Interview: Talking Super Retro Squad with Jay Pavlina
Chances are you've heard of the extremely entertaining, and quite possibly best flash game on the internet, Super Mario Bros. Crossover. If you haven't then first and foremost, I encourage you to go play it NOW! As amazing as that game is, it could never be used for commercial purposes, since Nintendo owns the rights to all the characters. That's why Jay Pavlina and his team at Exploding Rabbit are taking that same great formula, and are now making their own game that's still based on the famous characters you know and love, and great platforming, but this time it's all their own. That game is Super Retro Squad.
After surpassing their $10,000 goal on Kickstarter, and reaching $40,000, backers can expect great things to come from the game.
GameZone: It's great to see you take classic video game characters and create entirely new 8-bit heroes based on them. Was it a challenge trying to come up with a design that's largely your own, yet inspired by iconic characters?
Jay Pavlina: The first thing we did was come up with interesting stories for each character. After that, Zach, our main graphics guy, made sprites for each one. Then we worked together on modifying them to make them look cool. We never had any trouble with them being too similar or too different from the originals. I feel like we found a nice balance. The hardest part was choosing the colors for each character because the NES palette is very limited.
GZ: I know that in the original Super Mario Bros. Crossover, the only other character not (yet) in SRS is Sophia III, but were there some character ideas that you thought up but ended up leaving on the cutting room floor? Could you maybe give us some insight on characters that were brainstormed but ultimately left out of the final game?
JP: We mainly used the characters already in SMBC because we already know they work well and we also can use some of the same code. The game was originally going to be more similar to SMBC than we ultimately decided on, so that's another reason. The game concept has really evolved over time, and because of the Kickstarter it got even bigger. I can't say what other characters we've been thinking about because we might release them later as DLC. We're designing the game in a way that will make it easy for us to add more characters later.
GZ: Can we expect to see some crazy original power-ups? What types of enhanced abilities will the characters have access to? (Secretly hoping for a parody of the Tanooki Suit.)
JP: Coming up with the power ups should be a lot of fun. I can't say what they will be yet because we haven't gotten that far. I was planning on having a more evolved power up system than SMBC that would allow for different combinations of power ups and items to be equipped. And we do plan on the power ups being similar to the game they're based on, so you can expect something like suits for Manni and Lanzo and different weapons for Mecha Boy.
GZ: All I played when I was a kid was Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, and Super Mario Bros. 3. That's why I'm glad to see Manni and Lanzo in Super Retro Squad. I'm certain all of the characters in the game are important and special to you, but which character would you say is your favorite?
JP: That's a pretty cool question because surprisingly I haven't thought about it! I think my favorite is probably Erin. She has a really cool backstory, and her suit is alive and can change shape. She's also a thief, and I tend to route for characters that don't play by the rules.
GZ: How much bigger (in terms of levels and length) will Super Retro Squad be?
JP: Since it looks like we're hitting the Eve VII stretch goal, it will have at least 45 levels. It will probably be similar to the length of Super Mario Bros 3, although I'm not sure exactly how many levels were in that game.
GZ: SMBC was eventually upgraded with various different visuals and more characters, is that something you also plan on doing with Super Retro Squad with possible updates?
JP: Yeah it's fun to update a game after you make it, so we'll probably do DLC that will add new characters, levels, and maybe equipment/power ups.
GZ: You've already stated that the game will be available on PC/Mac/Linux, and possibly appearing on the recently successful OUYA console, what are the chances of it making it to XBLA/PSN?
JP: I'd love for it to happen, but I've heard it's difficult to get games on PSN or XBLA. I don't really know though and haven't looked into it yet. After our initial release, we can explore other platforms like that.
GZ: As an indie developer, does the OUYA console seem more appealing as a more efficient platform to release your games to the public?
JP: I'm really excited about OUYA. My dream for this game was to get it on a console and because of OUYA, it is already coming true. I think it's great that indie developers will be able to get their games on a console without jumping through all the hoops that Microsoft and Sony require.
GZ: Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World? Go!
JP: Of course I've thought about it. It'd be a crazy amount of work though. Now that I have a team it's possible, but I think we're better off spending our time on stuff that we own. We're trying to capture the fun stuff from those games in Super Retro Squad.
GZ: Aside from the inspirations for Super Retro Squad, what are some of your favorite 8-bit and 16-bit games?
JP: Wow that really narrows it down for NES. A few NES games I like that I haven't taken stuff from are Double Dragon 2, Ikari Warriors, Ninja Turtles 2, and Life Force. I would say Mega Man X for SNES, but I can't even say that because Mecha Boy will be borrowing from that game. My other favorite SNES game is Chrono Trigger, and I've always wanted to put Crono in SMBC but never really got to it. Secret of Mana and Star Fox are a few other SNES games I enjoy.
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, we're really looking forward to some sweet Retro platforming come early 2013.