Back in 1995 is a game that I’ve been watching closely since it was first announced. Released at the end of April this year, it’s an indie game that takes inspiration of the original PlayStation era. So many indie games take their inspiration from the NES and Master System, who grew up with Mario, Metroid, Castlevania and many more. But this developer, along with me and many in my age group, grew up with PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and Nintendo 64, which in turn lead him to develop a game inspired from these consoles.
I was able to talk to the lead developer, Takaaki Ichijo, who kindly answered a few questions.
What made you go for this style?
I love 90’s video games. Especially, the first PlayStation. Because I was born in 1986, and grew up with PlayStation 1 games in my teenager years. In the present day, many indie developers make retro games, but they focus on 8bit or 16bit generation games. That’s why I thought I would make something that brings back a taste of the 32-bit generation.
Do you hope that ‘Back in 1995’ could inspire other developers to create games based on that era, and not the pixel style of NES as so many indie games have done these days?
Yes, I certainly hope so! As of April 2015 when this game was announced, nobody else was trying the same thing.
However I’ve been very happy with how many followers I’ve gained since then.
I used the Unity engine to make this game. In my blog, I shared specific techniques that I used to make Unity render things like a PlayStation would.
With yourself being a passionate indie developer, what’s the day job?
Unfortunately it’s not possible to make a living in Japan solely as an indie developer.
I work as a consultant for game development tools.
Currently, I’m working for mBaaS company named “Nifty”.
Plus, for this month, I’m a reporter at GamesIndustry.biz Japan.
How have you been able to support yourself while trying to develop and finish the game alongside [development team members] Ecochin and Jonathan?
Ecochin and Jonathan are the designers responsible for art assets and some of the polygon models.
They aren’t full-time staff but were paid on a per-request basis.
Jonathan made the polygon models.
Ecochin made the title logo and main 2D art used in posters and banners.
How many iterations did the game go through before you decided on its final form?
I can’t remember! That said, the Unity Cloud Build counter was over 200.
How long has this taken overall from an idea to being released to Steam?
About fourteen months.
With the game winning an award at the Tokyo Game Show last year, did it help spur you to finish it as best you could with the team you had, or did you gather any feedback from the show that you felt would make the game even better?
I was very pleased, but just because of an award, that still didn’t mean Japanese investors were attracted to the project.
In overseas countries, such awards are very effective.
Many people are watching these awards given, such as gamers, publishers, venture capitalists.
But investors in Japan aren’t interested in indie games.
A small thing, but I remember always having the curiosity to see what the memory card block for the game looked like, is the save system similar to the era?
‘Make sure you have 2 free blocks available!’ with an icon for example?
Initially the idea was to completely imitate the slots of a memory card but that grew overly complicated.
The pre-prototype has a memory card joke like you said.
The current version does only have 7 save slots, regardless that it’s a PC game!
Are there any plans for it to be released on consoles, or making it full circle to the PlayStation 4? Or other systems such as Mac or tvOS?
Yes, a console release will definitely happen. It would be great if we could do Sony, Nintendo, and Xbox platforms.
As for tvOS, let’s hope Apple makes a better controller!
Are there plans for an expansion pack to the game, or another game based on the graphics of the mid to late nineties again? Tomb Raider and Metal Gear Solid instantly come to mind.
An expansion pack is an important thing with I’m already planning on.
Based on some people who wrote a “bad” review on Steam, they want more stages, plus a hard mode.
I’m trying to meet their expectations bit by bit, but it takes time.
Many thanks for Takaaki for taking the time to answer my questions.
The expansion pack and the upcoming ports to Mac and Linux should be appearing soon.