Our Interview with Pixel Reign
For those of you who visit our site regularly, you know that we have been tracking Robbie Swifthand and the Orb of Mysteries for quite some time. This game caught our eye for multiple reasons:
- The demo on GameJolt is incredibly fun
- The art style is unique and creative
- It brings out the best in the platformer genre
It is for these reasons that we decided to reach out to the two man design team of Angelos Gkamiliaris and Nick Larin for a sit down chat to learn more about the game. Nick is the Project Leader and Lead Developer of Robbie Swifthand and Angelos is the Growth Hacker and Business Administrator. Their partnership is incredibly complimentary as they both specialize in different areas of the development process and the business end of game design. Vicky Fysika is the musical genius behind Robbie Swifthand and she has managed to create an undeniable ambiance that really makes the game feel special. She is the Music Composer and Sound Designer, and while she did not take part in the interview, Nick and Angelos raved about her contributions and her integral role on the Pixel Reign team.
The game finally comes to Steam early access today (December 5, 2017) and we highly recommend it as an immediate add to your library.
The Developer: Pixel Reign
As mentioned, Pixel Reign is currently a three person studio that took on a significant project. Robbie Swifthand is not a platformer that was thrown together, it is a project that is finally coming to fruition after EIGHT years.
Nick, Angelos, and Vicky all have day jobs and yet they have all made tremendous sacrifices in order to see their shared passion make it’s way to Steam early acess. By day, they are just like everyone else. They get up, go to work at their respective full times jobs (working on games for other studios), then at night they come home and go to work for themselves.
Nick first had the idea for Robbie Swifthand and the Orb of Mysteries back in early 2009. The first version of the game can be found on GameJolt and it took Nick three months to put together. The decision to make this game the way he had always envisioned came from Nick wanting to work on something he had passion and excitement about. He set out to find a good team who were trustworthy and shared his passion. He found fairly quickly that it was hard to find people who were willing to work for free and also place large bets on someone else’s idea.
When Nick went to Angelos, he jumped at the opportunity. He felt Robbie Swifthand and the Orb of Mysteries was a simple concept, but had all the potential in the world to make it as big as they wanted.
Nick and Angelos had met 5 years prior on another project. They had remained friends and Nick knew that Angelos would share his passion for Robbie Swifthand and that he could trust him. Angelos was also in a position where he felt he could take on the risk, so the timing worked out well for them both.
And just like that, Pixel Reign was born! Nick handles all the major game design and artwork while Angelos designs the levels and handles the business and marketing end of things. The two of them decided very early on that they did not want to go for funding of any kind. They felt it was very important to maintain control of their shared vision and bring it to life they way they had intended. All the work done on Robbie Swifthand was completed in their spare time, using their own resources.
The Game: Robbie Swifthand and the Orb of Mysteries
We wanted a sneak peak at where the concept of the game came from. We asked Nick and Angelos who Robbie Swifthand the character is supposed to be. Is he bad? Is he good?
The answer: He’s a thief. Plain and simple. He is a thief who was summoned by a mysterious power simply because he possessed a skill set that deemed him worthy of completing a task. According to Angelos, “he’s a nihilist” and all he cares about is money. He doesn’t care about saving the world or even saving himself. Robbie Swifthand is all about the reward. Nothing more, nothing less.
The design of Robbie Swifthand was not heavily influenced by any one game or character. Comparisons have been drawn to Wario from the Mario universe (one of Nick’s favorite characters growing up), but another comparison was that of Rick Dangerous, a game in which Nick didn’t know existed until after those comparisons had been drawn.
The world of Robbie Swifthand and the level design is courtesy of Angelos, and he maintains that there really was no inspirational design whatsoever. They had a goal of creating a completely unique platformer, and by and large they have succeeded. The game does not follow any patterns, so you cannot master a level simply by solving a puzzle or memorizing trap locations set before you.
Alternatively, what Nick and Angelos have designed is an environment that is completely dependent and reactive based on Robbie’s interaction. All traps and pitfalls can clearly be identified so there is no memory mechanic needed. It is simply a hardcore platformer that requires you to methodically make your way through an obstacle course of pure pain.
Angelos got a kick out of making the levels challenging, while also making sure each level had a different feel to it on each play through. Ultimately, if you die, it’s on you (the gamer) for not seeing what was right in front of you. Pixel Reign accomplished what most platformers have not: finding enjoyment in the game — even in death.
While other (most) hardcore platformers make your blood boil when you die for the 100th time, Robbie Swifthand has another effect: laughter.
The fashion in which Robbie Swithand meets his maker time and time again provides hours of entertainment value. The level design was intended to be challenging, so death is imminent. The way you die, and the character’s reaction to that death, is what is funny. Whether you fall on the spikes right below you or mistime a jump and land right on top of the sword you intended to avoid, you will find comedy in your errors. While completing a level is a reward in itself, sometimes watching Robbie do a back flip after taking an axe to the head is equally satisfying.
While the overall level design and environment are incredibly intuitive, the actual objectives of each level are relatively straight forward:
- Get the orb
- Send the orb through the portal
- Safely exit the level
This is just yet another way Pixel Reign has taken the platformer concept and put their own spin on it at the benefit of the gamer. These three components allowed Pixel Reign to incorporate some puzzle elements since it isn’t only about getting from point “a” to point “z.” Secrets will also be a big part of the game. The choice of whether or not to challenge yourself to uncover these secrets are at the complete discretion of the gamer.
The secret feature is how Robbie Swifthand transcends the genre and has the unique ability to appease the gaming masses. If you are a completionist, then you will work to uncover all the secrets to enhance the overall enjoyment of the game. If you are someone who is ok with simply making it through the level so you can play the next level, then that works too. If you are someone who really loves to torture yourself, then you can thank Angelos for conceptualizing and introducing “Hell Mode.”
Nuggets and Tidbits
Certainly, Robbie Swifthand and the Orb of Mysteries possesses many attributes. All of these attributes are things which will help make the game a success and open it up to a wider audience. We have listed a few of these core features here to give you an idea of a few intricacies of the game.
- Power Ups: The game will progress along with the player
- Evolving worlds: Leverage your new skills to conquer the next world
- World bosses
- Hidden secrets
- Non linear play style
- Hell Mode: Yet even more ways for Robbie to meet his end
- A challenge for gamers of all skill sets
Hell Mode certainly stands out amongst these core features. Nick and Angelos explained that Hell Mode is intended to be accessible to everyone and that playing the game through on normal difficulty will help to better prepare gamers of all skill sets for the challenges of hell mode.
Over the last 4+ months that this game has been on GameJolt, it has become the number one platformer worldwide and earned a gamer review score of 4.7/5. Robbie Swifthand and the Orb of Mysteries is set up for big things, and if the game translates into monetary success, then the Pixel Reign team is committed to making more content to enhance and add to the game.
The eight year journey for Robbie Swifthand has been a long one, and now the initial release date is here. So what does Pixel Reign have to say about their journey?
“We want to care ONLY about making a good game.” – Angelos
“I just want to say to every gamer out there, we love you guys! That’s why we’re making this. That’s why we’re spending 10,000 hours in front of our computer writing code lines.” – Nick
It took a lot of courage for the Pixel Reign team to develop Robbie Swifthand with their own personal funds. In a world where crowdfunding reigns supreme, Pixel Reign took a chance on themselves.
While we don’t yet know what will happen, we hope Robbie Swifthand sees enough success where Pixel Reign will become a fully established studio and make games for our enjoyment for many years to come.
Developer: Pixel Reign
- Steam: Robbie Swifthand and the Orb of Mysteries
- Twitter: @PixelReign
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PixelReign
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