We've been having trouble describing Everyday Shooter to gamers. Maybe you'll have a better way with words than us: how would you describe Everyday Shooter?
Everyday Shooter is like a music album, except instead of it being a collection of songs, it's a collection of shoot-em-ups. Each track/song/level is completely different visually, musically, and in terms of gameplay. You can see the screenshots to get a feel for the diversity in levels.
Each level focuses on a different chain reaction system that is not explicitly explained to the player. So with each playthrough, the player gains a sense of wonderment as they discover the nuances of each enemy and how they relate to form the greater chain reaction system. Although this gives a slight puzzle-y aspect to the game, make no mistake, this is a SHOOT-EM-UP, and not a puzzler.
One popular aspect of Everyday Shooter is the way it treats audio. All the sound effects in the game are guitar riffs harmonizing over an all guitar soundtrack. Bigger reactions causes bigger riffs to play. Thus you'll feel as if you're playing along with the music, except that your intstrument is the shoot-em-up!
How did Everyday Shooter begin? The first time I heard of it, it was winning awards at GDC.
Back in Spring 2005, I started working on a new game which I thought would provide maximum replayability through ingenious game design. Of course, the design was crap, and that project went nowhere. At that point, I realized that I had never made a game I was truly proud of, so I set out to make a tight, simple little game that I could be proud of. For me, that meant the shoot-em-up. At the time, I was also obsessed with Every Extend for it's chain reaction gameplay, and Lumines for it's album-y feel, and so those ideas eventually worked their way into the pot. By October 2005, the game officially became Everyday Shooter.
People have been comparing Everyday Shooter to games by Tetsuya Mizuguchi. Do you think that's a fair comparison?
Well, maybe, but probably not to Mizuguchi! Rez is such an awesome piece of work that it's hard for me to see Everyday Shooter existing on the same plane.
A lot of the comparisons come from how both incorporate music into the game. Contemporary music games such as Guitar Hero treat music as a form of enemy: if you cannot play the music then you lose the game. However, in Rez and Everyday Shooter, music is treated as a form of reaction: as you play the game, music will occur. But even with this similarity, both Rez and ES diverge. Rez is dance music oriented, so the musical reactions are fairly calculated, on the beat, and rhythmic. ES on the other hand is the opposite. Since the game is not beat-aware, riffs can sound at any time. It can sound on the beat, off the beat, 137 ms after beat 3, etc. Yet despite the seemingly random mess that might occur, it is not random at all because there are rules to gameplay, and because riffs play in response to gameplay -- there is an order to it.
Essentially, the idea is that you can go anywhere in the world and there will be a sort of music playing. That is, sounds occur and there is a loose order to them. For example, in downtown traffic, you might hear a lot of honking, the cars accelerating and decelerating, perhaps the bell of a streetcar, etc. But the frequency and the timing you hear these things are not random. There are very loose rules that govern when things occur. For example, honking occurs when people get angry, cars accelerate on green light, decelerate on red light, streetcars ding their bell as they cross intersections, etc. So just like how this soundscape is not truly random, so is the soundscape in Everyday Shooter not truly random. There are loose rules such as the frequency of enemies appearing, when they appear, how many shots it takes to destroy the enemy, etc.
So while Rez and Everyday Shooter are both music-reaction games, they both realize the idea in completely opposite ways. Rez is with a strict order, Everyday Shooter is with a loose order.
What went into creating the music for the game? Did you just start strumming on your guitar, or was there a more methodical method to the music design?
The only real method was trusting in what I talked about in the last question. That even when you think there aren't rules, there are rules. After that, then it was just playing whatever I liked. At the time, I was very much into indie rock, so everything has that sort of characteristic to it.
When creating the sounds/riffs, usually high-frequency events play shorter/quieter riffs while big events like a huge chain will play longer/loader sounds. The sounds also have to be chosen to work harmoniously with the background guitar track.
When did Sony contact you about developing for the PLAYSTATION Network?
Shortly after GDC. My agent, Warren Currell, just called me up and said "pack your bags, we're gonna meet Sony."
Sony's been differentiating themselves from the competition by going after "artsy" games for the PSN. What do you think of Sony's approach to downloadable games?
What differentiates them for me isn't the games that they're going after, it's the way they're going after them. Other publishers take a purely business approach to game making which leads to copy-cat, feature-oriented products built on market analysis and the suffocation of talent and creativity. It seems that Sony, or at least the Santa Monica studio, understands that games are not mere products of commodity, but works of expression and personality. From my point of view, this understanding leads to the ideal relationship between game maker and publisher. The game maker is given space to be creative, and the publisher is given an excellent game to market.
But if the artist genuinely wishes to open a dialog with the audience, then for sure that artist will make all attempts to increase the accessibility of the work, including making it easy and desirable to experience. Because there is a close relationship between accessibility and saleability, then of course the artist will make something that is marketable. And if the artist can do it on his/her own terms, then the final work will be the best he/she can make it. Thus in the end, the publisher ends up with an excellent work to market, the game maker makes the game he/she truly wanted to make, and the audience/consumer is given an awesome game to play. Everybody wins!
I think it is this point that differentiates Sony from the rest of the publishers out there.
How is programming for the PS3? Has it been difficult rebuilding the game from PC to the console?
Technically speaking it's been relatively easy. There were several parts in my code that I had to change because it wasn't being very nice to the PS3. One of the harder parts was porting the gameplay from regular 4:3 format to 16:9 widescreen format. This was not as trivial as adding more enemies because that would completely upset the gameplay balance. In the end I think I've devised a few simple tweaks so that playing in 16:9 and 4:3 is nearly an identical experience.
Is partnering with Sony something you'd consider again in the future?
If they continue to give me the freedom and space to do my thing then absolutely.
How does the superstar status of becoming a published game developer feel? What's the future of Jon Mak?
Superstar status!? Ha! Uhh, it feels tiring? Putting out a game is a lot of work and so the future of Jon Mak is a pillow, a bed, and lots of sleep.
Finally, did Sony ever give you that PS3 they said they would?
They did! And a PSP with Loco Roco too! So I had to violate my no-game diet for a day, but I dunno, it's hard for me to play games right now since it makes me feel guilty for not working on ES. I really just want to finish the game already. Oh, and I got the 60 GB model, which is actually the one I wanted.
Is there a set release window for Everyday Shooter yet?
Not sure, but at E3 we kept saying late summer early fall. I'm working as hard as I can!
We want to thank Jon Mak for taking the time out of his schedule to speak with us. Keep your eyes peeled for Everyday Shooter: you don't want to miss this one when it comes out on the PSN later this year.
Gallery: Everyday Shooter