HyperParasite: a Rogue-Lite set in The 80s

HyperParasite: a Rogue-Lite set in The 80s

Troglobytes Games gave a talk on the development of their thrilling title HyperParasite, 80s art style, level generation, VFX, and more.

Troglobytes Games, the developers of the thrilling indie game HyperParasite, gave a talk on the production of the title, game art style, level generation, VFX, and more. The game is in Early Access!

Introduction

80lv: Could you please tell us in short about your game studio? Where do you come from? What other projects have you worked on?

Troglobytes Games is a small indie development studio founded by both veterans and young talents. Some of the members have been around in the industry for the last 20 years, mostly working for other companies and/or as freelancers.

We developed and published our first games back in 2000-2001 when the word ‘indie’ was yet to be associated with videogames for the first time.

In 2015, we decided to set up our own game dev studio and started working on our own projects. We created a prototype for a Metroidvania game called Tenebrae. It was unfortunately put on hold due to the lack of resources.

And in 2017, we started working on our current flagship title HyperParasite.

Art Style

80lv: The art style of the game is very exciting! Could you speak about the way it was developed? Why the 80s? Amazing implementation, by the way – the soundtracks, flashy colors, neon, everything looks very neat.

Here at Troglobytes, we were all born in the 80s and we’ve been heavily influenced by the pop culture of that decade. That’s mainly why we decided to create a game that pays homage to 80s videogames, books, comics and, of course, cheesy action movies.

There are a lot of great 80s-inspired games out there, so when it was time to decide on HyperParasite’s look we wanted to create something unique and different from similar games. We excluded pixel art because we’re more of 3D guys, but at the same time, we wanted it to look like an old game, so in the end, we went for a downgraded 3D style.

Pixels are still there for you to see (the game is downscaled) and colors are degraded to a limited palette, just like in old games. While we were experimenting with the art style, we had one of those ‘happy incidents’ that usually happen when you’re tinkering with parameters and rendering options. I think one of us said, “hey, now it looks like a PSX game…”. We immediately loved the idea and started refining the overall aesthetics of the game to make it even more similar to old 3D games from the late 80s and 90s.

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Kickstarter Campaign & Change in the Plans

80lv: We’ve seen that your Kickstarter campaign didn’t reach the goal which is quite unfortunate. Did it influence the process of development somehow? Did you have to give up on some of the plans?

Indeed, it did influence the process of the development but, strangely enough, in a positive way: we were even more motivated to complete the project and put everything we got into it. We had to change plans accordingly, and the game is already brought to Steam Early Access. We think that HyperParasite is that kind of project that needs fine-tuning and gamers’ feedback before it can really be launched on the market.

Game Mechanics

80lv: How did this awesome idea of making the player the parasite that can take over the human body appear? That’s an unexpected twist! What difficulties did you see in implementing this idea and the dynamic gameplay in general?

We have an old arcade cabinet here at the office and we often play old games using them as a source of inspiration. One day we were playing an old arcade game called ‘Avenging Spirit’. Basically, it’s a game where you play as some sort of a ghost that can possess different characters. We then had this idea of an alien parasite being able to snatch any character on screen, exploiting its own abilities, attacks, weapons, etc. When it was time to choose the background for this game, the answer was really easy… the 80s!

We love this mechanic and we feel that it really adds a twist to the genre. A lot of people and players appreciated that, too.

Implementing it was technically easy at first, but every time we needed to add a new character class, we had to think and plan it to work in two ways: Player and AI. So, I guess, the biggest difficulty was balancing these mechanics and creating interesting classes that could work both as Player and AI.

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Level Production

80lv: In the trailer, it’s mentioned that the game is rogue-lite. Are the game levels generated procedurally? Could you please speak more about the way you’ve approached the game level production?

Technically speaking, HyperParasite is a rogue-lite because there are a few things that get saved from a run to another (in contrast with roguelikes where you lose everything once you die!)

One of the most common features of roguelikes and rogue-lites is that they use procedural generation for the game’s levels. In HyperParasite, we have rolled out our own custom application for this, thus using our in-house technology for procedural level generation.

Each game level in HyperParasite is divided into “rooms” and each room contains both static and dynamic gameplay entities such as buildings, obstacles, doors, and more.

We create a decent amount of hand-crafted rooms, starting with some sketches to design a proper flow for the gameplay.

We then block out the main volumes (walls/obstacles) and do a quick test to see if everything works as expected:

Then, our procedural level generator takes all the different rooms and creates a random level at runtime which is always different for each run:

Procedural generation allows for a different gaming experience every time you play and also grants a high level of replayability to the overall experience. In fact, it’s not only used for game levels but also for all other things in the game such as loot, enemy classes, drops, items, skills, basically for anything and everything you’re going to find when you play HyperParasite.

Because of this, you can play the game over and over again and find a very different experience between each run as our tools roll a new level for you to take on while dialing up the challenge to 11.

VFX

80lv: VFX in the game is truly fun and fascinating! Despite the fact that the effects seem too futuristic, they build up this spicy feeling of the 80s and crazy dynamics. We’re extremely interested in the way you worked on VFX: the dashes, projectiles, waves, explosions and the cloud-looking parasite mode. Could you guys show how you produced the effects?

Regarding VFX, we used a lot of techniques and it would be impossible to sum them up here. We often preferred using additive materials to make it all flashy and neon-like.

HyperParasite’s VFX didn’t have to be realistic, so we created simple, synthetic representations of the various effects.

Let’s take the Parasite effects for example.

  • Shader Overview

The material setup is quite easy and it’s based on the use of the Noise node in the Material Editor. Usually, the Noise adds a few more instructions to the shader, but with the right settings, we didn’t experience any performance problems both on PC and Nintendo Switch.

  • Noise Settings

Once we found a good compromise between aesthetics and performances, we needed the Noise to look like a fluid, flowing towards the bottom, so we had to scroll up the Noise world-space mapping by multiplying its Z value by the value of Time.

Lastly, a Local Position node was used in order to let the Noise move along with the Parasite character.

This is the complete Noise Mask we generated and used in the following steps.

  • Base Color and Emissive
  • Normal
  • Roughness (Noise Mask is directly linked to the Roughness)
  • Displacement
  • Final result
  • Particles System Overview

The Parasite also features a Particle System Component which is composed of three different emitters. These emitters generate random-sized spheres that quickly grow up and then shrink to simulate a cellular-like effect.

The first two emitters do almost the same things, they’re just used with slightly different values to create more variation. Another difference is that the second emitter is simulated in Local Space so it helps keep the Parasite shape when moving around.

The third emitter simulates smaller organic particles that are scattered on the ground when the Parasite moves.

Final effect:

  • Final touches

We also added a few ribbon effects for good measure: this helps to give a winding look to the character.

Lastly, all characters in HyperParasite have a small outline effect to separate them from the environments for better readability.

Optimization

80lv: With so many things going on in the game in the middle of the fight, how did you approach the optimization of the game?

One of the key aspects of our game’s aesthetics is the downscaled resolution. We did this to achieve that old console game look. The game is rendered at half the resolution and the antialiasing is disabled. This not only helped us achieve the look we were after but also helped a lot with the performance and optimization. You know, it’s some sort of positive side effect.

The rest of the optimization was achieved with render quality and post effects fine-tuning.

Distribution & Future Plans

80lv: Finally, is the game going to be released in spring as planned?  Where will we be able to buy it? Do you have any future plans already after the launch of the HyperParasite?

As we’ve mentioned before, the game is already in the Early Access, the final release is planned later in 2019. We’re currently working on the PC, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One versions of HyperParasite, with PS4 eventually coming soon.

We have a lot of crazy ideas for both HyperParasite and other projects, but it’s too early to talk about them. We’ll see what the future brings!

Team of Troglobytes Games, Developers of HyperParasite

Interview conducted by Daria Loginova

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