Perhaps 16-bit visuals are the way of the very-near future after all.
In a bold move by independent developer Sri Kankanahalli, the 20 year-old Computer Science major shifted the visual style of his Kickstarter-funded project Steel Assault from replicated 8-bit graphics to a much richer 16-bit style. Moreover, Kankanahalli is offering refunds to anyone unhappy with the change in visual style.
The two-man Steel Assault team explains the reasoning behind their decision in a post made on the game’s Kickstarter page yesterday. In short, Kankanahalli underwent a three-month internship at an undisclosed “Big 4” tech company this summer and acquired enough money to give Steel Assault a visual makeover. His decision aligned with talks he recently had with Steel Assault’s artist, Daniel Garcia, where the two discussed the necessity of 8-bit visuals for the game.
We initially tried the first approach, trying to mold our 8-bit restrictions to more detailed and vibrant environments. Not going into detail, it didn’t really work out as well as we hoped it would. The more we tried to do, the looser our restriction set had to get… Until finally, we decided unilaterally to take the second option, and ditched them.
Along with his offer to refund any backer unhappy with Steel Assault’s new art direction, Kankahalli also welcomes pixel artist Weston Tracy to the development team.
A comparison of the two visual styles can be seen below. Keep in mind that the “After” image is still a work in progress.
So far, backer response to the art shift seems to be generally positive.
Steel Assault is a 2D action platformer that takes visual and gameplay cues from classic NES titles like Sunsoft’s Batman games and Natsume’s Shatterhand. Befitting the time period of its inspirations, Steel Assault places players in the role of a cybernetically-enhanced supersoldier who must restore peace to dystopian America by defeating its tyrannical leader, General Magnus Pierce. Though Steel Assault adheres to the shooting and platforming mechanics of older titles, its storytelling approach is unique in that there are no segregated ‘levels.’ Instead, the game is played as if it were one continuous shot, with seamless transitions between scenes.
Kankanahalli brings to Steel Assault a lifetime of programming experience, as well as years in the ROM hacking, homebrew, and emulation scenes. When it comes to retro-styled games, Kankanahalli has a unique approach:
Fundamentally, we believe that retro styles should be an invitation for developers to push the limitations, not an excuse to fall back on them. We don’t have any nostalgic pretenses or axes to grind with modern videogames, and we’re not trying to sell you some tired rhetoric about “the good old days”. We just want to make a kickass 2D action game.
To some fans, his recent decision to move to the 16-bit visuals associated with the SNES and the Sega Genesis can be seen as a challenge to the glut of 8-bit visuals that clutter the indie gaming scene.
Steel Assault raised $8,706 US in just 30 days on Kickstarter. While donations to the project are now closed, you can visit the Kickstarter page here to read up on Kankanahalli’s development process. You can also visit the game’s official site here.
Steel Assault is due to launch in May 2016 for PC platforms.