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A Skyshine’s Bedlam dev explains the qualities of a “fun apocalypse”

Skyshine's Bedlam creative director Sam Gage

Last week, we asked Gameological readers to submit questions that we could pose to developers on the E3 2015 show floor. We picked four of our favorites (and carried over one from last year’s batch); those questions constitute The Gameological Questionnaire.

It’s essentially Oregon Trail in a Mad Max-like post-apocalypse, but the strategy game Skyshine’s Bedlam wears a host of other ’80s-era influences on its spike-covered sleeve. That’s because every member of the veteran three-person team behind the game—which was funded by a Kickstarter campaign last fall—are huge fans of ’80s pop culture. I survived a short demo from Sam Gage, Bedlam’s creative director, who was also kind enough to answer The Gameological Questionnaire.


The A.V. Club: What’s one thing in the game that took a lot of work to get right but that players might not notice?

Sam Gage: That is a good question. I guess trying to get the combat to feel right, to feel fun. To get enough craziness in there to make it just feel very arcade-y and very fun. I think the thing we’re striving for the most is to keep it as simple and arcade-y as possible, like the fewest mouse clicks as we can do—and, you know, just get into the fun as quick as possible.

AVC: It’s taken some time to figure out the balance of that?

SG: Yeah, yeah. Snip this, snip that. Add this, Add that. Yeah, just getting the feel right, that game feel.


AVC: How long have you guys been working on this game?

SG: We started talking about development way back in February or January 2014. And we talked about it, we kind of thought about it, got everything going, and we finally sat down to do the Kickstarter that we launched in October. That was basically just getting everything ready, and “Here’s our pitch.” After that, it’s been about nine months of solid development, and we’re looking to do a release in September. So we’re launching in about two months, hopefully, two-and-a-half months.


AVC: If you were to put a retro game playable into this game, which one would it be and why?

SG: Galaga has always been one of my favorites. What’s the other one? Road Blasters, that’s another one of my favorites when I was a kid. You know, the car-driving game where the weapon comes down. That was my favorite. You had the gas pedal—that was super fun. But Galaga, that’s the classic one. That sacrifice play to let your ship get taken up by the guys, and you wait, and you finally shoot them, and you have dual shooters. That’s just one of the best game mechanics ever.


AVC: How would you put it into your game if you could?

SG: Well, most of our game is about sacrificing stuff to get better. That is one of my favorite gameplay elements, is, “Lose this to gain that.” That’s just fun stuff to me. Harsh decisions.

AVC: If you had tried to make this game 15 or 20 years ago, what would you have had to do differently?


SG: Absolutely nothing. We are actually making this game as if it was 15 or 20 years ago. We’re trying to make an ’80s game, like this is all Judge Dredd, Heavy Metal magazine, Mad Max: Road Warrior. You know, the new one’s out. It’s totally awesome, but Road Warrior, that’s the stuff that we grew up on as kids. Me and John Mueller, our artist, it’s what we love. Post-apocalyptic anything. Mad Max is just insane, so we want to capture that feel. This is the game we would have made when we were 15 years old, with all the stuff we wanted to see when we were 15.

So, yeah, I want to see mutant dinosaurs and robots and cyborg zombies, and I want to see stuff blowing up all over the place, and I want my mutant puke monster to melt guys with their vomit. It’s fun stuff. We don’t want to hold anything back. We want the apocalypse to be fun. We want to be colorful. You don’t want to be oppressed. You want to get in there and be like, “Yeah, this is the apocalypse I want. I’m awesome. I’m bad-ass.” That was Mad Max. “I’ve got my car, I’ve got my dog, I’ve got my shotgun.” That’s a fun apocalypse, and we want to capture the same thing.


AVC: If my resume included a whole summer spent just playing your game, how would I talk about it as valuable experience?

SG: Well, you’ve got to prepare for the apocalypse. It’s coming. This is the year of the apocalypse. We’ve got Mad Max, we’ve got Fallout 4, we’ve got Skyshines Bedlam. I mean, you got to prepare for it. Zombies are coming. The nukes are coming. Who knows? I don’t know. It’s human nature. We’re preparing ourselves for the worst.


AVC: All right. Apocalyptic preparation on the resume?

SG: That’s right. Apocalyptic preparedness.

AVC: If this game were the main course of a meal, what would be the appetizer and the dessert?


SG: Meat and meat. The whole game is about getting meat. That’s all, in the future, everyone eats, and our director is vegetarian, so it’s even funnier.

Killing bad guys in crazy, wacky ways is the cherry on top of the dessert for me. Like, melting guys with mutant puke.


AVC: What’s the most outrageous way to kill somebody in the game?

SG: Right now, all the normal classes, they have a random chance of doing a deathblow against the other guys. The frontliners will actually kick the enemy in the crotch and do an elbow drop, taking out the guy [with the] last hit. The trenchers, the shotgun guys, they’ll do an uppercut, launch the guy in the air, and he’ll fall and land on his neck. That’s fun. I think my favorite, though, is the electrocution. The Looney Tunes black skeleton back and forth, and then exploding, their bones fly everywhere, and just their skeleton feet are left standing. We want that Looney Tunes. We don’t want a blood and gore game. We want that, just, “Wait, what just happened? What just happened? Did you see that? Did that really just happen?” That’s what we want.


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