Rene Hellwig interview
The following interview was part of an open panel interview conducted by DC Emulation, Dreamcast-Scene and SegaBits. As part of our 09/09/10 Special.
NG:Dev.Team entered the Dreamcast scene with 2007's NEO•GEO port Last Hope. With 3500 units sold, the game was a critical and commercial success, but considered rather difficult by many. In 2009, a reprint of Last Hope was released with the sub title "Pink Bullets". Based on fan feedback the game was heavily reworked and among other features offered easier game modes for less experienced players.
This year on the 11th American anniversary of the Sega Dreamcast we caught up with NG:Dev.Team to discuss their upcoming game Fast Striker
NG:Dev.Team has been around since 2001. Have you been working on other projects before Last Hope?
Last Hope is our first finished full-scale game but we started a few other projects after Last Hope has been finished, one of them is Fast Striker that we have started at 2004 and has been released for NEO•GEO this year - proud 6 years after the project has started. It's hard to say the game got 6 years of development though, because to that time we considered game development rather as a hobby thing. We already accept pre-orders for a DC port of Fast Striker at NG:DEV.DIRECT.
Release is Winter 2010. However, we started another project at 2003, a Jump 'N Shoot game that we want to release for NEO•GEO and DC in 2011. Rafael Dyll the composer of the Last Hope soundtrack is already contracted for music.
So the Hellwig brothers are full time developers now?
Yes we are a full-time developer now! We plan to have many houses and cars! ;)
hahaha, well, as long as you keep giving us games...
So, tell us about Fast Striker? How does it differ from the other shooters you have done?
Fast Striker uses a different approach than Last Hope. With Fast Striker you get fast paced action and an elaborate scoring system, many people describe the gameplay to be fluid in contrast to Last Hope which is rather bulky. FS is rather a reflex shooter than a memorizer. We also took more for time for beta testing the game. We got some great help from many experienced players from communities like Triggerzone.de and Daddelkingzs.de to improve the game and make it a way more forgiving experience than LH too. The game also got shown on the Japan Expo in France (big thanks to eathis!), and on a big German shmup meet friendly hosted by Folke AKA Robert Garcia and the feedback has been very good.
For us it also has been important to make the game as accessible as possible, so you can find 3 different game modes in the game. The Novice Mode is simply for beginners of the genre. The Original Mode is for experience players that prefer simple scoring systems and don't like to have too many bullets on screen. The Maniac Mode is for players that prefer complex scoring systems and many bullets on screen. But with all the complexity that the Maniac mode has, the game is still fluid and intuitive to play.
Some people say the boss fights are too short, but once you make use of the technical bonus system they last longer. Example: The first boss has some pods on both sides - shooting them down takes more time to begin with, and the boss changes his attack once they're down. Another important factor of the game is the dynamic difficulty system (rank): You start on a low rank but the goal is to increase the rank as fast as possible to gain more score. The highest rank is Devil Rank. The scoring system is about grind beaming enemies and being close to the enemy. Holding the fire button gives you a blue laser, then focus on bigger enemies and the blue laser turns green. Now you're in the grind mode, and get more score for shooting up enemies. Try to be closer to enemy to gain more Kristalls, now rank up to Devil Rank and you're in scoring heaven!
There's more detail on the scoring systems at our page: http://www.faststriker.com/mode.html
How long does NG:DEV.TEAM plan on supporting Sega & SNK?
Depends on the demand! So, yes we still have interest on such systems but the sales need to be right though.
The NEO•GEO games are they licensed from SNK or are they as independent as Dreamcast?
Nope, but we got quality approval from SNK/Playmore for Fast Striker. Y. Matsushita known from Twinkle Star Sprites has tested the game and he liked it. He told us a lot of good things about the game and has been nice enough to give us some tips to improve it. Unfortunately it has been too complicated to officially revive the NEO•GEO MVS though, so we didn't get a license. It's nice to have the praise and approval from the originators of the legendary NEO•GEO though, we are quite proud of this!
What about Sega have they shown you any love yet?
Have you considered following other indie developers such as Mad Peet and Senile Team and port your games to a digital service?
Yes we know Senile Team, and it's nice to see they get R4 on WiiWare. Congrats to them. Btw, we want to get our NG:DEV.TEAM games on such platforms too. Pink Bullets is a hot candidate for it.
How did you get involved with NEO•GEO development?
Already in our childhood games like Contra 3, Last Resort and Thunder Force IV has fascinated us. Especially the NEO•GEO that brought the arcades in our living rooms. For us only has been a question of time until we tried to produce a NEO•GEO quality video game of our own. In 1999 we began to build the NEO•GEO development environment that consists of efficient and powerful Graphic, Map and Scripting-Tools as well as custom-built compilers for 68k and Z80. Our first goal has been to create our own adequate 2D game: Last Hope. In the 10 years before we collected experience with rather conventional and publicly documented systems like the 64 C64, AMIGA 500 and GBC. During this long phase, both our requirements and our results have been constantly improved.
As we consider the 16-bit video game ages as the peak of 2D video game culture, which is best represented by the NEO•GEO - it has been an obvious choice that we would develop for this console.
...and how did that lead you into Sega territory?
We found the DC to be a good choice for a port because it can handle 240p to keep the true NEO•GEO look, and because of the fanbase and their frothing demand on shooters. I also got something left for the DC, because from all current 3D consoles I spent most of the time with it. Games like PSO wasted my youth! :)
When we had announced a port of Last Hope for DC we got contacted by Max Scharl from Van Basilco, now redspotgames. They published the game and for a world-wide distribution including Play-Asia etc.
We would like to thank you for giving us the oppurtunity to interview you guys and we can't wait for Fast Striker. Is their a message you would like to give to the community?
The game support of Sega Dreamcast depends on your support of indie developers!
Thanks for your support!!
We would like to thank Rene Hellwig for taking the time for the interview.