The rain-slicked streets are coated with a mix of blood and water as the fighting has died down. The hoodlum dolls have repelled another group of police that wanted to take over their turf. The police radio crackles as a rookie calls in for backup which he hopes will come in time.
This is the gritty new world of an independent game soon to be released called Huntdown. I caught up with the creators of the game for an interview with ForeverGeek and this is what they had to say.
FG: Please introduce yourselves.
Andreas Rehnberg does the programming. He has over 22 years experience building successful games, apps, and MMOs. He started his career in the mid-90s making popular CD-ROM games for Swedish Television. As a pioneer in the social gaming market. Andreas started his own online gaming community and virtual chat world Playdo in 1999 and led the development on Spineworld, an MMO with more than 5 million players.
He has also been selling games and online experiences to global brands such as Miniclip, MTV, H&M, Adidas, Panasonic and Electronic Arts. Since 2011, Andreas has successfully been launching his own cross-platform games with millions of players. His latest multiplayer game Friendbase already has more than 2 million members worldwide.
Tommy Gustafsson works with the concept, graphics, and music. He usually works as an Art Director with graphic design in his own company. Huntdown is his first game but definitely not his last. Tommy is an outright nerd when it comes to gaming and movies. He grew up with his beloved Commodore Amiga 500, where he first pixelated in Deluxe Paint and did frame-by-frame animations in the 80s. He also made music with tracker programs like the primitive 4-channel Startrekker. Little did he know that all these practices would come in handy when designing Huntdown.
FG: How long have you known each other and how did you meet?
Tommy: It’s a couple of years now. We both have our offices at a place called Innovatum in Trollhättan, Sweden. It’s a fuming meltdown of companies within the creative industry, we got game studios, 3D studios, design bureaus, film production companies – you name it. Many times these companies cooperate in one way or another and that’s exactly what happened between us.
I have a Commodore Amiga 500 in my office (still working), Andreas was a C64 guy back in the days so we totally jived from the beginning. He asked me if I was interested in doing graphics for a platformer. He had ideas about making a pixelated game with a lot of 80s influences, something that we both grew up with and hold dear to our hearts. Man, it was like being shot with an arrow by Kid Icarus. Spot on. Since then I’ve been pixelating until my eyes become square.
FG: What inspired you to make your first game?
Andreas: To speak for both of us as Huntdown is our first game together, the inspiration is mostly from games and movies from our youth. It all began when we discussed gaming on old consoles and computers which we both grew up with. Some of these old games have awesome features that’s really not have been in use since then. Forgotten stuff!
We started to list in-game features that we liked and then carefully decided functions for a classic setup where these features together create an innovatory gameplay. We lacked a genuine arcade shooter as we would like to play it. After testing out some demo builds we were hooked, our vision of an action-packed tactical platformer actually worked.
Overall, we try to cover as many platforms as we can, making Huntdown available to as many as possible. The button mechanics are also super-simple. Almost like the buttons on a Game & Watch, making it easy to play the game from the start without complicated combinations. However don’t think Huntdown will be an easy game, it will challenge the most hardened core players.
FG: Why did you go with a retro look?
Tommy: Nostalgia. We grew up with Commodore computers, NES, SNES, Sega Megadrive, etc. It started out when we discussed graphics and examined the retro-inspired games available today on the mobile market. Today, pixel graphics is often used to make fast and cheap game productions, it´s carelessly used in endless runners filled with micro-transactions where pixels are sometimes even rotating.
That kinda pissed us off. For us pixel graphics is a genuine craft that demands time and effort, there´s really no workaround drawing pixel by pixel by hand. Our vision was to make a pixelated game as it was made in the late 80s, also because we lacked genuine retro shooters on our phones.
Andreas: Overall we are very keen on the craftsmanship. The game engine is programmed from scratch and all of the pixels are animated by hand. We have a modified palette that is based on the Atari 2600, which consists of only 162 colors. The music is done in an old-school tracker program with samples, which are mostly converted from the Amiga 500 to PC where the notes are inserted by hand. However Huntdown coming only to phones has changed now, it´s no longer just a mobile game. Anxious fans requested Huntdown to other platforms, they were right so we listened to them.
FG: Tell us a bit more about the Huntdown universe.
Tommy: Well, the futuristic universe in Huntdown is kinda grim and cold, in some places almost medieval. Both politicians and mega-corporations have become greedy and selfish. There was a great war which made parts of the land inhabitable (guess you heard this one before, haha). Even planets got battered in this ‘War of the Solar System’.
The remains of the shattered moon is circulating earth in a ring of unbalanced movement that creates chaotic storms, unpredictably raging the planet’s surface. Bandits and abnormalities ravage the toxic wasteland, while the millions eventually forced to barricade themselves in vast cities protected by high walls. Nobody gets in or out within the city limits.
Through the years these few cities have become independent from the rest of the world, until now. Since the cities became increasingly overcrowded, the authorities lost control to corruption. The mighty gangs rule the streets, and it´s your job to hunt ’em down.
Andreas: You basically get thrown into action as the game starts in order to stop a riot uphold by the first gang, the rowdy Hoodlums Dolls. After finishing these levels you will encounter other gangs like The Misconducts, a fifth gang (still not announced and will be kept secret until the release), The Heatseekers and finally the NO.1 Suspects.
You will progress one level at the time by unlocking levels as you advance through the game. Each gang turf resembles a location with several sub-levels inside each turf/location. In order to get to these Leaders, you have to fight each Leader´s minions through their territory. The different gangs have their own unique characteristics and confronting them means different strategic gameplay. Huntdown has evolved quite a lot since the release of the trailer a couple of months back, but that concerns mostly technical stuff like improvement of animations, a new weapon system and a new solution for enemy variety.
FG: What are some of the games that influenced Huntdown?
Tommy: Oh man, where to begin? Namedropping some of our youth influences: Syndicate, Hired Guns, Flashback, Turrican, Contra, ESWAT: City under Siege for Megadrive, Final Fight, arcade shooter Sunset Riders etc. Also a big fan of Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake and Duke Nukem.
The list goes on! But our influences are not just games, the concept and the dystopian world we’re building in Huntdown comes more from our movie influences. We are both indoctrinated by cheesy action movies and sci-fi pictures mainly from the 1980s like Bladerunner, Total Recall, The Running Man, Robocop, The Terminator or Big Trouble in Little China. Nowadays it seems that many
Nowadays it seems that many associate the “phenomenon of the 80s” with optimism and glamorous colors … you know … pink neon and sunburned characters in white tuxedos driving a Ferrari Testarossa towards a warm sunset behind a silhouette of palm trees to the soundtrack by Jan Hammer. However, we want to go darker and a bit gloomier with Huntdown. Think of the pitch black feeling in Escape from N.Y. or Cobra with Stallone!
FG: What sets Huntdown apart from the other shoot ’em ups out there?
Andreas: Huntdown looks like an old-school arcade shooter, but the gameplay and in-game physics works differently. Unlike classics like Contra, where slow bullets almost behave as floating obstacles in midair – the bullets in Huntdown fly by fast, making it hard to jump over to avoid getting hit.
Our solution is the Duck & Cover feature where you can dodge enemy fire at strategic spots, e.g. near crates or dark openings in the background. This makes the game a thrilling experience with turbulent shootouts where you have to consider your advancement and time your shots. There’s gonna be a lot of bullets thrown at your position, especially from enemies armed with rapid fire weaponry.
FG: What other games can we see from you in the future?
Andreas: We have lots of ideas on the table, but we can’t really reveal anything yet. Not to leave you empty-handed though, we can hint about a multiplayer arena game we’ve been testing out for quite some time.
FG: Anything else to say in closing?
To our audience: Thanks for all the awesome feedback and support we have got since releasing the trailer! We have lots of exciting things happening that we want to share but can’t reveal right now. The best way to keep up with the latest news and announcements is to sign up on the Huntdown website (www.huntdowngame.com). Stay tuned!
Want to play old-school with a twist? This is it. Watch the trailer below, and let us know what you think.
Editor’s note: This post was written by Thomas Riccardi. He was born in Manhattan on a cold and wintery day and now lives in sunny and warm Sacramento. His parents got him an Atari 2600 one year for Christmas and he has been hooked on video games ever since. He looks forward to the new consoles that are coming out and has been amazed how far gaming has come. Follow him on Facebook.