Interview with Nick Robalik (Sombrero Creator)

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There is nothing that I like better then a classic cool 2D shooter, with a multiplayer element, and many feel that Sombrero (Nick Robalik’s next game) has potential to be the next big break-out hit (similar to Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers). I had a chance speak with Nick in regards to Sombrero, below is a transcript of the conversation!

– When will Sombrero be released?

My plan is to release Sombrero during 1st Quarter 2015. Public demos will be dropping in the near future, and just anyone can request access by filling out the form at apply.pixelmetal.com. If they meet the requirements (2-4 gamepads basically), it’s a free download, no early access shenanigans going on here.
– Which platforms will it be released for?
The initial release will be for Windows, OSX & Linux. I’m going to do my best to release for all 3 platforms at the same time. I’ve also looked into a console release but I want to get it out to the public on computers first, where I think it’ll have more of a chance in the broader indie marketplace.
I’m a Nintendo licensed developer, so at the very least I’ll be looking into a Wii U release, but that’s off some time in the future and right now I’m totally focused on getting the computer releases out first.
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– What have been some of the technical challenges in developing the game?
Initially I was a bit concerned with how to keep the frame rate at 60fps on most computers, but I sorted that issue pretty quickly and with my targeted minimum specs – my test machine includes a dual-core Intel chip and an Nvidia GeForce 750 Ti, which is not an expensive graphics card these days – it stays locked at 60fps at full HD resolutions, up to 2560×1440, which is a big deal since I’m using hi-res art and not pixel art
Fun fact: my test machine, including all components, only cost a little over $400 to put together. Those who have more expensive machines, which is probably most computers out there at this point that are used for playing games, shouldn’t have any trouble running the game at its top quality settings. That being said, those with a slower machine or graphics card will be able to lower the overall visual quality to keep things moving along smoothly; the lower settings don’t impact gameplay in any way, and the hit on visuals is pretty minimal overall.
Luckily, there haven’t been a lot of technical challenges in the development of Sombrero. I’ve been building and testing each component separately, debugging as I go, which has helped keep any major issues to a bare minimum. It’s been one of the smoother development experiences I’ve been involved with.
– What was the inspiration behind Sombrero?

I’ve always had a soft spot for classic Spaghetti Western movies, and I’ve always been a big fan of classic animation, so mixing the complimentary styles was a bit of a no-brainer for me. Some more recent influences show up, especially in the art, that fans of more modern animation should appreciate.

As for gameplay inspiration, Sombrero is based on an idea I had years ago for an online multiplayer game, and initially sketched out on stacks of Post-It notes at my desk, hoping one day that the market would have a place for it and I’d be able to execute it. Once I saw local multiplayer games gaining in popularity, I pulled those old notes out of a box, scanned them in, and started working on Sombrero. There’s still some pieces of art in the game that started as ballpoint pen drawings on yellow Post-Its, though they’ve obviously been tweaked a bit since then.

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– Is this going to be a purely competitive multiplayer game or will there also be a single player mode?
The main gameplay modes in Sombrero are designed for multiplayer, and though I’ve been looking at options on how to add single player training and practice modes, Sombrero is best enjoyed when playing with friends on a couch.
– What features within this game are you most impressed by?

In terms of how it compares to other games in the local multiplayer genre, it definitely moves faster and requires players to control their characters and attacks with more precision & skill. I’ve had players compare it to Smash Bros. more than once, and that seems like an apt comparison – in addition to being a huge compliment – in reference to what it feels like to play the game.

More than any specific feature of the game, I’ve been most impressed by the players who are able to pick up the gamepad and “get” the gameplay right away. It controls a bit like a twin-stick shooter, but with a jump button – not exactly standard controls – but once most people figure that out and get used to the control scheme they’re able to join in and get right to the fun, which is fantastic.

 
– I loved the attention to detail that was put into the design of the game (based on the gameplay footage that I saw), how big is your design team?
Outside of the music, which is being composed by Nathaniel Chambers of Bubble Pipe Media, the design team consists of me, myself and I. I’m a Creative Director by trade, and have been working in various design fields professionally for 20 or so years, so for me it’s just applying what I’ve learned elsewhere to game design & development. I suspect being a huge fan of games since my early childhood has helped quite a bit as well.
Playtesters I’ve spoken with at various public events also deserve credit, as their feedback has proven to be very valuable. It’s easy to get stuck in your own head with how things work or are designed, especially when the team mostly consists of a single person, so getting outside perspectives from potential customers who enjoy playing games is very important to me and to the overall development of Sombrero.
– What is the big future plan for Sombrero, is this a game designed to showcase the talent over at PixelMetal, or should future fans be expecting updates and what not?
I’ve already (loosely) planned a number of free DLC updates after the initial release, which will include more characters, more stages, more gameplay modes and potentially online multiplayer. I’ll most likely be holding a public poll to decide what features are added when, and gathering community feedback on how to make the game even better than it is upon its initial release.
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– Does this game feature a way for players to level up (much like Halo or COD)?
There’s no leveling up within the game in terms of how those other titles handle it. My hope is that this encourages a more level playing field in terms of gameplay, and who wins or loses is based more directly on the skill of the player – and maybe a little bit of luck – rather than any additional gameplay perks rewarded only for having played the game longer than someone else.
– What is your dream project after Sombrero?
I have three other game projects on the backburner that I’ll be re-assessing after Sombrero is complete. One is an overhead 3D action/adventure somewhat like the earlier Zelda titles, another is a mobile rogue-like with a bit of a 1960’s heist movie vibe, and the third & most likely next on the list is a story-based co-op shmup somewhat in the vein of Commando, Gun.Smoke and Ikari Warriors. It’s the most likely because I don’t see many character-based co-op shmups made any more, and it’s always been one of my favorite arcade-style game genres.
– How has the game been received (while still in demo mode)?
Response from literally everyone but IndieCade/IGF judges (but that’s another story) has been extremely positive, and when I’ve exhibited the game at various events I often have players coming back for more – I’ve even had to cut a few players short so others would get a chance to play!
Based on the feedback I’ve received and the kind of people who have enjoyed the game so far, it seems to have very wide appeal to a very large audience – kids as young as 8 and as people old as those in their 50s have really enjoyed playing it and everyone who’s picked up a gamepad has had valuable feedback related to why the game appealed to them and what could be done to help it appeal to them even more. Considering Sombrero is the first game I’ve taken out into public to show, I’ve been extremely happy with the response and the supportive nature of a broad majority of those who have played the game.

Written by Robo Rick

Robo Rick

– Growth Hacker

– Fullstack Developer (MEAN and PHP)

– Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Purple Belt

– Former Corporate Pimp… Got 70 People cool jobs and received 3 Thank You’s in 2 years.

-Former US Navy Sailor

– #1 Fan of The Punisher AND Got to thank Stan Lee in person for the creation!


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