Senile Team started off in 2003 with the creation of the freeware game Beats of Rage, a popular tribute to Streets of Rage. In addition to being an excellent game itself, its game engine has been used to recreate classic arcade games for Dreamcast such as Golden Axe and the Final Fight trilogy.
In 2009, the team made their commercial debut with Rush Rush Rally Racing. Today Roel Van Mastbergen sits down and talks with us about GamesCom and their upcoming game Age of the Beast.
[For the Interview we partnered with DC Emulation and Dreamcast-Scene]
How was GamesCom for you?
Expensive; mostly on account of train fares, but well worth it!
This was the first time we got to talk to RedSpotGames in person, and I think it helped strengthen our relationship. We also talked to interviewers, fans and another Dreamcast developer; KonTechs. We seldom get a chance to do that in person.
Have you been to any other video game conventions?
No, this was our first time, both as Senile Team and as individuals. I don’t know when we’ll be attending such a convention again, but I’m fairly certain we will.
What was it like meeting KonTechs? Did they approach you as a competitor or did they try to offer you a publishing deal with HUCAST.net?
They didn’t do any of that, because KonTechs is not a competitor of ours and they are not HUCAST.net.
Also, to my knowledge, Hucast.net is not really a publisher except of their own product (DUX). KonTechs is focused on technological solutions, so we talked about things like programming and possible collaborate, as well as more general subjects. Sorry, I can’t give out any details, except for one thing: during the conversation it occurred to us that almost every Dreamcast developer consists of – or was founded by – brothers! Senile Team, KonTechs, Yuan Works… and the list goes on!
(Note: KonTechs Collaborated with HUCAST.net to release Dux)
Senile Team has had relations with both GOAT Store (At Midwest Gaming Classic 06 Age of the Beast: Special Edition was announced, an event sponsored by GOAT Store) & RedSpotGames. Can you talk us through the process of finalizing a publisher for R4?
We wanted to make an informed decision, so we included both GOAT and RSG in our list of options and talked to both. Arguments in favour of RSG included their geographical location, advertising strategies, graphic design, currency (no conversion between dollars and euros needed), previously published titles and the pleasant co-operation we’d experienced in the past.
(Note: DCS is owned by RedSpotGames and they hosted Beats of Rage for Senile Team back in 2003)
We were speculating that Senile Team and RSG’s big reveal would have to do something with Nintendo, but our money was on DS or 3DS. Why did you choose a digital release over a physical one?
Well, you should be glad you didn’t bet any real money, because we’re not particularly interested in Nintendo DS and 3DS at all. Personally I have worked with the Nintendo DS in the past, but found it an awkward machine to design and develop for. And we had already been working on the Wii port for several months before the 3DS was even announced. Still, it could be an interesting experiment to make a 2D game on a 3D screen, so in that respect the 3DS does have some appeal. But we really want to continue with Age of the Beast as soon as we’re done with RRRR, and we can’t use any more distractions. Our side questing days are over! Digital releases are attractive to small teams such as ourselves, because they generally don’t require as big a budget as physical ones. With a digital release, we (or our publisher) don’t have to invest in the production, storage and distribution of CD’s or DVD’s. Additionally, dev kits and licensing for digital releases are often cheaper and easier as well.
Why did you choose WiiWare for R4?
As for the Wii, we had lots of reasons to consider it the best candidate for a port of R4. It supports four players and its resolution is similar to the Dreamcast’s. The Wii development kit is relatively affordable. We can keep all our C code (contrary to some systems where C++ or C# must be used). And perhaps the most important one of all, I already have experience with WiiWare development.
Of course there are down sides as well, most notably the Wii’s default controller and its limited storage capacity. Fortunately we were able to map the controls to the Wii Remote’s button layout fairly well, and for the best experience we added support for the Classic Controller and GameCube Controller. As for the data size, the WiiWare port has to be about one fifth the size of the Dreamcast version! Shrinking the data without losing features may well be the most time-consuming task in this entire project.
What can you tell us about the PSP port of R4?
Nothing at this time, sorry.
Have you considered adding another R in R4 for the ports (Rush Rush Rally Racing Remix :D)?
Yes, we have. But then the number of R’s wouldn’t match the number of players anymore.
The regular edition of R4 on Dreamcast has been sold out for quite a while now. What are the chances for a later reprint with some of the PSP/WiiWare improvements?’
I honestly don’t know yet.
So what is the progress of Age of the Beast anyway?
Well, obviously our attention has been directed at R4 for some time, so Age of the Beast hasn’t progressed much. However, the things we’ve learned from creating RRRR, the improvements we’ve made to our 2D engine and the fact that we can now look at AotB with a fresh perspective again, are all very good developments. These factors will all help to further improve the quality of AotB and to make the development go more smoothly.
Bear in mind though that we are still a small team working on a very big project, so the release date remains scheduled for “when it’s done”.
Is it true that Age of the Beast will no longer have a freeware version?
True. we originally planned AOTB as a successor to BOR. As such, it was to be a combination of an original game and an update to the BOR engine. But things changed since then, in several ways:
- For those who want an updated engine to create mods with, OpenBOR is a perfectly sound option already. So it makes more sense for us to focus on the “original game” aspect.
- The game design for AOTB has evolved quite a lot. To implement all the ideas we have (or at least the best ones), an updated BOR engine simply will not suffice. We need to program the engine to support very specific features (e.g. complex behaviour for boss characters), whereas a moddable engine would benefit more from generalistic features. It would be too time-consuming to try to support both; we would only end up having neither.
- So far, all our projects have cost us a lot of time and money. And sadly we don’t have a money tree (it died some time ago after we forgot to water it). If we don’t make sure our projects become economically viable, pretty soon we won’t be able to make any more games at all. And that would be a shame, because we’re not about to run out of ideas for at least another century.
Well obviously you guys are getting busy with AOTB, but what’s next?
Well, over the years we’ve built up quite a collection of game concepts, some of which are very unique and original. So the next thing we’ll be working on is a cloning machine, because creating an army of clones is obviously the only realistic way to develop so many concepts.
We would like to thank Roel Van Mastbergen of Senile Team for taking the time for the interview.