The first time I played JPO In SLC, I died within seconds. The ‘Shoot-em-up’ or Shmup is generally thought of as a fast-paced species of video game, built around the utilization of reactionary “twitch” reflexes above all else, but any player more familiar with the genre will speak to the additional importance of regular practice, including some strict memorization, for success, and nowhere is this lesson better applied than within the confines of David Payne’s magnum opus.
JPO In SLC defines the zest of a Shmup, balancing an elegant ballet of colored weaponry and a playable protagonist with a single weak point, where pressure-driven, graceful movement meets a ceaseless display of enemy attack patterns. It really is a work of art. I got a chance to catch up with Dave before heading down to Game Grid Arcade to test my skills (again). Mind you I am not an expert nor will I be beating any world record, but seeing improvement token after token, is a nice thing.
How did the Idea for JPO In SLC come about?
I’ve wanted to make a video game ever since me and my friend mowed lawns all summer to buy a NES (jointly) in 7th grade. When I fell into arcade collecting and shmup collecting as an adult, I fell in love with the fine art of shmups, so of course that’s the kind of game I’d have to make- with one problem- video games are just about impossible to make. I was playing saxophone in my brother’s jazz group, and we were wondering how cool it would be to utilize the medium (video game), and he loaned my his mac laptop so I could try and learn Game Maker. I couldn’t dedicate the time, nor figure it out, and it was a dead end. Years went by, punctuated by heavy research into easier to use programs, until I discovered “Tall Studios’ Shoot’em Up Kit” on steam. I took a leap of faith and got into it. I just got enough traction on the program to go out on a limb and make a solid devotion to it. 600 hours later, the game is done. As for the idea, it’s not really my first choice. I’m just in love with shmups, and it’s a finishing of the the first project I tried back when I was in the Joshua Payne Orchestra. And I’m a musician, too. The relationship between shmups and playing music, especially in that way (as we did, with sight reading difficult charts in dangerous locations), they are very similar. The gameplay in JPO In SLC is painstakingly tailored to emulate the experience and emotions of playing that music. Also, as I get older, I love dramatized documentary, and re-tellings of tales. It’s a documentary video game. And as a artist, I don’t think I could devote that much time to anything that wasn’t documentary.
Explain the process of making your own ‘one off’ video game?
Well, there’s a duality- just the first one is a one-off. I plan on making as many as I can. It’s interesting working with a digital medium, where the original takes 600 hours, and the copy takes about 12 seconds. And hardware-wise, there’s not much too it. Arcade machines aren’t rocket science, and you can be pretty creative with the controls and the cabinet. I wish more games had proprietary controls and more creative displays like mine (I mean, in the shmup world. My control method- right hand flight stick and left hand bomb dropper- is unusual for shmups). As far as the process of actually making the game, it’s difficult to explain– anyone who’s made a video game will think I’m an idiot, and anyone who hasn’t won’t be able to comprehend the truth in this– THEY ARE IMPOSSIBLE TO MAKE. (I’m watching captain Kirk on Netflix as I type this) It’s f***ing 2018, and I believe that I am the first layperson- in the world- to do this exact thing. The Shoot’Em Up kit was in extreme beta (it’s getting more finished all the time- I’d almost describe it as a skeleton slowly being fleshed out), I made this game with a skeleton of a program, that is the only one in the world, and it’s not done. That’s why it took my 600 hours- with help from John and Karen Reynolds (the authors of the Shoot’Em Up Kit). And they’ve been working on the program for 10 years. So, 1. I can’t begin to describe how cutting edge my humble game is, in regard to unlocking the medium. –you want to know why arcades died? It’s because people can’t make arcade games. And, 2. It’s not a one off. Just a first.
Shoot Em Up’s are renowned for their challenge. How does JPO In SLC compare the other games in the genre?
JPO In SLC isn’t that hard. Just a little exciting at parts. I hope I don’t get burned too bad by traditional shmupists, but I sacrificed a lot to get the feeling I was going for. I think that what’s at first perceived as tight gameplay and feelings of control- and what is pretty traditional for the best shmups I’ve ever played- has to do with rather small sprites and high visibility of everything, no matter how exciting the action is. In JPO In SLC, the gameplay is actually pretty tight, pretty simple, and pretty well designed, but the chunkiness of the collage-style graphics, many large screen obscuring explosions and level objects, and really quite low priority on objects and bullets (which is ridiculous for shmups) just washes a lot of that away. And I imagine, that at first try, you’d probably feel chaos and feel OUT of control. Which is what I was going for, and that will probably earn the game a lot of criticism. I’m just 100% into the fine art of shmups, and that’s my medium for this, but I was really trying to make a simulator for playing saxophone in my brother’s band. And it’s a masterpiece, as far as that goes. It feels just like it. I worked really hard on that, and stuck with that concept. And I indulge in that loss of control. It’s not a frustrating thing after you played it one million times like I have. And if you play it with a normal joystick or a keyboard, it’s quite a bit less difficult. But I needed a little more physicality in the controls. But enough talk about difficulty. You die at the end of shmups.
Are there any classic or current ‘Shoot Em Up’ games that changed your creative vision or that stand out to you as must play/watch and why? Have you been impressed or surprised by any recently?
There is no “must watch”. Only “Must play”. -My creative vision was pretty solid, as soon as I decided to use 100% google art in the game. Which was first done out of necessity as I struggled with the program. And I hope the collage aspect of the game is appreciated, as well as the artistic use of everyone else’s art that appears in the game. I’m fond of Photo-realism and chunkily processed collagey graphics, but I also think that stuff is usually pretty corny. So no inspiration there. I’m in the process of drawing the next one now. And I’m not into comedic shmups either, as the polar bear and other elements of my game are a little comedic, too. So I don’t think I would be inspired by MY OWN shmup in those regards.
My all-time fav is Cave’s Dodonpachi Dai Ou Jou. I think it’s just a pacing and balancing masterpiece. Another love is Dodonpachi Sai Dai Ou Jou. It’s gives me a loss-of-control feeling that most shmups don’t dare to court. And the art is just absolutely dense, it’s like looking into a diamond. I love Shienryu, Taito shmups (Darius Gaiden, Metal Black, Rayforce), for their sense of visual narrative and drama. I love Takumi shmups, and their edgy personality beneath the surface (strong music, crazy scoring ideas, drama). I like all shmups. I love the art form. After making my first game, I view all games as masterpieces of the Louvre. I Played Jaws on the Nintendo and was just shocked that the scuba diver could even move around the screen. I’m a changed man. I like G-Rev shmups for carrying the torch, I like all shmups. I’m crazy about shmups. My definition of “fine art” is “increased amount of labor and discipline to produce” plus “increased sensitivity to tradition”. Shmups are fine art above any other video game genres. (increased amount of labor just because they’re video games. They’re hard to make).
And ANYONE making a shmup now, you are amazing. Anyone making shmups on Steam you are amazing. Anyone making shmups for the arcade, YOU ARE AMAZING! (there’s a few. I still think I’m the only lay-person, though. Thanks, Shoot’em Up Kit).
How would you describe the gameplay of JPO In SLC?
Technically? Well, you fly around the screen dodging enemies and their bullets, trying to get in as many shots as possible with the weakest weapon (if you’re playing for score), or with the strongest weapon (if you’re playing for distance), and if the screen gets too crazy, drop a super bomb, but get a rude reminder that score is more important, and the whole time, you’ve got to anticipate and catch the next power up (or dodge it). It’s a horizontal-scrolling shmup. The controls are a large flight stick for the right hand, and a lever for the left hand that drops bombs (also with a thumb button for a rare close-range attack). You get three bombs each life and level. The screen is wide 16:9 at the back of the cab with a tight fresnel lens behind the glass, so you can’t see the image unless you sit at the right height, directly in front of the cab, at which position, the screen looks a little bigger than the cab is, and some colors look a little 3D. Observers can’t see the whole image.
What have those that have played the game liked the most?
I have gotten comments on the talking polar bear cut-scenes. I was trying to channel the fast pacing of the cut-scenes from Strider. I utilize some Strider art in the game also as homage. Strider is/should be a major influence for me/anyone.
What do you think is your favorite part of the game that you are most proud of?
Near the end of the last level (the 5th level), you face a few previous bosses for a moment, and when they die, the make a truly startling roar sound. It is truly thrilling. If I could make the whole game just like that, I would.
What is harder to make … a Rock N Roll record or a Video Game? And Why?
A video game. Millions of times harder. A Rock’N Roll record is, all things considered, an aircraft carrier made of Legos. A Video Game is a 300 foot high Jenga tower made of invisible Legos. I’m waiting on/working with/worshiping Tall Studios for making those Legos visible for the first time.
Plus, Rock’n’Roll isn’t an extinct art form quite yet, so there’s that, too. Shmups and arcades is. (They’re in the Jurassic Park phase).
Where can people play JPO in SLC? And are you planning on a wider release for the game?
At this moment, you can play it at Game Grid Arcade in Valley Fair Mall in West Valley, SLC. And I’m making one for Quarters barcade in SLC.
What is next for ‘Rest 30 Records: Video Game Division’?
A more traditional vertical shmup, “Red Bennies Anti-Humu”, a synth-music-interface retro-dramatic dodging adventure, “To Space, Comrade” by Josie Cordova, and a single screen shmup, “Princess Decorator”. All Arcade games.
You can reach Dave & Rest 30 Records Video Game Division at: https://www.facebook.com/rest30records/
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