Soaring The Skies: An Interview With Kenneth Backus

One game developer, one artist, and one musician are the team behind bringing you the first of its kind to the gaming industry, a flight simulator that is procedurally generated. That game is called Sky Rogue. The game has been development since 2013. It’s a feat by such a small team that is mindboggling for this industry.

Sky Rogue takes inspiration from all the flight simulators you can think of from the 90’s era. But the most notable influences from a gameplay and aesthetic perspective to Lead Developer, Kenneth Backus and Lead Artist, Charles Blanchard were the familiar, Star Fox and Ace Combat series.

We recently got a chance to sit down with them to discuss how this project took off and where it will land.
skyrogueinsert2Comics Gaming Magazine: Tell me a little about the studio and where the concept of Sky Rogue came from?

Kenneth Backus: The studio is really just myself making games while Charles does some artwork. I’ve been looking into getting the proper paperwork to form a company name so I can get everything resolved with Steam, but we’ve been green lit for quite some time now. For the time being we’ve been putting up the name ‘Polyhedron’ on our videos but we feel that’s going to get confused with Polytron. So we’re probably going to go with Fractal Phase.

But where we got the concept of Sky Rogue was probably back in 2009, I was playing this hard sci-fi space combat simulator.  Then I started to talk to the developer behind Venus Patrol about flight simulator ideas. So then I though what if you took Rogue-like mechanics and procedural generation and put them in a flight simulator? That hasn’t been done before.

CGM: How many people are working on this game? And how long have you been developing it?

KB: I’ve been developing it since late 2013 until now.  That’s all been in our spare time. Roughly 10 hours a week developing this game. It’s mid-alpha so there’s not that many features that need work.

CGM: What game inspired you guys to make this flight simulator? I got a Star Fox and Pilot Wings vibe right away.

KB: The Ace Combat Series is a big influence on this title. Really just all the mid 90s flight simulators. 15 Strike Eagle was one, Fleet Defender, and several others.

Charles Blanchard: We put a Star Fox esque skin in it but actually gameplay wise it isn’t really because it’s a free roam simulator and that’s on rails shooter. Just graphically we took an inspiration from games like that because they’re so classic. That’s probably the most well known polyshooter out there. Like it would’ve been cool to do a realistic gritty flight sim but the fact of the matter is, people want Mario and Nintendo and we think its fun and it adds to the whole nostalgia factor.
skyrogueinsert1CGM: Is this game going to be simply just mission based? Like going from island to island? Will there be other modes?

KB: Technically there’s a free flight mode. In case you just want to fly around for whatever reason.  But the main mode is technically mission based but its different from most flight sims and that’s very intentional.  But I don’t want to make any promises but maybe in late beta I’ll have a late PvP mode where players will have carrier duel.  The game is actually completely balanced for a PvE so it could be tricky but it’s worth trying out.

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CGM: Will you have that ready by the end of beta when you try to launch for Steam?

KB: Certainly. Well I’m going to try to launch an early access by the end of the month. The game is basically finished but I’ve put a lot more work into it to make it more accessible.

CGM: What kind of customizations or upgrades can gamers expect from this title?

KB: We have a lot. Rockets, bombs, guided missiles, and separation missiles that splits into six different missiles. We have ones where you give yourself a quick boost. One where missile will fire from the back of your jet and hit the closets enemy. But yeah, a lot of different specials and weapons to get.

CGM: The learning curve for this game can be hard to grasp. Do you think this game would be too tough for the mainstream gamer?

KB: I don’t think so. The TCAF [Toronto Comics Arts Festival] build was the most accessible build. Usually people wouldn’t get too far they’d usually beat the first island but I don’t think that’s necessarily a problem.  I hope people get hooked and just try to get better as they play.

CB: Even the people that have a hard time with it there’s a lot more people that enjoy it because of the learning curve.

CGM: What would you say is the best way to experience this game? Like what method of controller output?

KB: I think a flight stick is the best way to play, even though I’ve done most of my testing with a Xbox 360 gamepad. But that’s just a technical detail but even the keyboard is a good way to play.

CGM:  Right now you have created this game on PC, Mac, Linux and are pushing to launch on Steam. But is there a chance it could land on consoles?

KB: I hope so. I think I’m going to wait until 1.0 release to think about that. It’s mainly a matter of wanting to get the game finished and put on Steam. Then I’ll approach Sony, Microsoft and maybe even Nintendo.
skyrogueinsert4CGM: So just going out on a limb here. When can gamers expect a release?

KB: Spring of next year for console gamers and Steam hopefully by the end of the year with the 1.0 build.

CGM: Any last words you want to say about your game?

KB: just that if you want something different to play this is the game. There’s tons of customizations and upgrades and it’s constantly changing. So that’s exciting.

CB: We’re one of the few indie games out there that have such a big emphasis on user customizations and modding. We have skins and now Kenny has a working 3D model loader, which uses a really common 3D model format so you don’t need any special tools to put your own plane in the game.