Social Networking & Donations


Like The Brog? Love The Brog? Please Feel Free To Keep This Site Going. Criticism & Donations Are Welcomed. [Brog mentions and things found in the back of my closet will be your reward]



Powered by Squarespace
This form does not yet contain any fields.
    « Commercial Break: Caine's Arcade | Main | Graphic Update: Joe The Barbarian »

    The Art & Sound Of Dustforce -- An Interview With Terrence Lee

    Four developers. Four different cities. One game.

    It’s rare I get to make contact with artists making work that motivates me. It’s even more difficult when it’s a game developer who has just released a game weeks ago. A man from my home state of Ohio, Terrence Lee spared some time to answer questions about his team’s new game, Dustforce. In my continued studies of how we approach games, I think it’s important to pay special attention to how smaller teams make the jump from idea experimentation to full-fledged execution. Why? The ideas of how we play and enjoy games, should be just as important as the idea of making them.

    Before we delve into the trials and tribulations of how Dustforce came to be, I was interested in how the team was comprised. Who is this team of four and what are their roles?

    “Lexie [Dostal] does the game code, Matt [Bush] does the engine code, and Woodley [Nye] does the art and animation.  I do the audio and music.  Lexie and Woodley first started out making the prototype of Dustforce about a year and a half ago.  It got a good reception and won a prize, so they brought Matt and I aboard to build the game into what it is now.” Lee explains.

    Seeing the success of competitions like the Independent Games Festival, it’s almost hard to imagine making a game with just four people. Hitting milestones and deadlines with just a glimmer of hope that out of the hundreds of independent game developers, this game will get recognized by anyone beyond your peers.

    The prize Lee referred to was the 2010 Independent Game Developers Competition. Not only did the award gain Dustforce and Hitbox Team recognition in the press, but the award comes with a substantial financial gain of $100,000 and a Zoo publishing deal.

    However, this is still a team of four. A team of four that was spread all over the globe. They still had a great deal of hard work ahead of them.

    With influences from Disney's golden era. Woodley Nye is responsible for the various and subtle character designs of Dustforce.

    An interest in my study of how games are made is the editing process. What doesn’t make it and why is it on the cutting room floor? Interviewing developers who work with million-dollar budgets for games gave me the impression that independent developers use everything at their disposal. I had the impression that every stage and character model made in the development process of an indie game is an essential component needed in the final product.

    Terrence Lee explains that this is not the case. Every bit of polish that goes into a multi-million dollar budgeted game has a similar, if not more so, work ethic echoed on their team:

    “Since for much of the development period we were split up around the world (Australia, Japan, New York, Cincinnati), we had some difficulties coordinating everything and communicating.  However, since we were all independently motivated and did not have too many overlapping roles, we managed to stay productive.

    Originally, we wanted the game to be one giant, seamless world.  Everything would be streamed in and there would be no level loading times.  That ended up to be kind of messy from a design standpoint, since it meant the player was always stuck in the middle of a giant world and couldn’t easily retry levels without breaking the immersion of the game.  We ended up segmenting everything into a more level based system instead.  However, there are still elements from that previous idea that still remain - Matt built all the tech needed to do that giant world, like streaming in all the level data and textures, so currently there are no loading times and someone could still make a gigantic level without any issues.”

    Pretty amazing to see a game of Dustforce’s size have no loading times and still maintain a level of player-world immersion. Playing as a janitor ridding the world of dust and dust monsters. Hitbox’s quirky take on the side-scrolling beat-em up builds from several noticeable influences. The fact that the player can speed run through a level and garner an “S-rank” title nods to several Japanese game influences. What I found most interesting was one of the multiplayer modes that pit one player versus another, on a giant podium. One player excretes dust in order to build a “super meter” commonly found in fighting games. The second player builds meter by sweeping up the dust of their opponent. All this, while attacking one another.

    How did we go from a janitor featured, single-player side side-scrolling action adventure, to almost a two-player fighting game? “Where are these influences coming from? The games N, Nikujin, and Smash Bros. Melee were big influences in the movement style of Dustforce.  They all had complex control schemes that, when mastered, allowed the player to really pull off awesome moves.  For the art, both Disney movies and Japanese anime were influences in shaping the characters and environments.” Lee describes.

    We forget how hard it is to make a game, of any magnitude, in this era of high-budgets and complex design tools. Dustforce reminds us that through the hard work of few, something unique can be made for many.

    Out of my e-mails sent I was fortunate to get into contact with Terence Lee specifically. Out of all the question-worthy elements in Dustforce, it’s the games score and audio that attracted me to inquire more about this team. Especially considering I’m not the biggest fan of music made for video games or the chip-tune genre. Lee found some happy medium between what we’ve come to expect, auditorily, from retro-themed games while still managing to surprise listeners [players] with this echoing ambient sound.

    I know a fair amount of singers and musicians and the process of how they create seems to be instrumental oriented. Meaning when they hear a bare bones composition, that’s when words and other instruments can be applied. Games are different. I’d imagine it’s quite rare for a developer to hear a song and go into a long, expensive development cycle based off of the themes found in a particular sound. I won’t rule it out, though.


    I asked Lee how influential his music was in regards to the development process. Was the music mandatory for the creative process, or did Hitbox Team see the music as one of the many arms of a functioning body of work?

    “We all love music, but it wasn’t really a guiding design element during development. Rather, I created the music around the rest of the game.  The art style and gameplay influenced me to create a mix of retro and modern sounds, set in a meditative but still upbeat environment.  The music in the prototype of the game was done by Robot Science, so I used his style as a guide for what the rest of the team was looking for.” Lee explains.

    With this brief knowledge of Dustforce and Hitbox Team pushed to the forefront, there are still questions of if the game will be released on any of the home consoles. The game was released January 17th, of this year and there is still work being done to Dustforce to fully realize the vision of the team. “We still have a lot of work left to do on Dustforce - there’s the Mac and Linux build, level editor, and more levels to go.  After that, we’re excited to move onto a new project.  We haven’t decided on anything yet but we want to do something in 3D for sure.” Lee laments.

    Here’s hoping we see more ideas from Terence Lee and Hitbox Team. Lee’s thoughts have helped me shape views on independently-made games from conception to production. The fact that four people, scattered about the globe possess the ability to use modern technology to make a work that functions as one team’s idea come to life, that’s really something.


    Learn more about Team Hitbox go here.

    Listen to Dustforce's original soundtrack here.

    PrintView Printer Friendly Version

    EmailEmail Article to Friend

    Reader Comments (2)

    This is beautiful. Game development is a real tough and complex process, but its great to hear success stories, and developers like Team Hitbox are my heroes. Great and insightful interview. The video games media needs heroes like these guys.

    April 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpaperstreetsoapcompany

    Wow, thanks for the heartfelt comment. That was really cool.

    April 16, 2012 | Registered CommenterIsaiah T. Taylor

    PostPost a New Comment

    Enter your information below to add a new comment.

    My response is on my own website »
    Author Email (optional):
    Author URL (optional):
    Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>