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The Trials of Bringing Motorcycles to Mobile: The Dumb Luck of Retro Highway



Out Run innovated video games in 1986, bringing its advanced hardware and soundtrack to the arcade screen. Road Rash took the motorcycle racing genre further with its graphics and speed on consoles in 1991. With Retro Highway, Dumb Luck Games is looking to bring influences from both games to the mobile screen.

OnlySP recently spoke to Constantine Berg from Dumb Luck Games to discuss the game’s development, soundtrack, and influences.

OnlySP: Congratulations on hitting this point in development! How are you feeling at the moment, with the game’s release date being so close?

Constantine Berg: We are equally excited and anxious: the mobile gaming scene is even more crowded and competitive now compared to when we started development, and there’s a huge chance the game will go largely unnoticed by the public, but we are happy to have made it to the release and are keen to see what the players will think of the finished product.

OnlySP: When did you start working on the game?

Berg: The earliest TIGSource thread dates back to October of 2015, but the development started slightly earlier when Nicolai (the game’s programmer) and I just met each other on the forums. Working on a small mobile game for almost three years may sound kind of crazy, but it makes more sense when you take all the breaks we had to take into account—the actual “active” development time is more like a little over a year, which is not too bad for two part-timers.

Retro Highway screenshot

OnlySP: Were there any particular influences that led you to develop Retro Highway?

Berg: We didn’t mention Sega classics like OutRun and Road Rash as our influences just for dramatic effect before—despite being born close to the new millennium, I actually did grow up with all these games on my Mega Drive, the only console my family could afford at the time. As for the events that directly led to the game’s development… they are quite silly, to be frank. Retro Highway‘s soundtrack was actually made by Mikhail Rublyov a whole year before its development started and for a different game—a “manlier” Mario Kart ripoff made in a month or so for a game jam on a then-popular Russian gamedev site. This jam game turned out to be a C+ effort at best and the programmer had no intent of improving it, so I felt really bad about wasting Mikhail’s great tracks. After semi-compensating for his work with some art (he was actually promised a chunk of the prize money that we ended up not getting, placing at #4 instead of expected #2-3), I decided to do the most sensible thing with a great Road Rash inspired soundtrack: use it for a Road Rash-inspired game.

OnlySP: What is your favourite element of the game?

Berg: For me, the thing that makes the game still fun to play after all this time is the sense of speed. I remember the early builds feeling kind of bland and lifeless until we studied the “camerawork” in some early bike racing games and decided to try and replicate it to the best of our abilities. Surprisingly, Nicolai pretty much nailed the shake and zoom effects for landing, crashing, and using boost on his first try, and we only had to make some minor changes since then.

Retro Highway gameplay

OnlySP: What have you found to be the biggest issue or problem throughout development?

Berg: Life got in the way a lot. Nicolai is a student, so he naturally had to take breaks to concentrate on his studies while I often had to take whole months off to argue I’m unfit for conscription by the Russian military or to get a side job and crawl out of debt. Nicolai himself admits there was more than once where he didn’t think we would ever finish.

OnlySP: Any plans for future projects?

Berg: If the game does well enough, we are definitely considering expanding upon its ideas in some way; right now though, as a means to relax and rest from RH‘s troubled development cycle, Nicolai has started—get this—prototyping a whole new project we had in our heads for a while now. It is also retro-themed, but not tied to a particular series from the 16-bit days as its inspiration. So, yeah, you can definitely expect to hear more news from us soon!

Retro Highway is available now on iOS via the App Store, and on Android devices through Google Play.

For more from the world of single-player gaming, be sure to bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Rhain discovered a long time ago that mixing one of his passions (video games) with the other (writing) might be a good idea, and now he’s been stuck in the industry for over six years with no means of escaping. His favourite games are those with deep and captivating narratives: while it would take far too long to list them all, some include L.A. Noire, Red Dead Redemption (and its sequel), Wolfenstein: The New Order, The Last of Us, and the Uncharted series.

Exclusive Interviews

The Occupation Designer Reveals Game Length, Talks Design, Inspiration, and More



The Occupation promo

After a protracted development period, fixed-time thriller The Occupation is set to release in one month’s time. Between its retro aesthetic and immersive sim-inspired gameplay, the game is shaping up as one of 2019’s most unique titles.

In light of that, OnlySP recently spoke to Pete Bottomley, designer of The Occupation and co-founder of developer White Paper Games to find out more about the promising project.

OnlySP: I thought I’d start off with a fairly obvious question. Given the real-time nature of The Occupation, how long can players expect a single run through to last, and by how much can that time be shortened or prolonged by the player’s actions?

Bottomley: The core gameplay is designed around 4 hours of play. There are some sections that are untimed, whether it be for narrative impact or tutorialisation for the player. As we’re playing through the game as a team, it’s taking us around 6.5 hours to play through the game.

The Occupation

OnlySP: How many endings does the game have?

Bottomley: The game’s outcome is a reflection of the steps the player took through the game. I think when playing games, you always want the outcomes to reflect your approach and we’re massively inspired by how games such as Dishonored can tackle that. Our hope is that the ending you experience feels like it reflects their approach and actions.

OnlySP: Tied to that, approximately how many playthroughs would be required to see everything that the game has to offer?

Bottomley: Our intention wasn’t to design a game that required multiple playthroughs. I’m personally the type of player that plays through a narrative, gets an outcome, and that’s my story. That being said, we’ve tried to fill the world with a lot of content, and because of the real-time character simulating actions, hopefully with second and third playthroughs, players will uncover different ways to solve challenges or narrative threads they hadn’t picked up on before.

OnlySP: How did you come to settle on the politicised premise of an Act robbing citizens of civil liberties?

Bottomley: Since we invest so much of our lives into making games, you have to work on something you feel is meaningful and rewarding of your time. At the time of concepting The Occupation, there was a lot of friction between what was happening in the UK and abroad. It affects us all and we wanted to work on something that may put people’s views into perspective.

Our previous game Ether One dealt with the difficulties of seeing a family member suffering with dementia and our aim is to continue these important themes throughout all of our games.

The Occupation screenshot 3

OnlySP: Also, issues surrounding privacy and freedom of speech, among other civil liberties, are pertinent right now. How close to your mind were the modern concerns about the topic while you were concepting the game? And have real-world events impacted the story of The Occupation across the development period?

Bottomley: The world around us always inspires us, but we don’t really rely on specific events to drive any part of the game’s narrative. When you’re developing a game that tries to get its own narrative across but ground it in the real world, you have to try to distil them to focus on the story you’re trying to tell. In a sense, real world stories inspire us but it’s more of an observational thing rather than a particular event we want to depict faithfully. We tend to focus on the emotional and societal impact of the event itself.

OnlySP: How present will those sorts of themes be within the average player’s experience? Or should players expect to be able to lose themselves entirely in the investigation without really leaning on the context?

Bottomley: We aim to put context on all of your actions in the world otherwise there’s not much meaning behind the choices being made. That being said, you can choose to follow certain narrative threads over others, which allows the player to follow the most interesting lead they come across.

OnlySP: Players take the role of a journalist in the game; how accurate would you say your portrayal is of the technologies and general aesthetic of late ‘80s Britain? How much research went into getting the language and atmosphere of the era right?

Bottomley: It’s interesting you raise that point as we’ve just been speaking about the world limitations in this game. In our previous game, Ether One, we aimed to deliver a grounded narrative that had certain sci-fi elements. With The Occupation, we wanted to go even more grounded and aim to deliver a world that belongs in the ’80s so any aesthetic and technological choices were always taken into consideration. Surrounding yourself with these limitations can create really cool gameplay mechanics such as our pager as a message delivery system, public payphones to update your objectives, and fax machines to deliver information.

The Occupation screenshot 2

OnlySP: The game has been delayed twice now, both times quite close to the scheduled release. Is there any chance you could shed some light on the causes of the delays?

Bottomley: Delaying a game is a gut wrenching decision. You’ve put a promise out there and you push yourself to deliver. We’ve aimed incredibly high on this game both technologically and in the game’s design. On top of this, we wanted to deliver the game in as many languages as we could along with sim-shipping on PC, XB1, & PS4 and doing a retail disc submission so that people could pick up the game in stores if they wanted to hold a physical representation of the game. Because of these platforms, the game has to be ready a couple of months in advance to help distribution and all the different regions to have the version of the game you intend for them. With complexity always come more bugs and since our last game shipped in a buggy state, we didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. We’ve QA’d the game for months and had support from our publishers in helping to identify the issues. As with any game, we’ll no doubt spot some issues on launch, but we’ve already put processes in place to address these as quickly as we can and hopefully the execution of the game will immerse people and keep players engaged so that nothing disrupts the experience.

OnlySP: I recall on Twitter that you once wrote that you were testing the possibility of a Switch port. How seriously have you looked at that possibility and what’s the likelihood?

Bottomley: Right now we have a Switch development kit frustratingly gathering dust in our studio. Since we’re a small team, it can be a tough choice trying to figure out where to best use your resources. We’d absolutely love to get the game onto Switch but we’ve not tested a build yet. It’s the first thing we’ll be moving onto in March so we should be able to update people as soon as we know how The Occupation runs on it. Thankfully using Unreal Engine makes this process a lot more straightforward and we’ve seen a lot of developer friends find success on the Switch so it’s a great opportunity to reach a larger audience.

OnlySP: How does it feel for you and the team to be just about ready to wrap development after four years of work?

Bottomley: It’s not quite set in yet. Although we’re done with the game and excited to see the reception it gets from people, it’s really only 50% of the work, especially when you’re in a small team. We’re currently planning all the marketing and PR opportunities along with reflecting on the development cycle and figuring out what we can do better (to hopefully not spend another 4 years on a game!).

The Occupation screenshot 1

OnlySP: Finally, do you have any closing comments for our readers or anything else you’d like to say about The Occupation?

Bottomley: The whole team has put an incredible amount of energy into The Occupation. If you look at our previous game compared to The Occupation, you can see how far we’ve come. It’s been a huge learning curve for the studio both technically and in production and we’re excited to move onto another game to push ourselves. We’re unable to do that without game sales. It sounds corny, but we really can’t develop games without our community’s support. We value each purchase and we want to grow and keep pushing to create more interesting games. We have a lot of goals and drive and we’re focusing on growing and creating more experiences for the player. If you’re reading this and have purchased any of our games, thank you. It absolutely means the world to be able to wake up in the morning and be excited to develop games. Thank you.

The Occupation is set to release on March 5, 2019 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

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