Welcome to ABG’s 8-Bit interviews, a series of ‘byte’ sized talks with fascinating folk from every inch of the Gaming Industry. From Indie teams daring to dream big, animators with ambitions, dedicated devs or the hottest streamer on the digital block, we’ve got you covered. This month we are talking with two man founded development team The Sixth Hammer, and their upcoming extra-terrestrial adventure, “Moo Lander”. Boasting a combination of platforming, puzzle solving and resource management, Moo Lander sees you battle a flying saucer against bovine behemoths from across the galaxy. It sounds absolutely, sublimely bonkers, and we can’t wait to get stuck in.
Tell us about yourselves
Me [Dimitar] and Yasen are musicians – we actually met in the music school in Plovdiv and quickly found out that we both have a passion for making games and other challenging technical projects. That is when the two of us co-founded our startup studio The Sixth Hammer.
Mooooove along: The Sixth Hammer Team showing some bovine bonhomme
Fast-forwarding to 3 years ago when we started gathering team for our biggest project so far – Moo Lander. Currently our team is international with people from Europe, Asia, North and South America. We have 17 very talented and motivated people in our game team (artists, level designers, voice-over artists, VFX programmers, etc..) – most have worked for at least a year during the different development stages of Moo Lander.
Can you give us a little background on Moo Lander?
Moo Lander is a unique blend of platforming, puzzle solving and resource management. All of this – presented in great 2D graphics, memorable environments, interesting level design and challenging combat. Your hero is operating the last viable technology of his dying civilization. His mission – gather enough of the precious milk resource in order to save the Landers’ home world. This is no easy task, as the milk is guarded by the ancient mighty Cows of old.
The superb artwork in Moo Lander has us thinking of the best that recent metroidvania has to offer
Each level has its own Cow guardian with different amount (and kind) of milk. You must go through treacherous terrain and all kinds of hostile flora and fauna, found throughout this terrain. Coupled with smart puzzle solving, environmental hazards and obstacles, Moo Lander provides a mash-up of gaming experiences. Adding a multiplayer couch co-op with the option of playing as the cows defines the game as a family friendly, living room game.
We plan to release Moo Lander in 2021 for PC, PS4, XboX One and Nintendo Switch.
How did The Sixth Hammer come to be? Is this your first game together?
As I said, me and Yasen are classmates and after high school we started working on various projects together. The game itself, by design, was for desktop PCs. We took part in an event – Plovdiv Startup Weekend, and there we made the first ever playable demo (using Unity) of the game. It was only the two of us – Dimitar and Yasen. All the other participants of the event liked the demo a lot. So we started working on a bigger and better one that we could present at the largest gaming happening in Bulgaria – the GameDevSummit in Sofia.
I was working at an IT company at the time and I was using all available free time to work on that demo. We finished it in time for the summit in Sofia and it was that summer when we presented the game for the first time in public. We got a lot of good feedback on our work and that actually got us very excited and motivated to continue with the project.
Moo Lander is our first big game together with the whole team, we actually did a number of smaller, mobile games before that.
Tell us a little about Moo Lander specifically. What was your eureka moment behind the game?
I think there was a natural build up to the point where there were big boss battles with alien cows. All of a sudden we had almost fully completed platformer with this cool feature – the combat with the cows. It came suddenly and surprisingly, so you could say this was the moment we knew we had something truly special, we only needed to flesh it out to the best of our abilities.
Your chosen art style is absolutely beautiful, but we can’t help be reminded of Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Was this an inspiration for Moo Lander, and what other games help inspire your development?
Ori and the Will of the Wisps: A clear art style inspiration for Moo Lander
Our two biggest inspirations are the Ori series and Rayman. We love the art style of those two games, as well as the genre and mechanics. We also thought that it would be cool to have cows in the game, as well as classic flying saucers – not many such games out there, especially platformers.
Metroidvania is an increasingly popular game style for indie developers. Team cherry had an incredible success with Hollow Knight, but what made you chose this genre?
The answer here is actually very simple – we love playing the metroidvania genre games! And what a better way to make a game than making something you love? Plus, it is often simpler in the way of mechanics, but more challenging in the way of making the gamers stick to it.
The concept behind Moo Lander is absolutely bonkers, and we love it. It really takes me back to Saturday morning cartoons, in particular earthworm Jim. How on earth did you come up with it?
Well if we can go back to those inspirations above, combine that with our love of gaming, platformers, and we wanted to make a game with cows in it. And what is a cow without milk? Furthermore, cows are actually very prominent animals in our village culture – they are part of our ancestry, traditions and historical reality. I think we did a good job on the originality level – not much games with cows out there, and definitely no metroidvania ones at that.
We cant help but think back to those halcyon days of Saturday morning TV, and the original cow shooting game
Beyond mechanics, we love that you’re clearly not taking yourselves too seriously, god knows we need a bit of mindless fun. What is your personal favourite moment in the game?
The truth is – every single one of us has his own favourite moment. The crash landing is such one instance, as is the first Mighty Cow encounter. But our goal is to make every moment of the game a memorable experience for someone. And yes – not taking yourself seriously is an important skill and it helps a lot with such ambitious endeavours. We want to have fun, and we want to do it while developing a game that offers other people fun as well.
Going back to your development, can you tell us a little bit about the funding process? Lots of developers are looking to crowdfunding platforms for support – did this ever come up?
We are very proud to say that we are fully self-funded so far. This gives us incredible amount of freedom development wise. It also restricts us in the way of big budgets and large spending. But this also teaches us resourcefulness – you’d be surprised how good we have gotten at that. There was an idea of launching a kickstarter campaign, we were almost ready to go forward with it, but at the last moment we reconsidered. These things are part of the bigger development process.
Moo Lander boasts a variety of different settings, from sumptuous flora to foreboding caverns
We’re delighted to see that Moo Lander includes couch co-op as a central feature. Do you think that this is something missing in modern games?
Definitely! Modern times are all about accessibility and connectivity and the internet. Different people all around the world are easily getting together to play via all kinds of multiplayer options. But we started lacking the actual closeness of the living room – getting together with friends and family in one spot, having fun with games. This very important feature of life is missing lately, and we want to bring it back with Moo Lander.
Ahead of the 2021 release, what is your main focus in development at the moment?
Polishing the game, making it bug-free and as fun as possible – these are our primary goals before we release. We want to do it close to perfection, and we will! So follow us on social media and Steam for all the cool stuff we are about to drop on you with Moo Lander.
The Galactic Super cow enemies in Moo Lander are udderly glorious (sorry not sorry)
The music for the game is as beautiful as the art style chosen. Did you use a live orchestra to record the score?
Sadly no, we used software with samples. But being accomplished musicians, we are able to make and record our own music and game scoring.
What’s next for the studio?
We’ve prepared a DLC for after the successful launch of the game, and then who knows, maybe Moo Lander 2, maybe something completely new and crazy. One thing is for sure – we will never stop making videogames.
We are frequently blown away by what a small but dedicated team can achieve, and moo lander exemplifies why The Sixth Hammer are no exception. What advice would you give a new indie on the block looking to launch their first title?
As cliché as it would sound – don’t give up! After one, two, three tries at it, eventually, success will come. The right idea will come with experience and hard work. So the most important thig for us is to be vigilant and never give up on the art of videogame making. And doing marketing right is a bitch. [ABG]
Moo lander is out later in 2021, and will be available for PC, PS4, XboX One and Nintendo Switch. Check out the Moo Lander site for all the latest info on the release. And don’t forget to check out our other 8-Bit interviews, too!
“Video games are great. I should know, I’ve played some.”
Olly S, July 2020