Wearing their love of '90s first-person shooters proudly on their sleeve, the team at Pixel Titans are making sure Strafe pays homage to the classics like Quake and Doom without being slaves to outdated design.
“We aren’t trying to recreate that look exactly; we do put in some real-time lights and add some crazy physics,” explains Lead Programmer and company Co-Founder Stephen Raney. “It has some of the great modern amenities of new games, but also keeps some of the great stuff from the old fast-paced shooters.”
For example, remember when classic shooters made you carry a tonne of different weapons? Or how you saved up those precious rockets and never used the launcher? Strafe does. So, to counter that, you can start with one of three primary weapons, including an automatic rifle, a shotgun and a railgun. Then after that you’ll rely on just one additional weapon you can find within the game.
The catch is these extra guns are always found low on ammo and you can’t pick up extra rounds. It’s a way of subtly encouraging players to actually use these weapons then toss them and find another instead of hording them for a later fight.
Something you do want to hold onto is scrap metal. Strafe’s very basic plot involves you being a scrapper: someone who searches planets for any kind of valuable junk. Scrap can be found hidden around the level, or by killing enemies, and is used at crafting stations to make items like armour or to produce credits. Credits can be used at the merchant shops to buy abilities like double-jump or speed boosts.
Another update to the classic formula is Strafe is both a roguelike, meaning you get one life before it’s game over, and procedurally generated levels. In order to keep the game logical and flowing, the developers have made a number of handcrafted pieces that will be randomly stuck together on each play-through, but I assure you my multiple test sessions all felt very different.
The big question is: how does it play? And the answer is it’s as tight as the original Quake, but it felt even more unforgiving. I kind of forgot how, back then, enemies weren’t looking for cover or working together, they just want you dead. The golden rule of survival in Strafe is to just keep moving.
Another half-step out of the '90s planned for Strafe is Oculus Rift support, but a console release, online co-op, and supporting HTC Vive are things the team won’t commit to at this stage.
“Our team is small,” says Director and company Co-Founder Thom Glunt, “so although there’s a lot of cool things we want to put in it, there’s always the concern that that’ll come at the expense of us finishing the things we want to put in it.”
For now, their focus is on getting Strafe out and into the hands of gamers who need to get their simple, blocky first-person-shooter fix with all the modern trimmings.
STRAFE HAS SOME OF THE GREAT MODERN AMENITIES OF NEW GAMES, BUT KEEPS STUFF FROM OLDSCHOOL SHOOTERS
DEVELOPER PUBLISHER PLATFORM RELEASE DATE Pixel Titans Devolver PC, Mac TBA 2017
Navigation is easy: avoid rooms filled with loads of bloody corpses