Fans of Indie-games might be familiar with Skullz, a 4bit platform RPG incorporating text based commands and Atari game system era graphics. If you haven’t played the game I would recommend you check out this free browser based game, if I were to explain the game in one sentence it would be “it’s like playing an Atari 4bit game after dropping acid“. Now the brains behind the game is back with the aptly named sequel called Skullz 2, promising to be a bigger, better and more ‘trippy’ then the first one. I was fortunate enough to have a chat with the developer behind this unusual game, Feliks Balzer.
Cliqist : Tell us a little about yourself?
Feliks Balzer : My name is Feliks Balzer, I’m an art student from Germany. I’m on the internet a lot, and in the process of being done studying. Skullz was the final work of my studies, with my studies having nothing to do with game design whatsoever. I came to game design by having an internship in a media agency as editor & composer, where I taught myself how to code when nobody was looking, because I didn’t see myself working in a place like this for the rest of my time. The internship ended, I continued making games and here I am trying to make money making games, in the hope of being spared of more editing and composing.
Feliks Balzer : Well, so far it’s not much of a game studio, just me as a game developer. That aside though, I used to be bored with my nicknames all the time, so I ended up having way too many to keep track of. Pizza just happened to be the one I had when I started getting out there a little, so I ended up sticking with it cause I didn’t want people to be confused. Regarding the idea behind the name, there isn’t much to tell. I like Pizza.
Cliqist : Describe in your own words what kind of game is Skullz 2?
Feliks Balzer : Skullz 2 is more of an interactive experience than a game. For the most part, you can’t really lose, and the gameplay tries it’s best to get out of your way so that you can enjoy the story instead of scattering riddles and pitfalls everywhere to obstruct your progress. In that regard, it’s probably closest to games like Snatcher. It touches upon a bunch of genres, but doesn’t quite go all the way in any of them, one of those games that’d find itself in the “Various” category.
Cliqist : You described Skullz 2 as “A Retro Indie Adventure Game on LSD”, please elaborate?
Feliks Balzer : Well, the graphics and sound effects are all what would be considered “Retro”. Personally, I don’t like to think of it that way, as I’m not trying to copy the SNES or something. I’m just a huge fan of this particular look and sound. But, you have to kinda label the stuff you do so people know what they’re in for, so it’s Retro. Then it’s most certainly Indie, cause I’m just a single guy doing this. As for the Adventure Game part, that’s just a label so people know at least kinda what they’re in for, and an adventure is just what the game most closely resembles if you wanna talk genres. And Lastly, that LSD part. Refer to the plot of the previous game for why that might be fitting.
Cliqist : What video-game, film, literature or artwork do you believe influenced Skullz 2?
Feliks Balzer : There’s the “The Hobbit” video game from 1982. Just take a look at it and you’ll know in what way that might have influenced Skullz. For more recent examples of that style of game, take a look at 1988’s Snatcher. Apart from that, it’s probably an amalgamation of a million different impressions, digested by my brain and expressed as a video game.
Cliqist : Without spoiling anything tell us the plot of Skullz 2?
Feliks Balzer : That’s difficult. Apart from the fact that I want to keep it kinda secret for the time being and release bits and pieces of it as the development progresses to not waste my metaphorical ammo all in one shot, it’s also very confusing. I can tell you that there’ll be branching paths and multiple different endings. There will also be new Skullz, along with many of the Skullz from the first game. Additionally, the story might actually start to make a little sense this time around.
Cliqist : Tell us a little bit about the game-play mechanics, how would your character interact with the game’s environment?
Feliks Balzer : As with the first game, Skullz 2 could be a book as much as it could be a video game. The difficulty of this series is as much as flipping a page. I just want to create worlds and tell stories without the gameplay obstructing the access to that. It’s not about winning or losing. That said, I would love to delve a bit deeper into the various hallmarks of the genres, like an inventory or actual experience points and skills, subordinating that to the general thought of not obstructing the player, but entertaining him. I just might not have the time or money to expand on game-play mechanics as of right now, but that’s something to keep in mind for the miraculous event of over-funding.
Cliqist : I understand there is combat involved in Skullz 2, would it be similar to Skullz or are you planning something different?
Feliks Balzer : There will be combat, but in a less forgettable way as in the last game. Think Monkey Island 1 Insult Sword Fighting.
Cliqist : Skullz was made by you for free , why do you want crowdfunding for Skullz 2?
Feliks Balzer : Skullz was made as my Bachelor’s Thesis, so I had to do it no matter what, unless I wanted to fail my Bachelor’s degree. It furthered my natural career while still getting funded by the same means that my whole studies did. The plan always was to start funding myself once I was done studying though, which is becoming reality. Skullz 2 is my shot at funding myself while doing what I love instead of getting just some kinda job and putting the dream of developing video games for a living on the back burner.
Cliqist : What kinds of features have you planned for Skullz 2 if it gets over-funded?
Feliks Balzer : I couldn’t even being to start answering that question. If Skullz 2 got over-funded, I would go crazy with ideas. But until that happens, I’m staying realistic and focusing on what I can do with what I got.
Cliqist : Would you be offering alternative ways of funding (PayPal/Bitcoin) Skullz 2 for people who cannot use IndieGogo?
Feliks Balzer : As far as I understand it, IndieGogo uses PayPal. So that way of funding is there. Regarding Bitcoins, I’m reluctant, as I have no experience with them or an understanding of how they work whatsoever.
Cliqist : Can you close us out with a Skullz 2 related haiku?
Feliks Balzer :
A past to be rewritten
Ever so futile
Thanks to Feliks for taking the time to answer my questions! If you’d like to learn more about Skullz 2 be sure to check out its IndieGogo campaign before it ends on February 1st.