Exclusive Interview: Former Blizzard Artist Tyler Hunter Talks Indie Game Rack N Ruin
AMANDA DYAR: Rack N Ruin is an upcoming indie game you've been working on over the last couple of years. Can you start by telling us what the game is about and how you decided you wanted to make your game vision a reality?
TYLER HUNTER: Rack N Ruin is a top down action adventure game starring a little demon wizard named Rack. Players will take control of the little invader and join him on a quest to conquer, corrupt, and bring a general sense of misery to one small world. It's got all of your good action adventure trappings, hordes of enemies to gleefully slaughter, dungeons packed with secrets and epic bosses, interesting puzzles, and an open world map to explore and corrupt. That is one unique feature, you will be able to corrupt the world turning it into a nightmarish vision of its prior self. Think of it as the anti hero's journey.
I left the triple A gaming industry about 2 years ago to form Lifespark Entertainment. 6 months later and I started working on Rack N Ruin as the less ambitious project that my imagination took control of turned it into the ambitious creature it is today. I've always been making games whether it was professional artwork, prototypes in my free time, or even levels for Doom 2 way back when was a kid in Junior High. I figured now was a good time as any to jump in and chase my dream of making something special.
AMANDA DYAR: Many indie games can have their roots traced back to the games that developers loved to play when they were younger. What inspirations have helped you create Rack N Ruin and do you have any particular favorite games off all-time that may or may not have helped inspired your vision for Rack N Ruin?
TYLER HUNTER: I've been playing RPGs all the way back the NES days of Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy, Crystalis, and the original Zelda. While I love RPGs, Rack N Ruin draws its influence from action adventure games such as the Legend of Zelda, A Link to the Past, Crystalis, Ys, the Binding of Isaac, Bastion, Alundra, and so forth. I think A Link to the Past being one my favorite games obviously plays a large influence on the game, its design, and even art style. My favorite game though is Dark Souls, and since it is an action RPG, and the fact that I'm obsessed with it, it can't help but influence.
AMANDA DYAR: Rack N Ruin's star is a little guy named Rack that isn't out to save the world but tries to do much the opposite instead. Why did you choose to go in this direction with your game's storyline rather than the typical hero who attempts to recover another kidnapped character or protect the world?
TYLER HUNTER: Mostly because it's a lot more fun to make a game about an atypical character than your classic hero type. This way I can explore new areas of story telling then aren't typically outlined in the hero's journey. This is the antihero's journey and since no one has written that book, we can basically do whatever we want when it comes to story telling. I guess that's one of the allures of being indie, and since this is my chance to make a game any way I want, I'm certainly going to take that opportunity to do something out there.
TYLER HUNTER: The art is certainly the most time consuming aspect of Rack N Ruins creation, especially since I've put such a huge level of monster variety in the game. Since the game is entirely hand painted, I put a good bit of time into making sure each environment kit is constructed in a way that I can make the environments large without looking tiled, and still retain a high level of fidelity across them. The idea behind the art is essentially to create an HD modern 16bit game, so its not a pixel art game with a low resolution, but retains the rich colors and stylization of that era.
AMANDA DYAR: Another interesting feature in the game is a mechanic that allows the main protagonist, Rack, to acquire items from fallen enemies to unlock new attacks and abilities. What are some of the more powerful moves this allows the character to do and how does this help you to design more intricate puzzles for dungeons in the game?
TYLER HUNTER: Rack will have 4 core abilities: fire, lightning, ice, and a dark sword. Each weapon's damage type is considered when hitting certain types of switches, and so forth. And since each ability has a different firing style, the different damage switch activations as it pertains to puzzle construction become different. However Rack's core abilities are the not the things he picks up from fallen foes. Foes will often draw parts of their bodies that Rack can use as consumables or weapons. For example, an eyeball can be used to summon a spell that spins around you, pummeling enemies. The most powerful attacks are actually found in spell tomes that are hidden around the world. These attacks will dominate enemies but completely deplete your magic bar. Almost all the dropped items and spell books will have a puzzle type linked to them at some point in the game as well.
AMANDA DYAR: As Rack destroys more of the world and makes it become more corrupt, the influence is actually seen in the game's environments. How does this change the way players will progress through the game and does it change the environments in a way that allows you to introduce different puzzles or enemy strategies throughout the game?
TYLER HUNTER: Each environment zone can be corrupted, and this won't inherently change the ending of the game, but it will change the way that zone plays out and what is discoverable within that zone. So the enemies will change, puzzles will rearrange, secrets will change, nefarious merchants will take up shop, and Rack will get stronger. The corruption of each zone will also net Rack more magic and health. So corrupting a zone greatly benefits Rack in terms of his progression through the world, it's almost like leveling up each time he finds a magic shrine and destroys it. The drawback is that enemies in each area will increase in strength, and demons aren't all chubby with each other like the good guys.
AMANDA DYAR: The team behind Rack N Ruin is an all-star cast of developers that have created some of the best storylines and soundtracks in recent indie games. How did you go about assembling the team and about how close is Rack N Ruin to an actual release date?
TYLER HUNTER: Not to sell any of us short but I wouldn't call us an all star cast. We are just a very small group of passionate developers who are trying make a fun game that people will enjoy. The team was mostly comprised over time of the people who stuck with the project and show a continued level of passion and dedication to its success. Often times the people who are true team member are less found and more grow into a project. As far as release dates are concerned, March 2014 is the goal, but you know how game development goes.
AMANDA DYAR: Gamers will obviously have a good reason to want to learn more about Rack N Ruin after seeing the game in action. Are there any plans to release a beta or demo for the game and where can fans learn more about the game and show their support for the upcoming release?
TYLER HUNTER: To be honest we are a small indie developer, so if someone emailed me personally and asked to be on the beta test, I'd more then likely just say sure. The most active places where updates about the game can be found are on our Twitter feed (@racknruingame), Facebook page, and the blog that is linked on the website's main page. Every time we have a big announcement of any type, thos e3 places are the most likely places to get info. If you'd like to help support the game then the best thing you can do is simply spread the word, link trailers or previews on your favorite forum, tell your favorite news site about it, and so forth. Fan word of mouth is the best thing a fan can give an indie developer.
To learn more, visit the official Rack N Ruin website.
About Rack N Ruin
Countless stars twinkle in the void of space. The vast sum are lifeless searing balls, but amongst the many lay the vessels for life-bearing worlds - each ripe for the plucking by the ever-reaching claw of the arch demon Ruin. His insatiable hunger for dominance over the universe goes unfulfilled - and with infinite stars for him to devour, his feast is without end.
Smoldering ruins dot the expanse of the cosmos. Once rich with life, culture and history, these unfortunate worlds are now overrun with the mad, the corrupted, and the enslaved. Now they serve as the breeding grounds for the void master himself. Demons from every nightmare imaginable, pour forth from these ruined worlds to do their master's bidding. The greatest of these demons rise out from the hordes of chaos. These demon lords are Ruin's champions, who spread his seeds of corruption across the galaxy, bringing world after world to its knees.
One such demon, whose desire for destruction lauds above them all, stands on the brink of his own demise. Rack, as he is known, is a seed of destruction: a tiny demon lord whose influence on a world will slowly drag it into a singularity of pain, only to burst forth in a final moment of glorious destruction. Rack leaves no enslaved ruins, nor homes for demon-spawning; only asteroid fields, and cratered moons. For this, he is loathed by his master more than any other demon lord.
Rack is given one last chance. One small world must be brought to its knees, and turned over to Ruin's ever-devouring maw. Failure will end in Rack being cast into the void for eternity.
Will Rack obey Ruin? Or will his love of destroying worlds prove to be too strong to ignore?
- An open world, ripe for exploration.
- A fully changeable world. Each area will be corruptible and will become a dark vision of its former self.
- Fully HD hand-painted environments with traditionally animated characters, brought to life by 3D lighting and particle effects.
- Devious dungeons filled with puzzles, enemies, traps, and secrets.
- A dark but humorous story, written to bring out an evil smirk in everyone.
- Epic boss encounters. You've killed the masters of evil many times. Now it's time to fight the lords of good.
- Loads of items taken from your fallen foes. Blood potions, eyeballs that spin around you smiting your foes, edible spinal cords, and other tasty demon treats.
- Five core magic abilities that can each be upgraded by trading the souls of the innocent with a nefarious wizard.
- Demonic spell books that will unleash powerful magic.
- A huge variety of enemies to slaughter - everything from giant robots, to invisible water elementals, to vampire bunnies.
- A rich soundtrack to draw you into this dark fairytale world.