Every week we shine the spotlight on an exceptional XBLIG and the developers behind them in what we like to call the XBLIG Spotlight. This week we take a look at Milkstone Studios’ Infinity Danger, a simple yet surprisingly sophisticated take on the twin stick shooter. Check out the trailer below, our conversation with the guys behind the game, and as always, my perspective. As usual on CBR, reading has rewards as you may even get a chance to win a copy of the game. Add Infinity Danger to your download queue!First, the Infinity Danger trailer:
First, tell the readers a bit about yourself, who you are and how/why you decided to start getting involved in making games?
Milkstone Studios is currently formed by two people:
- Alejandro González, who performs mostly the programming, administrative & PR tasks.
- Miguel Herrero, who is in charge of graphic design, sound & music, tool development, and the website.
Both of us have been working on this since 2009 as a hobby, but we switched jobs in 2011 and started doing this full-time. We decided to start making video games mainly because we loved games and computers since childhood, so everything is a a natural consequence.
Tell us about your history as a game developer, previous efforts, etc.
We studied computer science and started programming games for our own amusement. Shortly after getting the degree, we had the luck to find work in a 3D software development company (not exactly games though), where we learned a lot.
If you had to pick one specific game to describe as your inspiration, what would it be?
We have a long background of playing video games, so there’s a long list of games that have inspired us in one way or another. Proof of that is the Retro Game of the Week initiative we have in our Twitter account: We’ve posted almost 100 underdog retro games that we’ve played in our childhood. As gamers, two games that had a lot of weight on our current style are Super Mario Bros 3 and Contra. Nowadays we play almost everything that comes out on Xbox 360. Recently we’ve played Call Of Duty: Black Ops & Gears Of War 3, but also playing single player experiences such as Alan Wake, Final Fantasy, etc.
The game has obviously been released as a XBLIG, but have you in the past, or do you currently have plans to work in any other platform? What made you decide to develop for XBLIG?
We’re always thinking about developing for other platforms, but we’re too small to develop 2 games at the same time, so our options are reduced. Right now we are too small for the big platforms, such as XBLA, PSN or Steam, and publishing on PC can be a pain. We’ve also released a game for Windows Phone 7 called Epic 7 Free. We’ve decided to move away from iPhone & Android for now, since there are so many games published out there.
How long did you spend on development? Can you explain, roughly, how the development process worked for you? What tools and programs did you work with?
We’ve imposed ourselves a maximum development time of 1 month, unless we see the extra time will be worth it. XBLIG is a small platform, it’s really hard to sell 10,000+ units at $1, so more than one month in development will be probably a bad idea. About the development process, we spend a few days thinking on possible ideas and “documenting” (that is, playing other games). We also have a list of ideas so we can choose one if nothing comes to our mind. Once chosen, we write a small game design document and start working on a playable prototype with very basic gameplay & graphics, it usually takes one week (If it takes more than that, probably the full game will take too much development time, so we stop it and choose another idea). After that, we just keep adding the features intended and the game graphics/sounds. Finally we make the game GUI, awards, etc. The main tools we use are Visual Studio, Photoshop and Pivotal Tracker to track the development.
If you had to pick one thing that you would improve or simply do differently in regards the game’s development what would it be?
We could spend some more time in improving everything once a game is finished, but as I said it’s not worth it on XBLIG.
Many gamers dream of starting to make their own games, and it is obviously easier than ever for them to do so. What advice would you give someone hoping to make the jump from gamer to designer?
Just one: Start small. Your first project will take lots more time than you expect, so there’s a high chance you’ll quit if you don’t see some results soon.
Have you found the XBLIG process to be a particularly easy or difficult one?
The process itself is rather easy, our games usually are approved on the 1st or 2nd try (that’s one or two weeks approx.). It can be tricky on some issues (such as, you better not submit the game in any language other than English), and it’s a bit slow for releasing updates, but overall we like it.
XBLIG have had a mixed result so far, what is one aspect/idea/change you think would better solidify the platform as a contender in the gaming industry? What one thing do you think would improve the service as a whole, from designer to consumer?
Two main changes: 1st, improve the Xbox dashboard. It’s not well suited to browse & search (because there’s no search option) over thousands of items. And Top downloads/Top ranked lists don’t change that often, so they’re of no use if you have tried those games already. 2nd, treat Indie games as games. They don’t show on your gamercard, they can’t be accessed via quick links, they don’t have achievements (even if they were 0 points), or leaderboards, they need you to be online to be able to play them, etc.
What can fans of your game(s) expect in the not too distant future?
We’re currently developing a game for the Dream Build Play contest, something bigger than our previous games. We haven’t found an incredible idea, so we don’t think it will win anything. Anyways it will be a good game :). After that, we’ll make some sequels of our most successful games.
Anything else you would like to say?
Thank you for reading this interview, and I recommend you to try all our 8 XBLIG games if you haven’t yet. There’s a high chance you’ll like some of them. After that, remember to rate them properly in the Marketplace :).
The premise behind Infinity Danger is really quite simple. It is a twin stick shooter where rather than fighting through legions of minions to reach an end boss you simply fight one boss after another. Simple enough, but does this stripped down formula offer an engaging shooter experience, or is it just a twin stick with a gimmick? (I made a rhyme!) Infinity Danger doesn’t have a story to speak of, you simply start off each level flying high above one of the various landscapes, a timer in the top right will start counting down once the action begins and flashing text and a robotic voice repeating “Danger!” is the only set-up we get before the first giant enemy boss ship floats onto the screen. While certainly light on premise or even an explanation of what you are doing, why you are doing it or how to get it done, all of this looks fantastic for what it is (a class top down “flying” shooter). Quickly you begin to unload frantic fire into the enemy ship and you maneuver around and in between incoming fire. Parts of the enemy ship start to become damaged and glow red indicating they are nearly destroyed and eventually you are left with only a core, which once destroyed marks the end of the “level.” That is Infinity Danger in a nutshell, a nutshell that looks and sounds better than the vast majority of games on the XBLIG service. Again, this all sounds so incredibly simple in concept that you may very well be wondering why there is even a second paragraph to this review; well this is there the game starts to get genuinely interesting. First the timer: each time you destroy a piece of the ship and at the end of each level, the time gains time rather than looses it, so immediately it is clear that the quicker you disable the enemy the more time you will gain and the longer you can “go” in the levels. Every time you die you have time deducted, having of course the opposite effect. In many ways Infinity Danger is a game were you are trying to beat the clock rather than giant enemy ships and without this the game would certainly fail to entertain. Dying has another consequence though, the enemy ships learn. Are you particularly bad at shooting down missiles? The game will notice this and will start to throw enemy ships at you with more and more missile batteries. Do the lasers mess up your day? Same story, different gun. The game doesn’t just pay attention to your failures either, it makes note of your success. The form the ships take will vary based on your strategy as well. The end components of the long “arms” of the ship are the most vulnerable to attack and easiest to disable, but also the least critical. Attacking the base of an arm, or even the core directly from the start will take significantly longer than attacking an end component, but its’ destruction will mean the loss of an entire arm of the ship. If you find success attack from the side, expect that after several levels the enemy ships will begin to have components blocking your ability to attack that side directly, and so on. The result is a surprisingly large amount of depth and variance to the strategy of how you will attack the enemy where variety is sometimes your best offense. I was honestly surprised by the depth and sophistication of Infinity Danger, especially after the first couple of levels where I started to think I might have picked a “dud” for this week’s XBLIG Spotlight. Making up for the lack of story, you are likely to be driven to try again and again to improve your score in a very traditional arcade fashion: an online leader board keeps track of your ranking in real time score while you play. A feature lacking from many XBLIG’s, it goes a long way to help make this game more than just some casual time waster and offers a whole new level of competition. The game also features several in-game “achievements” for destroying certain numbers of bosses, turrets and even challenging one of your friends to best your score. As we all know, XBLIG’s are currently not allowed any sort of actual Xbox Live Achievements in them, but Milkstone Studios, the makers of Infinity Danger have realized what many developers haven’t, even if the achievements don’t pop up on the screen with the familiar sound we have come to know, they can still be addictive and add to a gamer’s enjoyment. All of these little touches add up to making this game a success rather than just another indie twin stick shooter. The game does have a couple of faults though. I was consistently annoyed with the frequency in which the enemy ship moved mostly off the small map in a way that made it difficult if not impossible to shoot at it (especially when combined with how the camera reacted to this). The relatively small maps also meant plenty of times when the larger ships would simply destroy you because you were pinned on the bottom half of the map and it would eventually run into you. Most notable though was the complete lack of controls or explanation to how the game works built into the game. I had played the game several times before I learned that I could adjust the spread of my ships fire using the right and left triggers or that my suspicion that the enemy ships were changing layouts based on how I was playing was confirmed. These types of things should be made immediately available to first time gamers and not appear as “tips” on the screen once the game is over. Mostly these are flaws that don’t take away much from the game (and if you’ve read this review than you already have avoided the biggest flaw of the game), but feel very notable due to the game’s fairly high level of polish otherwise. To sum it all up, Infinity Danger is a very simple premise that is executed with enough polish and solid design to make it more than just another twin stick shooter. Rounds are relatively short but are incredibly fun and you are bound to have at least one or two “just one more…” moments in attempts to top your last score or gain a higher ranking on the leaderboard. If you are looking for a fun and straightforward shooter with a surprising amount of depth and sophistication, look no further than Infinity Danger.
Final Rating: 8/10
CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: Xbox 360 – XBLIG
Approximate Time to Completion: N/A
Gamer Score Earned: N/A
Price Bought at: N/A – Review copy furnished by Milkstone Studios
Current Price: 80 Microsoft Points ($1) Recommend Purchase Price: Literally doesn’t get cheaper.
Add Infinity Danger to your download queue!
We know how this works by now. Milkstone Studios has been kind enough to give us a couple extra download tokens (codes) so that we can give two of you a copy of Infinity Danger! We really are way too nice to you all. Please read the details on how to enter below: First entry: It is time to evaluate the XBLIG Spotlight. When we first started we asked what you would like to see, several weeks into it now we want to know a little bit more specific; What questions would you like us to ask developers? It can be about development, marketing, graphic design, just let us know what you want to know and you’ll get your first entry! Second entry: Follow us on twitter and send the following tweet: @ClearanceBinRev is having a #contest for the #XBLIG Infinity Danger! #Xbox, #XboxLive More Details: http://bit.ly/iWH0qU Remember that you have to follow us; any winner we attempt to DM via Twitter who isn’t, automatically forfeits their win. If you enter via Twitter include your twitter name in your post below, winners who have their twitter listed will receive their codes immediately after winning. Third Entry: Like our Facebook page and then simply like the post on our wall for this article. Simple as that. (Keep in mind the article may be lower on the Facebook page towards the end of the contest and it may take a minute or two to post on FB) Contest will go until Wednesday at 8pm CST. A pool of all eligible entries will then be randomly selected from and the winners will be notified. CBR reserves the right to disqualify any entry we feel either violated the rules or spirit of the contest, including attempts at duplicate entries. Winner selected with no twitter name provided will be notified by email and have 24 hours to respond. We do not announce the names of contest winners, but do encourage them to post about their win.