This interview was originally published at Use a Potion in February 2020. We talk about Resolutiion’s influences, anger management issues during development, and secret codes, that are protected by crazy ladybugs.
How would you describe Resolutiion to someone who had never heard of the game?
If The Matrix and Star Wars had an ugly baby, that wanted to become a retro video game before it fell into Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole, her name would be ‘Resolutiion’.
At its core, Resolutiion is structured like a classic Zelda experience: dive into a fantastic world, explore the extensive map, find quirky items to unlock new areas and beat the fat boss at the end of each dungeon. This all is wrapped in our own science-fiction story, plenty of nasty humour and existential philosophy.
Interestingly, the weapons in Resolutiion have been described as ‘weird’ on the official website. What makes them so weird and which one is your personal favourite to use?
‘Weird’ refers not only to the weapons but the general selection of items that players can deploy in Resolutiion. The early Zelda games had tools that were strange and quirky, which developed memorable qualities during play: a jar that sucks in air, winged boots to dash through walls, or a staff that flips gravity. Metroid had the Marumari (Morphball) or the Varia Suit, both adding depth and texture to its alien world.
Too many modern games try to sell very ordinary mechanics as something worth striving to discover, like double-jump and weapon upgrades. They’ve lost the charm and fun that comes from these unique and absurd/skurril interactions that video games used to be so good at.
When we assembled the cast of Resolutiion’s items, we wanted them to play well and be fun, but also unfamiliar, memorable and tied deep into the game’s lore. That’s why you can throw around metal-eating nanobots, ride yellow worms, get drugged by a scarf, or figure out why Marty’s Boot is filled with toxic liquid.
You’ve been quite open about Resolutiion’s development on Twitter and have shared plenty of images and details about the game. Has the feedback you’ve received encouraged you to change anything along the way?
We’d love to communicate even more about the development process, but Twitter is this strange platform we’ve never really come to terms with. It seems that writing a 3,000-word devlog-article is easier for us than shooting out five short tweets about making a huge fish sneeze out its dead eye.
Anyway, we barely got any feedback except the usual love and hate on the lines of “Looks great” or “Boring”. But that’s totally fine — nobody can perceive something as complex and layered as a video game from a pretty GIF and 250 characters. The best that can come from a channel like this is an indication of familiar themes, like the art style, perspective or combat systems.
Much more worthwhile were the numerous playthroughs and alpha tests we’ve had, going back to the earliest prototypes. One year into the development we had already started sitting down with friends and strangers alike, to play a single level or fight a completely broken boss. While these experiences were quite frustrating for us —because they highlighted how badly designed our early scenes were— they were fundamental in progressing random ideas and effects into a consistent and coherent gaming experience.
The visuals of the game look fantastic, with the blend of vibrant colours and insane sights setting the tone for the game perfectly. Was there any work in particular that inspired you when developing Resolutiion’s visual style?
Thanks a lot. We appreciate the kind words, but we’re merely standing on the shoulders of giants. This decade has seen an explosion in iconic pixel-art games. Sword & Sworcery, Fez and Hyper Light Drifter come to mind, each pushing the envelope of a whole genre. Nothing individually served as our main inspiration though, Resolutiion is the bastard child of many things: you can find plenty of homages all around the place — we’re not afraid to show our roots.
Initially, when we set out to develop this game, we had no idea about its individual components — we didn’t choose a particular style, it evolved from our lack of expertise. We picked the most simple shapes and pieced them together: flat surfaces, hexagons, octagons, diagonal walls, primitive connections and few colours. When these looked too flat, we added textures on top, then more layers, lights and shadows. Each round of polish was applied as fast and as sparsely as possible because our world had become so intimidatingly large, and we had to ensure a consistency of quality throughout. Each time we added another level of detail to an area we had to revisit the other 5,000 maps as well so they didn’t fall behind. It’s a good thing modern computers are equipped with copy-paste capabilities.
Looking back at those five years, the most important lesson we learned is probably: never, ever go for perfection; always strive for the simple solution, because you will need a million of them.
It has been no secret that Resolutiion was inspired by The Legend of Zelda and other similar games in the genre. What is it about Resolutiion that you would say sets it apart from the pack and gives it its own unique hook?
Absolutely nothing. And I mean that in the best possible way.
So, many games of recent memory try very hard to be new and interesting by exploring fresh art styles or innovative mechanics — Portal or Crypt of the NecroDancer come to mind. But many more end up full of gimmicks, and get tiring or just plain stressful way too fast.
It turns out that most people enjoy games in their free time (contrary to game journalists) and therefore are looking for an experience that does not keep their neurons firing at maximum capacity. Games are so valuable because they can build on familiar patterns, yet introduce inspiration and excitement at the player’s own pace: if you want to explore, explore! If you want action, go fight! Move at your own speed, independent of the director’s script.
Since we are bloody beginners and barely know what we are doing, we chose not to reinvent the wheel. Resolutiion is our homage to Zelda and Final Fantasy, set in a unique sci-fi world, with plenty of humour, charm and gay cowboys.
You’re working on Resolutiion with your brother, which I imagine is a brilliant experience given that you probably played so many games together in your younger years and now get to make one of your own. Has this been a rewarding experience or has the extra closeness brought some additional challenges along the way?
Brilliant, painful, demanding and stoic. As very little boys, we used to tell each other stories together in bed: we picked a few favourite characters from our toy boxes and acted out their adventures until we fell asleep.
The same process lies at the heart of Resolutiion, just on a massively bigger scale: we pick some ideas and play them against each other until something interesting comes out of it. Obviously, this leads to plenty of fights, but over the last few decades, we have become quite good at finding compromises: one argues for fun mechanics, the other for bold visuals. In the end, a good experience is always carried by a harmony of multiple dynamics.
You actually describe yourself as ‘two angry German brothers’ on your website … what have you got to be so angry about?!
Man, if you don’t have plenty of reasons to be angry, you’re not living life!
When is Resolutiion releasing and on what platforms?
Our publisher told us to “shut the fuck up” about specific dates, but we’re just too excited to keep everybody waiting: we will proudly release Resolutiion on Nintendo Monkeytwister™, Playstation 76™ and Microsoft’s Zb0X™ on June 25th, 1903.
We’re also considering porting the game to Google’s HyperHedron™, Netflix’s Next™ and Amazon’s FireHome™ as soon as possible after the initial launch.
Finally, can you tell us one fact about the game that no one outside of the development team knows?
Well, we can certainly try to get some more eyes on a little encryption game we set up a while ago:
Starting with the first Monolith of Minds newsletter in early 2018, we introduced little strings of dots and dashes at the end of each. Connecting all those glyphs up to newsletter 14 will result in a long code, ready to be deciphered by the crazy people of the internet.
The result of this puzzle will have an impact on the very late gameplay of Resolutiion, where you can meet the most powerful entity within the realm: Mr. Kiepchen.