Week of November 5th, 2018Episode XLI: Rockabilly Beatdown (Developer Interview)

I met Eric DeSantis on Twitter and we started talking about his new game Rockability Beatdown. I liked the art style, as a pixel-art fan, it was something that definitely caught my interest. Upon digging a little deeper, I became curious about his story and what contributed to him making this game. So, I reached out and asked him a few questions.

Waldo: How did you get the idea to make Rockabilly Beatdown?

Eric: It was from a few different directions. Myself and the other half of Rumblecade, Jason Harlow, have a long history doing art for games and enjoy pixel art in general. So we knew we wanted a 16-bit aesthetic but with more modern framing and UI that mobile users were used to. And we really wanted to do our own take on the endless runner but with something other than just jumping.

Waldo: How did you and Jason meet?

Eric: Jason and I met while working at Vicarious Visions, somewhere around 2003. We’ve both long since left but have always stayed friends and in contact. Rockabilly Beatdown also had a part time engineer, Alan, whom I also met through work and have always enjoyed collaborating with.

Waldo: What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to making games?

Eric: Production is probably our biggest strength, we’ve worked on so many games big and small we’re pretty confident on “how to make a game” in terms of technical knowhow, discovering pipelines, and resources. And as career artists we hope our visuals are a strength as well. Weaknesses are probably scope and time management, no matter how lofty your goals it’s incredibly difficult to reign it in to what’s realistic for such a small team. Balancing dedicated time with paid freelance work and life stuff can also take a toll on development.

Waldo: This game sort of reminds me of Street Fighter. Were there any games that inspired you to make this game?

Eric: I have a personal love of beat ‘em ups, and Streets of Rage among others in the genre were classic inspiration. And on mobile we were inspired by games like Slayin' and Jetpack Joyride with simple, addictive mechanics wrapped in great presentation.

Waldo: What were you looking to accomplish by making this game?

Eric: The primary objective was to prove we could self publish a game entirely ourselves, start to finish.

Waldo: How did you learn the skills you have today?

Eric: Mostly self taught as a hobbyist, and then working in the games industry. School or degrees in game development didn’t come along until well after I was already in the industry. 

Waldo: When did you first start making games?

Eric: From a very young age, late 1980’s. Computer games of the time, and Atari, Nintendo, were fascinating to me. I desperately wanted to deconstruct and find out what they were made of, primarily the art and animation.

Waldo: What was the first game you ever made? 

Eric: It was probably a choose-your-own-adventure text game on the C64. Not long after I’d make more substantial games with graphics using Shoot ‘em Up Construction Kit on the Amiga

Waldo: How do you go about making a game from start to finish? How much of it is planned out beforehand and how much of it is constructed along the way?

Eric: We’re pretty good planners. Starting from the idea there’s usually some basic proof of concept to play with art and game mechanics. Then I spend a lot of time on a game design document to get an idea of if we’re doing too much or too little. UI is important to us so there’s a detailed tree of all user interaction and how it connects. That gives us a strong foundation for the fun stuff, which is the art and gameplay. Getting some nice art in makes us feel good about what we’re creating early on, and from there it’s just iteration to the final goals of gameplay and presentation. The tail end of development is fixing everything that’s broke or not as intended, and polish as much as possible.

Waldo: What comes first, audience or game?

Eric: Game. There’s another way I put this, Field of Dreams or Yankee Stadium. They both have positives and negatives but for us I’m pretty sure it’s game. 

Waldo: What were 3 of the biggest mistakes you made in the process of making your games?

Eric: Probably underestimating certain types of content that players expected on mobile, the amount of dedicated time needed for some of our more complex features, and discovering the amount of time needed on the game after release

Waldo: If you had to go back in time, what would you do differently this time around, knowing what you know now?

Eric: Put some of the content from the first update into the launch release, and likely re-approach some of the technical back end stuff to allow for some easier expansion. Maybe not be so afraid of funding some additional engineering support or marketing.

Waldo: Ok, last question. What’s next for you?

Eric: We’d love to just keep making games and art. A few more games on mobile would be nice though we’re planting seeds for some more robust desktop games.

Thank you for chatting with me, Eric. If you have a game that you'd like me to check out, please be sure to submit it through this form.