EarthNight is a love letter to classic platform games from yesteryear with hand-painted dragons and endless running. We spoke to Cleaversoft’s Rich Siegel to find out more.
Hi Rich, thanks for talking to us! Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into developing games and your studio?
I’ve been a die hard gamer since I got a Nintendo for my 5th birthday in 1990. After college I started out working on websites and apps and then got a little too ambitious and made the jump to a fully fledged video game with EarthNight. Cleaversoft is myself, Rich Siegel, Paul Davey (Mattahan) who paints everything in EarthNight and Paul Weinstein (Chipocrite), Philly’s best chiptunes musician. The three of us live in or around Philadelphia. The rest of the team is scattered across the world. The EarthNight team has a core 4 who work full time (myself, Jason Griffith, Mark Bradshaw & Paul Davey) and 4 part-time contributors, Zach Cohen (2d animation), Alberto Tirado (3D Animation), Chipocrite (Music) and Doug Holder (Visual FX). We’re also starting to work with Kevin VanOrd of Gamespot to help me with the level design.
Your upcoming game is called EarthNight. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
EarthNight is hand painted dragon apocalypse love letter to classic 2d platformers of the past. Dragons have taken over the Earth and the final remaining humans are in space orbiting the planet as refugees. Our outraged heroes Stanley and Sydney decide to skydive to the planet’s surface, taking out as many dragons as they can on their way. Using what I’m calling “hand designed procedural generation” every run you take will be unique but still feel meticulously hand designed. Your path to EarthNight will always be different and riddled with danger.
What was the inspiration for the game?
I saw a lot of these casual runner platforming games on mobile become very popular and bring in a whole new group of players who had never played platformers before. My issue with them is they lack depth and hardcore gamers wouldn’t consider them well designed. I set out to make the best runner game ever made incorporating the depth of design you’d expect from a console game. The goal is to make a game that casual players can enjoy and hardcore gamers can play forever. The other inspiration was Mattahan’s art. I wanted to make a game that would bring to life Mattahan’s weird and wild worlds from his paintings of the past. One of our goals at the outset was to make sure that every moment of EarthNight looked like a work of art. [IMG]
What gameplay will gamers encounter as they play through EarthNight?
The game alternates between running on the backs of dragons and skydiving through a sea of them. The running sections are frantic, fast-paced and filled with danger, while the skydiving sections serve as a living level select, and a break from the action. Stanley is a good pick for beginners given his simpler control scheme. Sydney is for experts, with a less intuitive — but ultimately more rewarding — control scheme.
Players will also pick up items that will change their movement and how they can interact with the environment. Our item count is at 23 right now, not too few but also not so overwhelming like Binding of Issac with its hundreds of items. EarthNight’s controls may feel simple at first but it will take time and dedication to master them to reach the planet’s surface. The difference between a beginner and expert is a wide chasm.
What made you want to bring the game to the Vita? Will you be using any of the Vita’s features to enhance the gameplay?
When we originally started making EarthNight we had handhelds in mind as it’s a great game to pick up and play for a quick run. As we got deeper into development we found we really loved to see all the art up on the big screen. The Vita’s screen, especially the OLED, does a great job of showcasing the art despite its small size.
Will there be any notable differences between the Vita version and the other versions?
I don’t believe so. The goal is to make the game the same across PS4 and Vita.
Has development started yet on the Vita version? How is it progressing?
We’re mostly focused on the PS4 version currently but we’ve been keeping the Vita’s limitations in mind as we go. For example, we have half size versions of all the art in the game in the project intended to use for the Vita version so we don’t blow up the system with our absurd amount of high quality 2d textures and sprites.
Will there be any cross buy/save with the PSN versions? Have you seen what Limited Run Games are doing and would you consider a physical version with them?
The plan is to do cross buy and save across PS4 & Vita. I love the idea of taking a run at EarthNight while you are out on your Vita and then coming home to play on the big screen and all of your progress is right there waiting for you. I do know of Limited Run Games although I don’t have any plans set up with them currently. I would certainly consider a physical release if it made sense.
What Vita games stand out for you? Is there anything you are looking forward to seeing?
Spelunky still stands out as my favourite game on Vita. Having Spelunky in my pocket at all times is my favourite feature of the Vita. Slain looks pretty sweet, Risk of Rain on the Vita would be fun, Hyper Light Drifter, Shiren the Wanderer. Lots of fun titles coming to the Vita.
Which Vita model do you think is better, the OLED or the Slim?
Its all about the OLED because the screen is so much higher quality. I’m happy to sacrifice a slightly larger size for screen quality any day.
We would like to thank Rich for his time talking to us. What do you make of EarthNight? We will bring you more news as we have it!
This article first appeared in the May issue of The Vita Lounge Magazine. Look out for more exclusive and magazine first content in the magazine soon!
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