Band Saga is a new game we caught wind of through composer Laura Shigihara, who we recently interviewed about her own upcoming game Rakuen on Super Beard Bros. She also appears on the soundtrack of this game, and was happy to get us in touch with Roger Hicks, the one-man alter ego of game developer Rekcahdam, who agreed to an email interview with our very own Sunder to talk about Kickstarting this exciting new music-based action rogue like, where all of the melodies and sounds are synthesized in real time as you play. As always these interviews are posted completely unedited. Enjoy!
The basic formula is that players will travel from city to city to play their next live show and collect band members along the way. But, before reaching their next gig, they are side tracked and caught up in an intergalactic catastrophe! One of the band members is captured and the player must save them in time for the next gig! While saving their band members the player will notice that the music evolves every time they travel to a new room. And they will also begin to realize that the music is affecting the level and that they can edit that music themselves if they choose! After saving their band members the player can now travel safely to the next gig!I guess you can say that it’s kind of like the Scooby Doo, monster of the week, formula but it builds up and comes together as a coherent story!
The ‘Roguelike’ subgenre of games has seen a ton of titles in the past few years (The Binding of Isaac, Risk of Rain, and Rogue Legacy, just to name a few) and there have definitely been a lot of different takes on what Roguelike games can do. Many boast tough-as-nails difficulty and hours of replayability as their strong points. What sets Band Saga apart from others in the genre?Band Saga is definitely sports the same difficulty and hours of gameplay as the other games you’ve mentioned do but it draws its replayability from something different entirely. Players are given the ability to create their own levels by creating their own soundtrack (or editing the default soundtrack) and sharing it with their friends. Their friends can play those levels and listen to the music as well. And some people may even decide to use Band Saga as a tool for creating music since it allows you to export to midi and wav formats. These are things that not only set Band Saga apart from most roguelikes but most games in general!
The idea of composing my own soundtrack for the game sounds simultaneously fantastic and daunting. How extensive is the player’s ability to customize the music? How much of an effect does it have on the gameplay?
Band Saga has a default soundtrack that is designed to generate a specific level for each city/gig. So players actually don’t have to edit or make their own soundtracks in the game at all! They can play through the game’s original soundtrack without editing or creating their own songs. But, along the way, players are slowly taught the rules as to how to modify and create their own soundtracks and levels. And, they will find that its not as daunting as they thought. Band Saga doesn’t care what your music sounds like or which notes you place into the sequencer. It only matters WHERE you place the notes on the sequencer’s grid. The sequencers grid has a 1 to 1 relationship with the level layout. So placing notes on the sequencer will place something in that spot in the level!Depending on where you place the note it might affect how many enemies spawn, what enemies are spawned , what power ups and weapons appear, which doors are placed on certain walls, where obstacles are placed, the shape of the level, the color of the level, where bosses are placed in the level and more! Of course, while playing the levels, you only have limited control over what you can change due to the fact that you have to collect “note powerups” in order to modify the music/level. So if you collect 4 note powerups you can modify the music/level in 4 different ways.
So needless to say, this can greatly affect the gameplay.
What sort of musical background do you have? Any artists, composers, or producers that have really influenced you?
I’ve been drumming since the age of 7 in many churches. So most of my background comes from gospel music. But, gospel music is influenced by almost ever genre of music you can think of. So I’m pretty much influenced by all types of music. As far as mainstream, I’ve been heavily influenced by the Deftones. Their sound is very aggressive yet relaxing at the same time. My favorite video game composer is Norio Hanzawa who wrote music for Gunstar Heroes, Mischief Makers and Bangai-O.
Norio Hanzawa’s music is very chaotic but feels very triumphant at and chirpy at the same time. As you can see, I really like weird contrasts in music and games haha.
The aesthetic in both audio and visual have a distinct feel to them, it’s something very 90’s and radical. What are the main inspirations for these traits?
As a kid I really enjoyed the graphics and music of the 90’s era video games. I loved the SNES but I was a HUGE fan of the Sega Genesis. Sonic the Hedgehog, Vectorman, Gungstar Heroes, were all my favorites . They all had a very distinctive sound and look to them that felt magical to me. So I really wanted to try to recreate that magical feeling that I got as a kid. Hopefully I came pretty close to it.
What’s your ideal player experience for the game?
The ideal experience is for player to get a rush from completing each dungeon like area in Band Saga’s rogulike roots yet feel like a creator at the same time by modifying the music and level as they see fit. I want to encourage players to have their own way of playing and creating in the game.
I worked on Band Saga off and on between jobs and development was excruciatingly slow. I decided to take a break from my normal line of work and refocus my efforts on Band Saga. As my savings dwindled I quickly realized that I needed some funding if I was going to finish this project. Although roguelikes and sequencers are nothing new, combining both of these things is a very experimental and risky concept. Explaining the idea to publishers proved to be very tough or required me to give up a bit more than I was willing to. So I took a risk and tried kickstarter. Kickstarter is really tough but, if you can reach your goal, it’s definitely worth it!
Sometimes the transparency of developing through Kickstarter causes the developers to feel an added pressure from the audience and backers. What are your thoughts on this? Is this something you can relate to?
Yes, I definitely feel added pressure already. Normally I’m not as open about my development process because in order to make a good game, sometimes your ideas have to evolve or change. Making an announcement that something will exist as you’ve presented it is a scary feeling because this stunts the potential to improve or bring your game closer to your own vision . But I believe being transparent , in the end, makes you a stronger developer. So I welcome the challenge!
Is there anything else you’d like the readers to know about? Any closing thoughts?
FUND THE BAND SAGA KICKSTARTER!!! THE GAME WILL BE AWESOME! I PROMISE!…… That is all.
Find out more about Band Saga here.