Steel Assault Dev Sri Kankanahalli Discusses His Zipline Ability And Mechanical Influences
At the end of September, Zenovia Interactive launched its first title Steel assault; a post-apocalyptic sidecroller with lots of action. Like many retro-inspired indie games, Steel assault pays homage to dozens of classic titles from the 16-bit era like Contra and Castlevania. Players take on the role of Taro Takahashi and navigate a United States that has fallen under the tutelage of an evil dictator named Magnus Pierce. Unlike many other side rollers, Taro eschews guns in favor of an energy whip, punches, and a deployable zipline.
Some titles still manage to push the boundaries of movement mechanics in 2D titles, like the recently released Nintendo. Terror of the metroids. However, truly new movement abilities are something of a rarity in 2021, as there are few new traversal mechanics for two dimensions. Zenovia founder and lead designer Sri Kankanahalli spoke to Game Rant about Steel assaulteclectic mix of influences ranging from blockbuster movies to obscure arcade titles.
While Steel assault isn’t the first 2D game to use ziplines as a mechanic, Kankanahalli said he’s not aware of any other titles that featured him when he first programmed the movement. Rather, his inspiration refers to a touchstone of popular culture of the 1980s.
“It was an idea that was suggested to me by the original artist of the game, a guy named Daniel Garcia. I think he came up with the idea for Tim Burton’s Batman movie in the 80s. a scene where Batman uses a similar mechanism to save Vicki Vale from the Joker. ”
Taro can pounce on enemies by throwing a two-way thread, much like Batman grabs the Joker’s Vicki Vale with his handy lineman; a gadget that makes its appearance in Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham series. In 2D, the ability may seem less versatile, but it also becomes more essential. Players must set up ziplines mid-fight in order to avoid falling and dodging projectiles simultaneously. During the development of the Mechanic, Kankanahalli learned of the existence of two other obscure titles that featured a similar gadget.
Sometimes the mechanisms and conventions get lost in time for a good reason. Over the years, 2D platforms have lost a number of mechanics, tropes, and bad habits. Sometimes cool mechanics get lost in the rework and resurface later in interesting ways. An example of convergent evolution in games is Kankanahalli’s development of zipline mechanics. After programming the zipline mechanism, he discovered two much older games that use a similar system for movement.
“There is a game called Roc’n Rope by Tokuro Fujiwara, the guy who made Ghouls’ n Ghosts, if you know that title. It was one of his first games. There is also a Konomi game called Miracle of Almana. ”
The two Roc’n Corde and Miracle of Almana boast of zipline-wielding archaeologists who must dig into caves to search for secret treasure. Neither game is particularly well-known, and both are quite primitive, but their evocative movement mechanics had both thematic and mechanical potential. One could argue that obscure titles lend themselves more to reinvention than famous classics.
Many young designers go to great lengths to create unique mechanics, only to get frustrated when they find out someone else did it first. But Kankanahalli had a more productive approach. Although Steel assault was not intended as a spiritual successor to Roc’n Rope Where Miracle of Almana, Kankanahalli studied these almost forgotten games to come up with ideas for making the most of its mechanics. This type of research is crucial in developing modern, retro-inspired titles. Playing the original expression of a mechanic forces developers to see something stripped to its bare minimum, where every aspect of a game takes up memory and is therefore included at the expense of other potential features.
Whip it well
Many sidecrollers have a wide range of projectile weapons, and Taro will occasionally jump into turret-armed vehicles to take out tougher enemies. But Kankanahalli didn’t just want to retread into known territory. by Konami Castlevania the franchise, which may see a new episode soon, has been the primary influence for Steel assault action. He said it’s a subgenre that hasn’t been pushed to its limits yet. The Energy Whip forces players to get in and out, hitting enemies to charge the game’s sub-weapons, or whipping them at longer range to deal serious damage.
As those familiar with bullet hell games know, systems that allow players to block and dodge projectiles are usually the cornerstone of survival. Taro can use his energy whip to negate incoming enemy fire, giving him his own sense of fluidity. Kankanahalli has a tip for players who have a hard time defeating enemies or surviving blueprints: don’t forget to slide. The slide gives players a brief window of invulnerability, which can make all the difference in an intense firefight.
Steel assault is now available for PC and Switch.
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