Ahead of the cyberpunk shooter SPRAWL release in August of this year, we were provided with the opportunity to ask the major questions to the game’s development team. Answering our queries was Carlos Lizarraga, co-founder of Maeth Inc. who provides some wonderful insight into SPRAWL’s development process and inspirations.
SPRAWL has been one we’ve had our eye on at FingerGuns HQ since it was first announced. You can catch the launch information right here, if you’d like to get some context for the game itself. We’re appreciative of Carlos’ time answering our questions and we hope you enjoy reading their insights.
First off, I just want to say a big thank you for taking the time to read and answer our questions. We’re really excited for SPRAWL and the game you’ve put together!
SPRAWL’s trailers have given me some very positive memories of playing Ghostrunner and Doom 2016, were there any specific influences for your approach to the gameplay or systems?
SPRAWL is highly influenced and inspired by a bygone era of games and aesthetics that were at the time, no longer prevalent in modern games. This includes games like Quake 1-3, but also a lot more than that: Half Life 1-2, SIN, Deus Ex, Marathon 1-3, and so many more. I’d say it leans into those games far more than Quake or DOOM, it’s just something like Marathon isn’t as well known. Aesthetically it’s also highly influenced by a myriad of graphical limitations of that era of games, but doesn’t adhere to them, it’s about that style as I remember it, not how it actually looked. Beyond that there’s also a ton of influence visually from Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Patlabor, Blame! and so much more.
Our systems-first approach is mainly attuned to creating a sandbox that allows for the greatest amount of emergent gameplay we can, giving players tools and the freedom to use them, encouraging “fun” things rather than forcing players to do them.
Ghostunner is always an interesting comparison; SPRAWL existed in some capacity before Ghostrunner did, but I believe we both are paying homage to the same lineage of influences in similar ways. A katana from Snowcrash, AI conspiracies from Neuromancer, etc.
Level design looks like it’ll be a really big part of the game in terms of navigation and within the combat sandbox, was the idea to always have so much verticality involved or did that come as part of the development process?
We’re of the same lineage of the greats of level design. SPRAWL is a retro game because it believes in strong level design. The 90’s retro shooter approached this in a myriad of ways that we’ve tried to condense in a familiar format. Level loops, not too maze-like, it’s about striking that balance. I come from the Quake mapping scene and I’ve attempted to really take elements from what makes that community some of the best level designers on earth and sprinkle that into the level design of SPRAWL. It’s folly in many ways because they are *so good* but aim high and you’ll end up somewhere in between. Verticality was part of the design philosophy from day one, but it’s been a difficult challenge to address in its own way. Valve has a great quote, something to the tune of “if you figure out how to make a player look up, let us know.”
Are we likely to see more unique enemy types that require a different approach or playstyle to overcome?
Most enemies have unique weak points or ways to efficiently deal with them, but unlike something like DOOM Eternal, we’re really not forcing you to have to approach them in a particular way. You get rewarded for doing so, literally, in the form of rewards that drop from enemies that are killed efficiently, like health, ammo, and more adrenaline for bullet time. You also conversely get the kill quicker, and 90% it was flashier and more fun to kill them this way as well. But if you really want to just spam M1 and waste all your minigun ammo to waste a big mech, you totally can. Or you can conserve that ammo, and use your pistol to shoot the grenades right out of their gun and kill them that way.
Will there be any kind of upgrade system within the game or will it be more dependent on skillful use of the weapons sandbox available to the player?
No upgrades at all, the game is all about mastery of the mechanics and progression by finding newer and bigger guns that fit into that sandbox. We challenge you more by throwing harder enemies with bigger health pools, more complex encounters, and flat out more enemies as the game progresses.
The trailers have already shown off wallrunning and anti-gravity shotgun double jumps, are there any other exciting little mechanics we’ll get to play around with?
There’s a whole host of emergent mechanics that we’re excited for players to stumble on. It’s a very old school approach from the bygone days of BHOP or Rocket Jump on source engine and id tech era games. Cool little tricks to discover that aren’t needed to beat the game, but are fun to pull off and throw into the mix, and make you a slightly better player.
Is there any plans for SPRAWL to have multiplayer components or modes later down the line? Given the fast-paced look of the gameplay, there could be quite a potential community who would be interested in running-and-gunning against or with each other.
It’s something we’d love to do, and in many respects was planned for. A lot of that set up has been worked on to some extent, but it’s a major time investment and our focus was primarily on delivering a great single player campaign first. If the interest exists after launch we’ll definitely be giving it a look.
Cyberpunk soundtracks are quite iconic for their atmosphere and unique beats. How did you go about the composing process and were there any particular inspirations you drew from?
SPRAWL is inspired visually and sonically by the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I want it to feel like those games that introduced me to the prodigy, to photek, and to so many others. SPRAWL is an album you can play. The world will react to your actions, drops during combat, breaks and atmosphere during the rest. 100% of the sound was tracked by me, making SPRAWL a full fledged multimedia project that brings that dance music, video game relationship full circle. I love dance music, more than anything. I’ve spent my life working on investing in its culture. COVID was cataclysmic for dance music. We were born in a club, and struggle to exist without the show. This is my attempt to find a new way to contextualize our art. The sort of relationship between games and electronic music specifically always fascinated me. Quake in 95 sound tracked by NIN, that incredible comp for Wipeout. So many others. It’s how I first got into this scene, as a kid. I wanted to re-create that experience for a new generation.
How did you approach blending the soundtrack and sound design with the lightning quick gameplay? Did one inspire the other more or were they designed alongside each other?
One informs the other. Many of the tracks were written or ideas in some capacity that existed alongside a visual aesthetic or a level inside my head for years before SPRAWL was what it is now. The song GOR Complex for example existed waiting for the level to be created for nearly 3 years. Other songs were written as the level was being created. The sound design had to fit sonically with the soundtrack as well. I’ve treated the whole thing as one congruent piece. Every gun has been lovingly put together to mix well with the world around it and the music behind it. Our music system for many levels is fully dynamic with pieces of music coming in and out and progressing alongside the player. For some levels, however, that system has been left out intentionally to give space for a more traditionally composed piece of music that ebbs and flows. It creates moments where the action and the pace desync but the constant progression of the music also gives a certain feeling I haven’t found the words for. Like when the blinkers on your car sync up with the beat of the song on the radio.
Well, there you have it. Some fantastic responses that provide an in-depth look at what we can expect from SPRAWL and the media that spawned it. We’d like to thank Carlos for their time answering our questions and look forward to getting our hands on the full game when it releases this month. Having the chance to learn so much more about the game, I’m only more keen to finally draw my katana and unleash slow-motion carnage.
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