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The Indie Shooter Roundtable: Mak, Cho, And Omega Fire At Will
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The Indie Shooter Roundtable: Mak, Cho, And Omega Fire At Will

July 28, 2008 Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

Gamasutra often speaks with established developers at major studios. But as we have all come to recognize, vital perspectives and talent also come from independent creators.

In the spirit of recognizing that, Gamasutra arranged a roundtable discussion between three of the major innovators in the shoot-em-up genre. These are:

- Canadian-based Jonathan Mak, creator of PS3 PlayStation Network hit and Independent Games Festival multi-award winner - also now available on PC - Everyday Shooter.

- Japanese native Kenta Cho of ABA Games, the prolific creator whose Tumiki Fighters was recently upgraded to the Wii as Blast Works: Build, Trade, Destroy.

- The pseudonymous Japanese creator Omega, whose game Every Extend formed the basis of Q Entertainment's Every Extend Extra (PSP) and E4: Every Extend Extra Extreme (Xbox Live Arcade).

While their circumstances and game designs are different, their independent visions have all been compelling enough to reach the wider world on contemporary console platforms.

Facilitating a discussion which took place in Japanese and English, here Game Developer Magazine editor in chief Brandon Sheffield leads a free-form, casual, and candid discussion with the unassuming creators of these exciting new games.

How was the music for Everyday Shooter created?

Kenta Cho: I think sometimes the acoustic guitar is difficult to match to the game, like the 2D shooting.

Jonathan Mak: Well, sometimes I make the song before I make the game...

KC: Before?

JM: Yeah, sometimes after, sometimes before. Sometimes it's visual first, so...

Do you always make the songs after the game?

KC: Always after. I personally upgrade my own game and think about the beat of the music, and then add sound, and adjust the background music to the gameplay.

And you do the opposite? Do you then adjust gameplay to the music?

JM: Well, it's not... yeah. It actually happens like all at once.


JM: If you play level four, you'll know what I'm talking about. It's a lot slower.

KC: The music I listen to every day is techno music. I like the music like progressive house or Detroit techno.

JM: You use ACID [Music Studio software] right? You use ACID?

KC: ACID? Yes, I use ACID.

JM: And then you have samples? Loops?

KC: Yeah, many, many samples.

JM: Do you make the loops?

KC: No, I only sample them from CDs. I don't have the ability to write chords, or loops.

JM: Can I? Can I write loops for you?

KC: (laughs) It's very nice of you. (continues to laugh)

JM: I'll do it.

That's cool. You should to it.

JM: Oh, also maybe if you like the game, maybe we can create "singles". So, like you know how with a music album, you can create singles? And release it on PSN, so that might be something to put together, and put it on PSN.

Like a single, one level, 10 minute shooter, you know. So maybe we can make one up. Might be interesting, might not be. Might be bad.

Do you have any interest in putting your games on PSN or a console?

KC: Yeah, I have interest.

JM: I know someone from Sony who wants to put your game on console - Tumiki Fighters.

KC: Tumiki Fighters. Ah, that's not for Sony, but for Wii. But that's very nice, if I can play my game on PSN or PS3.

ABA Games' Tumiki Fighters

JM: Yeah, but you have to do work to put it on. It's a bit of work. This took like three months, but because the widescreen was a problem and it took a little bit longer, but I can help you.

You program in D, right?

KC: Yeah, I program in D and it caused some problems importing into other consoles.

Why do you use D?

KC: D is... I don't know that I could've written the program in C++, because its template is very dangerous and dirty programming. I mainly like to write programs in Java, and D has the same semantics as Java, and also D can create and execute files...

JM: It compiles to C++, right?

KC: There are some utilities that's that kind of conversion, but it's not used for the big projects - it's a very, very simple utility.

When you created the [Japanese Bandai-created handheld] WonderSwan version, what language did you use? For the WonderWitch development tool.

KC: For WonderWitch, I used simple C. And recently I mainly write games in ActionScript or Flash.

Oh, I see. Interesting... most curious.

KC: I'd like to challenge another language, to create games.

Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

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Arthur Times
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As someone who's not trying to flame but is being genuinely curious, just what is the appeal to these types of shooters? Everyone is going gaga over them but all I see is a triangle shooting a square.

Will someone please explain to me the appeal of these games over say "traditional" shooters like Gradius or Ikaruga.


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Abstract visuals have their own appeal when they are well designed, but the keys are:

- they are not expensive to make, in terms of time or money (to hire a real artist).

- they can be made to work in ways that would hardly make sense with 'real' graphics, and they encourage experimental gameplay designs. Tumiki is a good example of that.

- They can use more extreme palettes rather than bland ones (which is a common criticism to the recent 1942 in XBLA), and in general they are much more clean and clear. Then everything gets obscured by pyrotechnics and bullets, but that's part of the design, not imposed by aesthetics.

But it's not an either-or proposition: I expect that in general the same people would love both types of shooters. I know I do.

Arthur Times
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Thank you. That does help.

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Well when I made one of my first games it was a shooter with shape type enemies like a lot of these, and at that time I did it because I'm not an artist so it was really the only type of enemies I could make that would look half decent.

Jimmy Andrews
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"I have interest in writing some kind of AI that controls enemies, that are called voids, that control bullets."

Is that supposed to say "boids"?

Simon Carless
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I do believe you are right, Jimmy - it's fixed.

Richard James
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When you just have a triangle shooting a square you have eliminated all the fluff and have the raw game. If your game is not fun in that state you are probably doing something wrong.

Having said that I don't find Kenta Cho's work graphically minimal. I find that you need to play the games to understand the graphics. Some of his games I don't like but some of them I love to play e.g. Gunroar and Mu-Cade.

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Gunroar is an absolute masterpiece.