Adventures of Square is a granular, blocky, brightly coloured throwback shooter built in the ZDoom engine. In the level I played at PGF, I shot a lot of Circle-people, dodged some projectiles, ate a lot of junk food (for my health!) and found a lot of keys to unlock more rooms. It felt like equal parts ’90s shooters, paintball, and Spongebob Squarepants (although that might have just been the Square thing). To learn more about it, I caught up with its creators James and Ben Paddock of BigBrik Games.
Hello! Was this your first PGF? How’d you find the experience?
Not our first! We went to PGF back in 2014 to figure out what it was all about. It was a great atmosphere, and we played some fab games. The two of us are finished with our university degrees now, so 2017 seemed like a good time for us both to come back and actually exhibit The Adventures of Square.
When I came by, there was a child engrossed in your game. Did you find it was popular with a younger crowd throughout the day?
There was definitely a great deal of interest from the younger festival-goers, and it’s exhilarating to see that we’ve made something that people of all ages can enjoy. It must be the vibrant colours and the messy action!
For those who aren’t familiar with your game, can you give us an elevator pitch?
You play as Square, a purple polygon with a large amount of paintball weaponry, fighting off the tyrannical circles who have overthrown Shape Land. They’ve kidnapped your inventive friend Doctor Octagon, and it’s time to go set things square! It’s a game with three planned episodes, each with 10+ action-filled levels, and promises many fun hours of frantic classic-FPS gameplay.
I particularly enjoyed how the other characters in the game are very clearly 2D, so when they turn side-on, they become paper thin for a second before they turn around again. How did this come about? Is it something native to the engine? I can’t remember having seen it before.
The in-game 2D sprites can be shown in eight different directions. How you choose to draw those sprites is up to the modder! It was fun to play with what worked and what didn’t for this visual style – it’s not a style that’s ever been done before in this engine.
The game is built with the ZDoom engine, and it sure feels pretty Doomy (to invent an adjective) to play! What other inspirations have gone into Square?
DOOM definitely inspired the feel of the weapons and the enemy roster. The level design is more influenced by Duke Nukem 3D, which had a lot of platforming and verticality, as well as jumping and crouching mechanics built into the layouts. There’s also just a tiny touch of exploration and key-hunting puzzle elements from the likes of Heretic and Hexen.
Thematically it seems pretty accessible, so far as FPS games go. I noticed the game had five difficulty settings, though. How tough does it get?
Pretty challenging – perhaps a lot more so than its “kid-friendly” style implies! People generally familiar with FPS gameplay should have no problem on the middle-to-higher difficulties, BUT on the highest one, you’ll find health items only heal by half their normal value, as well as extremely tough enemies that only appear on that difficulty. Go with this one if you’re a glutton for punishment!
The shape theme is very strong, with the protagonist and their friends being Square, while Circle-people are your enemies. How many different shapes live in this world?
Rectangles, ovals, cubes and cylinders will show up – as enemies that have seemingly been roboticized and made aggressive, by the malicious Circle of Evil organisation. Friendly squares, triangles and hexagons make an appearance as neutral NPCs in a couple of the levels set in Shape Land. If you shoot these guys, you don’t get punished, but they ARE supposed to be your friends!
How many people are working on The Adventures of Square? Where did it begin?
Currently, there are 14 people on the team, and the game began as a team project in late 2013, when James released a short tech demo of Square to the online Doomworld community forum. From there, we gained the interest of a few veteran mappers and modders, and once we had a small team assembled, we started slowly branching out to include more talent from the community to handle stuff like level design, and the creation of sprites, textures, and music for the planned full product.
Where are you all based? Do you find geography is much of a factor in development?
We’re all over the place. Our project manager Matt Tropiano lives in New Jersey; we’ve had musicians in Melbourne, Tasmania, London, Texas and Alabama; our artists live in Finland and South Korea; and our level designers for the first episode were based in California, Connecticut and Maine. While some have since departed from the team on amicable terms, they’ve all been fantastic to work with.
You’ve already released a couple of episodes as free downloads – how’s that been from a development point of view for having steady goals and getting feedback?
We have received an absolute ton of feedback on Episode 1 in the form of articles, blogs, and YouTube videos. Seeing the game played live also sheds a new perspective on how folks generally perceive the game. A couple of changes have actually been made per feedback received from taking the game to exhibitions like PGF. Episode 2 is still in development as of this writing, but it’s right around the corner!
What’s next for The Adventures of Square?
Finish Episode 2 and 3! We’re both very excited to get back to work fully on the project now that we have concluded our university studies. Expect a regular flow of updates from our social media in the near future!
If you’d like to continue to follow the development of The Adventures of Square, check out the following resources: