Welcome, one and all, to today’s creator interview. Longtime readers of the site will know that I’m a big fan of scrolling fighting games. Streets of Rage, Golden Axe, and Final Fight remain among my favourites, and still provide plenty of fun today. So, imagine my joy when I spotted a new game in development titled CelesSteel! Check out the GIF below to see the sort of action you can expect with this in-development title.
Not only is CelesSteel set to be a game though; there’s also a comic. So, with it all looking pretty interesting, I reached out to SelesSteel’s creator Luke Kiedron, and he kindly agreed to stop by for a Q&A.
Today, we’re talking to Luke Kiedron. Luke, welcome to the site! For those unfamiliar with you, can you let readers know a little about you and your work?
Hey Matt! I lead the upcoming indydev team ‘Retrolution Games’. We’re new to the market, and hoping to express our love of gaming and fiction through our work, setting out to create brand new titles with a distinctly old school feel, with a focus on classic gameplay elements and accessibility.
We’re going to get into the extended CelesSteel franchise as we go along, but I wanted to start off by talking about the game that’s in development. This is set to be a side-scrolling beat ‘em up in the style of popular 90’s titles like Streets of Rage and Golden Axe. First up, why this genre?
I’d been a huge fan of brawlers ever since I first played Streets of Rage 2 back when it was released in 1992. I was amazed by just how exciting it was, the graphics were brilliant as was the music and the gameplay fantastic. I’d wanted to take my shot at something like this for as long as I can remember, it’s just such a naturally engaging style of game.
With the upcoming Streets of Rage 4 being announced, do you think it’s time we see the genre have a resurgence? What makes it so fun?
Indeed, and I’m certainly looking forward to it myself! I think with fighting games in general, the concept of combat is just something naturally exciting, and whilst I personally enjoy the one on one fighting genre like Street Fighter, it sometimes feels a little limited, having all these spectacular moves but only being able to engage a single opponent at once. Brawlers open up this world of fighting action and lend an extra layer of strategy, such as the order in which you take down your enemies to minimise their threat, plus of course you have the satisfaction of taking down whole legions of foes.
The roster for the game features 13 selectable characters, all based on characters from the Western Zodiac. With such a large roster, how challenging has it been ensuring that each character plays differently enough to feel individual?
In truth it’s been surprisingly straightforward, it’s easy to think of your standard fighting tropes as being the fast weak one, the slow powerful one and someone in between, but with a bit of imagination and inspiration it’s pretty easy to open this up and create all kind of styles. For example, the characters Mamagi and Brawnos are the teams powerhouses, but whilst both hit extremely hard, Brawnos is one of the fastest characters due to his athletic, muscular physique, but sacrifices defence due to wearing little in the way of armour, Mamagi on the other hand is exceptionally slow and easily outmanoeuvred by enemies, but his defence is massive, allowing him to be played with a direct, crushing style that befits his appearance.
On top of this, each character has a unique, Blazblue inspired gimmick, which further differentiates them, Zakhadar can poison enemies for example, Tregas can reset his combos with a jab, allowing him to string together a vast number of moves, the twins Jem and Eli can tag in and out etc
Your recent Twitter posts have seen clips of the current version of the game in action, with a focus on the combo system and universal Flash Cancel. Can you explain what makes the combo system in CelesSteel stand out from the original forerunners in the genre?
The idea for the combo system was heavily inspired by Street Fighter. Normally in this genre, characters will have just a single attack button, and pressing it repeatedly will chain hits into an automatic combo. Of course, this tends to lead to a lot of repetition which was a frequent criticism of the genre, so in CelesSteel instead characters have three attack strengths, which can be combined in various ways and with different directions, allowing more flexible offence. To further deepen your options, the meter burning ‘Flash Cancel’ is an idea we’re working on which will allow you to cancel and reset your combo at any point and can also move your character forward into grabbing range or even set up devastating Super Combos, granting your further follow up options allowing you to really pile on the damage, which will be very useful against enemies where you don’t always get many opportunities to land a hit on them.
What would you say is the thing that people will enjoy most about the game?
Honestly, one of the things which people most often pick up on, is the feeling of affection that’s being put into the game. It comes from a very heartfelt place, which I feel lends the characters an endearing quality often lacking in modern gaming, and that emotional engagement lends greater a feeling to the whole experience.
The franchise as a whole has a very 80’s feel to it, which can be attributed a lot to you being born in the 80’s, the same as me. When I was looking through your Patreon page, I saw a lot of my childhood favourites mentioned by name. What amazes me is that a lot of these franchises are seeing reworkings for the modern market. What do you think it is it about these old shows that makes them so enduring?
I think a big part of it was these old shows basis is in classic story points which have stood the test of time, i.e. good vs evil, damsels in distress, sticking together using the power of friendship to overcome impossible odds etc. Whilst there’ll always be plenty of scope for writing more complex storylines and plots in fiction, simple, idealistic elements like those will always have a timeless appeal, and I think it’s the simple goodness which naturally captures people’s imaginations and draws them in.
CelesSteel is also expanding into the comic world, with two issues out now. Are these set before or during the core game?
Neither ha-ha, the comic is set after the game canonically! This is because the game takes place quite early in the whole CelesSteel timeline, and so is kept pretty straightforward story wise so as not to overwhelm new fans with too much story unnecessary to a scrolling brawler. By telling the tale of the comic sometime after, we’re able to introduce characters who wouldn’t appear until after the events of the game, like antagonists Manndredd Stanning and Negulrotch, both of whom are far more complex characters than the simple thugs you’ll be primarily fighting in the game, and better lend themselves to a good, engaging story.
Having read the first issue, I can happily say that it stands up well against modern titles. The art is detailed, but has a nice retro feel to it that sits somewhere between Master of the Universe and the Mortal Kombat Blood And Thunder release for me. How did you come to work with the team involved with this part of the franchise?
I was actually asking around Deviantart looking to recruit an artist to help with creating concept art for the game. I was approached by numerous applicants, but the one who stood out most to me was an artist by the name of Chris Puglise. He sent me his portfolio and I was greatly impressed by his skills, particularly his comic art, which as we discussed it, the idea to create a comic to promote the project came about naturally. It was initially meant to be a fairly brief introductory affair, but as I’d created a substantial amount of lore behind the world of CelesSteel already, it grew and grew, till eventually we had a substantial story.
How has developing the comic differed to the game for you? Are you finding one easier to work on than the other?
At this point they haven’t been completely different, as in both cases you’re trying to tell a story to your audience, but in two very different ways. Pacing is important for either, but the speed at which you do so is unique, in a comic for example, the idea is to try and bring your reader into the story at a necessary pace as fits the narrative you’re structuring. As pertains to the CelesSteel comic, it’s very action based, but whilst it moves along quickly, but you don’t just want a confusing crash of things happening all at once, you need to try and introduce characters, structure their scenes and write their lines in such a way that you get them and know what they’re all about within moments of meeting them, and that allows the rest of the scene to flow together in a way that makes sense and is easy for the reader to follow.
With the game, you want a strong, exciting sense of action from the get-go, but with gradually increasing tensions as the game progresses through both the feel of the environment, and the practical threats posed by ever increasing numbers of powerful enemies. I mentioned earlier that repetition was a common criticism of the brawler genre, so all the levels are carefully designed to feel unique in setting, Stage 1 for example is a quiet town under attack from punk raiders, so this immediately establishes your hero role in saving it, and as the stages progress, players will find themselves in desert wastelands, ruined cities, a B-Movie-esque toxic chemical plant, a zombie infested abandoned subway and many more. A big part of the games appeal is simply seeing where you end up next!
What is the one thing you think people will enjoy most with the CelesSteel franchise? Who is it aimed at and why should they check it out?
I’ve tried to create it for both older fans like myself who grew up enjoying this kind of thing, but also working in ageless fantasy elements which can be enjoyed by younger, contemporary audiences. Every character from the main protagonists to the minor villains has been carefully designed to have their own unique charm, with a strong emphasis on colours and accessories to make them feel immediately identifiable, and I’m confident that as the project develops and we start to get it out there, cartoon, comic and anime fans are gonna love it.
Finally, I wanted to thank you for stopping by. Where can people go to find out more about the project?
They can follow me on Twitter as retroguygaming, where I post updates regularly and engage with my followers on a broad range of topics, also my YouTube channel Retrolution Games, and of course the website www.celessteel.co.uk. Anyone who’d like to help myself and the team by financially supporting us can do so at https://www.patreon.com/retroguy