We recently got the chance to talk with an up-and-coming group of student-game developers at UC Santa Cruz, who are responsible for a cool new free mobile game called Asterogue. Jon Gill, the game's Project Lead, was kind enough to take the time and talk with us. Asterogue is out now for both iOS and Android platforms, and it is completely free, so why not give it a try?
- What's your game called and what's it about?
Our game is called Asterogue, and it is an action-roguelike game for iOS and Android featuring realtime combat, intuitive gesture controls, and procedurally generated weapons, levels, and bosses. You control AR-521, a Civilian Defense Unit robot attempting to take back his planet from the titanium grip of the evil General Wreckursion. This struggle plays out across the three worlds of our campaign mode as you explore levels that change every time you play, battling enemy robots and harvesting new weapon Modules from their wreckage. These Modules are the core of Asterogue — our system can generate over 8 million distinct weapons for the player to discover and equip, and you'll need to spend time building up your Module collection if you're going to have a hope of reaching that final battle against Wreckursion.
- How many people are involved in creating Asterogue?
Asterogue is comprised of a multidisciplinary team of 19 coders, designers, artists, and musicians. There was roughly a 1:1 ratio of coders to everyone else, although most of us wore several different hats during development, which makes it hard to break the team down into precise groups.
- What inspired you to make Asterogue?
Asterogue came from a number of different places. First and foremost, we wanted to do a mobile game right in a way that we hadn't really seen before: we wanted it to have the depth and skillful gameplay of a traditional console action title, but we wanted every part of it, from the controls and presentation to the length of each gameplay session, to feel like it had been designed from the ground-up for mobile. Too much of our competition simply takes the example of an existing console game, slaps some virtual buttons and joysticks on the screen for controls, and calls it a day. We wanted to avoid that, and we focused instead on designing a game that was in every way a mobile title, but preserved the feeling of a more traditional action game. Additionally, we wanted to put our own spin on the loot-grind roguelike, boiling down the traditional Diablo formula into what we found were the most exciting elements: the thrill of finding new, randomized equipment that changes your fighting style, and the satisfaction of wading through enemies with that new loot equipped. We streamlined the rest of the roleplaying experience to emphasize these the most: ability stats are basically nonexistent in Asterogue, so every piece of equipment represents an entirely new functional attack rather than a set of pluses and minuses, and our combat has been expanded from Diablo's "click until it dies" formula into something more related to Devil May Cry or Bastion, with realtime dodging, air juggling, and other advanced techniques.
- What's the coolest aspect of Asterogue?
The coolest part of Asterogue is its weapon Module generation system and, by extension, the gameplay experiences it creates for the player. Asterogue is full of moments like this: you encounter a miniboss enemy with a terrifying Module (say, one that's launching 8 acid-dripping boomerangs in different directions at once); you unload with everything you have, even slowing down time at one point to help you get off those last few shots; you manage to defeat the miniboss and it drops that exact Module for you to equip yourself; without pausing for breath, you leap into the next combat to try out your new toy, flooding the next room with acid boomerangs before your enemies have the chance to get a shot off. For best effect, I recommend you let out your best maniacal laugh as you try out your new Modules.
- Why did you go the free-to-play route with Asterogue?
As a student team, we felt that the most important thing was getting our work in front of as many people and collecting as much feedback on it as we could. We could have given the game away for free but included advertising or In-App Payment options, but these 'features' generally take away from the gameplay experience unless they are integrated very carefully. We wanted to focus our efforts on designing the best game experience that we could, rather than coming up with the best way to incorporate microtransactions into our existing design. Of course, the ScrapCo store, which lets you buy new Modules using scrap earned in-game and changes every day, should give you a good idea of how we might have monetized the game if we had wanted to.
- Sell Asterogue in one sentence.
Asterogue: Infinite weapons, infinite challenges, and infinite entertainment, all free and out now on iOS and Android.
- What's next after Asterogue?
Lots! For one, we're still actively updating Asterogue. Our third patch just went live across both platforms a couple of days ago, and we're already planning another to introduce a new weapon Module and attack modifier as well as a bunch of bugfixes. Outside of that, the various members of Real Human Games are going our separate ways. A lot of the team, myself included, is heading out to pursue various programming and design jobs in the games industry. Most of our art team is still in school, so hopefully you'll be seeing more fantastic games coming from them in the next couple of years. We are all pursuing personal projects on the side, as well. For instance, our graphic designer Brian Kopleck and myself are close to releasing SkullDug!, a board game we've been working on for the last few months. So although Asterogue might be the only game developed by all 19 members of Real Human Games, there will definitely be more collaborations between our various members for you to watch out for.