After releasing a new demo of its action-puzzler CrossCode, Radical Fish Games launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign so that the team could go from working on the game part-time, to working on it full-time.
Siliconera was able to catch up with Stefan Lange, co-founder of Radical Fish Games, to find out more about CrossCode, and more importantly, why anyone should put their money towards it. If you’d prefer to check out the demo first, you can play it in your browser or download it from the game’s website.
Lange talks about how the story is told through an MMO that the main character plays inside the game, how Zelda has been used as a model for the dungeon design, and reveals why the Wii U is the only console for CrossCode.
CrossCode has an interesting metaplot about a young girl playing an MMO. Could you give an overview of what the story is here?
Stefan Lange, co-founder: Essentially the game is about the young girl called “Lea” as she logs into the fictional MMO “CrossWorlds”. There are two strange things about Lea: First, she can’t speak (literally mute, but there is a small twist) and second, she doesn’t remember anything about her past. She starts to play the game, meeting other players and overcoming challenges. Until her past catches up with her. I don’t want to spoil much more that that. But the game will have some unexpected twists, that’s for sure. We take great care in creating an interesting story that feels somewhat familiar when you start playing it but gets more unique as the plot reveals itself.
Concerning the lore of the game, the game itself will present information via codec entries and talking to NPCs. The inspiration here are game like Dark Souls. For players that want to know everything, the game will offer plenty of little tidbits that can be pieced together to tell what kind of background the game has. Some of this information can be found in the main plot too, of course, as we need to sometimes need to explain some things to prevent plot holes.
Are you making any kind of commentary with this narrative? The fear of being mistaken for a bot inside a virtual world is an interesting theme with a lot of potential.
Yes, in some way we do that. Our foremost goal is to tell a good story with interesting characters and plot and everything. But there is a statement to be found for sure. Being mistaken for bot is really just the beginning. Some of our team members come from a strong IT-background and we always wondered about how our technology advances and what kind of implications that has on our social life. So, CrossCode is a way for us to deal with the question and see how people will react to it. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything but I do want to say that we’re looking forward to hear peoples opinion on the story once the game is out.
I ask this as you haven’t shown much of it yet: How are you telling the story of the game inside the game? Will there be dialogue choices, cutscenes, environmental storytelling, or anything else of the sort?
Hehe, good question! Yes, there is going to be some kind of storytelling. CrossWorlds actually has a story and some it will be visible to the players as they go along. Lea follows the normal path of the game, so she’ll encounter in-game NPCs and has to beat the dungeons in order to proceed. As said, we take some inspiration from games like Dark Souls here, where the story is told by listening to NPCs and paying attention your surroundings (But we don’t wanna be as cryptic). You actually find some of these kind of “Background Storytelling” inside the demo already. I love environmental storytelling so there’s probably going to be a lot of it. Some of it might be very subtle though.
The main action in CrossCode is the ball-throwing mechanic. In what different ways are you using this mechanic throughout the game?
The most prominent mechanic is the bouncing feature, I would say. You can already see in the demo and it will be used to solve puzzles as you probably guessed. However, over the course of the game you’ll obtain four different elements. These elements will change the properties of your balls. Heat for instance turns your balls in to flaming rockets that can destroy objects or clear an obstructed path. We basically use the Zelda formula we all know and love. You get a new feature and use it to solve puzzles. But it doesn’t just stops with the balls. CrossCode will have number of “Ball manipulators” which can change the properties of a ball. Like making it very slow so you have enough time to hit some switches while the ball flies through a track or something like that. Those manipulator could also temporarily change the element of an ball which leads to some pretty coal puzzle ideas.
Of course, balls are also used to fight enemies. We already have an enemy that can be killed best with balls: Meerkats. But this is just a simple example. Imagine enemies that always keep a certain distance so you must use balls to defeat them. Of course this needs to be tested. Fighting those enemies should still be fun, right? Charged Shots also cancel special attacks from enemies so you pummel them while they are stunned. This is especially true for bosses. In the new version of the demo we added a boss to the puzzle area the focuses in using balls that bounce of the walls to create an opening.
You say that the dungeon design is influenced by Zelda. What did you take from that series specifically that qualifies the comparison?
Zelda has a very neat way of making puzzles that are challenging but almost never unfair. No crazy number riddles or something like that. Just using gameplay and the items you have in order to solve a puzzle. We think that this kind of design works very well (Not always, I still have nightmares about the water temple just like everyone else).
So for CrossCode we wanted to create that same kind of feel. You can solve puzzles without the game telling you exactly what do to. The gameplay and the mechanics are used to experiment until you find a solution. This also makes you feel much more happier since you solved something on your own. The challenge is to increase the complexity of puzzles over time without creating a sudden difficulty bump. In Zelda this usually means you have to combine your items to solve a puzzle and we intend to do the same (Think A Link Between Worlds, we all were very impressed by the puzzle design of this one).
How much room for character customization is there in CrossCode? Could you give some examples of what is possible?
Well, CrossCode is a single player game. So customization will only happen in form of the skill trees and your equipment. The game features a total of five skill trees. One for the neutral state and one for each element. As you level up you get CP which are used to unlock skills. You get separate CP for each skill tree meaning you can spend without have to worry in what element you want to spent your points in. The skill tree is pretty large:
As you can see, the elements have a lot of skills. But you have enough CP to get all of them. So you have to choose which paths you want to follow. Branches can be switch at any time but once you commit to a path you can’t go back unless you reset your skill trees (Yes, this option will be totally in the game!).
Equipment, on the other hand, can be used to increase your stats and add various effects like faster aiming or regeneration while fighting. We don’t have a system that generates random loot so your equipment is unique and while you explore the game you should be able to change equipment to adapt. So there will be no “super equipment” that is just better than everything else. There’s always going to be something a piece of equipment will lack.
Why have you started a crowdfunding campaign for CrossCode? What will the money go towards?
Most of us could only work part-time on CrossCode. So progress is kinda slow. We wanted to change that by going all full-time with the game. But in order to do that we need a money and resources. So we thought: “Why not do a crowdfunding event?” This also involves the players and helps show people what we’ve been up to. How awesome is that? We’re pretty happy that we live in a time where we can pull off something like that. Crazy as we are, we decided to choose Indiegogo over Kickstarter (well, Kickstarter is also not available in Germany). There are successful stories like Skullgirls but it’s still a gamble. He just hope our game speaks for itself!
The money will be used to pay ourselves and the freelancers mostly. We calculated the minimum of money we need to live for 12 months (paying bills, buying food, you name it) and still ended up with a large sum. We’re fortunate to be a team of friends where all of us want to make this one game and gladly give up luxury for it. Otherwise this wouldn’t be possible as making games is really expensive these days.
You have a Wii U stretch goal. Why is this the first console you’re targeting? Is there anything specific about the Wii U that CrossCode would work well with, do you think?
Oh, we actually thought about PS4/Xbox One too! The problem is that those systems do not support a way for us to port the game. We use pretty uncommon technology for our game: HTML5. This is the reason why you can play the game in your browser too. No magic port, just HTML. It’s crazy how well it works.
Now, Nintendo announced a new Framework back in 2013 at GDC which makes it possible for HTML games to run on the Wii U. We were immediately hooked. CrossCode on a console? We just had to try it out. And it worked. CrossCode was already tested on a Wii U and it worked pretty well. Of course we need to adapt some features as the framework is currently a bit slow but it still worked! So there’s the reason for choosing Wii U! The funny thing is that both Sony and Microsoft could do the same as their system are more powerful. Here’s hoping they do it some day.
So there actually is no specific reason why we think CrossCode would work well on the Wii U specifically. But we do like the idea of doing something with the Wii U Gamepad. Like adding the menu to it or and overview of the area, as well as providing off-screen play. We just think that CrossCode would be a cool console game!
How do you plan on releasing CrossCode when it’s done? What platforms? Pricing?
Our current schedule is to release CrossCode via Steam and possibly as a DRM-free copy (actually backers in the crowdfunding campaign get one together with a Steam key). Platforms would be Windows, Mac, and Linux. We’re currently working on the Mac version for the demo! The Wii U Release would be one or two months after the initial release depending on how much trouble we have porting the game. Other platforms would be the web. Possibly selling the game via the Humble Bundle widget which also gives you access to the online version of the game. Our main platform is PC though so most focus is spent there.
When the game comes it will (probably) sell at 15 € / $. We based the pricing off of other indie games with similar gameplay or ideas and the time you can spent on the game (about 10-15 hours without side quests).