Interview With SPRAWL
There’s nothing like peeking behind the curtains!
Recently, we had the privilege of talking to the developers behind SPRAWL — a boomer shooter title set in a cyberpunk megalopolis — to find out just what went behind the creation of this action-packed title! Check out our questions and what the developer had to say about it!
Tell us a bit about the world of SPRAWL… Who are you and what’s going on?
SPRAWL takes place in an non specific part of Asia, many years into the future. The afterglow of the golden age of cybernetics and technological progress has all but faded. We live in a world of post statehood, collapse, and decay. Western democracy is a memory akin to the fall of the iron curtain. A corrupt military junta rules the region with an iron fist, corporate power usurped. You are “SEVEN”, the last of cybernetically enhanced super soldiers used for covert operations by the Junta. After being used as a scapegoat for the massacre of civilians during a military operation gone wrong, SEVEN lives in squalor in a dilapidated apartment in the far reaches of the walled city. Cybernetic implants removed or disabled as “government property” she is left disfigured and disgraced. Suddenly a mysterious entity contacts her, and warns her that the junta has had enough of the various “anomalous entities” that are causing havoc. SEVEN is also on this hitlist, by nature of her past, and must pick up arms once again if she hopes to survive this purge.
Talk to me a bit more about SEVEN… What is her back story? Are there any more characters?
SEVEN is the final iteration of a corporate-junta special ops program to create 7 highly specialized augmented super soldiers (Codenamed “REAPERS”) armed with top of the line cybernetic replacements to perform special covert operations, from espionage, assassinations, to traditional front line combat. Each of these individuals were named based on their entry to the program, One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, and the main character of the game “SEVEN”.
Each member of this unit was slowly phased out by their successor, One by Two, Two by Three, etc. The shelf life of these super soldiers increasing with ascending order. The extensive cyberization and prolonged experiences in traumatic high stress environments meant that the mental stability of each of these individuals would slowly degrade. Not only that but also the trauma inflicted by the forced erasure of their memories, and the inclusion of manufactured ones. SEVEN was the crowning achievement in this order, the most advanced, with the highest quality cybernetic enhancements, and the most performant. She was unique from her predecessors, as she retained memories of her past life, as well as a unique level of autonomy and independence. She was highly experimental in this regard, doing so at the behest of AEON Cybertech, the corporation in charge of the creation of most military grade cybernetics as well as the REAPER program. Their gamble was that this would allow SEVEN a layer of creativity and mental stability not afforded to the others, at the expense of absolute control by the Junta. This gamble paid off. She was able to execute every mission she was placed on flawlessly. Much to the ire of FIVE and SIX, who unlike their predecessors, we deemed “stable” enough to remain in action alongside SEVEN.
This game has a real old school DOOM/Quake vibe… What was your inspiration and how did you get into game dev?
SPRAWL is highly influenced and inspired by a bygone era of games and aesthetics that were at the time, no longer prevalent in modern games. This includes games like Quake 1-3, but also a lot more than that, Half Life 1-2, SIN, Deus Ex, Marathon 1-3, and so many more. I’d say it leans into those games far more than Quake or DOOM, its just something like Marathon isn’t as well known. Aesthetically it’s also highly influenced by a myriad of graphical limitations of that era of games, but doesn’t adhere to them, its about that style as I remember it, not how it actually looked. Beyond that there’s also a ton of influence visually from Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Patlabor, Blame! and so much more.
SPRAWL has existed in some capacity in my mind since 2016, with some actual level being built inside of the source engine by myself way back then. There’s 1 to 1 scenes lifted from this iteration in SPRAWL today. I’ve always wanted to make a game, but it happened in an unexpected way.
My introduction to video games happened early, and I have distinct memories of playing Mech Warrior on an Apple computer from the 90s. Growing up, I was connected to the web, and when I was about 11 years old, I somehow figured out how to mod Halo CE on the PC. I joined a community and began making maps, weapons, characters, and sounds, all of which fed into my need to create and build.
My obsessions guided me, and eventually, my sound design for Halo mods turned into music production at a very young age. Although my obsession with music took over for some time, I always tinkered with modding in the background, whether it was source engine games or quake engine games, as it was all an extension of the time I spent with Halo. I just always wanted to make a game.
COVID was what inspired me to just make it. I had the opportunity to do something different, something fun now. I can finally chase a dragon I’ve been wanting to chase since I was 11. At the beginning, all I knew was that this would be called Sprawl. I didn’t even know it would be a game yet. I just knew it would be cyberpunk, and it would be called Sprawl.
So while I was working on my own retro shooter, Hannah was doing something absolutely mind-blowing with movement mechanics, wall running, etc. She reached out and tried to convince me to work together. We had this electrifying conversation about video games, music, and cyberpunk as a whole, and we decided to fuse our projects. And I think this was… I want to say late August, early September of 2020. That was when we started working together.
Let’s talk you, gaming and music for a moment… How have the two intertwined?
SPRAWL is Inspired visually, sonically, by the late 90's and early 2000's. I want it to feel like those game that introduced me to the prodigy, to photek, and to so many others. SPRAWL is an album you can play. The world will react to your actions, drops during combat, breaks and atmosphere during the rest. 100% sound tracked by me, a full fledged multimedia project that brings that dance music, video game relationship full circle. I love dance music, more than anything. I’ve spent my life working on investing in its culture. COVID was cataclysmic for dance music. We were born in a club, and struggle to exist without the show. This is my attempt to find a new way to contextualize our art. The sort of relationship between games and electronic music specifically always fascinated me. Quake in 95 sound tracked by NIN, that incredible comp for Wipeout. So many others. Its how I first got into this scene, as a kid. I wanted to re-create that experience for a new gen.
In your opinion, what are the key differences (and improvements) you have made over say DOOM & Quake?
SPRAWL is like the games you remember playing on the computer in the 90s or in the early 2000s, as you remember them, and not as they actually were. It’s also a logical extension of the guiding design principles of those games. Games back then were focused on high-speed movement, the action was very frantic… but with the advent of consoles, and controllers, a whole set of principles went away. You had to slow things down to let people aim and move appropriately—you know, the whole floaty movement thing that happened because of Halo.
So, hopefully, SPRAWL is a return to that form, as well as an extrapolation of it. That type of game has gotten very popular as of late. So seeing that, we’re like, “How can we take that to the next level?” Because if you want to play Quake, you can go play Quake again. Or any one of the twenty-five million clones that have been released since then. So, we were more concerned with why people play these games. You know, the fast movement, straight into the action, adrenaline-pumping… and lots of emergent gameplay. We sort of doubled down on that. We took everything that made those games fun, threw in wall running, weapon combos… took everything to the next level.
Fans of the genre will know what this game is all about, describe the experience gamers can expect for people less familiar with the genre?
Easy to pick up, hard to master. An experience that a casual player can enjoy on a controller on easy, or someone who really wants to test themselves will giggle giving it a go on hard or nightmare difficulty. Its fast, unrelenting, high octane action. A world built to compliment the gameplay. Its a sandbox, we give you the tools to do what you want inside of it, and the player gets to choose how to use them. We leaned hard into the concept of emergent gameplay, whatever unpredictable ways people choose to play SPRAWL, those will be encouraged just as much as how I’ve designed the game.
Any hints and/or tips?
Keep at it. The more you play the more you’ll click with the experience. You know how many messages I got from testers at 3am being like “holy shit... I get it” There’s no shame on throwing it on easy, or turning on autoaim. Beyond that, nothing is what is seems in SPRAWL. It’s up to you how hard you’ll dig for answers.
And that’s it for our interview! We’d love to thank MAETH for this great opportunity, and we hope you’ve enjoyed reading it! See you on the next one.