Six Shooter Games is a relatively young development studio based in Gainesville, FL. Recently The Indie Mine was invited to check out their studio and get a personal demonstration of the beta for their newest game Sprocket Junkie. This is the first internal project for Six Shooter, having previously worked on browser-based games and the Devil May Cry HD Collection. Naturally they were excited to show off a project based on their own ideas, and we were excited to get a chance to not only get a personal hands-on tutorial, but to also see the habitat of a home-grown studio.
Sprocket Junkie is based off of a similar game released in the mid-90′s called Rocket Jockey. It’s a vehicular combat game set within various arena structures. You choose a player, hop on a rocket, and begin taking out the other competitors, all of whom are live players. Rockets are fairly customizable within the game’s garage and players are rewarded for accomplishing certain goals with new parts that open up. Although they’re purely cosmetic changes, they can help to give your character some flair and differentiate opponents out on the battlefield.
You take out those opponents by using the dual grappling hook launchers that flank each side of the rocket. Each can be controlled individually to perform a variety of functions. In terms of mobility, they can be used to hook onto poles to quickly swing around and change direction. If you hit two parallel poles at the same time with each of your grappling hooks, you can create a tripline for knocking other riders off their rockets. This is important as it leaves the player more vulnerable for you to drag them to their doom. In terms of general combat, you can grab onto either the opponent’s rocket or better yet the opponent themselves and yank them off the rocket. You can then drag them towards environmental hazards that will deplete their health. There’s already a wide variety of mechanics, and it’ll be interesting to see what gets added or tweaked as development continues up until release.
It can take a little bit to get used to the game’s controls which support either keyboard/mouse or gamepad. In our case, we spent most of the time using an Xbox 360 controller which seemed to feel better, but that may have been due to the fact I play more 360 than any other platform. I was fairly happy with the default button assignments, and eventually the ability to customize controls will make it into the build. The beta tutorial teaches you the basics, but some of the more advanced techniques we had to learn straight from the developers. We’ve been assured that the instructions will be beefed up soon which should give players extra incentive to keep playing once they realize everything they’re capable of doing within the game.
Although I was repeatedly dominated by both the staff and some local friends from NerdMentality who were also attending, it was still a really fun experience playing the game. Competitive multiplayer games like this tend to bring out that passion for screwing over friends that’s really a lot of fun. Grappling a bomb and lobbing it at a passerby was thoroughly enjoyable. The game could use some balancing in terms of damage done to opponents. Health pickups can too easily negate a great bit of work done in hurting another player. The game could also use more of a structure. The mechanics are the strength of Sprocket Junkie right now and I think they’ve done a really fine job with that aspect. It would be great to see more in terms of character leveling or story or presentation rather than just dumping you into an arena.
Sprocket Junkie is being built using the Unreal Development Kit and the environments kept getting more and more aesthetically impressive as the playsession went on. We started off on a couple of the basic maps that are in the current beta build. These weren’t bad by any stretch, but you could definitely see the evolution of the development team by the effort put into the artwork and design of the maps that haven’t been released yet to the public. The Conduit, shown below, is visually striking compared to some of the earlier environments. Another unreleased map, Crossfire, brought back many, many fond memories of the Double Deck stage from Mario Kart 64. A big thanks to Six Shooter for showing these off to us prior to the game’s release.
The game is far from done and a number of decisions remain to be made. Details concerning pricing or even the monetization structure have yet to be decided. No calls have been made regarding distribution methods either. The studio right now is heavily-focused on getting as many players as possible into the beta. They are seeking feedback from players and have even included a survey on their site which includes a variety of questions aimed at improving and adding to the game. Unlike a lot of betas that are simply used to weed out bugs, Sprocket Junkie is early enough in the development process that this feedback can help shape the game no matter how big or small the suggestion. I encourage everyone to not only try the game, but to give honest and constructive suggestions. Six Shooter Games has given us all indications that that feedback will be looked at for potential game changes.
Overall it was an interesting experience getting to visit the studio. It’s obvious these guys have a passion for what they’re doing and it’s neat to see how they’ve grown as developers since starting on the project via examples like the level design. Thanks to Six Shooter Games for opening their doors to us after what we would consider normal business hours, although they were still there hard at work. There’s still a lot to be done and decisions to be made, so stay tuned to The Indie Mine for future updates on Sprocket Junkie. In the meantime, go give the beta a try and check out their Facebook page or Twitter account for news on upcoming events.
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