I say ‘my game’ but really it is ‘our game’ since two great friends are equal partners in all the work. But tonight I felt like talking about what media influences me and my ideas about the game. Perhaps surprising to some, it is not other games. I rarely look to them for inspiration, albeit with one exception for this particular game that I’ll start off with.
The Guardian Legend
The Guardian Legend was a genre-hybrid, half-shmup half-adventure game for the NES that I played as a child. I loved that game then. But it would be years before I was old enough to appreciate its hybrid design and how it cleverly merges together two seemingly distant and unrelated video game genres.
When we began talking about shifting our shmup towards the direction of a focused, story-driven single-player experience, my mind immediately turned to the Guardian Legend. When we talk about borrowing concepts from role-playing games and visual novels and other genres the back of my mind always thinks back to the Guardian Legend. In my mind it remains the benchmark ‘hybrid shmup’.
If you have never played the Guardian Legend then go get an NES emulator and the ROM and try it. And be prepared to die a lot on the opening stage. I can beat some Touhou Project games on the hardest difficulty with one credit, and yet I recently replayed the Guardian Legend and that first level still handed me my ass. Console games were brutal back then….
By which I mean Alien the 1979 science-fiction horror film by Ridley Scott. The protagonist of our game is a female pilot, and while we have not decided her exact age she is no teenager; mid-to-upper twenties. So I could not help but think of Ellen Ripley. All three of us working on the game feel there is a void in video games of strong-willed female protagonists, characters with more substance than sex appeal.
So I have rewatched Alien and the other films to refresh my mind about Ellen Ripley (and because I just love that franchise). In my mind Ripley is one of the great female protagonists in film. She isn’t the damsel in distress. She’s not eye candy. She doesn’t get put into her place by men. And she is not the embodiment of ball-busting feminism either. Ellen Ripley is a real woman who does what needs to be done. She shows strength, fear, courage, agony, sadness, motherly love, and even a sadistic fury.
Ellen Ripley is, simply, a complete female character. And when I am writing for our game and our protagonist I often find myself thinking about Ripley and how to create a comparably deep and fleshed out character. (Alien fans will find an intentional nod to the franchise in the early part of our game.)
Sound of Gantz: Perfect Answer
This is the soundtrack to a live-action film based on the manga Gantz, composed by Kenji Kawai. The music is a fantastic blend of dramatic orchestral pieces supported with electronics, and recently we have talked about that being kind of our over-arching guide in music and sound design. Jesse, the musician of our trio, has already written some amazing music for our game, including a recent orchestral piece that we’ve talked about using for a trailer. It has that emotional rise in tension and punch that I find in this soundtrack by Kenji Kawai.
Now I am not a musician so I am not making the music for our game. But I do have a lot of ideas about how I want things to sound. When programming on the game I’m always either listening to pieces Jesse has composed, or music like this soundtrack which has comparable elements that I want to hear in our game. It helps give me reference points that I can pass on to Jesse, not for him to copy or imitate, but to simply help convey what I hear in my head as the sound for our game.
Not that I really need to give him much input. The music he’s already made is fantastic, and for story reasons we have an excuse to explore a wide variety of themes in the soundtrack, which I think players are going to enjoy. In the near future I will try to write about some other soundtracks that I’ve drawn on for influence and also share some of our actual game music.
Because we’re working towards an early playable prototype to show people by the end of the month.