Developer Interview: Radical Fish Games

Having launched September 20, CrossCode perfectly heralded the onslaught of fall weather ideal for tucking yourself indoors to chip away at your ever-growing backlog. Radical Fish Games‘ CrossCode, however, isn’t content to merely sit on your virtual shelf and wait its turn — it elbows its way to the front of the line, chomping at the bit and demanding that you give it a whirl and be whisked away. Flush with overwhelmingly positive reviews on SteamCrossCode marks a truly phenomenal moment of success for indie studio Radical Fish Games. We had the pleasure of speaking with Felix “Lachsen” Klein and Stefan “R.D.” Lange about CrossCode‘s evolution, and how it’s grown to be the monstrously delightful triumph it is today.

Radical Fish Games Logo

|| Congratulations are in order! What’s the most satisfying part of seeing CrossCode leave Early Access? September 20 was the official release date for your indie title. How does it feel to finally see it come to fruition? How will you celebrate?

Lachsen — We had the great idea to celebrate the release right at the time we released the game. We did a live stream 3 hours prior to the release, set the game “live” at 8pm (German Time), then went out for dinner to celebrate the occasion, got some sleep… and then woke up realizing that there have been (of course) a whole lot of bugs and crashes we had to take care of.

Looking back, it wasn’t exactly a great idea to celebrate right after the release. Wouldn’t do that again. The weekend following the release was very stressful as we suddenly had a lot more players reporting bugs and other issues that we didn’t catch during the closed beta. I’d even say that the time after the release was more stressful then before the release.

In any case, now that things have calmed down… it feels pretty great! We finally finished a game and feedback has been very positive so far!

|| Tell us about CrossCode’s three-year stint in Steam Early Access. CrossCode has earned an overwhelmingly positive rating since its Early Access release in May of 2015 – not an easy feat. What were some of the challenges of utilizing Early Access? Some of the rewards?

Lachsen — Early Access is a great thing to use because you get the feedback of the community to improve the game further during development. The thing is, it works best for games that you tend to play over and over game, like Rogue-likes, since you can just add more features over time to improve the gameplay. CrossCode was narrative-driven RPG and most people tend to play those only once to experience the story. So CrossCode wasn’t exactly an ideal candidate for Early Access from the get-go. Since we knew that most players would rather play the story once we decided to go for a “feature first / content later” approach. When we started Early Access, most gameplay features had been implemented, and the remaining have been added in early updates. Following that, we mostly focused on extend content, first new areas, towns and dungeons, and finally, the remaining story. Over 50% of the story has been added with the very last update, since we wanted to make sure playing the story feels as complete as possible.

Despite all the challenges, Early Access was a great experience for us! Not only did it allow us to extend the development time we needed to implement all planned content, we also used the feedback from the community to improve and balance the gameplay and even implement several Quality-of-life features that have been frequently requested.

|| What’s Radical Fish Games’ backstory? We know that you’re a handful of developers that believe that “the devil is in the detail.” Where are you based? How did you meet?

R.D. — Most of us met online in a forum which was all about the RPG-Maker. We all did some hobby projects of varying size and found each of us through those. This means that basically everyone is from all over Germany. We also have one Artist coming from Austria and one from Finland. Back when CrossCode was still a prototype, Lachsen and myself talked about what we want to do and we both agreed: Videogames. So we decided to start our own company and make a game. Over time more and more people joined and we have a happy little family.

|| Fans of what games should drop everything and start playing CrossCode? The title is clearly a 16-bit retro-inspired RPG, and we hear there’s some Zelda-esque puzzle goodness involved. Which enthusiasts will CrossCode speak to the most, initially?

Lachsen — The game is a mix of the Action-RPG and Action-Adventure Genre more or less. That means you have both the leveling and equipment from RPGs and the puzzles from Zelda games. If you like both of these genres you’ll probably also like CrossCode. Other games that had an impact on CrossCode are Xenoblade Chronicles, Terranigma, Secret of Mana, Kingdom Hearts, Valkyrie Profile, Devil May Cry, Alundra and of course Yoshi’s Island (the egg throwing in particular).

|| CrossCode is a story “about the future of gaming.” What does Radical Fish Games see as the true future of gaming? Is there an element of prophecy to CrossCode, and we’ll see your beliefs present there?

R.D. — The Story of CrossCode itself might have a bit of a “future of gaming” touch, however we wanted to keep the background lore of the game lighter so it doesn’t interfere with the main plot. I guess the biggest thing is that gaming has become a very normal activity in the future and technology even allows companies to terraform planets to host games on. You’ll also find other players just chilling on the ground with others, meaning people use this VR-Environment to just meet which makes sense since the player base is scattered all throughout half of the explored galaxy.

|| In a gaming industry suddenly exploding with retro-inspired titles, how does CrossCode distinguish itself? Is there a particular gameplay mechanic, art quirk, or storyline development that allows it to stand out? Or, indeed, is it all about the devil being in the details?

Lachsen — Retro-inspired mostly refers to the graphics-style of a game. If you look beyond the appearance you might notice that retro-inspired games can still feature very up-to-date game mechanics. That’s pretty much the case for CrossCode. While the game looks like Secret of Mana, it’s mechanics are closer to modern RPGs like Xenoblade or Kingdom Hearts, even though it’s still 2D. A somewhat unique feature of CrossCode is probably the bouncing-ball mechanic, which is used for both combat and puzzles. Apart from from that, it’s a bit hard to argue what exactly is the big selling point of CrossCode. In the end it’s just a whole lot of things put together + a lot of content in general. People spend up to 60-100 hours to 100% complete the game.

|| What’s the most memorable quest in (any) RPG you’ve ever played, and why? We recognize the team consists of more than one person—we’ll let you have three picks, if needed.

R.D. — Hi, this is Major Shepard and this is my favorite store in the galaxy.

Lachsen — An optional quest-chain that stuck with me is one from Xenoblade Chronicles. It involved some of these cute little Nopon characters that somehow created this huge drug ring. You had to visit several locations to solve it and overall it was just unexpectedly epic and serious for an optional side quest.