You gotta swing your hips now…
(Sorry. Right year – wrong smash hit)
Around the world, gamers are battling the Bydo empire in Irem’s R-Type. And in a little Spanish arcade… a young boy has made it all the way to the last level! (Respect! I never made it further than level 4. -Ed) He’s excited. He’s hitting the buttons. He’s screaming at the enemies. And all the while, some bemused teenagers are laughing at him. “What a loco-malito!” they said. (If your Spanish is a little rusty, it means “little sick mad kid”.)
But the little guy didn’t care. He was blitzing one of the most challenging shmups of the late 80’s. So he decided then and there, to use “loco-malito” as a badge of honour. Whenever he got onto a game’s highscore table, he’d enter “L-M”. This wasn’t easy.. he was playing those tough mid-to-late 80’s games like Contra, Rastan & Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins. Back at home, the first console “Locomalito” had was a Sega Master System, followed by an Amiga (Turrican), SNES (Castlevania) and so on. “Loco” developed an interest in art, and started making graphics for Amiga games with a friend. They didn’t get published, but it was good experience.
Fast forward, to the present. That ‘little sick mad kid’ is now a graphic designer, in Andalucía, Spain. And gamers around the planet have been playing *his* latest game to death. Hydorah is a stunning achievement; a late 80’s-style horizontal shmup that’s obviously influenced by Gradius, Salamander, RType, X-Multiply & less obviously influenced by… who knows how many other games. It’s a classic, the ‘Cave Story’ of its genre, with superlative pixel art, soundtrack and presentation. But it’s not for everybody. It’s hard. We’re talking old-school hard. And speaking of talking, let’s talk to the man himself.
Read on, as ‘Locomalito’ gives us some amazing insights into making the game, a very special peek inside his sketchbook, and for the first time ever… some details of his next release…
Now, you don’t want to use your name, do you?
No, I like to keep my real life work and videogames separated. I just make games in my spare time, so I can explore those things that just don’t fit into our client’s briefs. Destruction, explosions, dangerous guys with spikey helmets…
Locomalito, you’ve only got back into game-making in recent years… what was the trigger?
I noticed some new tools appearing, to make PC games with basic programming knowledge. I started using RPG Maker, but soon moved to GameMaker to openup the range of possible game genres.
Besides its versatility, why Gamemaker, and how did you learn to use it?
GameMaker is a very useful tool; it brings the opportunity to make almost every 8-16bit looking game that I can think of, and that’s all that I really need. It helps me avoid the hard part of programming, and dedicate more time to level design and polishing.
I learned GML (the language of GameMaker) with the help file, and lurking on forums. It’s not hard, if you’re patient and prepared to learn using a lot of trial and error.
Speaking of ‘trial and error’… Hydorah is a tough game. I’ve read somewhere that you feel modern games are made easy “so the player can finish them, and buy the sequels”…
I wonder if [our history with] arcade times are the reason why me and many others look at today games as something not challenging (and sometimes boring). For example, I love Gears of War, but it feels like a ‘playable movie’ in normal mode, instead of “A war against monsters with weapons of fire, coming out of the ground to kill every human!” I have to play it in “Madness” mode, to get the “real fear” of the Locust.
You’ve said that “Hydorah is the bastard son of Irem, Konami, Compile, Manfred Trenz and many others”. Which games in particular inspired you, and what did you learn from each?
Well, for example: the scale of the ships and environment comes from Gradius, the memorisation factor and narrow spaces from R-Type, the route selection from Castlevania III, and the dialog boxes from Castlevania Symphony of the Night. There are many references, many of them not so clear because they come from many old games.
And what are some of less-known games that inspired Hydorah?
Your save-game system is quite different. Could you please explain your thinking for it?
Arcade games has not save system at all, but the game have more than an hour of gameplay, and almost every casual gamer can be kick off by the difficulty if they can’t practice some levels before advance. So I thinked that a limited save system can act like a bridge between Arcade gamers and Casual gamers, so, the first don’t feel it like extremely easy and the seconds have also an opportunity to make it to the end.
You’ve created 30 (!!) bosses in the game. What makes a ‘good’ or memorable boss?
The way he makes you dance! LOL!
Really, a good boss is one that make you think that you are going to die constantly, but then “brings you” an oportunity to counter attack
and kill him. That way, a player can feel glorious after defeating a boss. Or if he fails, feel that next time he will win.
Favourite bosses in older shmups…?
Every one from R-Type and Gradius II; especially the boss rush in
Gradius II… it touched the heavens in its time.
You’ve included lots of ‘real world’ extras such as a ‘DVD cover’, ‘poster’ & ‘making of’. What’s inspired you to do this?
The way I looked at those things when I was a kid! Back then, I read the entire manual before starting to play the game for the first time. There were no ingame instructions! Somehow, I still think this is a cool way to do things without blurring the gameplay itself. It also introduces the world of the game. I think a game is more than just an .EXE file; it can be a complete range of things in the head of the developers. Music that can be played *outside* the game environment, illustrations, unused stuff, feelings, the developers ‘likes’, even their mood…
What’s the best and worst feedback you’ve received so far, for Hydorah?
Well… there’s been a lot of feedback, surprisingly almost all good!
Maybe the worst was some people that affirm that the game is a total ripoff of Gradius. There’s also been many people with little system issues, which makes me sad. Many of the problems just can’t be solved from the code itself. (Sadly it looks like a common problem for many indie developers).
There’s been some touching feedback, like a guy who made a love song for the game. That’s awesome. And then there were people who sent me photos of their arcade cabinets, playing my game!
I’ve even received mails from people who’ve never played shmups at all. But after playing Hydorah, they’ve looked for the older games like Gradius and R-Type. Making their way backwards.. from newer to older. :-)
I’m about 70% through the game but only collected TWO secrets! Do you have any tips?
There are some tips in the randomly generated game over screens.
Also, people who played old games from Konami will know how to deal with the secrets. It’s not that hard, but you have to open your mind from the usual things in Shmups to something more related to Platforms and RPGs.
How did you come to work with Gryzor87 and Marek Barej? What can you tell us about them?
Gryzor87 is ‘a friend of a friend’. One day I discovered that he was a great composer; some time later he discovered my games. We started to work together and things just clicked from the first day. :-)
Marek Barej wrote to me about 8bit Killer some time after the release, and he showed me some of his work. I thought he could add a wider vision of the games with his illustrations so we did the DVD cover and posters for 8bit Killer. Since then, he’s part of my “Main team”. (Ed’s note: 8bit Killer is Locomalito’s 1st release: a lo-fi FPS… like a NES-era Wolfenstein 3D… and well worth playing.)
On your website, you refer to a game you’re working on, called The Curse of Issyos. So far, you’ve released very few details. Can you tell J-OMG’s readers a little about it?
It’s the kind of game I love to play now, as I don’t have time to play more than 30 or 40 minutes a day. It’s a straight forward (hard) arcade/platform game, with no more than 30 minutes of gameplay in a row. The Curse of Issyos has NES style graphics/look & feel, chip tunes, clear playability…
It’s focused on Greek mythology. I’m trying to mix the smell of Mediterranean sea ambience and the power of 8bit games, two things I love! :-)
The references for this game are titles like Shinobi, Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins, Castlevania III & Megaman.
And what about your other project, Grialia?
Grialia is an eternal project, I started it even before 8bit killer, but lost interest for some reason. Now, I know the way the game must progress, but I’m tired after three years working on Hydorah. That’s why I started a smaller project (Curse of Issyos) to work more comfortably.
Is there any chance of a Hydorah sequel one day?
I think not… I have only one life to make all the games I want to make. I always try to “put all the eggs in one basket” with every game, so… there’s not much left for a sequel.
Hydorah is like a closed book for me now, and it looks farther, as I work more on the next game.
I don’t think that’s a bad thing; the development of small indie games is attached to their creator’s mood, just like a band recording an album. I think that’s the way people can imprint a ‘soul’ into their games.
Locomalito had one final gift for J-OMG readers: Some photos of his sketchbook, which he doodled in each night… creating enemies, levels and weapons just before he went to sleep. Thanks Loco!
Hydorah is a free PC game, available from Locomalito’s website. You’ll also find an official soundtrack, poster, and fantastic ‘making of’ PDF which sets the standard for future indie game releases.