Exclusive Interview: Rocketbirds 2 Evolution Creator Sian Yue Tan

No matter how much people may love your game, there’s always things they wish were better. But while good game developers listen to this critiques, Sian Yue Tan — the creator of the 2D, side-scrolling, bird-brained shooter Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken — actually made a list. And checked it twice. And then proceeded to fix everything on it. The result? Rocketbirds 2 Evolution (coming soon to PlayStation 4, Vita) which, from the way Tan explains it, sounds less like a sequel and more like a rebirth.

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I always like to start with the basics. What kind of game was the original Rocketbirds?

It was a cinematic platformer, much like such games as the original Prince of Persia, Flashback, Blackthorne, and the original Oddworld series. This genre could be defined as enabling an interesting narrative, non-scrolling screens, and slower combat pace with precise, step based controls.

Then is Rocketbirds 2 Evolution just more of the same?

For Rocketbirds 2, we fixed the things that people felt didn’t work that well and improved the heck out of everything that people liked. This time round it’s all about speed and skill.

What kinds of things did people not like in the original?

The biggest issue people seemed to have was with the tank-like controls and combat mechanics of the original. In the original, you could only aim and fire horizontally left and right, while the controls felt tank-like. Come to think of it, in the old game, you couldn’t fire your weapon while moving, either. This time around you can. We’ve also gone one step further and introduced double jumping cover mechanism, during which bullets will miss you during the flip, and 360 degree aiming, which made the combat feel even more fluid.

We’ve also tried as much as we could to remove luck from the system, so a good player should be able to not get shot at all, or might be able to complete a mission with 100% head shots. We also beefed up the weapons systems, and have a proper inventory now; you can now pick the two weapons you feel most comfortable with, and quickly switch between them when the situation calls for it during combat. You can even reload while you are running.

What kinds of guns will you, well, be able to reload while running?

We have a large range of assault weapons, rifles, shotguns, pistols, submachine guns, mortar guns, RPG-7, Bazookas, miniguns, flamethrowers, electrical weapons, and melee weapons which players can collect, buy from the shops, or experiment with. We’ve tried to make weapons unique in some way or other, catering to different play styles. Some weapons, such as the hunting rifle, does insane amounts of damage to targets when shot at the head, while others are designed to maximize de-stabilizing enemies, to get them up and into the air, during which enemies take on a lot more damage.

The guns also reload differently; some take longer to reload than others. Shotguns reload one shell at a time, while magazine clips reload from 0 to full in one go.

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In the original, there was a lot of problem solving.

There’s a bit less of that this time round, but it’s still there. We don’t have crate puzzles this time, but you do have a new gadget that’s like a phone jammer, with which you can call enemy grunts and pretend to be a superior Penguin and give out orders. You can do this anywhere, but if the enemy spots you, the game is up, and they’ll attack you.

There’s also an upgraded version of this in the later chapters called The Mind Jammer. You can guess what you can do with that.

What about the graphics?

The game has always been 3D with 2D characters in the foreground, but this time round, the backgrounds are hand crafted 3D objects and scenery, like small dioramas that tilt as the player moves across the screen. For the characters, they look closer to the painted up posters we created for the game than original’s cell shaded look.

In the original, you could play the campaign solo or co-op. Can you play this co-op as well?

In the original, you played the story alone or with a friend. In Rocketbirds 2 Evolution, you can play the “Story Mode” alone — and it’s actually a bit bigger than before — or you can play the new “Rescue Mode” alone or with up to four friends, either online or on the same couch. In it, you carry out missions in procedurally generated maps to rescue and unlock new team members to join your crew.

Though in order to unlock the “Hardboiled Chicken” rescue mission, you’ll have to complete the story mode first and have progressed through a fair bit of “Rescue” as well.

I had a chance to play a little bit of “Rescue Mode,” and I noticed that dead enemies dropped money and ammo. Y’know, like real birds do when you shoot them.

When you kill an enemy, you receive an instant money reward, but the rest is dropped as a money bag and ammo clip, which is first come first serve.

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Lastly, when we were playing, one of the other guys jumped on my head, and the other guys jumped on their heads. We looked like a totem pole. Does that do anything? Like are your guns exponentially stronger?

No, but it does increase your overall stability, so you’ll be less prone to getting juggled by enemies. But you can carry out hostages this way, and if your buddies are downed, you can pick them up and carry them to safety like Forest Gump.

 

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