Wide Right Interactive’s Jim Dirschberger speaks to us about the upcoming shoot ’em up.
There’s nothing quite like a good old chaotic shoot ’em up, and for those who feel the same way, Wide Right Interactive’s upcoming Freedom Finger might just scratch that itch. As a side scrolling, rhythm based, explosive shooter that sees you playing as a hand (literally) that shoots and punches its way through its levels, there’s something inherently appealing about the entire concept. Intrigued about the game and what it entails, we recently sent across some of our questions to the developers at Wide Right Interactive. The following questions were answered by Jim Dirschberger.
"Freedom Finger is first and foremost a shooter. The platforming elements are there to really enhance that shump experience, not replace it with a new mechanic."
How did you land on the idea to blend shoot em up gameplay with platforming elements?
It was mostly out of necessity. We have over 35 levels in the game, so having gameplay variety was crucial. Additionally, once we tightened the controls we found that players could easily navigate corridors and tunnels, so this opened up the potential for additional levels with “platforming” elements.
Are we looking at light platforming elements, or is the game more of a balanced mix of the two?
Freedom Finger is first and foremost a shooter. The platforming elements are there to really enhance that shump experience, not replace it with a new mechanic.
How extensive are the melee options in Freedom Finger (considering you play as a hand)?
Huge! You can punch just about everything. My favorite is to punch an enemy into other enemies for a huge damage combo. You can also grab and toss enemies around. I can usually knock out a huge row of enemy ships with one well placed toss.
What sort of power ups will we be coming across in the game?
The power-up drops we have are mostly health based as most of the power-ups come from grabbing enemies. When certain ships are grabbed you can “squeeze” a shot out of them. So, for example, if you grab one of those shotgun shaped spaceships you’ll be able to shoot a spread shot. You can hang on to that as long as you want, then toss it aside and pick up another ship. It really makes for an open-ended play style ripe for experimentation.
Freedom Finger touts “rhythm-based chaos”- can you talk to us a bit about what that means exactly?
Each level in the game has a unique music track and the action of that level is almost always in sync with the music; enemies will shoot, move, or dodge to the beat. It’s a great way for the player to be able to anticipate attacks before they happen, which is helpful as some of the later levels as they have fairly high bmp. So yeah, things get a little chaotic!
"Given how the music drives the pace and tone of the levels, I knew we needed a soundtrack that had a lot of variety in terms of style, pace, and tone. Most shmups tend to stay in their lane music-wise, but I just think it’s so cool to jump from genre to genre within a few levels."
The soundtrack seems to be a pretty big deal in Freedom Finger– was that something you set out to make central to the experience right from the get go?
Totally. Given how the music drives the pace and tone of the levels, I knew we needed a soundtrack that had a lot of variety in terms of style, pace, and tone. Most shmups tend to stay in their lane music-wise, but I just think it’s so cool to jump from genre to genre within a few levels. We blast out of the gate with the likes of Red Fang and True Widow, but switch to a more melodic tone with Drab Majesty and Com Truise shortly after that. I think players will appreciate the variety and how it ties into the tone of the narrative.
Are there any co-op or multiplayer options in the game?
Not out of the gate, but adding couch co-op is definitely on our post launch roadmap.
Given that Freedom Finger is going for a very sardonic style of storytelling, can we expect that to be something of a focus throughout the experience, or is that more of an ancillary aspect of it?
The story is a big part of the experience. Given our cast, we didn’t want it to feel tacked on, so we fully committed to it. As far as tone, Freedom Finger is 100% a dark comedy and I think we ride that line between comedy and drama pretty well. It’s more Dr. Strangelove than Wargames, if that makes sense. There are moments where we get pretty stupid and just have a laugh, but ultimately we stay focused on themes like the absurdity of war and the completely unhinged reality that Major Cigar (voiced by Nolan North) lives in.
Is Freedom Finger a game that is geared more towards fans of classic shoot em ups that are known for their gruelling difficulty, or is it going for a somewhat more relaxed approach?
Nailing the difficulty has been one of our greatest challenges. How can we challenge genre pros without closing the door on new players? Also, because the story is a big part of the experience, we didn’t want to lock it behind a wall of impossible levels. To do both, we’ve included a huge selection of difficulty options that will allow the player to tailor the experience to what they’re looking for. If you want a one-hit-kill retro bullet hell experience, we got you. If you’re looking for something more casual and just want to take in the story, that’s cool too. The caveat being, the easier you make it, the fewer points you’ll earn, which affects leaderboard and post-game unlocks.
"Nailing the difficulty has been one of our greatest challenges. How can we challenge genre pros without closing the door on new players?"
Do you have plans to launch on any other platforms, such as the Switch?
We’d love to take the game to the Switch. It really depends on how the PC/Xbox/Playstation launch goes. If we see a demand for the game on Switch, we’ll make it happen.
Will the game will feature Xbox One X/PS4 Pro specific enhancements? What can players expect if they are playing the game on Xbox One X or the PS4 Pro? Is 4K/60fps on the cards?
For sure. We really want to take advantage of the extra power the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro offer. After the PC launch we’ll be spending the fall adding as many console-specific features, levels, and performance boosts as possible.
From a development perspective, how do you find the Xbox One X to be and how do you compare it with the PS4 Pro?
For a 2D game like Freedom Finger, the differences are minimal. Mostly performance and loading boosts that are more in line with the PC version.
How is the game running on the original Xbox One and PS4, frame rate and resolution wise?
Fantastic. We’re aiming for, and expect to ship, with Freedom Finger running at a solid 60fps.
Next gen is coming sooner or later. From a development perspective, what is your biggest expectation from PS5 and Xbox Scarlett?
It’s been fairly easy to get the game set up on consoles, so as long as the ease of use is there and they continue to support multiple engines, I’m in.
Personally, give me backward compatibility. I’d love to streamline my setup and ditch some of these older systems. My original PS2 has been through hell.
What is your take on Sony’s reluctant policy on cross-play with Xbox and Switch?
Unless they can substitute the lack of cross-play with some Playstation specific perks, it seems like an unnecessary burden to shoulder. But from their point of view, I can see the risk. They’ve worked hard to create a very specific kind of online environment for their customers, do they really want to open the floodgates and let the competition in?
"We’d love to take the game to the Switch. It really depends on how the PC/Xbox/Playstation launch goes. If we see a demand for the game on Switch, we’ll make it happen."
Do you think cross platform will be one of the defining features of next-gen consoles?
It really has to, you know? I think developers have to demand it as well. I have fond memories of playing 4×4 Evo’s multiplayer on my Dreamcast against PC players. It just worked and was a ton of fun. Beyond the obvious benefits to players, it makes the games somewhat future proof, because when a console’s multiplayer server inevitably shuts down, you still have some alternative options.
What is your take on the ongoing drama of loot boxes and microtransactions?
It’s pretty insane, especially when you see certain governments starting to step in and regulate them. I hope the industry can resolve this sensibly rather than relying on dusty legislators to do it for us. Do you really think some 85 year old Senator understands loot boxes? What a mess! Gamers also need to vote with their dollars. Indie developers as a whole have rejected these microtransactions/live services tactics, so by supporting smaller studios and games, we can start to realign the direction of the market towards something that sees players as gamers rather than piggy banks.