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Interview with IOS game, Dizzy Knight, developer

Interview with Gavin Carter, developer of upcoming IOS game, Dizzy Knight

I recently stumbled on a trailer about an iOS game called Dizzy Knight, and it instantly caught my eye. It is a pixelated arcade game, where you are controlling a constantly spinning knight, trying to kill of slimes and other assorted monsters in order to collect points.

Simple enough premise; but with the various types of monsters, attacks, and items, it seems to have a complexity that separates from most other arcade games on the platform. I contacted the developer and found out about development process of the game, and its eventual release. 

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GameSkinny: From what I can get from the recently released trailer, Dizzy Knight is a top-down arcade style game. How does the progression system in the game work? After finishing one milestone or task, do you move on to a new level, or is it just one level that gets progressively harder and you just have to collect as many points as possible before dying?

Gavin Carter: One interesting thing about Dizzy Knight is that it's not endless. It's currently 40 levels of increasingly crazy monster smashing across four separate environments. Each environment has it's own theme set of enemies and a boss character. The game has a structure similar to roguelikes or other endless-type games. The challenge is surviving to the end, and death means starting over!

Upgrading the game to premium includes (among several things) a level select screen. That allows you to start further into the experience and see the environments and enemies for yourself. The true goal, however, is playing from beginning to end. I'm working on balance and trying to decide how tough to make it. I want to balance more in favor of giving you lots of items and cool stuff to get through situations, rather than just thin down enemy counts. Even so, right now it would take a pretty hardcore person to reach the final throne room environment, much less survive it.

GS: In the gameplay, you control a constantly spinning knight and try to kill as many enemies as you can. How do you try to bring variety into the game, and prevent the game from feeling monotonous? What other attacks or powers are in the game?

GC: I've built a ton of different enemies, abilities, and power-ups to try and provide some variety. The player can start with one of six different abilities that they can fire by way of the lower right button. Abilities include things like firing a magic-missle style shot in the direction you're moving, or dropping a bomb behind you Zelda-style. Items range from simple power-ups like a potion to make you invulnerable or spin faster, to more crazy things like the Mayhem potion that fires you across the map like a ping-pong ball, smashing everything in your way. There are also a number of different weapons available, and each has an associated special power. For instance, the high-cost "Knight's Sword" does double damage and can deflect projectiles, and the red "Woodsman's Axe" will break the armor of an enemy who's usually invulnerable from the front.

Enemies run the gamut from cute bouncing slimes to angry charging robots. There are bomb-firing wizards and diving gargoyles. Really I just want to keep the player on their toes by constantly changing up enemy styles and movement patterns. I also have a number of traps that show up in later levels that range from obvious spike pits to hidden bomb dispensers. Of course, there's a weapon with the ability to destroy traps!

GS: I really enjoyed the character designs and music presented in the trailer. Is this a solo project, or do you have other people you are collaborating with? How long has it taken to make this game?

GC: I'm the main one working on the design and programming. I've been in games since 2001 and have had some great jobs, including being the lead producer on Fallout 3.

But credit for bringing the game to life really goes to the artist and my composer/sound fx artist. Giuseppe Longo is an amazing pixel wrangler who's work you've probably seen in Nitrome games among many other places. He did all the sprites including animations, the whole UI, and the level design as well. And I specifically tracked down my music and sound guy, Matt Creamer, from his work on one of my favorite iOS titles, Slayin'. Slayin' was done in a strictly 8-bit style, but I wanted to bump up to 16-bits for Dizzy Knight. Matt went above and beyond in tracking down actual tools, samples, and techniques used to create sounds in the SNES-era and used that knowledge to create the soundscape for Dizzy Knight.

I've been picking away at Dizzy Knight for over a year and a half actually, which feels crazy to type. I spent a lot (read: way too much) of time on various prototypes before landing on this direction. Funny story, the initial idea for Dizzy Knight was based on a drunk knight who had to kill enemies while avoiding doing damage to the environment. But it turned out that smashing the environment was way more fun than not!

GS: How do the controls of the game work? I am assuming this uses touch controls, but this game seems as though it takes some precision and skill. Are there any other control types that can be used in the game?

GC: I've implemented a few different control schemes. I imagine the default for most people will be the virtual joystick, which will center on any part of the screen you touch. In addition, I've put in tilt controls which are my personal favorite way to play. I also have a basic iOS controller implementation.

The game's controls are all physics-based. So when you move a control, you're actually providing physics impulses to boost the character in a direction. The result is a feel like the old metal ball "Labyrinth" games, where you have to balance precision against speed and momentum. Initial enemies can be taken out by being slow and deliberate, but later enemies will punish you if you don't get out of the way quickly.

GS: As an iOS game, how do you market Dizzy Knight and get it noticed in such a huge marketplace with countless number of other games?

GC: Hopefully by reaching out on sites like GameSkinny :D I am working to get the basics covered -- setting up a website as well as social media pages. I'm also feeling out the potential to get help from a publisher. Honestly, the main thing I'm worried about at this point is that the game is polished and fun. I hope that, above anything else, will help it find a decent audience and stick. I've been working in the dark for what seems like forever now, and it's easy in that scenario to get Gollum-like about "my precious" game. I'm psyched that some people seem to be responding to it now that it's a little more out there.

GS: How do you plan on monetizing this game? Will it be free-to-play or will there be an initial cost?

GC: Dizzy Knight is planned to be a free, ad-supported game. My goal is to get it in front of as many people as possible, and going the free route seems to be the best way to do that. You have access to the whole game whether you spend or not. I have one "premium upgrade" purchase that will remove mandatory ads, grant you access to three more starting abilities, and unlock a level select screen.

It's important to note that those three extra starting abilities are available to everyone. The in-game store NPC randomly sells all abilities for in-game coins. Buying the premium upgrade just means you can start with any one of those abilities every time if you wish.

Lastly, there are some purchases if you want extra coins, and the ability to watch an ad for a few extra coins in the store. All of those are completely optional for everyone.

Approximately, when do you think this game will be released, and what are the future plans of the MegaSweet afterwards?

The game is basically feature complete and could be released soon. Of course, we are in a really busy season for app releases and game releases in general at the moment. As mentioned, I'm talking to publishers who may have a better feel than I do on how to position the game to avoid getting lost in the holiday noise. I will definitely be letting people know when it's ready to go.

Future plans really depend on what happens with Dizzy Knight. If it finds an audience, there are lots of things I'd love to do in terms of updating it. An endless mode seems like an obvious addition. New environments, enemies, characters, and other game modes could all be on the table.

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I recently took part in Dizzy Knight's beta, and it has the potential to be very popular. Their is something deeply satisfying in the gameplay and progression system, and though it is need of some minor polish, I can't wait to get my hands on the final version of the game.

For anyone else interested in Dizzy Knight, please follow the Gavin's Twitter @TheGavinverse

 

Published Nov. 14th 2015

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