Retro/Grade Interview – PSN 2011 Preview

What kind of game do you get when you mix a side-scrolling shooter with the music genre – and then put it in reverse? This is exactly the question developer 24 Caret Games is trying to answer with their upcoming PSN game Retro/Grade. Players take control of a space craft and make their way through timed music levels but with a special kick; the game is played backwards. The game will also allow players to tackle musical levels with a standard Dualshock 3 or guitar controller. With an original soundtrack done by Skyler McGlothlin and a very interesting gameplay mechanic, Retro/Grade looks to make high impact when it releases on the PlayStation Network.

To learn more about the rather unique PSN exclusive title, PlayStation LifeStyle interviewed Matt Gilgenbach, co-founder of 24 Caret Games.

Hi, Matt could you start by introducing yourself, and telling us about your work at 24 Caret Games?

I’m Matt Gilgenbach, a co-founder of 24 Caret Games. We are working on Retro/Grade, a reverse spaceship shooter for the PlayStation Network.

What issues have you come across in merging the 2D space shooter and music genres?

Merging the space shooter and the music genres is not too difficult. The challenging part about developing a game like Retro/Grade is that everything takes place backwards. Creating gameplay that is fun backwards but looks reasonable when time is going forwards requires a lot of careful planning. For example, in ordinary games, the enemy attacks are designed such that there is a long charge up at the beginning to signal to the player what is going to happen. Since Retro/Grade is designed such that time goes backwards, we need to create effects that indicate to the player what’s going to happen after the attack is finished.

Since Retro/Grade was announced, the music game genre has effectively collapsed – do you think that this will impact Retro/Grade?

I don’t think the music game genre has collapsed. If you look at the success of “Just Dance” or “Dance Central”, it shows that music based games are still very popular. However, there is definitely a problem with franchise fatigue because the core experiences stay the same from title to title. Many of the players at PAX and IndieCade remarked that now they have a reason to dust off their guitar controllers, so I don’t think Retro/Grade will be impacted by the loss of interest in the popular guitar games.

Do you worry that some gamers may have trouble understanding the reverse time mechanic?

Explaining the reverse time mechanic makes it seem more complicated than it is. When gamers get a chance to play the game, it clicks, and they are able to understand it quickly. This is definitely a concern, but we spent quite a lot of time creating a tutorial that introduces players to the concepts of the game in a fun way.

Do you fear being able to reverse reverse time will make the game too easy?

The reverse time mechanic is limited by the amount of Retro/Fuel the player has, so one cannot keep undoing every beat and complete the level that way. We designed the game for a large variety of skill levels. We have some extremely challenging difficulties, so I’m not concerned about that.

At first glance on the PSN Store, many gamers may dismiss Retro/Grade as a generic 2D shooter – are you planning a demo?

We will release a demo.

Do you prefer the standard control scheme, or using a guitar controller?

It’s a tough call. I play more often with the standard control scheme because I am constantly tweaking and changing the game, and it’s a bit of a pain to use the keyboard and mouse with a guitar controller in my lap. I enjoy the guitar controller scheme a little more, but perhaps that’s because I’m at the point where I can breeze through the hardest difficulties with the controller.

How did you come about working with Skyler McGlothlin on the music?

I’m a huge fan of Skyler’s music especially Nautilis. I exchanged a few e-mails with him several years ago and found out he was interested in doing video game music. Retro/Grade seemed like a perfect fit for his talents, so I contacted him when we began the project. We were very fortunate that he was interested in working with us.

Is there talk about possibly releasing the music from the game on the PSN?

We are definitely interested in releasing the soundtrack, but we haven’t decided on how yet.

Have you looked into any kind of Move or 3D support for Retro/Grade?

We are considering it but can’t say at this time.

When are you planning to release Retro/Grade?

Sometime this year.

PlayStation LifeStyle would like to thank Matt Gilgenbach for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer the interview questions.