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 time around we meet with Altergaze, the stupendous force behind our monthly indie feature: HoverGrease. From inspiration drawn from 90’s classic Smash TV, advice on pivoting a hardware company into a fantastic Indie team, to the inimitable Johnny Cockhead, we’ve got you covered.
If you like what you see, jump over to Kickstarter now and show the Altergaze team some love.
Give us a little background about Altergaze
Alexandra is the Creative Director and Co-Founder of Altergaze. She is an animator and 3d artist by background, with over 8 years of experience.
Liviu is the Technical Director and Co-Founder of Altergaze. He is more of a technical artist and programmer, with over 16 years of experience.
We were born in Romania, but spent most of our last decade in the UK. HoverGRease will release on PC, Xbox and PlayStation, Summer 2021.
Altergaze has been involved in everything from VR to Mobile gaming to hardware development. Where did the decision to make a hero shooter come from?
Initially, it started as a small project. This was 3 years after working on our VR hardware equipment, and we were joking about the fact that our university degrees were in 3D Animation and Game Design respectively, and there we were, soldering PCB microchips and programming radio-communication for our next Vive-like hardware prototype, haha.
And we just decided to make this little game on the side, and it was very little in scope at the time: 4-5 different characters (not true ‘hero shooter’), 7-8 weapons, a couple of maps… basically a typical top-down shooter brawler.
Tell us a little about HoverGrease specifically. What was your eureka moment behind the game?
It was during Christmas 2018. This was just 6-8 months-ish into development (as a side project). We put the game up on ITCH (alpha) with a follow-up update to fix some major bugs literally on the 26th of December, and we got a few thousand downloads, which was crazy.
We have some big Overwatch fans at ABG HQ, as well as some fairly outspoken Hotline Miami enthusiasts. Did either of these games provide inspiration for HoverGrease, and what led to you blending these classic genres together?
Honestly, we didn’t even know what Hotline Miami was until months after, when we started posting the characters on Facebook and Reddit groups.
Looks like a fun game, sadly we didn’t get a chance to play it.
Feature creep is the death of any project, especially for games. So in the interest of not being influenced by others, we avoided ALL top-down shooters.
We’ll probably play some of them once HG is done, but for now, the only top-down games we let ourselves try are MOBA games.
Overwatch on the other hand (and Team Fortress, and Counter Strike years before it), have been a big influence for the gameplay.
The top-down influences came from even earlier games: Smash TV, GTA 1-2, and Diablo (especially the D3 console edition).
So we kind of thought, what if we merge them?
“Big money, big prizes, I love it!”. But seriously, Smash TV, what a game. Did you ever beat it? Damned if I could.
Never finished it either! But it didn’t matter, it was always good fun playing it in 2 players.
There are an increasing number of hero shooters out there. What sets HoverGrease apart?
Certainly the top-down perspective is a big element. Because it’s top-down, it opens a lot of possibilities when it comes to melee and other arcade-like gameplay.
There is also the insane amount of moving projectiles (as opposed to ray-traced bullets), that we think is what gets your blood pumping.
HoverGrease is set in a bio-cyberpunk dystopian future. That’s quite a bit to unpack. Where did the inspiration for the setting come from?
We think it’s just growing up the 90’s, you know? Watching TMNT, Bikers Mice from Mars, X-Men, lots of MTV, haha, and later on Ghost in the Shell, Aeon Flux, Blade Runner, Star Wars (of course), Matrix. They all played a part for sure.
The neon noir backgrounds hark back to 90’s dystopian influence perfectly
Beyond mechanics, we love that you’re clearly not taking yourselves too seriously, god knows we need a bit of mindless fun. Who’s your favourite hero in the current roster?
Haha! Alexandra likes Sophie Bunfire. I’m always Kimmy.
So not Johnny Cockhead then?
Haha! We actually looked it up… the name can still pass as PG.
The enigmatic Johnny Cockhead. Or Darren, as we call him
Our chief editor seems to have found his soulmate there, so I hope he makes the final cut. Going back to your development, Kickstarter is proving an increasingly popular platform for indie devs. Did your success back in 2014 influence your decision to try your hand a second time?
Honestly, it was more due to COVID. Our plan was to promote HG via conferences this year, and grow from there. But since everyone was at home, it drove us to push really hard to make the Closed Beta to happen this summer (we made 3 maps and 3 new heroes in just a few months). After seeing all the positive reactions, it felt like a good next step to continue growing the community.
It seems no industry is immune from Covid. Has the pandemic influenced your decisioning in any other way? What are you missing the most from a developmental and launch POV?
With so many AAA publishers focusing their marketing efforts online, it has made it more difficult to reach those people that we know will love the game the moment they find out about it.
Can you give us an idea of what your early supporters on Kickstarter can look forward to? Are you offering any special early investment incentives?
Oh, there’s a lot of good stuff! From exclusive skins, to special icons, your name in the game, credits, artbook, soundtrack, and of course, be an active voice in our development journey! Amongst others, there are also some crazy rewards, such as getting your own eSports team (with custom skins and icons) for basically the price of 10 keys.
So not just for filthy casuals like us. Is there a future in the pro scene for HoverGrease?
We certainly hope so! Still looking for the right partners.
Currently your just over half way to your goal. What happens in you don’t hit target?
Obviously, it will be quite devastating, because it means we would have to really limit the scope of the entire project. We will still push through of course, and see it until the end with a heavy heart.
The genre you have opted for is renowned for building in games as a service mechanics as the player base evolves. Are there plans for, for example, purchasable cosmetics in the games future?
It’s an online multiplayer, so I guess skins are inevitable.
Nothing that will affect gameplay (pay-to-win). If you are level 1 or 100, the game will play the same for all.
The character line up in HoverGrease has us spoilt for choice. And horny, worryingly
Fab. I look forward to kitting our Johnny Cockhead some threads worth of his name. Clearly Altergaze are self-professed makers of cool shit. So after the inevitable success of HoverGrease, what’s next for the studio?
I think telling the story of the world of HoverGrease will probably be high on our priority list.
We are frequently blown away by what a small but dedicated team can achieve, and HovergGrease exemplifies why Altergaze are no exception. What advice would you give a new indie on the block looking to launch their first title?
Don’t feed the trolls, and if you do, make sure they convert to buyers![ABG]
HoverGrease is currently on Kickstarter, with a closed beta available with every digital copy of the game. To find out more about the project, or to pledge your support for this awesome game, head over to their fundraising page now!
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