Interview: Talking Retro/Grade with Matt Gilgenbach
It’s just about time for Retro/Grade to shine on the PlayStation Network. After making the rounds for the last couple of years in development over at 24 Caret Games, and appearing at countless shows including both PAX Prime and PAX East, it looks like we’re finally going to get our chance to play it, as the company has announced that it is finally releasing on August 21.
To get an insider’s view on what went into the game – and how the team feels about their product finally releasing – we spoke with Matt Gilgenbach, the man behind the gameplay programming and design for Retro/Grade. (Oh, he also attends events in an awesome miner’s helmet!) And we can assure you, this interview’s not going to move backwards.
First and foremost, how’s it feel to finally see the game is finished and ready to go for the awaiting public on PlayStation Network.
It feels great to cross the finish line. It's a huge burden off of our shoulders! However, it's kind of scary waiting for the game to come out and see how it received knowing that you can't change anything about the game. We have gotten a lot of positive feedback about the game during development, so we are pretty confident that people will really enjoy it, but at least for me, it's hard to not be nervous waiting since I've poured so much effort into the game.
How did the idea for Retro/Grade come about, anyway?
We started with the idea that it would be fun to make a game that played when time was reversed. We then brainstormed on ways that backwards gameplay could work. Undoing your actions seemed to make the most sense for playing backwards, but we were tasked with the challenge of making a fun game around that idea. A rhythm game seemed like a good fit because the timing is fixed, and we figured a side-scrolling shooter where you are constrained to discrete lanes would make matching the position easier. From there we continued to add elements from both shooters and rhythm games to create Retro/Grade.
When you were putting Retro/Grade together, were you planning on using just the guitar peripheral exclusively with it, or the typical PS3 controller as well?
We designed the game from the beginning with both the guitar and the gamepad in mind, so I think they both feel great. However, I like playing with the guitar controller just because it is silly and novel way to control a spaceship. It works with all PS3 guitar controllers.
How did you put together such an awesome soundtrack for Retro/Grade?
We were fortunate to get a very talented composer on board, Skyler McGlothlin. He is one of my favorite musicians and is amazingly talented, so he put together all the music for the game and did an amazing job.
The game is fully supported by leaderboards. Are you expecting a lot of fierce competition from Retro/Grade? We've heard that Ciji "Starslay3r" Thornton is picking up a PS3 system just to stay competitive.
We designed the game for competitive scoring and already had some pretty fierce low score contests (because the score counts down) at PAX, so we expect that we will have very fierce competition.
What would you say was the hardest part about putting the game together? Making everything run backwards or...?
I think the hardest part was not losing hope since we had such a long development cycle. We had an ambitious vision, and sometimes it felt like we'd never get there, but the positive feedback we've gotten from our amazing fans over the years gave me the fuel I needed to keep going.
Tell us what inspired the title of the game itself. "Retro/Grade"? Are we being graded on a retro scale? Heh.
Retro/grade means moving backwards, so it is a descriptive title. From the beginning, we were planning on having chip tunes inspired music, which contributes to the "retro" feel. We also liked that Grade was like Gradius, a classic shmup. The score counts down, so I guess you could consider that a retro scale. (smiles)
Now that the game is coming out, will you guys be hitting PAX Prime this year to celebrate its release? Maybe even hold a concert with the musicians behind the game? Seems like a fitting time.
We will be showing the game at PAX Prime. Unfortunately, Skyler McGlothlin, our composer, won't be able to make it.
Finally, can we expect any additional tunes for the game through DLC? Or are you saving them for a possible sequel?
We don't have any future release plans, but if Retro/Grade is successful, we'd love make more content!
Look for Retro/Grade on August 21st exclusively on PlayStation Network!