Paris based studio The Game Atelier is about to release their first game, a shoot ‘em up starring a banana and beer spitting hamster. We caught up with them to discuss The Flying Hamster and their future plans.
Kappa, Graphic Designer, and Arcadio, Game Developer, fielded our questions in this interview.
Can you tell our readers about The Game Atelier’s history? How did you get started?
Our story started in 2005 when we (Kappa & Arcadio) first met. At that time we were working in the same game studio but on different projects. The idea of working together passed through our minds several times over the last 5 years, but the real opportunity for us to take the leap and ‘fly’ by ourselves came up very recently at the end of 2009.
What types of games does The Game Atelier want to bring to the market?
Not cutesy rearing animals/fantasy creature games that’s for sure… We love action games!
After working for several years for other companies our team developed a strong desire to concentrate their efforts on their own projects which means working on non-existing IPs. We don’t want to dive into any kind of over-ambitious or risky projects, so don’t expect a GTA clone from our team. The Game Atelier will only focus on fresh new designs and concepts.
And the first game you’re making is a shooter?
For most people shoot-em-ups sound a little hardcore-gamer oriented so we really cared about making this product a bit more accessible to every kind of player. We also know that there are lots of gamers out there craving for shoot-em-ups.
Commercially speaking shooters are not the favourite type of game that other companies want to bring to the West, but as we live in Europe we feel like we are missing out on a lot of amazing products from Asia (in any genre). The Flying Hamster is targeting the audience of this under-estimated genre in America and Europe (and specifically all the people who cry when they discover a great shooter that will never be released in their country). We are shoot-em-up fans and we are still playing good old-time shooters from the 8/16-bit era. We wanted to share our love for this genre to a maximum of players.
The Flying Hamster has a cute ’em up feel. Why did you go for adorable sprite art?
We are violent pacifists so when we shoot something it has to be cute!
Seriously, we did go for these cute sprites because the original idea for the game came from one of our female character-designer. Two of our graphic designers are women and both are really fond of Japanese-style cute stuff. We definitely think that The Flying Hamster will appeal to women and make them take an interest in this very male orientated field (yeah, you know: shmups).
Out of all the possibilities for a main character, why did you choose a hamster? How does he fly?
Our main character-designer is so into hamsters that one day she came to us and said very seriously "why aren’t there any shooters with hamsters?". Then she drew a hamster that could fly with spinning leaves on his back and spitting sunflower seeds at enemies. She practically invented the gameplay basis and designed Newton in about 5 minutes. Actually, from that moment we never thought that any other character could replace the flying hamster for that game. Or perhaps you have a better idea?
We heard about some of the enemies such as ninja squirrels and exploding foxes sounds neat. Which one is your favourite?
The 3rd stage boss is probably the one that keeps us laughing when we watch him… but we don’t want to spoil anything :)
We also love the crazy exploding foxes, cows and mermaids (coming in the next bunch of screen-shots).
What kind of bullet patterns did you create?
The Flying Hamster is not a danmaku so there will be no puzzle-bullet-pattern. Cave is doing a great job at delivering that type of game. But less bullets doesn’t mean easier to dodge.
We want to make something different to all the other shooters on the market. The cute designs and environment naturally drove us to a simpler gameplay so as not to frighten off players that are not used to shooters because they seem too hard and complicated at first sight. We also like to see the game’s backgrounds behind the curtains of bullets.
What kind of weapons can the hamster use?
Newton uses his most powerful weapon: his mouth. In fact he doesn’t fire a weapon, he spits the ammo he finds within the levels. He can stock various stuff in his jowls and spit it raw at the enemies.
He is also able to charge (like R-type) and release a special attack. Each type of ammo has a different special attack.
As you can see in the screen-captures Newton can fight with fire, beer and even bananas. We will unveil the other ammo types in the near future.
The Flying Hamster is being made for PSP, but will it be a downloadable game or a retail title?
It will be a downloadable game because a retail title won’t be an option for an independent development studio like us.
Why did you choose the PSP as the console of choice for The Flying Hamster? It looks like it could have worked well on any of the digital download platforms.
Considering our past experience on mobile platforms we first thought about every possible nomad device. For the lead version we excluded the iPhone for its lack of real buttons and because its market seems so flooded that the visibility of our game would be lowered. As for the Nintendo DS, the DSiWare doesn’t seem backed-up enough by Nintendo. So our choice naturally oriented itself to the Sony PSP: it sounded like a good compromise between a popular gamer platform and a clear digital distribution service.
Are you working with any other consoles?
Currently we focus all our efforts on the PSP. When done we will probably work on a port of The Flying Hamster for the iPhone and PC.
What else does The Game Atelier have in store for 2010?
As we still have a lot to do with The Flying Hamster we’d better save that one for later… at least there should be some action! Long life to Siliconera!
Kappa & Arcadio also sent over a special wallpaper with Newton formatted for computers and PSP. Enjoy!