Luftrausers creator Vlambeer talks about pixel-art fighter jets and being an indie dev on Vita

'The next Minecraft-like hit is going to be launched on PlayStation'

Luftrausers creator Vlambeer talks about pixel-art fighter jets and being an indie dev on Vita
| Luftrausers

Later this summer, tense arcade dogfighter Luftrausers will bolster the Vita's already-impressive catalogue of indie titles.

In Vlambeer's dogfighting game, you take command of a high-velocity fighter craft against the backdrop of almost-Game Boy-esque monochrome environments.

After having briefly gone hands-on with the game, I spoke with Rami Ismail, one half of Dutch independent studio Vlambeer, to chat about his upcoming game.

He spoke to me about the importance of making you feel cool, plane customisations, the reason Luftrausers is unlikely to be ported to mobiles, and Vlambeer's future handheld plans.

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Pocket Gamer: For those not in the know, what is Luftrausers?

Rami Ismail: Luftrausers is a 2D dogfighting game where you try to become the best fighter pilot in the world. We will release it on PC, Mac, Linux, PS Vita, and PlayStation 3.

It's based on the 2-year-old Flash game Luftrauser. We decided to polish and upgrade the original game and turn it into a full-fledged console release.

Compared to the original Flash game, then, what additional content is there in this forthcoming Vita release?

It's not so much a case of additional content - it's a completely different game. While the core of it is still the same, everything has been redone from scratch. The goal here was to make a version of Luftrauser fit for a full-blown console.

The most important change is that you can now build your own Rauser. There are 125 possible combinations. Some Rausers allow you to fly underwater, some allow you to fly through enemies. You can even fire giant balls of molten lead. To top it off, every combination has its own name and its own soundtrack.

Luftrausers also has a combo meter, which forces you to act more strategically with regards to destroying everything. While it doesn't really affect your general flying around, it's definitely something you'll want to master if you want to complete the game.

When you've talked about Luftrausers publicly, one of the key messages you've tried to convey is that you want the player to feel like the "coolest pilot". How do you try to achieve this?

Now we're talking.

That's one of the things we always care about in our games - the 'feel' of things. To try and make people feel that way, we spent infinite amounts of time on barely noticeable effects.

That feeling comes from the way a jet crashes and bounces off of the water; the way your airplane falls after cutting the engine; the way the camera pans to always give you a view of the action.

A lot of these things cost us weeks to implement, tweak, and improve, but they're all really worth it.

The other obvious way in which we've tried to improve the feel of the game is through Kozilek's soundtrack and the audio design. Audio really is half of the feel of your game. The soundtrack is strong and far from subtle. It's about the best pilot in the world and there's not a doubt about it.

When you were first talking about Luftrausers, there was mention of it heading to mobiles, but now it's Vita only. Why the change of heart, especially when Ridiculous Fishing performed so well on iOS?

I can't remember ever saying something definitive about it heading to mobile, to tell you the truth. That's not to say we didn't try. Luftrausers just didn't work the way we wanted on touchscreens.

Money will never be the deciding factor in developing a game for a particular platform. Whether the game fits the platform and the context of that platform is.

Now, Luftrausers perfectly fits the context of mobile - short, quick rounds of gameplay - but it definitely doesn't jibe well with touchscreens. That's why it is heading to Vita: the controls are perfect.

For a team with so much critical acclaim, you're still relatively small in terms of staff numbers. What kind of dynamic does that create during the development process?

We're just two guys (Jan Willem Nijman is the other half of Vlambeer). We like it that way. If we disagree, we'll just have to argue until one of us makes a point that convinces the other person. It might take some time, but we feel we do make the best decisions that way.

What's your experience been like working with Sony?

If all business was like this, there'd be better and more games all around. Just because nobody would have to spend months negotiating a deal that shouldn't need months spent on it.

So, do you think Sony is really as committed to indie on Vita as it says it is?

I actually think Sony is as committed to indie as it says it is on ALL of its platforms.

Sony isn't investing in indie for any specific platform; it's investing in indie so that it'll have the widest variety of games available on its systems. You know, not just the blockbuster AAA games, but also the weird, experimental, and alternative content the indie scene can offer.

If Sony remains as committed to the indie scene as it currently is, the next Minecraft-like hit is going to be launched on PlayStation.

Are you planning on porting other titles from your back catalogue to handhelds or mobiles in the near future? Proteus is heading to Vita, I know, but I'd love to see your pixel-art FPS Yeti Hunter on the device, too...

No. We're definitely porting some of our upcoming games to handhelds, though.

Peter Willington
Peter Willington
Die hard Suda 51 fan and professed Cherry Coke addict, freelancer Peter Willington was initially set for a career in showbiz, training for half a decade to walk the boards. Realising that there's no money in acting, he decided instead to make his fortune in writing about video games. Peter never learns from his mistakes.