I must admit that I don't know much about the Italian videogame scene. I was able to do an interview with Studio Evil, the software house behind Super Cane Magic ZERO; I tried GRIDD: Retroenhanced and I was fascinated by his retrauturistic vision throughout the years' 80, and I think I can stop here. I don't think I've ever played any other Italian and if I did, I wasn't aware of it. A few days ago, hanging out on Facebook, I noticed a person on the friends list who shared the link to this hyperparasite and I immediately spotted him on Steam. Rogue-lite shooter / brawler with isometric view? Okay, okay, you already sold me. The title is developed by Troglobytes Games, a software house with a long experience behind it that, according to the website, started publishing in the 2001 on the Game Boy Advance and then moved to the PC and Flash titles.
The title, as stated by themselves, draws so much from the80 aesthetic years with that sort of retrofuturistic taste that I always find to my liking. A very different subject for the gameplay, the element that really and immediately won me over. The player commands a parasite, whose attack is rather basic as well as the movements. Wandering through an unidentified city, our little alter ego must kill anyone who happens to be caught, and obviously everyone, be they policemen or old ladies armed with a cart, want to stop us. The poor parasite has only one life at his disposal: it is enough for him to be touched by an enemy to see all his efforts vanish, in full roguelike style. This is what makes up for the most interesting mechanics and on which the title itself rests: by pressing a button we can literally attach ourselves to an enemy, which becomes the host organism, and decide whether to shoot it against other opponents or enter it inside. In the event that you opt for an internal visit we acquire the skills, the attacks and the life of the opponent. The choice is rather well integrated within the playful fabric of the offer, and indeed it also presents rather brilliant flashes. In fact the enemies are our life, without them we would last very little, especially against the bosses, when the general difficulty of the game, never too low, has a vertical ascent and seems to come out of a bullet hell soul whose setting reminded me of Enter The Gungeon, just to mention a recent title.
Added to this are also typical elements of roguelikes. For example, after death the game starts again from zero but with a differently generated level. In addition, there are upgrades scattered around the levels, whose operation, just to name another recent title, reminded me of the one present in Dead Cells. There is also a shop where you can spend the money found on both killed enemies and classic destructible objects scattered around the game. But be careful not to enter as a parasite, in that case the owner will not be so kind! To feed even more longevity comes the aforementioned possibility of enemy possession, which is not immediately available to everyone. Some characters, maybe a little stronger than average, are stuck and you have to beat them in order to acquire their brains - literally - to then take them to the store. Once this action is done, we must start investing coins until they are unlocked.
I remember however that the game is still in early access, but it is already extremely well presented. Very funny and with an aesthetic that captures immediately, HyperParasite can easily make you lose the sense of time once you are catapulted into its world. Below I leave you to a gallery of images and a brief interview with the development team, happy reading!
Let's start with a simple question: how did the idea come about? Is there any interesting anecdote about it?
Here in the office we have an old 80 arcade cabinet, and we often play games of the past to study them and learn new things (I assure you that there is a lot more interesting stuff in those than many modern AAA games ...). One day we were playing a very old game called Avenging Spirit: in this game you are a sort of "spirit" that can enter the bodies of various characters and control them. So we were struck by this idea of a game with similar mechanics, but set in the 80 years (when we were born and we are great fans). From there came the idea of using characters and situations that recall movies, comics, books and video games of those years.
What are the biggest difficulties for a software house in Italy? It is thought that there are few but it seems that with the passage of time the scenario is widening more and more, is it my impression or is there actually an expansion of the sector?
Honestly, at the moment Italy is not the right country to develop video games, especially if we talk about independent games / teams. Bureaucracy, slowness and often the total absence of institutions in this sector are a big deal-breaker for those who want to develop games here. Unfortunately there are many cases (which I prefer not to mention) of software houses born with great pomp, with large capital investments, which have melted like snow in the sun in a very short time, in most cases due to reckless management when not totally incompetent. If we talk about technical skills, the situation is decidedly more rosy: there are, in Italy, many good artists, programmers and technicians able to compete quietly with their foreign counterparts. Due to the aforementioned problems, however, many are leaving our country to seek fortune (and recognition) abroad. Many very valid and knowledgeable people that we know have made this choice, and it is difficult to blame them ... In recent years, however, we have also witnessed the emergence of several independent realities, which are gradually carving out their place in the sector, and some entities such as AESVI (Italian Video Game Developers Publishers Association) that offer valuable support to developers. We'll see how the situation evolves.
Do fairs really help developers (beyond the marketing factor)?
Absolutely yes, they are a tool and an opportunity for developers to make their game and skills known. Excluding the marketing issue (which in any case requires investments that not everyone can afford, just think of how much it costs a developer to exhibit at events like the GDC or gamescom), there are a thousand other reasons to attend these events: more in-depth knowledge of the sector , networking with other developers, business development opportunities with publishers / investors, media relations, journalists and content creators such as streamer / youtuber, etc. All this without mentioning the most important thing: player feedback. Having an outgoing product and being able to attend in person while hundreds (or even thousands) of people try it is an inexhaustible mine of valuable information that helps to improve that product and bring it to an even higher finishing level.
What kind of training do you have and what skills do you need to work on a product like? Hyperparasite?
None of us is a graduate, we started working almost immediately after school (some even in sectors that have nothing to do with computer science), only to find ourselves in 2015 to found an independent development team, sharing our passion immoderate for all that concerns videogames and above all the mechanics that compose them. Some of us have twenty years of experience in the field, having worked mostly under other labels or as a freelancer in the field of video games and multimedia applications.
If you could have created any video game of the past what would it have been?
Surely we would have liked to create Tetris, because it is ingenious and imperishable (and in fact they continue to churn out clones and variations even today), and people all over the world know it and love it.
From what kind of background do the game's characters come from? The setting and the setting, as you said, falls in the 80 years but did you have in mind a specific character / game / movie in mind during pre-production?
The idea behind HyperParasite is precisely to fish with the immense pop culture of the 80 years, creating characters, mechanics and situations related to it. There is not just one movie / game that we were inspired by, but hundreds: from the characters, to the classic clichés of the action films of that era, to the posters you find hanging around the game levels. We have tried to maintain a constant coherence for the setting and we have carried out various researches in order to immerse the players (even the younger ones who have not lived through the '80' years) in that atmosphere.
How are the game's sales going? Lately a revenue war has started between Steam and Epic Games Store, are you satisfied with your choice?
HyperParasite has been released for less than a week in Early Access on Steam, so we still don't have enough data to answer this question. We are certainly very happy with how it was received by the players (we brought it to the EGX Rezzed in London) and the specialized press, even the likes of Rock Paper Shotgun, which has dedicated articles and reviews to our project. Regarding the Steam / Epic diatribe, according to our modest point of view, nowadays, a developer should try to bring their game on any available platform, so we would be to publish it anywhere. However, we realize that Epic's offer is tempting by the way
of the percentage it offers, and therefore we understand those who have accepted the exclusivity.
If you were to recommend another Italian indie beyond yours, what would it be?
There are several Italian teams with interesting and respectable products; teams like Studio Evil, Untold Games, DESTINYbit, etc. We would also recommend Empires in Ruins from friends Hammer & Ravens!