Interview with Rocket Juice Games

Hello everyone! Recently we got a chance interview Rocket Juice games the developers of Neon Tails. Neon tails is a wonderfully made open world roller skating game it’s still currently in Early Access on steam. The second I sat down and started playing Neon Tail I just got filled with questions I wanted to ask Rocket Juice Games about the past and future of the game and the three man team they have. Let’s jump straight into this wonderful interview!

You have a large section of the map under construction. How much more do you plan on adding to the game?

“Let’s say a lot more. We’re only in the beginning right now. Many new areas, the whole story missions and cutscenes needs to be done, many NPCs, many activities, shops, upgrades, new features such as super powers and cross dimensional invasion, and other surprises.

One could think Neon Tail might become a feature creep, but everything was planned to come along together since the beginning, we do feature many things, but none of them are the core design of the game, they are all part of the adventure. That’s why some systems like the trick system may seem light compared to Tony Hawk Pro skater for example, but our game isn’t based on tricks. It features tricks but it is not the core design of the game.

To be concise, Neon Tail’s core design is for the player to experience a great adventure. “

It said in game “SFS Professionals can interact with each other” but is there any chance that Neon tail will get multiplayer where we can party up and just skate around to complete objectives?

“We are a tiny team of 3 people working from home without salary. The project is ambitious enough without adding a network load to the coder, who also happens to be the concept artist, the character modeler, the animator, the sound designer, the main game designer, the trailer maker and the only one with decent English level.

So first thing first, We will first finish the project as planned, its story,  all the features and open world activities. Once the game is finished, depending on how we survived financially, we might consider adding a multiplayer system. We would love to do it by the way.”

The open world aspect of the game is just incredible how do you plan on filling in the world with activities?

“Yes, this is our little world, we will have our fun putting as many cool, funny, sad or interesting events as we can, and we’ll work hard so players will enjoy them.

There will be side stories, many jobs, many shops, many relationships to build or ruin, many events to trigger and influence the city, its NPCs and your reputation.

There will be mysteries too, and secrets for the thorough explorers.”

In some of the Devlogs for the game you talked about “Relationships” with characters how do you want to expand on that feature of the game?

“Each NPC has a relationship status toward your character. This relationship state will influence in a flexible  and dynamic way anything that correlates to it. This could be as deep as we want and is a major tool in our story / mission crafting.

A random example could be, A hates you because you jeopardized his plan with B, who helps you access to a new area by building a bridge. However A will rig an SFS match so you will lose no matter what, making C extremely furious and D might stop selling you special wares , etc etc… note that this is really just an example I made up right now. “

I’ve noticed many people relating this game to Jet Set Radio, Sunset Overdrive and Hover. How do you think this game differs from titles like those?

Taking away all the art, designs, musics and style, all of which are awesome, let’s focus on the game design.

Jet Set Radio’s core design is you spray paint tag locations within a time limit. You win if you succeed, you lose if you don’t. In the sequel they added little mini objectives, but the core stays the same.
Sunset Overdrive is an open world action game, with a classic but very effective power fantasy where you fight enemies and upgrade, coupled with a nice parkour system and having all the mission based on going from A to B and collect reward at C. It might sounds boring but they manage to make it fun. Triple A games does make it all better.

Hover is also open world, but the amount of activities are scarce, I remember there was racing by touching checkpoints, playing a sort of basket ball, and… that’s it? It was still fun though, the gameplay and the physics were clean and it was made by 3 people too, with the help of a publisher and a successful Kickstarter, they even managed to get Hideki Naganuma to make a song, so Kudos to them!

All 3 designs are fun. I might repeat what I wrote earlier but Neon Tail differs as while we will include similar activities, like fighting monsters, buying cosmetics having races / pursuits and doing mini objectives, our core design will focus on having the player experience a great adventure. The RPG part will be way more important.”

There is a scene early in the game that made me think a story line will be added to the game. Do you plan on adding a story to the game?

“Yes, the story is a big part of the game.”

Rocket juice games is just a three man team. What are some of the hardships of developing such a big game with only three people?

The obvious answer would be lots of work, lots of knowledge needed, years of learning and lots of very different skills required.

But we are a bit of a special case, I’ll talk more about the details in the next question, but what would be the hardship of making a game with only 3 people for most people doesn’t really apply to us. What does apply to us would be everything outside of developing the game itself.

We are learning as we’re working on everything outside of the production itself, marketing, advertising, all the paper work related to creating a video game company, etc…

I’m not saying it is easy, but we aren’t really blocked or getting stuck by any obstacle for making the content of the game. Of course with money we would be able to hire voice acting and buy high quality musics, but the game can still be finished without, although it would be also very different.”

How did your team meet and decide you wanted to make a game studio?

“Rocket Juice Games is composed of 3 people :

Yun Yang Lin is the paper guy, everything administrative goes to him, when he can he does PR, and regularly check on our overall situation as a company. He helps with testings and anything that doesn’t require too much technical knowledge. He used to work as a business man in antiques.

Leo Lin is an environment 3d artist, he used to work in the movie industry. He now does all the environment in Neon Tail. He also helps with testings and learns to use the tools I wrote to create all the environment tied events, colliders, and such.

I (Feili Chen) am the base of this team, I’m a workaholic obsessed by anything touching video games. My excessive passion for the craft allows me to crunch for many years and somehow keep a stable balance between the work stress and the love for video games.
I’ve been in the video game industry for 15 years now, I used to work as a 3d artist in various companies in France, then I took one year to learn how to code and made my first 100% full solo game, music included.  It was mainly a learning project (Sela the Space Pirate)

I then was hired in Taiwan as a game producer, where I also hired Leo and Yang. However the company I worked for had some “curious” behavior as once our game finished, the company closed, the game was given to another company in Beijing, ending all our contracts, leaving us without work. That’s when I told my partners about creating our own company.”

What is Rocket Juice Games dream as a game developing studio?

“First, become stable enough so we could at least work in an office and survive through our craft, then create many of our dream games! (I personally have a lot of original ideas I want to deeply tackle)

We hope we will get enough momentum with Neon Tail, through both a community and a financial income, to get to create more awesome games!”

What is one thing you’d like to tell Game Developers who are just starting out in the industries whether it’s a small team or a solo developer?

“Don’t do what I do without the proper mindset, crunch is highly unhealthy. I just happen to have a gigantic supply of passion for video games, and working hard is weirdly fun for me, so I’m never forcing any work out of myself. I might have a problem.

Other than that, I think we aren’t even successful ourselves yet to have the credentials to give advice to others. I guess what we’re doing now is just work hard, and always keep asking ourselves questions about every aspects of our situation.”

If you’d like to check out the game, the developers, and the Devlogs please check out the links below!
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1126270/Neon_Tail/
https://twitter.com/rocketjuicegame
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIaoXKpVg12Puz3rtNg2mkQ

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