An action-packed and adventurous video game that might have flown under your radar early in 2021 is Q-Games’ PixelJunk Raiders. The latest title in the long-running franchise arrived as a Google Stadia exclusive March 1st. That’s a boon for the cloud-gaming platform that’s attempting to make inroads in the establishing gaming industry, but it also limits exposure for the game itself. However, the unique ability to share your game with others in an “asymmetric multiplayer” approach thanks to Stadia’s State Share ability gives extra value to an already-solid space-based, procedurally generated, combo-brawler with RPG elements.
That’s a lot to take in if you haven’t played a game on Stadia before or haven’t dipped a toe into the PixelJunk franchise. That’s why I chatted with the folks behind the title over at Q-Games to get a sense of this new (outer space) world and just how it would work on Stadia. Their insightful answers follow below, though I encourage you to check the game out for yourself to put Stadia and PixelJunk Raiders to the test.
First of all, congratulations on your 20th anniversary as a studio. What’s it like for you to look back on these last 20 crazy years?
Q-Games: Thanks! It seems a long time ago since I opened the doors at our first little office. We have made so many games since then, some small like Sticky Bodies, and some massive like Star Fox or PixelJunk Raiders. Each one has had some kind of unique feature or original idea, and it’s been fun to have made such a wide range of games. We’ve also grown from 3 people at the start to about 50, and we are in far nicer offices now.
For our readers out there who may be new to the PixelJunk franchise, how would you explain it to them?
Q-Games: PixelJunk is the brand we use on titles that are fully our own, they tend to bring together elements of games from the 80s and 90s with tech or some kind of modern element from now. It’s that blend that I personally like the most in games. Some of the titles are just silly fun, too, like Sticky Bodies.
And for your faithful players out there, what does the new title PixelJunk Raiders bring to the franchise?
Q-Games: This game is exclusive to Stadia and revolves around the platform’s unique State Share feature and procedurally generated environments, meaning that each new play session is unique. We had a lot of fun fleshing out the ideas and tech to make it all work. It’s also our first combo-brawler type game as an action-adventure rogue-lite so that was a fun challenge. Your avatar can battle the aliens in many different ways. You can even place automated turrets, mines, jump pads, and other gadgets that we call “Imprints” to not only help you defeat the level, but let other players use them to their advantage by playing your unique world with State Share.
How does it differ from previous games? What similarities does it carry over?
Q-Games: Most of our games don’t really pull upon the other games we make, but there is certainly a kind of PixelJunk “DNA” that people sense, in the way we build up our systems and create an addictive core loop. Rather appropriately, we have Alien DNA in this game which is fun to assign to your avatar and change how the game is played. By upgrading and enhancing your avatar as you progress in the game, you can unlock new attributes to aid in your movement and other key areas.
Since this title is launching as a Stadia Exclusive, did that affect your development process at all?
Q-Games: Any kind of exclusivity really helps our development process, regardless of the platform. That’s because it helps us focus on the platform-specific features and not worry about duplicating special features on other machines. It lets us do specific optimizations too, like State Share.
Stadia also features the unique State Share utility, so how did you factor that into your decisions around gameplay, multiplayer, and even the procedurally generated worlds?
Q-Games: We designed the game from the beginning with State Share in mind, in fact, State Share was part of my original pitch. The feature set changed a bit from then, but we adjusted the design to match the feature and I think it came out really well. Procedurally generated worlds seemed a great fit, too, because the worlds you are playing are completely different than the worlds other people are playing. As a result, State Share allows players to capture their game state by recording a screenshot or video clip and sending a link to their world with their friends to see if they can beat it, too. Having literally millions of worlds that you haven’t visited yet thanks to the procedural generation system really helps with the feeling of scale.
Speaking of those worlds, the players’ avatar, and the enemies they’ll face, can you share some of your real-world inspiration for the look, feel, and sound of PixelJunk Raiders?
Q-Games: The enemies are all originally designed, and the avatar was designed with some references to the European comic book character “Halo Jones.” I like that kind of stoic androgynous lead character type a lot.
What are you most excited to see from players once they get their hands on this game and find out what State Share is capable of?
Q-Games: I want to see fans sharing game states between each other with State Share, each one adding their own touch and different Imprints (turrets, mines, jump pads, etc) for the next person in the chain to see. This way of playing is particularly new and I have always had a penchant for asynchronous multiplayer, so this feature in PixelJunk Raiders hits the spot perfectly.
PixelJunk Raiders is now available to play on Google Stadia.
Jac Schaeffer also explains who was behind the commercials we saw featured in earlier episodes.
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