RVG Interviews Senile Team.

It gives me pleasure to announce our latest interview with Senile Team, who where formed in 2003 with the creation of Beats of Rage. Originally intended as nothing more than a fun little private project, Beats of Rage soon became a very popular game which was ported to many platforms. Following this success, the team worked on the fabulous Rush Rush Rally Racing, which was released for Dreamcast in 2009 and received positive reviews and now the amazing looking Intrepid Izzy.

A huge thanks to the big chief at Senile Team, Roel van Mastbergen for taking part in this interview.

Zapiy
Thank you for agreeing to our interview, please take a moment to tell us a little about
you?
Roel
Thank you for inviting me! I’m Roel van Mastbergen, founder of Senile Team. I am currently working on the programming, game design, art and animations of Intrepid Izzy. Our team has 3 other members, whose roles may vary from one project to another. In this case, they are charged with music composition, testing and QA.
Zapiy

Can you talk us through how you got into making games and how Senile was born?

Senile TeamRoel

Long before our team was formed, we had already tasted some of the joys of game development. I think we probably owe one of our first experiences with game design to a 1989 board game called HeroQuest. In HeroQuest, players explored a dungeon. Doors, furniture and enemy characters were placed on the board as players advanced, according to a map whose contents were known only to the game master. It was a lot of fun, but it was even more fun to design and play our own quests.

Some years later a classmate introduced me to the Basic programming language. I enjoyed it, and immediately set out to make an ASCII-based game similar to Arkanoid. It wasn’t very good of course, but I was hooked quickly proceeded to learn C and try to make more games.

The next big milestone was due to Duke Nukem 3D and Quake. These games were not only terrific, but also editable: users could build their own levels, change the graphics, and with some programming knowledge even change the game logic. Which – obviously – we did. A lot.

Meanwhile, my brothers and I had been playing a lot of SEGA games. One of our unanimous favourites was of course Streets of Rage. Sadly it didn’t seem likely that SEGA would ever grace the series with a fourth episode. So one day I suggested to my brothers that waiting for a sequel could take forever, so why don’t we make our own version with “borrowed” graphics from King of Fighters. They agreed, and several months later, Beats of Rage was born – and with it, Senile Team.

Zapiy
What was the first game you created?
Roel
The first game or the first computer/video game? I remember having devised a card game as a child, although its workings will forever remain a mystery as I have forgotten the rules long since. The first computer game I made, was called “Break It”. As its name suggests, it was similar to Breakout. I didn’t have a PC of my own yet, so I had to make do with the ones at school, where a friend had taught me how to use Basic. I instantly fell in love with coding and soon began to learn C, a decision which would have a profound influence on my life.
Zapiy
What do you for a living now?
Roel
Thanks to the funds acquired through Kickstarter, as well as a very significant investment of my own, I can now work full-time on Intrepid Izzy. My teammates still have “normal” jobs, though.
Zapiy
Any thoughts for doing games on other systems? 8-Bit or 16-Bit?
Roel
Generally speaking, I’d say the more, the merrier. But as much as I love consoles from the 16-bit era, I don’t feel inclined to start developing games for them. Even without the limitations of old hardware, there are more than enough challenges in game development already.
Greyfox
Are you surprised with the resurgence in retro gaming?
Roel
A little. I’ve always had faith that there would be at least some subset of gamers and developers who prefer classic aesthetics and gameplay, but I would not have guessed, for example, that something like Sonic Mania would appear.
Greyfox
Do you have any games that are just sitting on your drives unfinished that you may
release one day?
Roel
A few. 🙂
Greyfox
Can you tell us what prompted you to make games for old systems?
Roel
We kind of stumbled into it. After releasing the source code for Beats of Rage, it was soon picked up and ported to various systems. At the time (2003/2004), the Dreamcast port was by far the most popular one on a console, and the community was very active and welcoming too.
Senile TeamZapiy
Intrepid Izzy is an amazing looking game, what limitations are you finding in creating the game for the DC?
Roel
Thank you! The hardware may be old, but still quite capable. It doesn’t have much RAM and VRAM by today’s standards (16 and 8 MB), but we can get around that by using compression. That does put some extra load on its 200MHz CPU, though, but it seems to be able to handle it. But I do wish it had a faster GPU. Maintaining 60 fps does require making some concessions.
Zapiy
Do you have timelines built in to the management of these games?
Roel
Not really. I find that working towards specific design goals is better in every way than aiming for specific dates.
Greyfox
What has been the biggest challenge since the successful Kickstarter?
Roel
To keep posting frequent news updates. I’m much more comfortable focusing on development than communications.
Greyfox
Would you do it all again knowing what you know now?
Roel
Managing a crowd-funding campaign was exhausting. I was spending about 100 hours a week on it, and still the outcome remained frustratingly uncertain until the very end. But it did succeed, so I guess I would.
Zapiy
Are you doing all the development independently?
Roel
That we are. We don’t have a publisher or investor to appease. But no man is an island, and neither is a game dev. We do of course have obligations to our Kickstarter backers, and some of the target platforms impose certain rules and guidelines.
Zapiy
Will there be a physical release of the game?
Roel
At this time I can only confirm that there will be a physical release of the Dreamcast version. A physical release for PlayStation 4 is also on our wishlist, but I don’t have any concrete information about this yet.

Zapiy

Rush Rush Rally looks amazing, and sadly its hard to get hold of these days.. Any decisions on a re-release?

Roel

Thank you!, but as proud as we are of Rush Rush Rally Racing, we’re also tired of working on it. However we did release an updated version called Rush Rush Rally Reloaded.

 

Zapiy

Following on from that what about a follow up game with different tracks and so on?

Roel

Maybe, some day… But we don’t have anything like that planned at this time.

Zapiy

What was the decision on supporting Dreamcast games?

Roel

That wasn’t really a decision, but we sort of rolled into it. Not long after we released Beats of Rage and its source code, we received an email from Neill Corlett stating that he had ported our game to the PS2 and he was busy porting it to Dreamcast as well. Contrary to our expectations, it took him just one or two days to finish that port as well. Unbelievably fast! Anyway, Neill’s Dreamcast code and of course his expert advice provided us with a good insight into the Dreamcast, and because the DC version of BOR was the most popular by far, the Dreamcast was the logical target platform for our next game.

TrekMD

Beats of Rage took the community by storm, was you shocked and are you shocked at how this game took off and all the developments following on from its release?

Roel

Yes, very much so. BoR was originally intended as a fun little private project. When we put it online, we didn’t know if anyone would be interested in it at all. But we soon found out, as our webserver became unreachable from an onslaught of visitors. It took us completely by surprise!

Likewise, we had no idea the source code would be used to port BoR to so many platforms.

Zapiy

Age of the Beast looks fantastic from the few screenshots i have seen, can you share some more screens please and what’s the timeline like on this game?

Roel

Thank you!

Each time a question like this pops up, I do feel the urge to reveal more screens, I really do, but I know now that I shouldn’t. When we revealed information and screenshots at the start of the project, that was a mistake. It raised more questions than it answered. Also, with every detail we revealed, we lost some flexibility. Once a feature has been made “official”, it becomes more difficult to realise and accept that it may have to be changed or removed. So, prematurely releasing information has only harmed this project.

Meanwhile we’ve come to the point where we’ve had to re-think the entire design, so you can safely forget those old screenshots. The final product will be quite different anyway.

As for the timeline, we just don’t know. It depends on many uncertain factors.

Zapiy

What was the inspiration behind Age of the Beast?

Roel

We’ve looked at a very broad range of games (not just beat ’em ups) for inspiration, but the most notable ones are Streets of Rage, King of Fighters, Golden Axe and Guardian Heroes. Contrary to Beats of Rage, though, we’re not just mixing them together this time. With Age of the Beast, we’re building a world of our own.

Zapiy

I read somewhere you helped Duranik test drive the awesome Sturmwind, is this correct and if so how did that come about?

Roel

That is correct. As a fellow Dreamcast developer, we had already had some contact with Duranik. When we heard they were looking for people to help with beta testing, we simply volunteered. It was fun to do and it’s nice to have contributed to such a monumental game.

TrekMD

What’s behind the name Senile Team?

Roel

The first time we used the name “Senile” was years earlier, while creating a mailing list. It was just one of many random words typed in order to find a name that was still available. But random or not, it stuck, and since then we’ve used it for various things.

When the time came to name our development team, “Senile Team” was the obvious choice for us, and for once it actually seemed to make sense, too. Our “senility” is now a reference to the fact that we make old-school games.

Zapiy
Whats next?
Roel
More game projects, I hope. But it’s still much too soon to decide whether that will be a sequel, an expansion, or another game altogether.

Retro head and key holder of RVG.

zapiy

Retro head and key holder of RVG.

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