The graphically impressive 2D side-scrolling brawler, Shank, hits PSN on August 24 and August 25 on XBLA. We caught up with Jeff Agala, Creative Director at Klei Entertainment, to find out what inspired such a game and the art style the dev team adopted.
Q: Could you tell us a bit about the game and how you got started on the project?
Jeff Agala: Shank is our take in the classic 2D beat'em up. We focused on the cinematic presentation with a graphic novel inspired style. I created the concept with Jamie in late 2008 when we were trying to plan the next game for Klei.
Q: Could you describe what the process has been like to develop an indie game? I had read you had lost your publisher while Shank was still in development.
JA: Before Shank we were developing another game for Nexon Publishing in Vancouver. In early 2009 that studio went under and that is when we started development on Shank. Developing Shank as an indie game was liberating. Being indie has allowed us to have no limits to what we wanted to do, from the rating, to the content and the level of violence. We were able to make the game we wanted to make.
Q: Shank has a real nostalgic throwback feel. What games influenced the making of it?
JA: For me Shank is our update on the classic beat'em up. As a kid I played a lot of Double Dragon and Final Fight, these had the most influence on our approach to Shank.
Q: Why do you think the genre lacks the kind of presence it had back in the day?
JA: For a while I felt the industry looked at 2D as old technology and it was avoided by most of the major developers. With the recent popularity of indie games (Braid, Castle Crashers) and the success of 3D games with 2D gameplay (Street Fighter 4, Super Smash Bros) I'm seeing that 2D game development is coming back.
Q: I've seen the game described as a "Cinematic 2D Brawler", what does that mean exactly?
JA: I wanted to make an action game with a unique look and feel, so during production we put a emphasis on creating cinematic moments, visually distinct moments that the player will remember. We incorporated a movie-like presentation into our 2D game.
Q: How has your past experience as an artist influenced the direction of the game during development?
JA: As a small studio we wanted to make a game where we can focus on our strengths. As an artist my strengths were in 2D animation, story development and character design. So we built the technology to do this. We developed an animation system to be able to handle high fidelity 2D animation, we built the levels around a story with emphasis on creating a very polished 2D look.
Q: The story for Shank is being penned by God of War writer, Marianne Krawczyk. How did that happen?
JA: When it came time to plan out the scope of the game I wanted to base it around a story, and coming from TV we base the entire production on a script. Jamie (the CEO of Klei) had met Marianne at a game developer conference the year before so we sent her some art and clips from a demo we had made, and the rest is history.
Q: One of the obvious focuses of the game is on its very polished art style, but with Krawczyk on board how important is story to the game?
JA: For us telling a story is very important. Marianne's script was the starting point for all our levels and boss battles. The art and the story were the pillars of our game development.
Shank hits PSN on August 24 on PSN and August 25 on XBLA.