Ten years ago, Gryzor was working on a series of shooting games, the « YX » series, whose culminating point was the prototype XYX, which was released via forums and Gryzor’s blog. It was an exciting project, which felt like a complete game and even included a level editor (though unifinished). And this project gave birth to a Neo Geo project, Neo XYX released by NGDev Team, and a latter Dreamcast version of Neo XYX… But what happened to the original XYX ? And to Gryzor’s vision of the game ? We very well may have never known… Until today, because lo and behold! Super XYX is about to be released!! Will it be a director’s cut closer to Gryzor’s original vision ? A brand new game ? A little of both ? You’ll know everything and more in this extensive interview! Enjoy!
NB : Since Gryzor changed his name to Rozyrg, maybe because there was enough Gryzors in the independant shmup scene, or for a completely different reason, we’ll then use his new pseudonym. So let’s interview Rozyrg!
– Could you tell us briefly about you career in video game programming ? What were the first games you worked on ? Solo or in other teams ? When did you join the Team Grybanser Fox ?
I couldn’t even figure out BASIC as a kid and I was never any good at math, so programming seemed like something I’d never get anywhere with. What really got me going was making mini-shmups in the Wii game Blast Works back in 2008. Just realizing I was able to dedicate days and weeks to a project and see it through was enough to push my confidence and ambition. Soon after, I was toying around in Game Maker and doing actual coding!
Up to joining Grybanser Fox, I worked mostly alone; but with a LOT of help and feedback from people on the system11 shmups forum. Nearly everyone I’ve collaborated with I first met there,including Timm from NGDevTeam.
That’s also where I met Kaiser (NB : Kaiser is one of the aliases of Jack Darx, whom we interviewed a little earlier) years back on the shmups forum and BPzeBanshee before even then, so when they teamed up to publish stuff on Steam, I was happy to join. I think Fire Arrow was near completion at that point – still having an all tracker soundtrack I couldn’t license and a bonus stage no one could reach! Fire Arrow X came about organically as I was building crossover content for one of Kaiser’s Zeno games: the giant multiform boss at the end was originally going to be exclusive to an extra mode I was helping make. At some point we just decided it’d be better for a Fire Arrow ‘sequel’ of sorts.
– What’s your main role in games creation (programming, art, music) ?
Basically everything except music. My first Game Maker project, ZpUltra originally had several of my crappy Garageband « songs » as its soundtrack. Once I found people willing to help with that, I didn’t worry about it. I’m used to foraging around for my own sound effects, too. I have a bunch of stock ones lying around that I’ve snipped and tweaked a dozen different ways; but I’ll also use SFXR (NB : also known as Dr Petter’s Sound Effect Generator, a free program that generates randomized sound effects) if I need something simpler. Not even being a sound guy primarily , I can relate to how tough that job is!
– What do you consider your main influences in your creations ? What are the shooting games you play the most ?
When I started, was playing lots of Toaplan stuff on Genesis/MD: Twin Cobra, Fire Shark and Truxton, also Super Star Soldier and Soldier Blade as well as Lords/Gate of Thunder. All of these are still some my favorites.
I play some more ‘modern’ shmups now and then; but not much about them really appeals to me beyond some of the flashy aesthetics. At some point I lost the ability to concentrate well enough to deal with super dense bullet patterns and every boss having multiple forms
I’ve been inspired by Llamasoft’s games (NB : Psychedelic game creator/shepherd Jeff Minter, the man behind Attack of the Mutant Camels (1983), Space Giraffe (2007) or the excellent Tempest-like TxK (2014), among other strange and psychedelic games) for years as well. I love Jeff Minter’s DIY approach and his games are just such solid proof that you can make something amazing with just a few simple ingredients and the will to pull it off.
Genesis of Super XYX
– You’d be impressed how much some of us frog eaters are expecting Super XYX!
We have tried XYX the 2011 prototype that appeared online around 2012 were very excited about the potential of the game. In 2013, Neo XYX was released for Neo-Geo/MVS system by NG Dev, and the next year, a Dreamcast version was released. Mighty beautiful but way too hard, the direction the game was developed seems to differ even from the original XYX prototype.
Could you tell us more about the genesis of this project ? One can figure out XYX is a solo project, part of your « YX » series. What about Neo XYX ? How come NGDevTeam has taken the Neo XYX version in hand ? To what extend have you participated to Neo XYX development ?
I had previously helped NGDevTeam with filling some of the last remaining content gaps in Gunlord. I made some cinema/cutscenes with the help of Timm’s brother Rene and filled out the horizontal shooter stage. I drew a handful of new enemy types (including some animations for them) and a very Alien-inspired boss – who was animated by another artist, although I tried my hand at it first anyways. This was literally the first time I was actually paid for working on any game project and it went relatively smoothly, so I was happy to work for them again.
The pitch for Neo was pretty much « hey you’ve got most of this other game finished, why not just take what you’ve got and polish it up and we can make it into a Neo Geo game? » Sounded good to me; but Timm is a perfectionist after my own heart in many ways, so it took longer than I expected and reaching the finish line was quite difficult! The background art was especially challenging as it’s kind of my weak spot artistically; but I think it’s definitely some of the best I’ve made for any game project.
As for the game itself, most of the differences came from the fact we worked separately – I have no way to play or test the game on my end and Timm of course gets final say on everything. He didn’t like the mixed sci-fi and fantasy elements, so the dragons become cyborgs, that sort of thing. We also pared down the ship selection from 6 to 2 (one extra for 2p) presumably just to save time. I had no say over difficulty/balance issues; but I might deserve some of the blame since the original PC version was used as a starting point for most enemy types.
– Was it hard to get the legal right to develop Super XYX ? Is it the reason why it comes almost ten years after the original prototype ?
As for permission, it was nothing more than a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that I had the go ahead on Super once Neo had been on the market for at least a year. I *wish* I could say that was what held things up so long!
Overall I really liked working with NGDev. We’ve worked on some other stuff that never quite came together – whether due to burnout on my end or not being able settle on things creatively; but I would happily work with them again. It always nice to have someone reliable to help pull some of the weight if nothing else.
Development of Super XYX
– Is Super XYX a personal project or is it a team effort ? How many people are working on the game ?
Super XYX was Kaiser‘s idea mostly – as something to work on after Fire Arrow X was completed as our next « big » game. I loathe wasting work, so I liked the idea of just finishing it rather than trying to reformulate into something else later. It was really just going to be us two – Kaiser as level designer – and whoever we could get for music (eventually going to Carina, since HeavyViper was busy with something else.) Eventually I just ended up doing the level design myself – more on that later.
– How far are you from your projection of the final version of the game ? The test versions are pretty solid and seem really close to completion. Do you intend to add more stuff (different modes, difficulties, other (hidden) ships…etc) ?
It’s pretty much all there content wise, except for some final bits of polish. At least one mode in now wasn’t even planned in advance. I’d like to open up the editor at some point so custom stages can easily be played in-game; but I need to work out some kinks first. If that even makes it in, it’s going to be post launch definitely.
– Could you tell us in what way the development of this specific game differs from your other creations ?
What makes Super unique is it started with an editor, which was originally built for a more modular Tyrian style shmup. I figured it would also help having one so someone else could make levels without rooting through the guts of my bad code. Less unique is that that fell through(it’s not very user friendly and lack basic functions for a LONG time) and I just had to make them myself.
– I had the pleasure to notice first hand there was a pretty massive betatest crew, and that you were open to criticism and suggestions. Have you always worked this way, with that many people giving their opinion on your work, or is it a new experience for you ? How comfortable are you with this setting ?
As for testing, I have to thank Kaiser as it was his idea to get as many people as he could onboard to help test and he was absolutely right to. Most of my stuff only passes between a few close friends in the process of making them and that can lead to some extreme cases where a game is just WAY WAY too difficult once it’s finally in the hands of more people.
– You already know it, but I find Super XYX has an excellent rhythm, it is aggressive but fair (well, let’s say most of the time…), it’s gorgeous, and it feels like your most « mature » game so far. And I simply love the way you design the player firepower, it’s rare enough to see shots that feels that powerful, it’s a signature on most of your game, and it had to be said out loud! (or written out loud, at least!)
There’s a Toaplanesque feeling about the artistic direction (enormous bosses, « round » ships and aliens, colorful stages), an obvious love for classic shmups, but also a modern « post-danmaku » dynamic : aggressive old school direct attacks but also spreading patterns and a tiny hitbox.
Thank you! That is all I hoped for it to be!
– Even if Super XYX is a game on its own, it obviously still has connexions to the ten-years-old prototype XYX. Could you develop on these connexions between XYX and Super XYX ? Do you consider it a long-term quest finally reaching its completion or a remaster of an older forgotten work, simply another game before the next one ?
That is an interesting question. It’s hard to say whether I ever had much of a grand plan to begin with – I’m much more of an ‘in the moment’ kind of artist. It’s more like I’m able to finally use all this cool stuff I’ve had laying around and present it all as some kind of ‘complete’ thing. Not a very romantic view maybe but long term projects will do that to you. Completing it important me, if only to prove to myself I can make a ‘full size’ game if I put my mind to it.
– What are your main influences for Super XYX ?
Mostly Truxton, Fire Shark, Twin Cobra, Super Star Soldier, Soldier Blade. Eventually I started borrowing aesthetic things from bullet hell games; but mechanics wise I’ve generally left those to other projects.
– Do you have anything to add about Super XYX that I would have forgotten to mention ?
I just wanted to add that making a game like this 99% on your own is very difficult – it’s OK to get burned out once in awhile and you should accept help from others whenever possible! Scale things back if you have to! You can do it!
Outside Super XYX
– If we are nice, we may have the pleasure to buy not only one but two Team Grybanser Fox games this year!Have you taken part in the development of Zenodeath or are the two games the work of two distinct teams ?
We’re pretty much distinct but I usually always do something for the team’s other games, whether it’s just touching up some gfx here and there. I would’ve liked to helped more with Zenodeath; but I think I’ve done my part as a team player reasonably well. (I did the title logo,I helped with the player’s ground sprite, some transition tiles)
– What do you intend to do after Super XYX is released on Steam ? A console version maybe ?
I always joke about getting a publisher; but seriously, if someone helped pay for a Switch export module and ratings classifications, I’d happily do that (built in TATE, too!) It’d need to be completely ported over to GameMaker Studio 2 first anyways, though, so I wouldn’t hold your breath there.
– Have you another game in the starting blocks ?
I ALWAYS have more games in the pipe, that’s one reason I take so long on things. There’s 2 smaller scale ones in particular I want to finish this year – TND2020 and OneShot. I’m also helping Mice/Mix256 with a Genesis/Megadrive version another game that’s sat around unfinished for nearly a decade – ZPF. It’s in a bit of a messy state right now but we finally have a musician onboard and most of the gfx content is done, so I’m excited to see it through.
And for those who are a little lost in Rozyrg’s production, here’s a bonus gift from the master himself :
History of my games « series » (just for fun, don’t include if you have no place for it) :
« YX » Series
- Zycyzyx (Blast Works)
- Gorygyx (Blast Works)
- YXIII (Blast Works)
- YXIV (Dezaemon 2)
- XYX/XYX DEAD (Game Maker 8)
« Zp » Series
- Zp (« Zippy ») (Blast Works)
- Zp Ultra (Game Maker 7)
- ZPF (Zp Fantasy) (Game Maker 8)
Note that I still use stuff from these. For example, the original Helltiger ship was made in YXIII, then converted to a sprite for YXIV, then used in XYX. ZPF, even the MD « remake » reuses reworked ideas from Gorygyx. Like I said, I loathe wasting old work.
(NB : Why ruin such a perfect conclusion with another word from me ?)
Useful links :
- You can buy Super XYX on Steam or get a DRM-free version on itch.io.
- You can listen to the Soundtrack by Carina on her Bandcamp. Look for the magnificent delyxe vinyl versions!
- If you still haven’t read Jack Darx interview, go for it! It’s good, it’s free, it’s right here!
- You can also find Zenodeath on itch, Steam, and its OST on HeavyViper’s bandcamp.