Steven Redmond: Until a few years ago, I actually had no idea what a bullet hell game even looked like. My experience with SHMUPs was limited to ports from other systems like Atomic Robokid, Xenon 2, Uridium, and an old C64 classic called Blackhawk. I didn’t even own a games console until I was about 17. I started writing Chronoblast with these games as the main source of inspiration. Then I stumbled across a video on Youtube entitled “Hardest Video Game Boss Ever” showing the Stage 5 boss for Mushihimesama Futari.
After I saw that video, I just had to own that game. I had to try and beat that boss. I went searching for it and discovered caves other games. I got hold of a ROM of DoDonPachi after hearing about it and that completely changed how I saw shooting games. I had to try and write a game like that, not like Xenon 2. It helped me appreciate the SHMUPs I’d seen in the London arcades, and I guess after that I just got hooked on the Japanese style of sensory overload.
Steven Redmond: That’s a tough question. I’ve given it a lot of playthroughs. A lot of developers will admit in private that they haven’t beaten their own games on the hardest setting. I had to do that during several stages of development. Every time I changed something, I had to make sure it didn’t break the flow of the game. So, I’ve not really sat down and got a 1 credit clear on both loops of Hell mode for instance, but I’ve made sure every single encounter can be overcome without cheating, dying, or using bombs/supers. I think it actually drove me mad. I’ve completed AutoBomb and Normal mode several times though.
Steven Redmond: I’d say older games were always about knowing the tricks to beat the game and usually had constant action. There’s a lot of that in Chronoblast and really shmups in general. There are some sections that need you to really think and plan what you’re doing, particularly on the harder modes. If you’re playing for score, there’s a lot of replay value and mechanics that you’ll discover the harder you push the game. It’s really all about the gameplay and not just the ending.
It’s one of those games that can be fun for a 5 minute blast, or if you put in the time, can reward you with a great sense of completion: much like many other titles in the genre. You just have to go full SHMUP.
Steven Redmond: I left school at 16 and did terrible in mathematics. I even used to get frustrated at math homework. I had to teach myself trigonometry and vector math all over again until they sunk in. I’d pinned pieces of paper with notes and diagrams to the wall to help me learn. I basically had no clue how to work with angles. For my fiancé, it must have been like living with a mad scientist.
Also, there’s a lot of different disciplines in programming. On a console, you don’t have the luxury of throwing more hardware at the problem… and with the additional constraints that the XNA framework adds to the mix, you end up working to tighter budgets than I think people realize. Loading an entire game into memory and then getting it to run at 60 frames per second 90% of the time? That’s voodoo. It’s also why I have nothing but respect for people who hack PCBs or write real arcade games. They’re like wizards to me. I’ve come a long way, but not quite at that level yet.
Steven Redmond: Well, when I wrote Chronoblast — because I’d been spending so long playing it while developing — I thought it was easy. It turns out I actually made it pretty hard, even for some fairly respected players in the SHMUP community. So there’s definitely a gameplay patch on the horizon that is going to bring new features and scoring mechanics to give more replay value. Then, I’m sure there will be more titles to follow. See, games can always be bigger and harder, but making them fun at the same time? That’s the part that takes the longest!
Steven Redmond: Go play Mars Matrix!
Help support a fantastic indie game developer and pickup a copy of Chronoblast and get your SHMUP on! (Can I say that?)