Joining The Switch Effect on today’s Industry Interviews is Matt “EagleEye” Edzenga, Project Lead and Designer for BlastZone 2. BlastZone 2 is a high octane side-scrolling shooter currently available on Steam, Android, and Amazon Fire TV.
Matt, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with the gaming industry?
It is my pleasure and thank you for taking interest in my work! I’ve been a gamer almost my entire life. Growing up, I always liked console games; however, I liked tinkering with computers just as much. In fact, it was the goal of playing games on my PC that propelled me to learn all the ins and outs of it to get games working properly. That led to me to having just as much enjoyment tweaking and optimizing game settings as actually playing them. In a very real way, playing video games motivated me to pursue software engineering, which I later used to create video games myself.
Before I had much experience making games, I started what I thought would be a little fun game project. On the very first day of my project, I worked for 12 hours non-stop and didn’t realize it until I saw the sun coming up the next morning! That was a clear sign I had a budding passion for game development and I couldn’t wait to see where it would take me next! As the game started to take shape, a few onlookers would ask me “Oh, so you want to be a professional game developer?”. I would just laugh when I heard this, because I never thought I had a chance to get a career as a game dev; it was just a fun hobby at that point.
To my surprise, after 6 months of development, I was contacted by a game development studio. They were impressed with my work and offered me a position. With the engineering experience I built up on my own, it payed off and I was officially part of the games industry! I never stopped working on my project as it was too much fun and I had to see it to completion.
What was the first console/game you ever owned?
I dabbled a little with games on the VIC-20, but the first console I was really dedicated to was the original NES back in the late 80’s. I got the triple pack bundle containing Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, and World Class Track Meet. I was immediately hooked and it sparked my passion for video games!
Growing up, did you always want to create a video game?
I always had an interest in video games growing up, but rarely thought about creating them. I had a short stint with game development in high school, programming BlastZone 1 on my TI-85 calculator during class (which you can play in BlastZone 2). I had fun with it for two weeks until I used up all the device’s memory, so I moved on to other things. It wasn’t until near the end of my time in college that I discovered my passion for creating games. In hindsight, I wish I discovered this sooner, but what can you do, right?
Let’s talk about BlastZone 2. For those unfamiliar, can you provide some background on the game?
Of course! BlastZone 2 has been a huge passion project of mine ever since I started it in 2006. Wow, has it been 12 years already? Time flies when you’re having fun I guess, haha. This project has been done 90% by myself as a “one man army”. However, I’ve had a few people drop in for short periods of time to contribute in various areas, which I am very grateful for. I tried to find at least one other full-time developer on the project, but it was much more difficult than I anticipated. It seems most people want to start at the ground floor and not drop in to a partially done project.
The game itself started as an improved version of BlastZone 1, my TI-85 game, and I set a goal for myself to have it completed in three months. I loved working on it so much, I got it done in just one month! From there, the scope of the project was expanded and I started work on a whole new game while keeping my original BZ1 remake intact. The current state of BlastZone 2 is actually a bundle of 6 separate games, all sharing the same game engine. They are all side scrolling shooter games, and a lot of effort was put into designing each of them. Game types range from the following – a cinematic hand crafted experience; a “defend the base” style game; a unique skill-based scoring system; and all out mayhem to name a few! As a result, each of them plays uniquely from each other to provide more longevity and value to the package.
The game was technically “finished” and released in 2011 (7 years ago as of this writing), but I continue to make additions, refinements, and improvements to this day. I’m working on a big new gameplay update as I’m doing this interview actually. This is all at no additional cost to my audience. My focus is on making great games, not having a bunch of micro transactions.
Can you describe the process of creating a video game?
The process of creating BlastZone 2 has been a very organic experience. While I did create a design document upfront to lay out the high level concept and general direction of the gameplay, most of the details were decided right on the spot. To put it another way, I would play the current build of the game for a while and say, “oh, it would be cool if I could do this here and make this happen here”, implement it, and try it out. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t, but the most exciting times were when a new random idea would end up being much more fun than I anticipated!
In short, I iterated on the game with random ideas and it seemed like the game took on a life of its own and showed me the way to go. A pretty surreal experience actually.
Would you like to give a shout-out to the other members of your team?
My brother Kevin Edzenga who is a talented 3D artist and a valuable contributor to the game, offered quality art to help polish the visuals. Josh Hulgan from Hulgan Sound Design did excellent work creating sound effects. Andrew Luciano also created a number of great sound effects and music tracks. Early on, Rob Carlin volunteered his time to playtest and submit bug reports which helped build a solid foundation for years to come. BlastZone 2 wouldn’t be as good as it is without them and I greatly appreciate it!
Where can gamers play BlastZone 2?
BlastZone 2 is now available on PC through Steam, Android through the Google Play Store, and Amazon App Store, as well as being available on all Kindle Fire devices including the FireTV and FireTV Stick. It also has native support for the NVidia Shield and other gamepad-driven Android devices. I continue to look into other platforms to bring BlastZone 2 to, so keep an eye out for them in the future!
It’s time to “switch” gears. Let’s talk briefly about the Nintendo Switch! What are your thoughts on Nintendo’s newest console?
I’ve been following the Nintendo Switch ever since the first rumors about “Project NX” surfaced, and have been fascinated with it. The ability to play high end AAA games on the go for the first time ever is really groundbreaking! Sure, other devices exist with similarly capable hardware, but they lack the peripherals to play games at their best, and developers are restricted by maintaining compatibility with lower end budget devices in the same space. With the Switch, developers can focus on making the best experience the hardware is capable of. Seeing how well games like Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Doom 2016 run on the Switch are a testament to this.
Will gamers be able to see BlastZone 2 on the Nintendo Switch in the future?
I actually received a few requests from my audience to port BlastZone 2 to the Switch. I’ve started early exploratory work for a potential port, but unfortunately I can’t guarantee anything at this time. It would be awesome to see though!
What upcoming game(s) are you most looking forward to?
Great question, but that’s a tough one as I already have a long backlog of games I need to get to. I’m most looking forward to SoulCalibur 6. I’ve been a big fan of the SoulCalibur games for a long time and I’m excited to see them rebooting the series and drawing from the first and second entries; those are the best ones in my opinion. There are rumors it may be released on the Switch at some point, so here’s hoping!
Another big one I’m looking forward to is CrossCode. It is an SNES-style Indie Action RPG that uses a modern twin stick control scheme. It is very well done with a polished combat system and puzzle mechanics. While it is technically not released yet, it is in early-access and can be played now on Steam while they finish the game. It is a PC only game, but it would be a perfect fit on the Switch or other consoles as it is designed for gamepad play. I hope they port it someday.
Indie games are a great source of innovative ideas these days, so I’m always watching to see what will be released in that area. I like supporting other indie devs as well to keep the community I’m a part of as strong as it is.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share?
My parents giving me a video game console as a kid was life changing and brought me to where I am today. I’m ready to pass the torch to my kids as well. My two year old son puts the controller in my hand and says “come on daddy play,” it’s great to see! I like to say he is my little game developer in training.
For the aspiring game developers out there, jump right in and see where it takes you! I know a game like BlastZone 2 may seem like an intimidatingly large project for one person to take on, but the secret is to take it one day at a time and focus on the short term goals. As time goes on, the bigger picture will begin to take shape on its own. Worrying too much about the daunting long term goals will only hurt your resolve to get the project done.
The development process needs to be fun and celebrate every little accomplishment you make!
Thank you again Matt for taking the time to speak with The Switch Effect and make sure to download BlastZone 2 today!
Use the links to follow BlastZone 2!