We’ve accosted indie developer Derek Yu, creator of Aquaria – which we covered extensively in the past – for a chat on his new creation, Spelunky, a unique blend of the replayability of roguelikes and the immediacy of platformers. All this goes well together with our review on the game this month too.
Q. Spelunky is the first of its kind. A roguelike platformer based on reflexes. Do you think it is going to pick up as a genre?
Derek. It might! I certainly think there’s a lot more you could do with the idea. For example, Spelunky is meant to be played in short sessions, but there’s no reason you couldn’t make a platformer that was more akin to ADOM or Dwarf Fortress.
Q. Where did the idea for Spelunky come from? Were you simply a fan of both roguelikes and platformers?
Derek. I am a fan of both. Actually, I was working on a couple of prototypes when I came up with Spelunky – one was a platformer, and one was a roguelike! So I was doing a lot of thinking about those two genres. It was a very natural progression.
Q. Were you overwhelmed by the response to Spelunky?
Derek. I was. I’m always a bit overwhelmed by the response to my work.
Not that I don’t secretly hope that people enjoy my games, but by the time I’m finished with a project, I’m mostly just happy for myself, that I managed to reach the end.
With Spelunky, I knew I liked it, I knew the beta testers were enjoying it, and I knew that I had a good time working on it, so that’s what I concentrated on. I felt like there was a lot of potential for the idea, but I didn’t think it would be this popular!
It’s given me a lot to think about regarding the choices I made in making the game.
Q. How are the levels randomly generated?
Derek. Each level is actually made of a series of rooms, and I have some simple algorithms that determine what type of room is generated where.
There’s always a “path” from the start to the exit – certain rooms are flagged so that they are traversable along the path. The treasure, items, enemies, and traps are all added afterwards.
Q. Are there things you learned from Aquaria that you applied in Spelunky?
Derek. Every project you finish, big or small, makes the next project easier – it’s not just the knowledge you gain, but also the confidence. Aquaria and Spelunky are very different projects, both in terms of game design and actual production. Whereas Aquaria was a very serious project that I was working on with Alec to make a living, Spelunky was just something I wanted to do for my own satisfaction.
It’s fun to work on games with other people and it’s the only way to create games of a certain scope… but there’s also something really nice about owning an idea yourself. They’re both very worthwhile experiences to have.
Q. Why did you decide to go with the retro graphics?
Derek. It seemed appropriate for the game. I also hadn’t done any low-res pixel art in a while!
Q. What was it like working in Game Maker?
Derek. It was really good. Of course, like any software, Game Maker has its own personality – there were some things I thought I could work with that I found out I had to work around. Thankfully, most of my questions have already been answered by the very extensive and friendly community around it. I also had a lot of help from people on The Independent Gaming Forums. Overall, it’s a great tool, and I plan on using it for my freeware projects in the future.
Q. Do you have any games in the pipeline? What’s in the store for the future?
Derek. I’ve got a lot of ideas, many of which are in the beginning stages of conception. Unfortunately, it’ll be a couple of months before I can tell which one I’ll be working on fulltime. I can say pretty certainly that even though I’m still very interested in doing freeware, my next project will be commercial. And working on Aquaria and Spelunky has given me a better idea of what kind of games I want to make… I’d really like to push myself this year!
Q. Any final thoughts?
Derek. Let’s just keep inspiring one another!