Ten Questions With… Fabian Rastorfer & Ben Miller (Fabraz)

Ten Questions With… Fabian Rastorfer & Ben Miller (Fabraz)

Twitter 
Follow Fabraz on Twitter

Website
Check out the official Planet Diver Website

Discussion
Give the developers feedback on the Steam Discussion Page

Purchase
Buy your copy on the Steam Store page 

Planet Diver, a very fast paced action title from Fabraz recently hit Steam and impressed us with its addictive gameplay. After the adrenaline rush from diving through planets wore off a bit we got in touch with the creators to find out more about the game and studio behind it.

Can you give our readers a quick introduction of yourself and the studio?

Fabian: My name’s Fabian Rastorfer and I’m a Swiss who has moved to New York and founded the company Fabraz with my friend Ben Miller. The way Fabraz came to be is a rather interesting story, actually. Fabraz used to my personal username that I used when I was uploading art to the internet over 8 years ago. At one point I created a webcomic with Songwut Ouppakarndee called “Tale of Aeria” and that was the first step of the name Fabraz representing more than one person. Shortly after that I created my first video game, “Cannon Crasha” with Markus Jost followed by “Wild Wild Pixel” where I first started working with Ben Miller. Only a year ago did Fabraz become an official LLC company in the US and now it represents dozens of people all across the globe! Switzerland, Germany, Thailand and the US to be exact! Though Planet Diver was only made by the core three members in New York over the course of a year.

Ben: My name’s Ben Miller, and I’m originally from Boston, but have lived in New York for the past couple years, first for college and now for grad school and Fabraz. I originally studied music in undergrad, but taught myself programming after graduation and started collaborating with Fabian on “Wild Wild Pixel”. This past year, we formed Fabraz as an official LLC and started development on Planet Diver.

How did the idea for Planet Diver come about?

When we first conceptualized Planet Diver we had essentially one goal: Can we create a game that is equally good on mobile and pc? Can the game be easy enough to play and learn that one can play it one handed on the subway? While still having enough content and remaining complex enough to master that it will be enjoyable to play on pc? Based on those questions we came up with the concept of Planet Diver, which we believe is a little arcade title that manages exactly what we were hoping to achieve.

Can you tell us more about the unique art style chosen for the game? 

Fabian: When choosing an art style for a video game, there are always two primary things to consider: What’s the art style going to be and how is it going to work with the theme? I’ve been doing pixel art for a while now and even had the chance to teach it occasionally, so that art style was a natural choice for me. The theme that we picked was essentially a futuristic, sci-fi world where nostalgia for the 1940’s is rampant. This meant I had to adapt the pixel art style to work with that odd future-retro approach. To achieve that effect I decided to forgo outlines of any kind and define shapes by stark colors and shadowing alone. That created a smoother, more painteresque look which was perfectly complemented with a scanline filter to make it appear a little like a nostalgic art nouveau piece. Talking of art nouveau, our promotional art by Frei is clearly heavily influenced by that too. Almost every illustration of Diver is an homage to the phenomenal artist Alphonse Mucha.

Ben: In addition to the anachronic visuals that Fabian achieved, we worked toward a similar aesthetic in the sound and music. For the soundtrack we were influenced by a lot of the music of the time, but wanted to maintain hints of the futuristic setting as well, creating a kind of scifi-swing. We worked with my brother Michael Miller to compose the dive tracks, and achieved a similar blending of these two disparate themes of futuristic 1940s nostalgia.

What are the games that influenced you and how?

We looked at a large collection of games as inspiration. The runner-esque approach of a lane based movement system was definitely inspired by titles like Temple Run and Sonic Dash  The theme was certainly influenced by titles like Bioshock and the sense of speed by titles like Knightmare Tower  We were also influenced by games like Luftrausers and their approach of modifications that allow you to tailor your game style with a unique set of up and down sides. At the end, of course, we still made sure that we add our own additions and ideas to make a unique title like the use of procedurally generated chasms and tailoring story levels with severe shifts in the generation.

What was the biggest challenge while creating Planet Diver? 

Every game has its challenges when it comes to developing them and Planet Diver was no exception. We first envisioned the game to be a highscore hunting game only, for example. The primary reason why we suddenly considered a mission based story halfway through development was actually due to the procedurally generated chasms. We realized that because it is procedurally generated, some amazing scenarios can occur like a horde of bats being annihilated by falling boulders or webbed when passing a spider, but we had no control on when that would happen. Having bite sized missions with specific goals allowed us to create these specific gameplay scenarios that are so fun to encounter. The other big difficulty was making the game work on all platforms. Each platform had their own unique bugs that needed to be addressed and for the PC version we ended up creating entirely unique menus, art and gameplay to make sure it’s suited for PC gamers.

What is it that sets Planet Diver apart from other titles in the genre?

We believe there are a few factors that set us apart from the competition. The mission based system allows for unique scenarios with tough challenges, and adding characterization with witty dialogue. Bosses change up the pacing and allow for more intense and tailored experiences within the dive. Using mods allows for individualized gameplay styles, adding a whole new layer of choice when tackling the procedurally generated caverns. We also tried to create unique menus with the planet surfaces that don’t follow the norm of the genre and allow for some fun interactions like all the clickable Easter eggs or Buddy’s sassy comments.

What are the future plans for Planet Diver/Fabraz?

That all depends on how Planet Diver does on the market! We’ll definitely be sending out some hot fixes along the way to fix any remaining bugs players may have found but we’d love to add new features to the game too! We’re enticed by ideas like a speed-running mode where players are timed for each mission, or a rogue-like mode where you collect buddy mods mid-dive. And we’ve of course got a million ideas for other planets we could create. Apart from that, Fabraz is currently also working on a new secret title we can’t reveal just yet.

What is the most unusual thing on your desk right now?

Fabian: Let’s see here… That would probably be my “Shagaru Magala” figurine that I bought when I was in Japan. He is my favorite flagship monster from Monster Hunter thus far, a game that I play entirely too much. It kind of became our game to play at the end of a long day at the office actually!

Ben: Well, not directly on my desk but next to it on a mantle, I have a lot of weird junk. Probably the weirdest would be a Pac-Man plushie with a spooky mask on it from the theater show Sleep No More  You get the mask when you got to the show, and I couldn’t think of a better place to keep it than on Pacman’s cheerful mug.

Do you have any advice for other developers who want to go the indie route?

Don’t expect it to be easy. It takes a lot of work and dedication and one has to become pretty adept at several skills at once. Small teams will often have to do everything from art, to coding and even marketing. Never underestimate marketing. The most difficult thing to accept is that even if you do everything right and create an awesome game, it’s still not a guarantee for success in a constantly fluctuating, flooded market. Definitely cover your bases. Perhaps take on some commission work in-between if you’re self financing yourself or send out a prototype to publishers and see what happens. Do not put all your cards on the table with a game you worked on for X amount of years. Most importantly, have fun with what you’re doing though! Making games is awesome after all!

Anything else you would like to add?

Fabian: I hope everyone is enjoying Planet Diver to the fullest, may it be on mobile or pc. Please do not hesitate to write us if you want to share some feedback or just want to talk. We love interacting with fans of our games! Thank you for the interview and happy diving everyone!

Ben: Just to second what Fabian said, please feel free to reach out, we love chatting about games, whether it’s one of ours or some other awesome game out there in the world (especially Bloodborne!)! Thanks for the interview, and for everyone playing, I hope you’re having as much fun as Diver is!

We want to thank both Fabian and Ben for taking the time to answer our questions and wish them all the best with their new secret title. Check out our REVIEW for Planet Diver and remember the game has a 15% launch discount on Steam until 7 December, so don’t hesitate to grab a copy.

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2 Comments

  1. Blueblazes94 December 4, 2015
    Reply

    Uhhh Ben. What is that to the left of pacman? It’s going to bug me forever if i dont find out!

    • BenFromThatInterviewUpAbove December 4, 2015
      Reply

      Hi @Blueblazes94,
      Ha, I guess I got a lot of other stuff in that shot. The small wooden figurine to the left is a man curled up into a tight ball. It was a gift from a grandparent when I was much younger. No spiffy game connection, but I always liked it; I could never tell if it was laughing and crying.
      Here’s a better set of photos of the figurine (with bonus Godzilla thrown in!!!):
      http://imgur.com/a/5tofK

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