Dr. David's Indie Spotlight: Interview with Rex Rocket developer Robert Maher

Developer Robert Maher is a longtime video game aficionado who’s currently working on creating a title called Rex Rocket. The game is set in a pixelated sci-fi world and features platforming and shooting mechanics reminiscent of classics such as Mega Man, Metroid, and Contra. Rex Rocket just recently surpassed its Kickstarter goal, and Robert continues to toil away on the project to bring it to a number of platforms for folks interested in a throwback to the NES era. He’s joined by programmer Tyler Bud and composer Nigel Shields.

I got in contact with Robert and asked him a few questions regarding Rex Rocket. We also briefly discussed next-gen hardware, Nintendo, and a title inspired by The Legend of Zelda that Robert hopes to release someday.

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GameZone: First off, congrats on reaching and surpassing your Kickstarter goal. How does it feel to see folks supporting your endeavor enough to essentially say, “Here, take my money! Aarrgghh!”? (Seriously, that’s what people say.)

Robert Maher: It feels amazing! The team and I can’t express how much we appreciate everyone’s support. There’s nothing like putting a project out there for everyone to view and getting a positive response. We can’t thank all the backers enough for their support on Rex Rocket. We have a real passion for 8-bit platform games and it’s an awesome feeling to see that passion mirrored by others.

GZ: Can you explain what Rex Rocket is all about? What type of game is it? Who will it appeal to?

RM: Rex Rocket is all about celebrating old school retro platforming games. We’ve taken inspiration from games like Cave Story, Metroid, and Mega Man and pulled from them the best elements, namely the charming game worlds, explorative gameplay, and pixel art visuals. The abstract nature of pixel art requires the player to use their imagination and imprint their own vision onto the world of Rex Rocket. Hopefully gamers from all age groups will enjoy Rex Rocket as much as I do!

GZ: What’s the game’s world like and how will the art style help to set the tone for that world?

RM: Rex Rocket is set in a period of time where space flight is commonplace and the Council of Science rules the known galaxy. The game world is filled with charming characters, evil villains, and adventure. I use the original 54-color NES palette as a jumping off point for all the graphics. Not only do the colors on this palette stir up feelings of nostalgia for older gamers, they also help to create a vibrant world. Finally, we’ve filled Rex Rocket to the brim with back story, info nodes, and dialogue to create a rich world for our players to explore.

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GZ: You’ve mentioned Super Mario Bros., Mega Man, and Metroid among others as a few of your favorite games. Is Rex Rocket directly influenced by these titles? If so, how strong is that influence, and how will it show in the game? Any other inspirations?

RM: Rex Rocket is most definitely influenced by these titles, and I’d say that influence is very strong. Everything from the gameplay to the pixel art visuals finds its roots set deep into these classic NES titles. From jumping on the heads of sweeper Bots to kill them to the shoot 'n’ scooting Mega Man-style gameplay, the inspirations will be obvious to any experienced gamer.

Another title that has been a huge inspiration to both myself and Tyler is Cave Story. I see Cave Story as another title that pulls its inspiration from the same sources but helps keep things fresh by adding in exciting new gameplay elements.

GZ: Despite the fact that the game is a throwback to older classics, what helps set it apart from games of the NES era?

RM: We’ve done a ton to expand on the classic look and feel of NES games. We’ve done things like add in a zoomable camera, [and] exciting new gameplay mechanics like teleporting, dynamic lighting effects, and complex physics. With the technical limitations of the original NES platform lifted we can mash these classic titles together with all the power that you would find in a modern-day gaming platform. In short, we can make Rex Rocket bigger, better, and visually more awesome than any games found on the NES.

GZ: What platforms are you hoping to launch Rex Rocket on?

RM: We’re aiming to bring Rex to Macs, iOS devices, Linux, XBLIG, Wii U, PS Vita, Nintendo 3DS, and OUYA.

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GZ: As far as the development of Rex Rocket is concerned, what have you had the most fun with? What’s been the most stressful part?

RM: The best part, for me, is the entire process of seeing a concept, like an enemy, go from concept to completion. Teaming up with Tyler has really been a dream come true to me. To be able to create a sprite sheet and the next day see it come to life in the game is an awesome feeling. As for the most stressful part, I would say it is pressure felt by our Kickstarter backers to produce a fun game that they will enjoy, but this is also a thrilling challenge for us that we will do everything in our power to make into a reality.

GZ: You’ve also expressed interest in releasing a game called Blossom Tales on the Wii U and 3DS. Can you share some info on this game?

RM: Blossom Tales was my pet project for two years before I switched over to work with Tyler on Rex Rocket. It’s a great Zelda-like game that is set in the world of Blossom. You play as a newly initiated Knight of the Rose in service to King Orchid, the King of Blossom. Unfortunately, the development team for Blossom Tales never saw the project to completion. Once Rex Rocket is completed we definitely are considering restarting production on Blossom Tales. The game has generated a ton of interest, which makes us confident that it will have a great audience when it’s finished.

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GZ: Speaking of the Wii U, what are your thoughts on the console? Are you looking forward to the next wave of platforms from Microsoft and Sony? As an indie developer, what do you hope to see out of those consoles and their digital download markets?

RM: Wii U is looking awesome to us right now. Multiple screens, touch and motion interaction, a digital marketplace... what more could you want?! With Nintendo recently lifting their unfriendly indie policies and changing their attitudes towards indie devs in general, this platform has become more attractive to us now than ever.

I’m very intrigued by the information being released on Microsoft’s and Sony’s new consoles. It sounds like they’re going to be even more indie-friendly than they are today, but only time will tell. I hope that they continue their trend of opening up their platforms and streamlining the process for indie devs to expose their games to a wider audience.

GZ: It’s always fun to know what developers are playing. What games are you currently chipping away at during whatever free time you can manage?

RM: Oh geez! I was afraid you might ask this. I really haven’t played any games lately, but once I get some free time I’ll probably dig up the new Metal Gear Rising. I’ve been a huge Metal Gear fan for about as long as I can remember, so I’m really looking forward to it.


I’d like to personally thank Robert for taking the time to participate in this interview. Rex Rocket is currently planned for an early 2014 launch. If you want to help the game reach its stretch goals, check it out on Kickstarter. You can also be a creeper and keep tabs on what Robert's doing by following him on Twitter.

Want to talk about indie games, Kirby, or cheap pizza? Follow me on Twitter @dr_davidsanchez.

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