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2. The Rat King
The Rat King Baby is the first boss in Gun Godz. It's the first time any enemy sprite is bigger than 16 by 16 pixels. We really wanted to put a nice spectacular finish to the first half of the game and make sure that people who kill the Rat King are invested in playing through until the end of the game.
The Rat King shoots beams of fireballs at you, and spawns two tentacles with rocket launchers that go underwater and chase you down sewer corridors. Every now and the Rat King Baby dives under the dirty water, sending huge shockwaves of sewage to chase you as he reemerges.
Our issue with the Rat King is that it is the only enemy that has an invulnerable state. Players are supposed to shoot and destroy the tentacles, after which the Rat King Baby starts crying, allowing the player to damage him. After a short while of vulnerability, the Rat King dives under water, comes back up and spawns two new tentacles. That pattern repeats until either the player or the Rat King dies.
Communicating this turned out to be tough. We tried giving him two big eyes in his belly, which fit the mutant/Total Recall style our artist, Paul, went for. These eyes open up when he is vulnerable -- eyes being a classic weak spot.
That turned out to be rather ineffective. When the Rat King appears, playtesting revealed that people don't take a good look at the Rat King when they first encounter it. They panic. We lowered its damage and health to counter that and got Adam to create clear sound effects for damage, and used a lack of sound effects to indicate the Rat King was in its invulnerable state.
While it isn't perfect, in the current state people will figure out the invulnerability state as soon as they reach it for the first time -- but they might still hug the corners and waste all their ammo on an invulnerable enemy for a few tries before figuring the whole thing out.
This might not sound like a big problem for an old-school shooter, but player expectations have shifted. Nowadays, players often expect big, glowy weak spots and contextual popups that explain the pattern.
We're lucky that the people pledging to Venus Patrol are people that appreciate the type of game we were making. They had invested not just in our game, but in the ideas behind Venus Patrol. They are willing to deal with our game. They even have the attention span of gamers from 10 years ago. We love the Venus Patrol supporters for that.
Still, we shouldn't have used this one-off invulnerability system.
Gun Godz was something we did for free to support Venus Patrol, so we had scoped the top-down roguelike to be done in October. Of course, at that point, Vlambeer happened and we suddenly found ourselves working on a full-scale old-school first person shooter.
That switch was a tough one. We needed to convince the team and the people around us that we didn't need to do new things with the gameplay on this one -- we were going to focus on doing good things with gameplay on this one. There's tons of forced innovation. In such an environment, taking a step back and just making a really good shooter felt like a refreshing thing to do.
When we were done and the dust had settled, we tried to run through the game and perfect it, collecting every of the 52 triangles hidden in the game. It took Jan Willem three hours to do so. Rami is still trying to get his hands on the last few.
4. Running Too Many Projects at Once
Gun Godz happened right in the wake of a cloning controversy, in which our game Radical Fishing was cloned and rushed to the App Store by some San Francisco company. That entire episode demotivated us, putting our own iOS version of Radical Fishing, Ridiculous Fishing, on hold. Sadly, that demotivation echoed through in our other projects, delaying Super Crate Box iOS, Serious Sam: The Random Encounter and Gun Godz.
As things started to pick up again and our motivation started returning, we were suddenly working on four big projects at once. That turned out to be too much.
5. It Made Us Listen to Tupac
Before we made Gun Godz we rarely used the word "yo", never picked up the phone with the Venusian "wakkala", and we most certainly never replied to text messages with "aight". This is something we'll have to live with for the rest of our lives -- or probably until the end of this year.
We strive to leave a little mark in culture -- and with Gun Godz, we did that. Quite unexpectedly, it was our own.
Jan Willem had a dream during development where Vlambeer was invited to a barbeque for young, talented people at 50 Cent's huge crib. He thoroughly enjoyed that dream.
Making Gun Godz was a blast -- but a blast to the face. Development went smoothly, but we ended up making a way bigger game than we expected. Making a big game like this for only 1500 outspoken people takes a lot of effort and does not get you all the standard "nice reviews everywhere" instant reward. Development, as usual, killed us.
We spent the first five minutes today watching the first video of Gun Godz on YouTube. Someone did a speed run and completely crushed our par times. Simple things like that make it all worth it.
Gun Godz is probably one of the coolest games we have ever made. We love it. We are still dead serious about what this is all about. We believe it still stands strong as the best hip hop-inspired shooter since 50 Cent: Bulletproof.
Peace out, bitches.