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New interview with neXGam!

Deutsch: Im Gespräch mit Retro Sumus

Daniel Horvath aka 108 Stars, who did the pixel art for WaterMelon‘s Pier Solar, interviews team member Carlos Oliveros about Ameba and Xenocider!

neXGam: Hello Carlos. Please introduce yourself to the readers.

Carlos: Hello, Daniel. I’m Carlos Oliveros aka Hombreimaginario, I’m an advertising copywriter and a former reporter and editor at spanish multiplatform mag Games Tribune. Also I was one of the spanish translators for Pier Solar, and am a writer and all-around communications guy at Retro Sumus.

Retro Sumus logo

neXGam: Tell us a little bit about the team of Retro Sumus.

Carlos: Retro Sumus is latin for “we are back” or “we are retro”. We knew we didn’t want a name which included -team or -games or anything like that, and went with something we thought sounded more unique. We are a rather small dev team from Spain, whose three founding members had something to do with Pier Solar, one way or another, and decided to try work on something “of our own”. A personal challenge of sorts.

neXGam: Spain seems to be very active in regards to homebrews. Both you and 1985alternativo are doing console games, and after PC releases Locomalito works on a Mega Drive port of one of his games. Is retro gaming very popular in Spain?

Carlos: Man I’m really looking forward to trying Antarex by 1985alternativo again. I hope they bring it to RetroBarcelona as they did last year. So yeah, perhaps “our” generation is big in Spain, a generation missing simple, old school mechanics in games. On one hand, football (and I mean soccer, not american football) games are such big console-sellers year after year, it’s boring. But on the other hand, RetroMadrid and RetroBarcelona are said to be among the biggest retro/indie events in all Europe, so…

neXGam: How did Retro Sumus get started?

Carlos: Well, I had this idea for Ameba, I told Daniel Lancha aka Chui (Pier Solar, Ghost Blade, “4ALL” emulators) about it, he liked it and we agreed to work on it. On the other hand, 3D designer Abel del Dedo worked on that Mode7 stage for the DC and PC versions of Pier Solar, and that kind of encouraged him to create a new game with a similar mechanic/perspective. Chui was the link between us, as he was (deeply) involved in Pier Solar as well. Our composer Juanjo Martín volunteered to join the team as soon as I let him know about my ideas for Ameba. Actually one of the themes that will be featured in the soundtrack was improvised that day.

neXGam: Let’s talk about your projects. First, there is Ameba. What can you tell us about the game?

Ameba Dreamcast alpha screenshot
Ameba Dreamcast alpha screenshot. Art by Joan Albert Mendoza, demo script written by Daniel Tena and Tomás Pallín

Carlos: Ameba is a detective adventure in the form of a western-made visual novel. This means no blue-haired waitress, no schoolgirls with impossible bodies and no gratuitous nude, among other things, but also a realistic setting and characters people can relate to. Our main character is a veteran, skilled, senior officer at the spanish Policía Nacional working as the chief of Homicides division in Madrid. So, in order to produce a good story, we recruited two TV screenwriters, one of which is a PlayStation Award winner, by the way!

neXGam: TV screenwriters, that sounds very professional. How did they get involved in a Dreamcast game?

Carlos: Well, they obviously share this common interest in videogames. That award was in the “most innovative proposal” category. I think the main reason is, we spaniards don’t really feel talent is fairly appreciated in our country. That’s sadly why spanish scientists, programmers, actors, etc. feel the need to move to, say, Germany or UK or USA. So I guess we all jump at the chance of doing something we not only like but also studied really hard for.

neXGam: And Ameba is not your only project. There is also Xenocider. Tell us about that one, please!

Carlos: Xenocider is our personal, 3D tribute to the arcade era in general and Yu Suzuki’s Space Harrier in particular. So, as all this implies, it’s an on-rails shooter. Truly a forgotten genre! Our main character is a female cyborg with a big thirst for blood… or alien equivalent. So definitely not a hero. Also the game will feature level branching to some degree.

neXGam: So, what was your inspiration for Ameba/Xenocider?

Carlos: For Ameba, perhaps the Missing Parts: The Tantei Stories trilogy for the Dreamcast is a good starting point, but also more recent hits like Xblaze and Steins;Gate. However, I think the main influence is “everything I don’t like” about the visual novel archetypes, so to speak. We simply want to to create something a bit different from what “typical” visual novels got us used to.

For Xenocider, obviously Space Harrier is key, but also with some Galaxy Force here and there and then a little Sin & Punishment influence thrown into the mix. For the enemies and stage bosses, we took some hints from vintage sci-fi and horror movie monsters. Couldn’t help ourselves!

neXGam: Both games are a big contrast in genre. Ameba being a story focused game, and Xenocider celebrating Sega‘s arcade roots. Do you want to avoid being associated with just specific genres? Could we expect something completely different after the games are out?

Carlos: We hadn’t really considered it that way. What we want is to revisit mechanics we miss about old school games, concepts we feel were underused, that kind of thing. I know Chui specially would like to produce a “save & rescue” kind of game in the vein of Cyclone (by Vortex, for ZX Spectrum), and I would kill for a good-old 2D action platformer. A spiritual sequel to the Shinobi classics, if I had my way.

neXGam: I’d gladly volunteer to help with that one if it happened. I miss those games a lot, and I think many people do.

Carlos: Duly noted. I’ll make sure to contact you when the time for beta-testing comes, huh? 😉

neXGam: Kickstarter has been popular with homebrewers. Are you considering crowdfunding?

Carlos: Of course, yes. We are still exploring alternatives, though, but if we finally use Kickstarter, I assure you there will be really nice rewards for backers. We think some of them would be quite innovative for a crowdfunding campaign.

neXGam: Why release both games for Dreamcast?

Carlos: Because we all love the console, simply put. Also, it’s kind of Chui’s specialty. And the idea of contributing to the Dreamcast legacy is almost irresistible 😉

neXGam: Are there any ports in the cards following the Dreamcast versions?

Carlos: Well, Windows/Mac/Linux definitely. After that, I guess probably Android could be done. For Ameba, we are also planning a Saturn version.

Yes, a commercially released indie game for the Sega Saturn. No, not kidding!

neXGam: That sounds like a challenge. The Saturn requires encrypted CDs as far as I know, and it is not as easy as on Dreamcast to get around it. Do you have something in mind that will allow unmodded consoles to run it, if a port happens?

Carlos: Either a custom cartridge or trying to replicate the security ring thing present in the Saturn discs are feasible possibilities. However, both are equally tedious and expensive for us to achieve. So, when our research is done and we finally choose which option is best, we will let users know. However, we simply don’t intend to make any money out of such product, most probably just cover costs, as we are aware that the market will be smaller than the Dreamcast’s. Quite honestly, it’s just a personal challenge.

Carlos, Chui and Abel at RetroBarcelona 2014
Carlos, Chui and Abel at RetroBarcelona 2014

neXGam:Will there be playable demos or anything like that?

Carlos: Our plan is releasing a playable demo for each project as soon as possible. Hopefully between RetroBarcelona (mid november) and Christmas.

neXGam: Are you considering doing games for other consoles or will you focus on Dreamcast first and foremost?

Carlos: Well, Dreamcast is our favorite so, for now, Dreamcast it is. That being said, if Ameba and/or Xenocider were to become a HUGE success (go imagine) and there’s the means to produce a PS4 version, sure, why not? I mean, we would always be open to that. It’s simply not something we are planning for now, for obvious reasons.

neXGam: Do you have a schedule for the games to be finished?

Carlos: We have an internal schedule, yes, but no specific release date for now, sorry. We don’t want to be those guys… who promise and don’t deliver. Anyway, no less than a year for now.

neXGam: Do you plan to work with an established retro publisher or will you self-publish?

Carlos: If we go the Kickstarter route AND it’s a success, we may consider self-publish, of course. But we have been in talks with a certain publisher as well. No rush to decide for now, thank God.

neXGam: The retro publishers have lost a lot of trust in recent years. Redspotgames basically stopped replying to mails and delivering. Hucast has communication problems. WaterMelon has very long details with little information to customers, and no information on the games. 1985alternativo has communication and delivery issues, and also low quality carts and boxes. What can we expect from Retro Sumus to do differently? Do you fear people will be more cautious now that so many problems have been experienced with other retro companies?

Carlos: We know people will be more cautious. And as fans and buyers ourselves, we wouldn’t expect less. I pledged for Pier Solar, Redux and Elysian Shadows, to name a few. I really wanted to back those projects and, as a backer, I expect regular, honest communication from their creators. So basically our goal is as much transparency as humanly possible. We need to be able to answer every question, to keep a constant presence in social media and forums, and to simply let people know what’s happening. Even more if they trusted you with their hard-earned money (needless to say).

Look, if there’s a delay, there’s a delay. People understand that. We live in an era where 140 characters work as an official statement, as a press release of sorts, for God’s sake. It’s not that difficult to inform your fanbase, your customers, of what the situation is.

So that’s what you can expect from us, I guess. And that includes our Dev Diaries, which show our work in progress with both games. We just released the second one a couple days ago.

As a side note, I know 1985alternativo had communication issues (I don’t know how they are doing recently though), but I would never say low quality… I mean, they create and release games basically for free. If you buy a brand new game for like 25 €, you know what you’re getting and they’ve never tried to convince you otherwise, and still if you think it’s too much you know they’ll be releasing the rom for free anyway. I think it’s just a different approach to the indie/retro scene, that’s all. Perhaps they didn’t really know how to sell themselves to their audience at first, or the audience expected something among the lines of other publishers… but then again, their games wouldn’t cost 25 €.

That being said, all those names you mentioned are publishers, and we are exclusively a development team. For now, anyway!

neXGam: To wrap things up, maybe you would share your top 3 games of all times with our readers?

Carlos: Only 3? That’s impossible for me to answer! Anyway, I asked the rest of the team for their favourites as well so…

  • Chui: Highway Encounter (Spectrum), Super Mario World (SNES), Space Harrier (arcade).
  • Abel: Duke Nukem 3D, the Lands of Lore series, Sonic 1 (Game Gear).
  • Juanjo: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES), Super Mario World (SNES), and the Street Fighter series.
  • Carlos: And for me, well, these could change if you ask me again next week, but maybe Sonic 2 (Mega Drive), the Streets of Rage trilogy (Mega Drive), and the whole Virtua Fighter series!

neXGam: Thanks a lot for your time!

Carlos: Danke für den Support! 😉

Concerning Retro Sumus’ future ports, we have a poll ready in our forums. Please register and vote to make your voice heard!

Via neXGam

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