Developed by brothers Adam and Matt Carr, Starslinger Kings was a fun but sparse little demo that I played at last year’s PAX Aus. At the time, it was little more than controlling a little mech person against a constant wave of enemies coming to kill you, until they killed you. This year the game has seen some significant improvements, which included stage progression, character customization, and some really pretty pixel graphic effects. Seriously, this game looks gorgeous and is worth checking out for the art alone. After playing through the new demo a dozen times or so, I spoke with Adam about the changes that had been made and the direction that Starslinger was heading.
What he says later about heads being hats, so true. That’ll make more sense in about ten minutes.
Where did you get the idea for Starslinger Kings?
We were always gigantic fans of Gunstar Heroes growing up, and we loved the co-op in that, we just wanted to make a game that was as frantic and as colourful as Gunstar Heroes that we could co-op together. Then we brought in a lot of other inspirations as well, so Metal Slug we played a lot of that too, and Armored Core I played a huge amount of and that’s where all the mech building came from. [Starslinger Kings] is just a love letter to all the games we used to play a lot when we were ten years old. It’s like we need to repay the debt of how much joy those games gave us.
The game looks awesome, the style certainly stands out against other pixel graphic games at this show. Who does the art on your team?
We split the art; we’re both pixel artists me and my brother Matt. So, he did the backgrounds and all the enemies and some of the player animations. I did the player animations as well, all the UI stuff, and all the little particle animations, like the dust clouds and the explosions, I love doing that stuff.
You guys were here last year for PAX Australia as well, what’s the biggest difference for this game between now and then?
In the last demo it was just infinite survival, you couldn’t customise your mech, it was just the same standard build each time. The terrain wasn’t destructible, now it is, and you can shoot straight through it. You didn’t have the whole stage thing going on, now there’s actual progression in the game; once you beat a stage, you fly up to the next one and fight through it, and it feels more like you have a goal, like you have something to do.
How far along into development are you guys on this project?
It’s sort of a weird thing where we’ve nearly completed all the systems for the game, so now all that’s really left is more and more content. Content-wise we’re at twenty percent done but work-wise we’re probably about fifty percent, maybe sixty percent done. It’s been about eight months development, spread across two years. So, we’re looking to release maybe June or July next year, pending some negotiations with some publishers, we’ve been talking to some people so we might push it back to Q3, somewhere in there if the talks go well.
“I did the player animations as well, all the UI stuff, and all the little particle animations, like the dust clouds and the explosions, I love doing that stuff.”
This is all just done in your spare time then, like a total labor of love?
Yeah, that’s right. Matt teaches and I’m a freelance web developer, so we work to pay the bills, and we do this whenever we can. Probably about fifty percent of this code was written on the train. Just laptop, everywhere, I never leave the house without my laptop – as soon as I get a spare moment, I’m just like, “Right, I’m smashing out some more code.” Our studio has one release under its belt; we’re definitely not at a point where it’s sustainable, and we’re making much of an income stream. But I love having it there to work on, I love making games, it’s just a fun thing to do and every time we do it we learn so much more and we open so many doors as well. We’re just going to keep doing it and see what happens, really.
What’s your experience been like at PAX? How have people reacted to the game?
It’s been really positive; we’ve had a lot of people come back from last year and actually try to find us because they’re on the mailing list, and we said we were here with an updated build. So, they came over and said they really liked it from last year and want to know what’s different. Then they play it and say stuff like, “It’s great, all the changes you’ve made are excellent!” “It’s going in a really awesome direction.” “It looks so much better and is starting to look like the kind of game that would be in a store.” It’s really, really cool.
What sort of content do you guys have planned for it before it’s finally ready?
What we have at the moment is your character progressing through stages and killing waves, that’s kind of all there is to it. In the final release, the idea is that you’ll be fighting your way up these stages towards gigantic bosses, the sort that take up half the screen, and it’ll become a bit closer to being a bullet hell styled in the way you fight them. I want these boss battles to be epic, and there’s going to be four of them, four different environments with different styles of enemies and different stages, that kind of thing. There’ll be parts of the campaign where you work through a stage and beat the boss, and then have to go to another part and go through a whole new learning curve, getting used to reading enemies.
Other than that it’ll be just different modes, like versus, infinite survival, an unlockable boss rush. Oh, and many more player parts – the idea is that you unlock player parts as you go along, the more you pick up, the deeper your mech customization can get. There’s going to be a lot of head parts because I figured that heads are basically the hats of the mech world, so they’re gonna be kind of collectible, a bit of fun customization to come in.
“I want these boss battles to be epic.”
Finally, what’s your favorite game?
I’ve sort of given it away really.
Yeah, Gunstar Heroes (laughing.) Every year on my birthday, my brother and I try to beat it on expert in a single run.
Because you’re a fan of the game, I’ve gotta ask – have you ever noticed that the final boss in the first level looks a little bit like Kim Jong Un?
… You mean Black?
Yeah (laughing), he absolutely does.
It’s like the North Korean first family in a death mech.
(laughing) I never put it together but now that you’ve said that I’m not going to be able to unsee it.