When you crash-land on an alien planet, you find yourself alone and in constant danger. Everything on this planet seems focused on killing you, but you have no choice but to explore and stay alive. Sounds a bit like Metroid, doesn't it? It's actually the premise behind a new indie PC game called Capsized. But while the game looks and sounds like yet another Metroidvania-esque adventure, it's actually something quite different, with a big focus on frantic, strategic combat heavily influenced by first-person shooters.
Capsized was developed by just two people, artist Jesse McGibney and programmer Lee Vermeulen, who together form Alientrap Games. Though the two grew up together, development was actually done remotely, with McGibney in Toronto and Vermeulen in Saskatoon. The title began life as a school project back in 2009, but development slowed as the pair transitioned into full-time careers. Then, six months ago, they quit their jobs to focus entirely on finishing up the game.
"We actually had all the levels in about a year ago, you could play from beginning to end, so this past year has entirely been about polishing and playtesting," Vermeulen told Ars. Despite the immense amount of work involved with such a small team, Vermeulen believes that two just might be the magic number when it comes to indie projects.
"It keeps things simple and each person has their own focus—the game really has Jesse's style to it and I don't think it would have been like that if we had another artist on the team," he explained. "Having a single programmer also means no overhead—we never really had design docs or scheduled milestones, we both just knew what needed to be done."
The game itself is surprising. The lavishly illustrated world feels vibrant and alive, and you never really get that sense of isolation that you would in a Metroid game. That's mainly because at almost every moment something is trying to kill you: charging at you from afar or swooping in from the sky. This puts an intense focus on combat, and while it takes some getting used to, fighting enemies in Capsized is incredibly fun.
Not only is there a large variety to the types of creatures you'll be battling it out with, but you also have lots of options when it comes to figuring out how best to dispose of them. A large assortment of weapons, a grappling beam that can throw objects around, and even a rocket pack with limited amounts of fuel. This makes virtually every skirmish feel unique, and invites experimentation. It also makes Capsized feel very different from your standard 2D platformer, which is kind of the point.
"The 'twitch' style gameplay of arcade type games such as the Quake games were the main inspiration," Vermeulen told Ars. "We wanted to have that same focus on movement and quick thinking applied to a platform game."
This has led to somewhat of a disconnect between player expectations and the reality of the game. Though Vermeulen and McGibney were trying to attract a different crowd, some players went into the experience expecting a very Metroid-like experience.
"A few people were disappointed that we didn't take a more Metroidvania route with the game, but besides that everyone really understood the focus on movement and was able to master the controls very quickly, and have a lot of fun going through the levels," Vermeulen said. "I think the setting gave the wrong idea to specific players, but we tried to say with our marketing that the focus of the game was action and skilled movement, rather than traditional Metroid-style exploration and RPG elements.
"We wanted to draw the first-person shooter crowd, which is hard to do when developing a platformer."
The game is currently available on Steam, and though he wouldn't reveal any specifics, Vermeulen did say that other platforms are "in the works."
Source: Capsized: a beautiful 2D side-scroller for the FPS crowd
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