How did the idea of using battery charge instead of damage/health come about?
Tim and I would talk a lot about when something really becomes a game and not just a nice set of assets that move well, and part of that was trying to nail down what people feel when they play and why they are motivated to make decisions. Originally Cactus was a much simpler shooter with the intend of a standard lives system, but the more we played and looked for the core of the game the more we realized that the enjoyable and interesting part of the game was always the aggressive actions that lead to controlled chaos, and the lives system was fighting against this.
The problem is that lives dictate how you think: With three lives you might feel emboldened and enjoy exploring the combo systems and grabbing high risk but high reward powerups, when you die and drop to two lives you might still feel confident in chasing high score combos but maybe you pull back and avoid the high risk scenarios that were so much fun, drop further to one life and all of a sudden your thoughts become dominated by self preservation and the fear that you'll hit the game over screen if you take any risks.
If you flip these concepts on their head you end up with something like our battery, a system where your best chance at survival is to try and destroy your enemies as quickly as you can, a system where the closer to defeat you become the more risky and chaotic and aggressive your play becomes. Nothing is perfect, but we felt this system exemplified the best aspects of a twin stick shoot em up and would help people reach the higher echelons of play by making the path of advancement as clear as it can be.
How were the android names selected?
Well the title character has green hair, so it's only common sense that she would be named Cactus. And if you have one character named after a plant, shouldn't every character be named after plants? Just don't tell anyone Coral's not a plant, they'll realize how silly we truly are.
Have you completed all levels in S+?
Of course! Everyone on the team has, and it was a pre-requisite for the balance of each stage. S+ can be achieved with every character on every stage, given enough dedication.
What inspired you make this game?
I'm not sure you can narrow it down to one singular thing, our whole team grew up during the arcade era and we've adored these kinds of games for more than 20 years! These days they've become less and less common, with certainly less innovative efforts being made, so we thought this was a space we could create something valuable for the world while also creating something we're truly passionate about. In terms of direct inspirations you'll have to take your pick between Robotron, Smash TV, Super Stardust, Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga and basically everything Treasure has ever made!
While developing the game, what was the hardest issue(s) that you came across?
Probably balancing out the characters because it spiraled out of control with every new addition, our competing ideals of extremely different weapon behaviour yet competitive score potential across the game was like a tug of war match that never ended.
What was your "best moment" during development?
I think it was the moment you could play through the entire campaign from start to finish including placeholder cut-scenes and credits, the feeling of playing a 'complete' game after all those years is just so immense and wonderful. Of course launching the game to very positive feedback and reviews was nice, but it's not the same.
Were you able to incorporate all of the ideas that were proposed?
You always leave some ideas on the table, but the game is often better for it. For example we chucked out a number of weapon concepts because they had too much overlap with existing gameplay styles, at one point there was even a working carbine style assault rifle and cluster grenades.
If the answer to the previous question is no, would you add those other ideas through DLC or make a possible sequel?
I think we need to recharge creatively before thinking about something like that, one of the reasons Cactus is special is the abundance of ideas that went in to it and after three years you have to be really careful not to get caught in a pattern where you're just creating content for the sake of it.
Are there any plans to bring Assault Android Cactus to Xbox Live?
No plans right now, we're still busy bringing Cactus to the Vita and Wii U!
Can you provide any insight into your next title?
It's a low poly roguelike multiplayer game with crafting and survival elements - Nah! We're still not sure ourselves, Cactus was a pure skill arcade game started initially for the PC in 2013 so we're not exactly great at following the market trend, we work on what inspires us and right now there are a few too many competing ideas to nail it down.
Any special advice for the fans playing Assault Android Cactus. Something like a special gameplay tactic or a hidden gem?
Remember this: Relentless aggression is your best tactic! Try to do as much damage as you can by utilizing both your weapons and grabbing powerups, that next battery isn't as far away as it might seem.
How do you like the PS4/Vita as a platform for game development?
It's a lot easier than it ever was to make a PS2 or PS3 game, but there are still complexities you might not be used to coming from a PC development background. I think Sony is doing a great job finding a middle ground between their completely isolated and protected environments and the open chaotic world a lot of people are used to, probably the hardest part for me was getting to grips with all their submission and setup systems but that's because I'm terrible at paperwork.
Any advice for people starting out with game development? It does not matter what platform they are using.
Make something! It's almost certainly going to be bad, the trick is in trying to understand why it's bad and rectifying your mistakes in the next project. That one will likely be bad for different reasons, but if you repeat this process a few times and actually learned from your mistakes each time then you might just make something great.