After trying out the Alpha of Peanut Butter Fingers 2D cover shooter Ur Not a Hero, I was impressed. I decided to ask them to talk to me about the game and the next steps because I am really interested in the story behind it and when the final may make its appearance. Because, the world needs more violent 2D cover shooters to round things out.

jdodson: You recently released Ur Not A Hero in Alpha. I wonder how this has been going for you? How have people been responding to it?

John Ribbins: It’s all a bit of a shock really. I read pretty much every day and I opened it up on Monday and saw UNAH at the top of the page. I think I literally went “eep”. The following response on PC Gamer and the subsequent number of downloads was a total surprise. I’ve put out games before and had a couple of comments and downloads, so to have people writing about it and making YouTube videos has been super nice. I have to admit that when I saw that people were playing it I got a bit scared because it’s still so rough and broken, but the response has been really encouraging. It’s nice to see people having fun with it and it’s great to get critical feedback at this early stage.

jdodson: I wonder what changes you need to make to Ur Not A Hero before you release the final version?

John Ribbins: Yikes. There’s a big to-do list. I rushed to do an Alpha before Xmas because I just wanted something out, get some feedback so far. There’s a ton of stuff that’s simply missing, the interface is completely horrible to use, and some screens are literally just text, the list goes on! The levels too are really just placemarker, a lot of them are just testing different features right now, in the final version there will actually be a difficulty curve through the levels, getting gradually harder, as opposed to completely random. There’s more playable characters too. The alpha was really about seeing if people enjoyed the mechanics of the game and to get the level editor fully functional so that we could build stuff. From here it’s about actually creating proper game levels and taking on board all the feedback to make what we do have better.

jdodson: I have a recommendation for a playable character in Ur Not A Hero. A bald character, mid 40s with a plain white shirt and no shoes. Has a machine gun and during his special attack he says “Yippee Ki Yay Ye Motherfucker!” Saying this makes him go a bit faster, take less damage but afterward his feet are red and walks with a bit of a limp.

John Ribbins: I just tried to draw him:

But he kinda just looked like an old hobo guy, not Mr.Willis. I think it’s the stubble. Anyway, that’s awesome, I guess he’s highly susceptible to broken glass and can’t shoot cops? But he keeps coming back, to do sequels of increasingly lower quality…

jdodson: Any plans on doing a Kickstarter to finish the game?

John Ribbins: So far the game is something that me and Danny have been developing in our free time. Having had such a positive response from people has inspired us to get cracking and finish the game. How we go about that is something that we’re exploring at the moment. KickStarter is certainly an option, as is Steam Greenlight. We’re currently developing a game with Sony for the Playstation VITA, so there are lots of options. I wouldn’t want to pigeon hole us into anything specific right now.

jdodson: I am sure you thought about the game quite a bit before you started working on it. At what point did you realize you Ur Not A Hero needed to be an actual game?

John Ribbins: That’s a tricky one. I’ve wanted to do the Slide/Cover thing in 2D for a very long time. Last year I started making a tile map editor just for the challenge of it. I realised I could make it do the 2D levels I’d need for the cover based game and I had a pretty nice AI engine for characters navigating the maps, so I decided to give it a go. Basically knocked out a 1 level demo with just the machinegun guy, some crates and a few baddies in a weekend and got some people to play it. Have to thank Jemma, Aaron and Peter at Lunar Software, Dean Gifford from Preliminal and Peter Silk from Surprised Man and my lovely girlfriend for playing it and giving me a ton of feedback, which then helped me figure out what to do with it. I’ve been a bit naughty really, there’s no design doc or anything like that, it’s more been a case of people suggesting stuff that sounds super cool, prototyping it in the game and then seeing if it works. Now that the alpha is out we’re being a lot more structured in how we move forward.

jdodson: What is the tech used in Ur Not A Hero?

John Ribbins: It’s made in Click Team’s Multimedia Fusion 2. I can write code but I don’t particularly want to, so it’s perfect for me. Once you’ve build your engine in MMF it’s easy to focus on creating gameplay as opposed to worrying about render pipelines or whatever. That said, once you start trying to get MMF to independently control 30 different characters, things get a bit tricky. I’m actually surprised it doesn’t lag.

jdodson: Was the art made by yourself or are you working with an artist?

John Ribbins: I drew and animated the characters, but credit for pretty much everything else goes to Danny Pearson @lambdansack. Danny has worked at my games studio for a couple of years and he had some free time so started making tons of assets for the game. The simplicity of the art style was initially about speed, but we kind of like it. We keep putting shiny nice things in, then hating them and making them into squares instead. The engine randomises the objects in a scene every time you play, so there’s a ton of assets to draw. Danny has been a legend in that respect. That said I think there’s only about 30% of the final asset list completed.

jdodson: What platforms do you want to support? Any thought to Mac or Linux?

John Ribbins: Right now it’s a straight PC title, ultimately I’d like to support Mac too. Further down the line I’d like to look at other platforms, like XBLIG or VITA but right now it’s more about getting the core game done. I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen Linux, so I’ve no idea if I could support it or not!

jdodson: I saw Jaws 3 recently and it blew my mind. It was at Sea World and mother Jaws and Baby Jaws busted into the park. Hilarity ensued. At the end as mom Jaws exploded its actual “jaws” came at the screen and hovered around for 15 seconds. Not sure this is a question but it was extremely noteworthy.

John Ribbins: Hmmmm a Roy Scheider character with a harpoon….

jdodson: Ur Not A Hero mixes a lot of awesomeness. ln one level you simply kill all the gangbangers and in another level you need to survive a Police raid. At times it feels like an awesomely campy 80s action movie. I wonder what some of your influences were in making Ur Not A Hero?

John Ribbins: Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed the awesomeness cocktail. It’s been a bit of a mashup really. Once we had the cover system and editor in place, we could start adding characters and missions and it kind of grew from just picking stuff we thought was cool. The Heist levels are totally a homage to Payday the Heist. Max Payne and Sam Fisher are kind of obvious I guess, but they’re really just hints to how the characters work. “oh it’s Max Payne, I bet I can dive and shoot…yep”. I love trashy action films, like the Gary Daniels stuff from the ‘90s so I guess that fed into it too. Through the studio I’m at we work in a (generally) quite organised fashion, with design docs and spreadsheets and timeplans, so it’s been really liberating with UNAH to be like “shall we make SWAT guys come down ropes when you crack the safe?” and then just doing it, even if it takes a week. The weirdest thing is when people say like “oh hey, this is totally from that bit in X”, and I’m thinkin’ “I’ve never even seen X, but OK, yeah, it’s from that”. I think when you’re designing you absorb a lot of influence kinda via osmosis. Sometimes you don’t realise that something influenced you until someone else points it out.

jdodson: Paramount Pictures comes to you and wants to buy the rights to Ur Not A Hero for a full length feature film. They low ball you with buying the movie rights for $25,000. What do you do?

A. Table flip

B. Chair throw

C. Scream “Show me the money”

D. Cave in and accept the offer

E. All Of The Above

John Ribbins: Hold on, there’s not an option to tell them no.. at least not without damaging furniture.

jdodson: What video games come to mind as games that you really enjoy and inspire you to make games?

John Ribbins: Ah that’s not fair! Thats like the hardest question, I’ve played a fair number of games. New(ish) : Super Meat Boy, Hotline Miami, Chivalry, Punch Quest, Spelunky, Happy Wheels. Old(er) : Cabal, Mercs, Carmageddon, original GTA, Quake.

jdodson: Peanut Butter Fingers has released a few other games as well. I just played Hack, a game that admits to being “more violent than pacifism.” In Hack you go head to head with another Gladiator and it has a “paper, rock scissors bloody offspring” vibe. From start to finish, how long did it take to release Hack and what were your goals for making it?

John Ribbins: Ha, cheers for giving it a go! I put it together one afternoon for fun, it was just a super unfair 1 player game. A buddy of mine came over that evening and we tried making it 2 player, then got quite drunk and spent about 3 hours solid just playing it. I don’t think it’s a game, because it’s totally unbalanced, it’s more a simulator for stabbing your friends and laughing about it together. I don’t know if that’s a good thing.

jdodson: I want to thank you for doing this interview John. Anything else you want to let us know about that I missed?

John Ribbins: Thanks for getting in touch with me to do it. I guess thanks to all the people that have downloaded it and played it, it’s been totally awesome to see people having fun with it. I think I’d also like to promise people that it’ll get finished, but that there’s only 2 people trying to make the darn thing, so please be patient! We’re also holding down real jobs and have to choose between UNAH and sleep. Finally, I was massively disorganised when the game came out, and didn’t really give anyone a place to go to get updates etc etc. If you’re interested in staying in touch, getting the next build and so on, then please follow me up on twitter @flappyfingers, or check into my website, I’ll be trying to updates as soon as possible.

Lots of love and some cake.

AdamPFarnsworth wrote on 02/15/2013 at 11:06pm

I really, really, really hope he keeps the John McClane character!

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 02/15/2013 at 11:08pm

I do too.

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