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Joystiq Interview: A Bizarre interview about Geometry Wars 2

Justin McElroy
It's no secret: You love Geometry Wars 2, we love Geometry Wars 2, everybody loves it. We recently talked with Bizarre Creation's Stephen Cakebread, Senior Coder, and Craig Howard, Games Manager, to find out how they crafted the game that won our hearts.

It would seem to the layman that, with as popular as Geometry Wars was, a sequel would be pretty easy to crap out. Why wait so long?

Howard: Because the first one was so well received, it would have cheapened the game if we just knocked something out and not given it a lot of thought. We wanted something to make sure it was something we'd be really proud of.

Cakebread: Our inital plan was to get it our a year later and then the plan was to ship it when Gotham 4 shipped and that didn't work out either. It really was a case that we weren't going to ship it until we were ready to ship it. It might seem silly, but it took us quite a while to figure out a graphical style that still looked like the original. One of our big things was when people came to our stations we wanted them to say "Oh, is that a sequel to Geometry Wars?" rather than "Is that Geometry Wars?" It took us quite a while to come up with something that really worked. We tried some mad stuff.

Like what?:

Howard: What didn't we do? [laughs]

Gallery: Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2

Cakebread: We tried all manner of weird fractal stuff in the background, but it was just way too over the top, you couldn't see what the hell was going on. We tried crop circles.

Howard: At the same time it was great, because at the same time were playing the game, playing the game, playing the game and honing it.

How do you balance graphical effects with not distracting from the gameplay?

Howard: If you look, we're not just randomly putting colors up. We're playing with a color wheel, bringing colors out that contrast the colors on the screen. As intense as it will get, if you keep a focus on your ship it'll never get lost. We do that with little subtle things with the color.

What from the Geometry Wars 1 feedback really stuck out to you and guided what you wanted to do with Geo Wars 2?

Cakebread: From my point of view, it was reading the guides people had made that would tell people how to play. People would say just go in circles following the edge of the arena, and that was a bit boring. When you play the game the way you expect people to play, but that isn't necessarily how they're going to play it. For the sequel, I wanted it to be more optimal for people to play it the way I wanted to play it, which is where the geoms and positional bad guys came in, to try to force people to play a bit more aggressively, taking more chances.

Howard: The geoms were also so a wide range of people to be able to pick up and play it, I wanted my brother and dad to enjoy the game and not feel intimidated by the difficulty level. With the geoms you can quite quickly have some decent scores.

What was the process of developing some of the new modes?

Cakebread: We went through several iterations of what we wanted the game to play like. We were trying to come up with game modes that were still Geometry Wars but had something else. We can really only do something to the way you're moving or do something to the way you're firing. Making it so you can't move isn't very fun, so we made restrictions about where you could fire and that's really where modes like Pacifism and King came from.

What about the timed mode, Deadline? Was that in any way inspired by the timed mode in Pac-Man: Championship Edition?

Cakebread: I've played Pac-Man and I do think it's really good, but where the timed mode came from was a request our managing director for a mode his son could play (laughs).

The problem is, say you're passing the controller around. If you're really good at the game, you could play for 10 minutes. If you're really bad at the game, you could play for 10 seconds. We wanted a mode which everyone could have a similar amount of time playing it. It's also a really good thing if you want to compete for a high score it's quite and achieveable mode.

I'd think that balancing would have been the toughest thing to nail. Is that something you can really perfect, or do you just have to reach a point where you decide it's finished?

Howard: We got to a point where we were happy with it, and you just have to get to a point where you say enough's enough. We got to a point where internally we had a lot of people playing it and the feedback we were getting was so positive we knew "Yeah, OK, it's time to stop now." I'm sure there are little niggles that we buggered up that no one but us will ever care about.

How difficult is it to work and balance the game and not get distracted by just playing the game?

Howard: You have to accept it. If you end up on one of those three hour sessions, you have to think "What bothered me over those three hours? How do I feel now?" It's very rare when you've been working on a game for as long as we have, that you still pick up the joypad. But we're happy we've achieved that.

Cakebread: And if you do start doing well, somebody's bound to come over and start watching. I find it quite difficult to play it and not get distracted by analyzing it.

Any super secret protips you can share?

Cakebread: Obviouisly, get as many geoms as you can, especially at the start of the game. It's really important to pick up geoms all the way through, but it becomes less important during the game. Also ensure that you use gates properly and try to get as many enemies.

Also, each level in Sequence has a way you can just get through it and a way you can score a lot more points. I tried to design that into every level so there's a less obvious way of completing the level that will give you a hell of a lot more points.

Howard: Go between the modes. Because things you learn in some modes will help make you a well rounded player.

Any plans for other arcade-style games you'd like to do?

Craig: We're definately thinking of other titles. We like this style of game, there are ideas that we've got, not just Geometry Wars. Yeah, you know, we're big fans of this style, so we definitely talk about things.

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