well in a top-down world with vibrant graphics and music that evoke 16-bit bliss. That’s CrossCode.
Siliconera met with Felix Klein of Radical Fish Games during BitSummit and got to talk about CrossCode’s beginnings, its eclectic influences, and the development team’s own continuing journey.
Could you please give a short introduction?
Felix Klein, Co-founder: I am Felix, also known as Lachsen, of Radical Fish Games. We’re a bunch of developers from Germany, and we worked on CrossCode since the end of 2011 essentially. We are finally in Japan, presenting the game at BitSummit.
What was the origin of CrossCode?
CrossCode began long before its own development in 2011. We were all working with RPGMaker 2000, created our first prototype. It was top-down, more like a puzzle game where you could throw balls that were bouncing on walls. It quickly turned out that RPGMaker 2000’s not really up to the task, there were lots of limitations, and we dropped that eventually.
I picked it up again sometime later, and I tried to develop it as a Nintendo DS homebrew title. That worked much better, but C++ is such a pain to work with, and I lost motivation. But then, HTML5 came around, and I really got in love with HTML5 for some strange reason.
What were some of the driving inspirations behind CrossCode?
A lot of different inspirations. You could say CrossCode is taking Yoshi’s Island, then you make it top-down instead of side-view, and then you turn it into an RPG. That’s more or less CrossCode. We have a big love for Terranigma, a Super Nintendo game that was actually released in Germany and not in the United States.
Also Devil May Cry, Kingdom Hearts, a little bit of the combat system is inspired by that. Xenoblade Chronicles is a big inspiration because we like the mix of JRPG with more open-world scenarios and free-roaming with quests, and a little bit of Valkyrie Profile because of the animations.
That is a wonderful myriad of influences and inspirations. What then is perhaps one singular element that you would have separate CrossCode from the rest of the indie RPG pack?
That’s a difficult one. There’s several things in CrossCode that are nice to point out as far as the abstract goes, but what I like to say is that it’s a nice mix of Zelda-type action-adventure with an action RPG. You actually don’t have this too often.
On the other hand, you have puzzle-heavy action adventures, or combat-heavy action RPGs. We actually try to mix the whole thing, and we think it works really nice, because you actually have battles that have very puzzle-heavy mechanics. You actually use the puzzle mechanics in combat, and on the other hand you have puzzles that are really fast paced, and actually also need some shooting, it mixes those two things and is actually surprisingly unique. You don’t see it too often.
Have there been any elements of the game that were either dropped or changed over the years of development?
There have been a few featured ideas that we had early on that we also dropped pretty early on in the game. There have been some features that we thought we would like to add them, but we weren’t 100% sure it would work out. But, in the end, they all actually worked out, stuff like party members.
We have not been 100% sure if we would manage to create party members, but it worked well enough so we added them. They’re not extremely relevant for gameplay, they’re more for the atmosphere, but it’s actually pretty fun to have party members running around. In CrossCode, you’re playing a network game inside a game, so not having parties would be a little bit weird. You don’t play an MMO by yourself usually.
So that worked out, but otherwise we actually have a very fixed set of features. We don’t adapt things too much. We did a lot of experiments in the beginning, like the technical demo, released that, got some feedback. Then we released the first demo, the feature set was actually surprisingly stable. We do small stuff like come up with some mini-games, and other small quest ideas which are based on the mechanics that we already implemented for other things. We try to reuse mechanics to use them in a different way to get some new content, but we don’t invent entirely new mechanics. We try to avoid that.
This isn’t your first public showing of CrossCod?
No, not entirely. We had a two year break not showing much. When we did the Indiegogo campaign, we went to SXSW, and presented it. We haven’t been well-known so people probably missed it back then. But, yeah, we have been there, then presented at some kind of Indie Booth, it wasn’t Indie Mega Booth, it was something else.
And then a few months later, after the Indiegogo campaign, we were at Gamescom in Germany. We actually had 2 booths, one in the consumer area, one in the press area, it was- Oh my Gosh- it was so exhausting. 5 days, from 10 to 20 o’clock (10am to 8pm on a 12-hour clock), 5 days in a row… We kinda survived that, but then we’d had enough events for some time.
But now since we’re getting closer to release, now we plan to show up in some more events again, show the game a bit more, and when we got the invitation to go to Japan, we definitely wanted to do that. I have been here before, actually the first time I worked on HTML5 games was on an internship here in Japan. It was in Tokyo, they actually gave us a trust to do some kinda Farmville clone based on HTML5 instead of Flash.
We never really finished that, but it was more like an experiment. But that’s when I realized that HTML5 was ready to work on games. Right when I came back to Germany, a few months later, I started CrossCode, and now 6 years later, I’m back again showing CrossCode in Japan. This is awesome.
Do you have any closing thoughts for fans and players looking forward to CrossCode’s release?
I just really hope that we can surprise you people with some really interesting twists in the story. I hope that the story will be received well in the end, that we can surprise some of our players.