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Interview: Danny Garfield blends up the genres in Concursion

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Two of the biggest trends in gaming are retro experiences and mixing various genres. Concursion, a new game on PC and Mac, offers up a heaping helping of both. It combines numerous genres from beloved 80s classics such as Super Mario Bros., Ninja Gaiden and Gradius. These genres are changed on the fly in this game, with both the hero and the villains switching skillsets depending on what level they’re in. We got inside the head of indie developer Puuba’s Danny Garfield to find out how this game came about.

Garfield’s previous work included a lot of licensed games, apps and things that appear on Blu-Rays. He’s worked with properties including The Lorax, Sleeping Beauty and Wall-E. But he had always wanted to try making the kind of games that inspired him.

“I took a big, stupid gamble, quit work and started working out of my house,” he said. “I told my partners that we might get a few months into this, realize what a mistake we made and have to go back. With licensed games you get told what to build, we wanted to do something more creative.”

Concursion isn’t the kind of thing anybody would have approved for a game in between the DVD extras on a licensed toon. It has 70 levels and harkens back to the days when gamers sought out challenges.

“We have a normal mode and a hardcore mode,” Garfield said. “Originally hardcore mode was going to be the only mode. AAA games can’t be that hard. A 99 cent game needs to be more accessible. I knew Concursion had to appeal to hardcore gamers. There’s a weird little hole I think indie games are filling.”

Garfield’s favorite level is the final one, titled Wherein The Concept Implodes. If the hero moves to the right, the level uses platforming mechanics. To the left, it’s a double jumping ninja setup. The team at Puuba can’t wait to see what answers the community comes up with to solve this game.

“If you’re speed running, there’s probably 100 different ways to get through,” he said. “One of the things we’ve been doing is Twitch, if we see somebody livestreaming, we’ll jump into the room. This is a hard game to elevator pitch, because it has so many elements.”

For a game with so many different moving parts, Puuba knew it would need a musician with a special touch. Christopher Hoag, a composer nominated for an Emmy thanks to his work on House, M.D. took on this challenge.

“It was a Herculean task,” Garfield said. “Every song in the game is done five different ways. Then they blend together as the genres do. So each song needs to stand on its own, yet not be so busy that it can’t blend with another song. It’s almost like a symphony, where you have to point at each section when it’s their time to come in.”

Yes, they are working on a full-length album for the soundtrack too.

Concursion now has a full-length demo on Steam. As an added bonus, it includes a speedrun challenge. The five highest scorers get their own copy free. For those of us not quite as skilled, Concursion is $9.99.

 

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