Former Media Molecule developer Victor Ågren (LittleBigPlanet, LittleBigPlanet 2 and Tearaway) has gone indie and is currently building an action platformer “My Friend Pedro: Blood Bullets Bananas“. The game features stylish two hand shooting, slow motion and a lot of cool mechanics. In our interview Victor talks about his project, the choice of game engine and his experience building great games.
Hey, I’m Victor. I like to have my fingers in many pies, so to speak. When I make my own games, I tackle every aspect of the game. Game/level-design, visuals, coding, sound and sometimes music. Though I try to avoid the music making bit since it’s such an important factor in a game (or any form of media, really) and I’m not much of a musician.
My journey down the video-game-making-lane started very early for me. I was fortunate to discover the joy of game making at the tender age of around 9 via an old program called Klik&Play. It was, as you might call it, a life changing event. Even before the age of 9 me and my brother used to make fake computers and games out of paper, imagining different scenarios panning out.
Later, I think around the age of 14, I started becoming familiar with Flash. At first I focused only on making animations but soon found it pretty tedious to actually make all the frames required for an animation to actually animate. So I started to look in to coding and was amazed by the possibilities. And that’s when DeadToast Entertainment was born. I spent all my free time making Flash games and pretty soon learned about Flash game sponsorships. I made the realization that I could actually make money from making video games, and my fate was sealed.
Around the same time I was getting quite involved with a game Mark Healey (to be co-founder of Media Molecule) was working on. The game was ‘Rag Doll Kung Fu’. I started making heaps of “skins”/characters for the game and eventually got invited to beta test the game. During this time me and Mark bonded quite well and eventually I got offered a job over at Media Molecule. I was 19 years old at this time and had never lived on my own before. Moving from Sweden to England was the most scary thing I’ve ever done in my life, but I took the plunge and started working at Media Molecule. This was around the time when LittleBigPlanet was being announced. During my six years at Media Molecule I was working on LittleBigPlanet, LittleBigPlanet 2 and Tearaway, with the official title of Level Designer (but things aren’t always so black and white at Mm).
Now I’m full(-ish) time solo-indie (with the occasional freelancing work) under the name of DeadToast Entertainment. Since leaving Mm I’ve released ‘Nunchuck Charlie: A Love Story’, ‘My Friend Pedro’, ‘My Friend Pedro: Arena’, ‘Triangle Face Fun Race’ and a small “one-man-game-jam-project” called Rurugu.com (with nine different games made in about two weeks). Most of these games have been free Flash-games, mainly sponsored by Adult Swim Games. The game ‘My Friend Pedro’ spread very fast and became very popular. People keep asking for more, and who am I to deny anyone that. So, currently I’m making ‘My Friend Pedro: Blood Bullets Bananas’, a sort of re-boot of the game meant to be the proper fully featured version. The game is intended to be sold online for PC (and probably Mac and Linux) at some point in a hopefully not too distant future.
My Friend Pedro: Blood Bullets Bananas
‘My Friend Pedro: Blood Bullets Bananas‘ is an action packed 2D platformer with highly acrobatic elements which draws inspiration from games like Max Payne and movies like The Matrix. The ambition of the game is for it’s players to truly feel skillful, rather than feeling like you’re continuously triggering cool looking animations.
My favorite bits of the game are the slow-motion abilities and the opportunities for “creative-action” within the linear levels. Even though the gameplay takes place on a 2D plane, there are plenty of room for approaching the different scenarios in your own style. While entering a room with enemies on your left, right, top and bottom you could for example dive straight in, dodging bullets, while locking your right gun on to an enemy above you, while firing your left gun at an enemy behind you, quickly and intensely clearing the room. Or you could jump in for cover and wait for your opportunity and take out the enemies one by one, a bit like those intense moments in any good action film.
Oh yeah, and it also features a banana named Pedro. Pedro has a very persuasive personality, but I can’t talk too much about that at the moment.
Picking up Unity
The game is being made in Unity. The more time I spend with Unity, the more I love it. I used to only stick to Flash before, but since technology has moved on a lot since I first picked up Flash it seemed logical to move on to a new engine. Unity was the perfect choice for me at the time of the switch since it was available for free and there was plenty of support for people moving from Flash to Unity available. I really like the abilities in Unity to customize it for your project, like the way you can extend the editor for your own needs.
So far I’ve been on and off for about 8 months on this project. A lot of that time has been spent learning to deal with Unity and 3D. Previous to this game I didn’t have any experience with 3D modeling, rigging, texturing or even coding in 3D.
So the development could potentially speed up from here on. Though since I’m the only person working on this project, there’s a lot of stop and go. Mentally switching gears from coding to art to thinking about story to working on having a presence online takes a lot of time and effort. I have no idea how long it will take to finish this game, but it would be wonderful if it could happen within a year. I think the biggest challenge will be to stay somewhat sane during the process.
Creating Unique Controls
The basics of moving around are quite standard. You move left and right with A and D, jump with Space and crouch/roll with S (all customizable, of course). You can wall jump off of a wall by touching the wall and pressing Space. The more unique bits are the slow-motion/action-mode and the dual aiming. At any point you can slow down time by pressing shift. When time is slowed down you can control your rotation in mid air with A or D. If you angle yourself with your feet against a wall, or even the roof, you can ‘wall-jump’ off of that wall by pressing Space again.
The dual aim works as such that you aim where you want your secondary weapon to go, you then hold down the Right Mouse Button to lock it. Now you’re free to aim with your primary weapon while keeping the secondary weapon locked on. Letting go of the Right Mouse Button quickly returns you to the standard way of aiming.
These are quite skillful moves, however it’s totally possible to play the game without using them. But if you do use them, and master them, it’ll provide a very satisfying feeling of bad-assery.
I haven’t put any effort in to mapping the controls to a gamepad yet, but I’ve got some ideas in mind. However the thinking at the moment is to keep it a PC game at first hand with the main focus on keyboard and mouse.
To get a general idea of the controls and the gameplay you could check out the original ‘My Friend Pedro’ game freely online. However keep in mind there are some major improvements on the feeling and usability on most things control wise in this new version, compared to the original game. Also, the original game doesn’t have the dual aiming.
Building A Slow-Motion Game
I’ve had a few technical struggles figuring out how to use Unity’s built in physics engine combined with trying to achieve smooth slow-motion movement. I’m still figuring out a lot of things as I go along. There are things like bullet speed to take in to consideration, too. Like, you want the bullets to be fast and feel responsive, but at the same time you want them to be slow enough for you to be able to react to them in slow-motion. The main thing, though, is that everything just feels so much cooler in slow motion.
Platforms for Distribution
The main thinking at the moment is to get the game on to Steam in one way or another. This will be the first time I try to actually charge people to play any of my games, so it’ll definitely be a huge learning experience. The main focus at first will be to get the game out on PC. The game would be very tricky to port to mobile, but I wouldn’t rule out making some sort of mobile spin-off in the future. We’ll see how it goes. One step at a time!