March 30, 2023

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Exclusive Hyper Sentinel Developer Interview


Hyper Sentinel is a Neo-Retro shooter set to release on all platforms on May 11th. This is a game that Stoffel Presents and more particularly Badger has been following the development of extremely closely over the last year.
Badger has interviewed Rob Hewson of Huey games a few times over the last year, the latest interview was at EGX Rezzed 2018 in April and can be seen below:

To follow up on the EGX Rezzed interview Stoffel Presents was given an exclusive email interview with both Rob Hewson (RH) and Jonathan Port (JP) which can be read below:
Hi Rob, for the readers who don’t know you, would you like to introduce yourself? who you are, what you do etc.

RH: Sure, I’m Rob Hewson and I’ve been bouncing around in game development for about 13 years as a Lead Designer and Game Director on titles like Hydrophobia, LEGO The Lord of the Rings, LEGO Batman 3 and LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens amongst many others. I started Huey Games along with my father Andrew, who was one of the pioneers back in the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 era, and John Ogden, a veteran technical lead in the games industry. For Hyper Sentinel we have teamed up with Jonathan Port of Four5Six Pixel.

Hyper Sentinel releases on all platforms on 11th May, How long has it taken to develop the game?
 JP: The game that is launching on Steam, Xbox, PS4, Switch and mobiles has been in development for about 18 months. Roughly 6 months putting the Kickstarter demo together and 12 months to complete the game after that time.  However, prior to that we had an early version of the game fully up and running on Apple TV and iOS devices, which was about 11 months in development.

 Hyper Sentinel was funded by the Kickstarter community. What made you take the game to a crowdfunding site?

RH: We first tested the waters with Kickstarter in 2013 when we successfully funded our book Hints & Tips for Videogame Pioneers, which is the story of Hewson games in the 80s and into the 90s with 21st Century Entertainment. Having discovered an amazingly passionate retro gaming community, we thought there might be an opportunity to fund the development of a Neo-Retro game. The partnership with Jonathan gave us the perfect product, and thankfully it all worked out. Without the support of our backers, Hyper Sentinel wouldn’t be the game it is today and it wouldn’t be coming to all the platforms we are hitting at launch.

You have described Hyper Sentinel in the past as a Neo-Retro Shooter. Can you explain what you mean by Neo Retro?

JP: Neo Retro is about looking forward using cutting edge technology but applied to a game style or experience that reminds people of games they have played in the past. My original thought for Hyper Sentinel was to make a game that looked and played how you think you remember games played. With our Neo Retro concept, we have turbocharged that idea.

RH: This philosophy was what attracted us to Hyper Sentinel in the first place. It’s not about recreating the past, it’s about taking inspiration from the best bits of a bygone era and improving or enhancing the bits that weren’t so great. We’ve seen other games, such as Shovel Knight, do this in other genres, and we really wanted to put a label on that, which is Neo Retro, and then figure out what the principles are before applying them to the shoot ‘em up genre.

 Hyper Sentinel looks wonderful and nostalgic but what secrets can players expect to discover when they play it?

JP: I think (and hope) that people will discover a game that is very pure, exciting and fun. The special ingredient is its pick-up and plays simplicity, but there is a hidden depth that people will have to discover to hit the highest scores.  Aside from that, there are lots of hidden nods to games that people may remember from their past, for example, some of the sound effects have been tuned to be reminiscent of particular games.

RH: That depth is one of the “Neo” aspects of our Neo Retro philosophy. There is just so much more we can do with the technology today to make a richer experience than was ever possible in the 8-bit era. Every mechanic in Hyper Sentinel has more than one purpose, and there are little touches and nuances which work to suck players ever deeper into the game.

You have just announced mixer mode for Hyper Sentinel can you go into more detail about what that entails?

RH: Mixer Mode in Hyper Sentinel is the world’s first interactive live stream arcade game. By that, we mean proper, real-time interaction for individual viewers of the stream. If you click the Asteroid button, then an Asteroid is fired into the game immediately. If you are in control of the Mixeroid, then you are actively steering it around the game in real-time using an onscreen joystick.

Viewers of the stream are split into two groups; Attackers who are trying to kill the streamer and Defenders who are sending in shields, power-ups and weapon upgrade to help the streamer. At the end of each game session, we see which team won and then dive right back into the action.

Mixer mode sounds amazing! Do you see this changing the future of game streaming?
RH: We believe that interactive is the future of live streaming, and with Mixer Mode, in Hyper Sentinel we are delivering a genuine world-first experience, which is amazing! It has been fantastic to team up with the Mixer guys on this project, and we are incredibly excited to be pioneering this new level of live stream interactivity together. Mixer Mode is right at the cutting edge of “Neo” in our Neo Retro philosophy!
Hyper Sentinel launches on all platforms on May 11th. Will Mixer mode be available on all platforms?

RH: Mixer Mode is available on platforms which support the Mixer Interactive API at launch, which is currently Steam and Xbox One. We hope to be able to extend this to more platforms as soon as it is possible to do so.

You have already listened to feedback by implementing the classic computer filters. How do you see Hyper Sentinel evolving with the community?

RH: Hyper Sentinel started out as a Kickstarter project, so that community is incredibly important to us. We have our own ideas for expanding and extending the franchise in future, but we are very much aware that the most important people in the entire video game industry are the consumers. They are the only ones spending their own money to fund this crazy, multi-billion-dollar industry that we all love.

 Having said that, they are spending their money to be surprised and delighted, and that is what we as game designers are here to do. Mixer Mode is a great example, and we certainly hope to deliver more things in future which make our fans say “Wow – I’ve never seen anything like that before!”

What are you most excited / expecting to see once Hyper Sentinel launches on the 11th May?

JP: Most importantly I want people to just have a whole lot of fun with the game. I hope when they put the controller down they say to themselves “that was really fun!”. Everything else is secondary.

 RH: To quote a line from Hints & Tips for Videogame Pioneers, there is no better feeling than knowing that people appreciate your work. In particular, I hope that our awesome Kickstarter backers feel that their support and patience has paid off, and they get as much fun from playing Hyper Sentinel as we did in making it.

What has been the most difficult aspect of getting Hyper Sentinel to launch?

JP: From my point of view it was when we needed to move the code base over to the Unity platform so that we could bring the game to all the platforms we wanted. That was a technical challenge at a difficult time for me.

 RH: On the Huey Games side, we found the workload involved in porting to all the platforms, and abiding by all their different requirements, was quite intense. There is a colossal amount of work involved in a multi-platform release, and we were disappointed that we had to delay the game for our Kickstarter backers. However, there is absolutely no doubt that the extra time has allowed us to polish Hyper Sentinel massively. As the great man once said, “A delayed game is eventually good. A bad game is bad forever”.

What aspect of the game are you most proud of?

JP: Making a game is a lot of very hard work. There are many unknowns and challenges along the way – you just have to keep your head down and keep going. So getting my first game finished and onto Steam, Xbox, PS4 and Switch is a very exciting thing to do. I’m incredibly proud of what we have been able to achieve with the game.

 RH: That simultaneous launch across all those formats is definitely a source of pride for the whole team. I think it is fair to say that there are very few indie developers of our size who could pull that off.

 I think Mixer Mode is another source of pride – a crazy idea we managed to pull off to give us that most precious of assets – a genuine world first!

And finally for anyone reading this that hasn’t come across Hyper Sentinel yet why should they buy it on the 11th May?

JP: There is something for everyone in this game. For those that grew up playing the 8-bit games of the 1980s, they will find a game that tugs at their nostalgic heart. For kids, there is a game that is easy to pick up and play and just really really good fun. For the high score chasers amongst us, the game is chock full of challenges and leaderboards to go at. Completing the game 100% will be quite a challenge!

Hyper Sentinel launches on Steam, Xbox One, PS4 and Switch on May 11th and can be pre-ordered now. The fantastic book Hints and Tips for Video Games Pioneers is available to purchase from the Huey Games Website now.
Stoffel Presents will continue to follow the progress of Hyper Sentinel up to and beyond its May 11th launch date but in the meantime what are your thoughts on Hyper Sentinel? Are you looking forward to Hyper Sentinel launching? Will you be buying it? What do you think of Mixer mode? As always let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.