Creating Infernax, the retro game from Berzerk Studio’s childhood dreams
Hey dudes, Mike from Berzerk here with a fresh blog post for all of you. With Infernax coming up on February 14, the day of love, we thought we’d let you in behind our velvet curtains to show you what makes this retro action RPG tick.
Part of what got us to do Infernax in the first place was to create a game that was the closest we’d get to something we would have played when we were just little kids. To be more precise, we wanted to have a game that looked like it came straight out of the 80’s but would never have been released, a mythical game you’d talk about in the school yard, a game that had everything you wanted. in you the mind of the child.
So we went with that premise, instead of going with 100% accuracy, we decided to design the game around the imagination of a sugar-driven child; we took a skeleton of a few games we liked and powdered that with a bunch of “no way” moments.
What if the game remembered what you were doing, what if it had way too many secrets, what if it was also disgustingly gory; it’s all those things. The story is all based on your decisions, and those decisions determine which upgrades you get, which quests become available to you.
Making old new again
The cool thing about that process is that most of the things that we speculate about games we could do (and by speculating I basically mean we’d lie for a moment of glory during intermission) ended up in modern game design.
What we ended up doing was creating an evolving story that took the player’s choices into account, any choice they would make would advance the story in some way. That in turn created a fun new dynamic that would make people want to replay the game to see what would have happened if they had done something different, and true to our younger selves, we decided it would be hell if they did, it would really change how they would play the game, because no one wants to do the same thing twice, just for a wall of text. Could it be that saving this one man from hooligans will give you another spell, or maybe some bandits you chased will come back for you later, what if you joined them instead, maybe they’d take the loot with you parts?
So that snowed out pretty quickly and we ended up with a handful of different play modes that you unlock every time you complete the game, or that you can unlock via a code.
Oh and blood. Gallons of blood. Several truckloads of blood. Bloody bits and everything in between. Because in the 80s no way would the board of video games have made it through.
Old vs New
One of the biggest hurdles we’ve had, other than defying the whims of whoever runs this simulation, has been trying to expand a small cryptic experience into a more accessible longer experience without losing what made it special. Our game initially only lasted an hour or two, it was designed to be a short, but heavy experience.
Playing the knife game is fun for 10 seconds, but 7 hours straight might be a bit too much.
It was always meant to be difficult, punishing, ruthless, that was the design; that was the original selling point, the vision.
We wanted to deviate from the conventional form, not give the player the solution, but make them feel like they’re smart to figure it out. But that’s kind of battling 30 years of established game design, with arrows pointing you in the right direction, or magical creatures whispering sweet nothings into your eardrums.
On the other hand, we wanted a wide variety of people to enjoy Infernax, not everyone is a masochist in their thirties who likes to dig through dusty tomes to find which hidden block contains a chicken.
Accessibility and old-fashioned design go hand in hand, as do anchovies on a pizza; yes i said it, fight me.
So we made some concessions to expand the world of the game without getting annoying. We’ve changed some expected irritants to make them more palatable: a well-placed storage point will go a long way. We’ve implemented a new difficulty setting that adds a few dungeons for those who don’t like the thrill of failure so they don’t have to learn perfect execution. We also decided that some parts would make you feel like the game hates you, and that’s okay.
Plus, we remembered a little thing we did as kids when a game was too hard for us: cheat, cheat.
We had already implemented the code system to modify the game in some way, why couldn’t it work the way it did then? We’ve added various game modifiers through these codes that help the player through more difficult parts if needed, people are going to cheat anyway, and might as well help them get it right.
The result is something unique and something we are very proud of. We hope you enjoy it as much as we had making it. So yes, this Valentine’s Day of 2022, show your loved one that you would die for him, over and over again in Infernax!