Q&As// Space Giraffe Creator: Jeff Minter - Part 1

It is sort of the anti-Tempest

Posted 26 Apr 2007 13:36 by
SPOnG: The action shooter genre that Space Giraffe adopts is similar to some of your past work, particularly Tempest 2000. In what ways, aside from obvious graphical differences, do the two titles differ?

Jeff Minter: It looks like T2K, partly because I think if people remember me for anything it's probably T2K, which was much liked on the Jaguar and also the beginning of my integration of light-synth and game stuff as noted previously. So, my T2K stuff was the starting point, but I didn't want to be constrained by making "just another Tempest" so the actual gameplay is quite different.

If you play it just as a Tempest game you'll end up on the wrong side of the score dichotomy I just mentioned. All the major techniques that you use to score would either be suicide in Tempest or simply don't exist. In a way SG is the "anti-Tempest" when played properly. In Tempest stuff getting up to the rim of the web is very bad news indeed, whereas in SG you want that to happen; you want to gather as much stuff as you can up there for the "bulling attack" that is unique to SG and the only way of raising your bonus multiplier.

Tempest is more about pure survival, whereas SG is more about risk/reward and really encouraging bold, aggressive yet strategic play. You can throttle back to a pure survival style of play when you need to, but it's not as satisfying as really kicking into an excellent scoring run. Plus there is something excellently visceral about bulling off a great herd of enemies and seeing the bonus multiplier crank up. It feels a lot more "physical" than just shooting stuff from far away. There's a little bit of rumble at that time as well, which is just right and adds to the "physicality" of the bull attack.

SPOnG: What sorts of enemies and special effects can we expect to see in Space Giraffe?

Jeff Minter: The enemies are quite simple - each one tends to come in two flavours, passive and aggressive. The basic pattern is that new enemies are introduced every 16 levels, passive ones at first then aggressive ones towards the end of the 16-level chunk. As the game goes on obviously there are more enemies to mix and match, and it ends up being satisfyingly hectic in the higher levels, but never arbitrarily so. It is always possible to learn a level and read it clearly even if there is loads of stuff going on.

As for enemy types, there are the Grunts, which are simple and dumb, a bit like Tempest Flippers but really seldom ever a danger to the player - in fact they are pretty much there as "scoring fodder" for the player and it is good technique to "farm" them as much as possible on the top rim of the play surface to set up high scoring bulling runs. Then there are Flowers that grow up and obstruct lanes, and can grow out over the rim of the level itself sometimes, but which are also useful to the player as a renewable resource for getting Power Zone energy.

There are Feedback Monsters, which cause intense visual disturbances in the playfield when shot; and Rotors, which can spin the entire playfield around. There's more stuff too but I won't give away all the details now. All the baddies have different attack modes and parameters that can be changed as gameplay progresses so as to yield an increasing challenge.

As for effects, every level is an elaborate special effect really [smiles devilishly]. You're playing a game actually inside the Neon engine after all. Some levels like ?Wrong Pill? with its distorted perspective and flared-out feedback bring that to the fore and use it as part of the level's difficulty, whereas in other levels it's more chilled-out and just part of the ambient beauty. The act of playing should be beautiful in and of itself, and so the in-game effects try and reflect this, and you've got pretty particle explosions and stuff; even dying is pretty, like fireworks going off. And the transitions between levels are just purely lovely. I want each SG level to be its own visual treat.
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