Interview with Mega Man 2.5D's Peter Sjöstrand (Part 1/2)

While most news these days revolves around Mega Man's spiritual successors, fans of the original Blue Bomber have been busy with "Mega Man 2.5D", an unofficial labor of love that features not just Paper Mario-like perspective but a 2-player cooperative mode that we once only dreamed about.

The Mega Man Network recently sat down with Peter Sjöstrand the game designer of Mega Man 2.5D, to discuss the background of their project and features new with their upcoming Beta 3.0 release.

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The Mega Man Network: We remember the original proof-of-concept back in 2009. What was the original motivation for that video?

Peter Sjöstrand: It started with me playing around with recreating Mega Man sprites using 3D modeling software. After that was done, I thought it might be cool and make some kind of animation out of it, one thing lead to another, and eventually resulted in the proof-of-concept that I put up on YouTube.

TMMN: What was the process to get the development group together?

PS: After having put up the proof-of-concept I got in touch with a couple of programmers, and we started talking about trying to make it into an actual playable game. For most of the time that the game has been in development, the bulk of the work has been done by myself and Edgar Cebolledo, though recently we were joined by two new peoplewe were joined by two new people, Johan Sjöstrand and Ontikarus Ryan, who have been a great help in everything from programming to game testing.

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TMMN: Having completely different maps for the co-op and solo modes is an interesting design choice that you do not see too often. Was that always the idea?

PS: We did consider having the same maps for co-op and single-player at one point, but decided against it. There are many reasons for this, such as the fact that we can only really work with the changing camera perspectives in the single-player portion of the game, and that some parts of the co-op stages require two players to get through. While we could make changes to these particular parts in order to have more or less the same maps for both single-player and co-op, it's very easy to end up with stages that feel like they compromise too much to fit both modes. There's also the matter of the co-op stages in the game being longer than the single-player stages. 

TMMN: The co-op mode adds new elements that require both players to act in concert to advance through the levels. The switches, using each other as stepping-stools and parallel paths are all great additions reminiscent of the best co-op games from the 8-bit and 16-bit generation. How does the team decide on what features to include? What games did you look to for inspiration?

PS: We didn't really look to any one game for inspiration, but tried to incorporate co-op mechanics that are simple and that make sense for an oldschool Mega Man game. When we are trying to figure out which Robot Masters to include, we first take a look at its original stage and see if we can expand on it. For Snake Man's stage, we added the big snakes from Battletoads, as it seemed like a good fit. For Splash Woman, we decided to bring in a couple of elements from other water stages such as Bubble Man (Mega Man 2) and Wave Man (Mega Man 5).

TMMN: While the coop mode gets a lot of attention, the solo mode is also fantastic. What games do you look to for inspiration for the new elements in it? 

PS: We try to look at different games for inspiration. We got the inspiration for the lava raft ride in Shadow Man's stage from Mario. In Snake Man's stage, the big snakes that you can ride on are from Battletoads. Inspiration can come from all kind of games, I've been playing through some of the old Game Boy Mega Man games, and Edgar watches streams of NES games, and also tries to play all the new games.

TMMN: In terms of level design, do you start with a 2D plans and then tweak aspects of the level to highlight or utilize the extra half-dimension, or do you build it in 3D from the beginning?

PS: Since the camera changing perspective is mostly just a nice little visual touch in our game it doesn't really make it that much more difficult in terms of designing the stage. So for both the single-player stages and co-op stages we start with a rough sketch, then go from there. Though when building the stages, it's often a matter of going back and redoing things over and over again until it feels good. Some things are hard to take into consideration before you've actually started working on the actual stage models.

TMMN: With the addition of Quick Man and Splash Woman, "MM2.5D" is now reaching beyond Mega Man 3. What were the reasons behind choosing those Robot Masters, and do you expect to use any from MM7 or MM8?

PS: We knew we wanted a water level in our game, but at the same time we didn't want to use Bubble Man, the reason for this being that there are already so many Bubble Man variations floating around (pun intended) out there. So, because of this we decided to go with Splash Woman from Mega Man 9, though we do have some callbacks to both Bubble Man and Wave Man her in stage. Quick Man was a pretty easy choice as we wanted to represent Mega Man 2, and because he's one of the most recognizable master robots. Quick Man also seemed like the best alternative for the game both because of the mechanics in the stage itself, and because of his special weapon. We do not have plans for a robot from MM7 or 8, although we still haven't finalized the Robot Masters for the game, so it's still a possibility.

TMMN: There seems to be a bit of renaissance of fan games of the Blue Bomber. Have you or anyone else on the team played other Mega Man fan games?

PS: Both me and Edgar have played a lot of "Mega Man Unlimited", though Edgar has gotten way further into the game. I've also played through Street Fighter X Mega Man, as well as a couple of Mega Man hacks such as "Mega Man Ultra".

TMMN: From the programming side, what has been the most difficult aspect of creating "Mega Man 2.5D"?

PS: There have been a few tough aspects, I would say that making it feel like Mega Man has been the most difficult aspect, sometimes we feel something is not right, but is difficult to point what is wrong. So we have spent a lot of time on the physics of the game trying to make it feel as close as possible to the originals.

TMMN: Has there been any difficult aspects of game testing? Any peculiar aspects of the game that have been hard to implement?

PS: There have been some difficult aspects of testing, for example some guys on the forums reported that dying would make their PC's crash, but none of us working on the game were able to replicate it. So, some things are pretty difficult to fix. Other aspects that have been difficult to implement are some of the robots behaviors. Since we work on a 3D world, we can't really make them move based on pixels, some robots have random patterns that takes a lot of time to tweak until they are right. Quick Man, for example, has been difficult to code. We tried to find information about his patterns, but all we found is that he has too many of them so it feels random. So we had to spend time playing the original just to figure out what patterns he has.

"Mega Man 2.5D" comes highly recommended and Beta 2.0.1 is available now, with Beta 3.0.0 coming very soon. Stay with The Mega Man Network as we continue to cover the progress of "Mega Man 2.5D" with the second half of this interview in the coming days!

All screenshots courtesy of the "Mega Man 2.5D" team.