Interview With PixelMetal’s Nick Robalik on Sombrero
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the sole developer of Sombrero, an indie game from PixelMetal. If you didn’t catch Fergus Halliday’s preview of Sombrero you cant find it here.
1. Hi Nick! How about we get a quick introduction from you and your role in PixelMetal?
Hey there! I’m Nick Robalik and I’m from an indie game company located in New York City called PixelMetal. Sombrero is the game I’ve been working on for awhile now, and it’s getting (hopefully) close to release.
My role in the development of Sombrero is almost everything – the design, development, illustration, animation, and sound effects. The soundtrack is being handled by a very talented fellow named Nathaniel Chambers, who’s in the midst of creating a fantastic set of tracks in an appropriately Spaghetti Western style, which suits the somewhat tongue-in-cheek tone of the game.
2. What has been the most rewarding part of developing Sombrero?
The actual development of the game! It’s been a heck of a ride so far, but I’ve been getting good feedback from people who have had a chance to play it and with the end in sight, I look forward to hearing what a wider audience thinks about it.
3. How about the most challenging?
4. Was there a discussion at any point for Sombrero to be top-down rather than 2-D, or was it always planned to be in 2-D?
Sombrero itself was always planned to play more like a side-scrolling platformer from the beginning, but the code that it’s built on was initially intended to be used for a more generic 2D top-down shooter along the lines of something like Commando or Gun.Smoke. After I’d finished a test stage for that game concept and wasn’t really thrilled with the way it was going – when I say it was generic, I’m being generous – so I pulled out the idea for Sombrero that I’d roughly sketched out on post-it notes many years ago and decided to revisit that instead.
5. The Spaghetti Western influence shows in the music, levels, and characters, as does Mexico’s Day of the Dead. Where does did the inspiration for characters such as ‘Jim from Cleveland,’ or ‘Ariel Futura’ come from?
Both Jim from Cleveland and Ariel Futura are the result of a very, very late night sketching out character concepts. I ended up putting a bad History Channel faux-documentary about ancient, pyramid-building aliens on in the background, and got sucked into it. It made me think of those bad 1950’s scifi B-Movies featuring monsters in rubber suits and, next thing you know, there’s a blue tentacle-faced alien getting chased across the galaxy by a futuristic space-cop with a bad font joke for a name in the game. It ended up taking Sombrero in a less serious direction on a couple of different fronts, which I think has worked out for the best. It also opened up the door to include characters from other indie games, and there’s going to be a few of them in there at launch, with more additions coming post-launch.
6. We don’t have the luxury of playing many couch co-op games today, what was the motivation behind PixelMetal’s decision to focus on local multiplayer?
I’ve been a big fan of local multiplayer games going back to my childhood and playing Mario Bros. on the Atari 7800, and I like the friendly rivalry gamers have when they’re playing shoulder to shoulder. I usually end up with a line of people waiting to play at the events I bring Sombrero to, so I’m doing my best to assume I’ve made the right decision and that people will pick it up to play with their friends at home once it’s released. Fingers crossed!
7. Does PixelMetal have any ideas about what types of future DLC will be released (i.e. more characters, or levels, or game modes etc) that players can look forward to?
Yes, and all DLC will be free. There’s going to be new stages, powerups and characters coming to Sombrero post-launch. I’d also like to add a custom mode where players can mix & match elements from other gameplay styles.
I’m a fan of how companies like Valve support their games after launch by adding new content and tweaking the old stuff to make a game that’s the best game it can be and keeps players coming back. So, I’m going to try that and see how it goes. People seem to like that approach :).
8. I sense a deep seated-rivalry between ‘El Jefe Numero Uno’ and ‘A Mysterious Stranger,’ care to elaborate?
This brings up one of the things I’m working on right now but haven’t quite figured out: how I want players to discover & explore the backstory of the world and characters in Sombrero.
I’ve written a bio for every character, and there are little hints in the background of each stage that define the geography of the world and how the locations of the stages relate to each other and some of the characters. I like including small details like that to flesh out the world without having to resort to in-game text dumps or cut scenes – especially since I’m building everything myself.
I’ve been tossing around the idea of doing some kind of web-based content that goes more directly into the relationships between the characters and the world of Sombrero, but I haven’t settled on what exactly that will be yet. And to get back to your question, there is definitely a rivalry between El Jefe & the Stranger, and I think it’s safe to assume it’s the kind that leads to a lot of shooting at each other.
For more info and spaghetti-western craziness, check out Sombrero’s website!