Amil Parra has been working on RetroBlazer since 2003. As you can imagine, it has changed quite a bit over the years, being moved across different engines, and had its art style changed drastically. What has endured is Parra’s desire to create a 2.5D first-person shooter that took its cues from 2D Japanese action games as much as it did western 3D shooters.
It’s why RetroBlazer, as it stands today, is one of the most colorful shooters of recent years. Rather than dull browns and greys of many modern FPS, it is pink, green, and purple. It looks more like Mega Man X than Quake or Doom. However, it certainly plays a lot of like those old-school shooters, being very fast-paced, consisting of largely flat levels with maze-like structures, and enemy projectiles that should be dodged with speed and movement rather than hid from behind cover.
As Parra has recently been making noise about RetroBlazer once again after being quite about it since releasing an alpha demo back in 2012, Siliconera caught up to him. We wanted to find out more about this 12-years-in-the-making FPS, especially as he was leading up to a 2016 launch, and started a Kickstarter for it
What has driven him to keep working on it for all those years? How much has it changed in that time? Why make a 2.5D first-person shooter right now? What’s with all of these bright colors? We find out that and much more in the interview below.
Could you start off by giving a brief history of the development of Retroblazer? You’ve mentioned before that the concept of the game originated nearly 10 years ago?
You could say the game first started off as constantly evolving tech demo used to channel my game dev skills all the way back in 2003. I had a handful of ideas, characters, and environments that I liked each iteration.
As I kept evolving and adding to it over time, I switched back and forth from Raycast engines similar to Wolf3D to full 3D environments, until one day I had enough content and the idea to mix the two. That is when I started developing the world of RetroBlazer as a true stand-alone game.
What is it about the classic run-‘n’-gun shooters that has spurred the creation of RetroBlazer? Are there any favorites you could pick out?
I always enjoyed action games. My inspiration comes from Japanese 2D action games like Mega Man X, Metroid, Contra, Metal Slug, and Gunstar Heroes just to name a few. I also grew up on 3D games like Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein 3D, all of which got me into developing using their editors.
Using what I learned with those 3D editors, I worked on the idea of making an FPS with the same frantic speed and feel as those 2D games, but branching out from what is usually a gritty western genre of the 3D FPS.
A game like this is primed for speedrunning, just as the classic shooters have been and still are, so have you encouraged this in any way inside the game itself?
I always thought speedrunning was a cool way to play a game, and RetroBlazer will Certainly encourage it by making a lot of the power-ups and items optional to keep a constant flow of gameplay.
As far as adding an actual time trial mode, it’s something I may consider adding, but haven’t planned at this particular time. If enough resources are available, I will plan to include an Achievement System. There would be some achievements for fast times and 100% completion within a certain timeframe.
One of RetroBlazer’s most outstanding features is its visuals. Why did you decide to use a 2.5D format with sprites and what how are you pushing its limits, as you’ve said before?
It was an interesting decision that ended up coming about naturally. My first editing tools were for 3D games, but I always focused on 2D Art and sprites first and foremost rather than 3D modeling.
There was one point I was considering making RetroBlazer fully 2D, but after having spent most of my dev time with 3D tools, I thought combining the two would be unique idea. Most 2.5D games like Doom and Wolfenstein 3D had very strict limits due to the technology of the time. Using RetroBlazer’s engine and modern processing power, sprites can be very large and have multiple frames animating at very fast framerates.
Most of the level designs we’ve seen so far are flat layouts with complex corridor systems to navigate. Is there any deviation from this in the game? Are there any tenets that you stick to when designing levels?
The style comes from the game originally being worked on as a Raycast-style game like Wolfenstein 3D. When switching to a full 3D environment, there is a lot you can can do to deviate from that, but I was still aiming for a corridor-ish style.
There are plans to add more complex levels, with different floor heights, as well as add some more organic shapes to the mapping. I will still keep the parts of the corridor aesthetics throughout, as it’s imprinted in the game’s DNA.
The level design in the alpha does not reflect the final product, though it does represent a majority of the visual style.
Perhaps the least known aspect of RetroBlazer is the world design. It seems to be a mix of Egyptian and sci-fi influences. Is this right? Is there a history or story informing this that you could share?
The game will take place in a multi-themed cybernetic world consisting of 4 different technological cities: ARK Site 1, 2, 3, and 4 (ARK Site 1 is the city in the demo). Each of those cities is based on a particular “ancient civilization” and only one city was inhabited peacefully in a utopian state: ARK Site 4 or simply “ARK City”. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse.
The player takes control of RetroBlazer, a soldier that has been exiled by an invasion of ARK Site 4. Your home is now fortified by its intruders; the Judgment Legion, a mysterious army built in secret in Sites 1, 2 and 3. It’s now up to the player to fight through the now overrun “Outer World” cities, and then take back ARK City. The rest, well, you’d just have to play the game!
Are you building a multiplayer functionality for RetroBlazer? If so, how will this work?
Yes, RetroBlazer’s multiplayer mode will be a classic Deathmatch Arena with rebalanced weapons. Players will fight on 6 multiplayer maps with 360 degree character sprites that come in selectable color schemes. Other selectable characters are being planned for a possible later release.
Other MP modes are being considered, but it all depends if resources allow.
How positive are you that the game will be released in 2016? Do you know what platforms and pricing it will be available for at this point?
RetroBlazer is relying on crowdfunding to get the project off the ground. A Kickstarter page is currently up, and if the project is funded, the game will take anywhere from 12-16 months to complete, so around May 2016 looks like a good estimation.
As for the price of the game, the base price of the game is only $10 USD, so you get a lot of bang for your buck. There are plenty of other available versions as well, including boxed copies of the game starting at $45.
The Kickstarter will also have updates on possible console releases. We have our eyes on a possible Xbox One port, as well an iOS port, but those are still in talks. A lot can change very quickly, so stay tuned!