Interviews// Suda51 on Travis Strikes Again

Posted 24 Apr 2018 09:24 by
Travis Strikes Again is the third game in the No More Heroes series that centres on the exploits of Travis Touchdown, an irreverent anti-hero who is very much aware that he is a video game character. Travis Strikes Again was on show at EGX Rezzed 2018 and Chris O'Regan, host of The Sausage Factory podcast, spoke to Suda51, the game's director at the show.

SPOnG: The No More Heroes Games are very self aware and enjoy breaking the fourth wall, why is this and how do you find writing for these titles?

Suda51: When I finished creating Killer 7 I started to work on No More Heroes and I shut out all outside influences. The reaction to Killer 7 helped me tap into that instinctual creativity and make something truly original. That is the essence of what No More Heroes is, it's the things that I think are fun and funny.

When I write for Travis, I feel his personality really comes alive as Travis likes to say things and from that the essence of his personality is his very strong sense of humour. So this has always been at the forefront and now we are coming back for the first time in a while and I feel that Travis is a character that goes beyond Travis Strikes Again itself and tries to speak directly to the players. So Travis has a conversation with the players and not just with other characters in the game.

SPOnG: Travis Strikes Again is very much a two-player co-operative game, to the point where special attacks and moves are reliant on both players working together, with one devastating attack only being triggered once both players have earned the right to fire it. How did that come about?

Suda51: Originally when we started developing Travis Strikes Again for the Switch, my idea was to have each player use a completely separate Joycon. But then Toru Hironaka, the Team Leader, who has been there since the original No More Heroes, has also made about 60% of the boss fights. He is a world-class game developer.

He came up with the idea of doing local two-player multiplayer but instead of using two separate Joycons, let's just have players use on half each because that seems more No More Heroes-esque. It's what people Travis would be using to play Travis Strikes Again because he likes to do the unexpected. I had a very set image as to how this is going to go into this game.

As far as the moves go, having two players activate their separate moves on their own isn't as necessarily as fun as giving them the ability to act together as a form of teamwork.

SPOnG: So much time has passed since the last No More Heroes game was released, what have you been inspired by over the years and how has this been drawn into Travis Strikes Again.

Suda51: The one thing that immediately comes to mind is the indie titles that have become greater over the past few years, especially one particular game, Hotline Miami. I think that is the biggest game in the last 10 years. The data in the game is so organised, there is nothing useless. All of the material shines and has its own purpose; it feels like a true action game in that regard. How fast you get to retry blew me away as well. I'm just so surprised that a game like that actually came out. So ever since I played that game, I really started focussing on indie games a lot more. They have influenced me a lot and that has been passed on to Travis Strikes Again.

SPOnG: The No More Heroes games always had that sense of weight when Travis hit enemies with his laser sword. How does that play out on the Switch?

Suda51: The one thing we noticed with the Joycons is that there are a smaller number of buttons on it than on the Wii. Because of that we had to make sure the skills are really easy to use so players can pick the Joycon and activate those skills. So the skill input is something we really worked hard on for Travis Strikes Again to make sure we got that right and we feel we have been successful based on recent responses. But the thing is we are still working on what is possible with the Joycons. One of thing I really want to take advantage of is the HD vibration; I have an idea but we're still designing it and getting it ready for Travis Strikes Again.

One last thing about the small size of the Joycons, I feel that I have managed to install a brand new camera system for the No More Heroes series. Travis Strikes Again moves away from No More Heroes 1 and 2 as I feel this new camera fits better with the small size of the Joycon.

SPOnG: With people now owning 50 inch TV screens, developers are wanting to place the HUDs of their games outside of the player's peripheral vision, causing them to fail as they do not know how much health they have and so on. How has Travis Strikes Again deal with issue with respect to the UI design?

Suda51: In order the understand the UI of Travis Strikes Again first you have to understand the Death Drive console, which is from the 1990's. I really wanted players to feel that they are playing games from that era. So obviously the visuals are going to help with that, but also I wanted to express this through the screen size. So instead of going for higher definition resolutions, I decided to go for the old fashioned 4:3 and with the excess we would fill up with the UI.

It has gone through several variations already and I am hoping we can make further improvements as we develop Travis Strikes Again. The main goal is to make the information easy to see so that players can understand how much health and power they have.

SPOnG: Travis is playing these old games that are somewhat similar to those released in the 1990's. How much fun have you had making these tributes without treating the source material with disrespect? Also, what aspect of games from that period have influenced the design of Travis Strikes Again?

Suda51: Vector scanning is something we have focussed on in Travis Strikes Again. That aspect of old videogames had an impact at a very early stage. When I saw that I felt American, I saw the future. As a child it was very vague in my mind but it left a mark on me as I could feel the grand size of this other country and all its entertainment. Then there was the Cold War between America and Russia and they do say video games came from the Cold War due to advancements in technology. So with the UI design we just spoke about we have polished the vector scan in that aspect as well.

So getting back to Travis Strikes Again and the history of games; I'm not just planning to focus on the fictional history of this Death Drive console, I want to follow the true history of games and let the player follow along and experience that and follow that as well. In Travis Strikes Again, Travis knows he is a videogame character as well. Travis has been sucked into this console so he is very self aware and I think it's going to be fun to have Travis speak to these other videogame characters and have them clash. Up until now No More Heroes games concern assassin vs. assassin, now it's going to be videogame character vs. videogame character.

Do you know Jeff Minter? He has a mysterious persona. Have you see Polybius? The name of the game is the same as a mythical arcade game that was only available in America and all of a sudden they took it away. What's the story there? Why did they do that? Now Jeff Minter has made a game with the same name; it's as if the past cannot deal with the present. This has been a big influence on Travis Strikes Again.

SPOnG: How do you think the balance of storytelling and an arcade game that is infused within Travis Strikes Again does not dilute either aspect of the game?

Suda51: In terms of design, the one thing you just said in your last question really resonated with me. I think it's very important to celebrate the player. It's something I try to put into my games; there's different ways of celebrating. Like when I was playing games as a kid, there are two games that come to mind: Crazy Climber and Elevator Action. When you finish Elevator Action the player gets into a red sports car and races off; it's like a little reward for the player. In Crazy Climber the player floats away in a balloon. So it's not just the game play cycle repeating itself, you get some reward.

SPOnG: What can we expect from Travis Strikes Again when playing on your own rather than a multiplayer couch play?

Suda51: Well as far as the story goes I'm going to have to write for three patterns. One for Travis only, one for when Travis is with Badman and the other with Badman only. As far as gameplay, we are hoping that the AI controlled second character replicates the two-player experience.

SPOnG: Thank you very much for your time!

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