9.15.2016

Strike Vector EX Revives the Aerial Arcade Shooter

By Daniel Kayser

There was a time in gaming history where aerial combat games were all the rage. From After Burner to Ace Combat and everything in between, gamers have often looked to the virtual skies for the type of high-flying visceral combat they can't find anywhere else.

Of course, FPS titles once flipped the industry on its ear as well and have remained relevant to this day - with many titles in the genre offering fast-paced and immersive action that tests each player's skills while they're busy racking up kills.

Now, Ragequit's Strike Vector EX is combining key elements of both genres into a unique multiplayer aerial dogfighting game that gives players an instant adrenaline rush that's complimented by loads of customization and skill-driven combat.

To find out more about the recently released game, which was built using Unreal Engine 4, I struck up a conversation with Ragequit co-founder and concept 3D artist Pierre-Etienne Travers to discuss the game's design, its desired audience and how Strike Vector EX is letting players pursue their aerial aspirations.

Strike Vector EX seems like it has more to offer than meets the eye. What type of game do you consider it to be?

PT: Strike Vector EX is a fast-paced, arcade-style aerial shooter. Our first inspirations were games like Crimson Skies and, with time, we added fast FPS elements due to a whole lot of lunch-time multiplayer sessions with Quake and Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Strike Vector EX is a unique experience that will push the sense of speed to a next level in the space ship shooter category. You have to play it to figure out what it’s really like!

What can you tell us about the story-driven single-player campaign in Strike Vector EX?

PT: The campaign focus on our main character, Marv. He is a rookie pilot who has embarked in a massive scale conflict. He will learn how to survive and make his way in the post-apocalyptic and dystopian world of Strike Vector, ravaged by a thousand years of perpetual conflicts. The story is divided into 15 missions, and all of them have ranked leaderboards so you will be able to improve your score and compare it with your friends. There are also 30 time trial challenges that will test your limits! And finally there is the skirmish mode that emulates multiplayer matches with AI.

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What type of multiplayer experience does Strike Vector EX provide?

PT: Strike Vector EX provides a thrilling and extreme dogfight experience. We have tried to push the players to their very limits with six intense multiplayer modes ranging from FFA modes like death-match to team-based modes like Capture the Flag. And by the time you find other players, you can count on deadly AI to fight with. There are also tons of unlockables to accompany your rank progression.

The environments/stages in the game seem very interesting. Can you discuss the process of level design for Strike Vector EX?

PT: The level design is modular. This flexibility has helped us a lot to find our own way of level design. We also tend to work with simple shapes with pen and paper before creating a blockout. The key thing was to create dense open/close environments for a space shooter, that's something that have not been done for a long time, and we had to figure out by ourselves how to do it. It was an absolute blast to create all of the levels, making sure each one of them is unique. 

The game’s art and audio combine to create a unique atmosphere for fast-paced, kick-ass aerial combat. In your opinion, how important are these aspects to the overall experience?

PT: Audio and graphics work hand-in-hand in Strike Vector EX. We really wanted to create not only a visual for audio direction, but a global game direction where the gameplay, the art and the sound are a whole. We believe that games must be a perfect balance between these three aspects. We spent a lot of time creating the detailed, asymmetrical maps, the Vector designs, and the varied, floating environments.

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Let’s talk about the customization options in Strike Vector EX. Please explain the ways in which players can customize their ship for both combative and cosmetic purposes.

PT: There are different level of customization in Strike Vector EX. First is the weapon customization. The Primary weapons include the Carabine, Homing Missiles, Gatling, Plasma Gun, Rocket Launcher, Shotgun and Swarm Missiles. Each of the seven main weapons can be tuned with passive perks that will modify its property. For example, if you find the shotgun too slow, you can increase its speed with a fire rate perks. Each of our seven weapons can be customized, so that's a lot of possibilities to experiment with.

Then you have the ship customization itself. You will earn different parts as you progress in the multiplayer that you will be able to combine to create your own ship! You will also be able to paint it with different patterns and colors and add decals. We also have Special Weapons/Tools, too, which means you’ll have three major weapon options. The Special Weapons options include Testa Coil, Mines, Shields, Stalker Mine, After Burner, Ghost (Invisibility) NanoMachines, Rocket Boosters, and many more.

Overall, between the weapons and the ship customizations, the garage enables you to load out your ship with up to 10,000 different weapon, special items, color, and armor combinations. 

How do Fast Mode and Hover Mode make for thrilling, yet precise moment-to-moment action?

PT: The ability of your ship to stop and go anytime is the key mechanic in Strike Vector EX. It really adds salt to the classic dogfight. You can concoct elaborate strategies by blasting your opponent in straight-forward attacks using rugged, heavy weaponry and armor, or by using stealth and hiding in niches along the varied structures and sneaking up on opponents, or by experimenting with unique combinations of weapons to perplex and outwit your enemies. Also, since the mechanics are totally unique, if you learn to be agile and athletic by exploiting the stop and starting controls, you really can do all the crazy stunts you see in movies like Star Wars without being a super pro of the controller.

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The action seems to move fast in Strike Vector EX. What maneuvers can players count on to maintain control of the combat?

PT: One of the key things in Strike Vector EX is to know when to stop and get a precise vision of the situation. Rushing into the melee without selecting your opponent wisely first often leads to critical failure. It's always a good idea to retreat if health is running low, you can find health pickups everywhere. Your pursuers also have a chance to crash or be destroy by other players in the process. Despite their straight-forward appearance, Strike Vectors have tons of depth.

How can each player leverage his or her loadout to make Strike Vector EX feel and play the way they want it to?

PT: In Strike Vector EX, three elements are really important to create your own build. The first one is the weapon. As mentioned before, you can tweak each of the seven weapons' performance by selecting a perk.

The second one is the Special Action. It's a super ability that uses cooldown and can give you an edge in the match. There are eight of them ranging from deadly mine fields to rocket booster that will give you a crazy amount of speed for a short time.And finally you can choose between seven passive perks that will enhance your ship’s ability like heavy armor to reduce the damage or hyperscope to enhance your zooming ability (yes, you can snipe in Strike Vector EX!).

Who do you consider the target audience for Strike Vector EX?

PT: We crafted a game that will please every fan of dog-fighting games, space shooters, and arcade fans in general. We have tried to create the best gameplay we could imagine for fast and hectic dogfights. The ship designs will appeal to anime and mech fans as well. Our inspirations range from Star Wars to Macross. We would like to think that Strike Vector EX is everyone's dream come true combining futuristic battle with lasers and massive explosions!

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How has Unreal Engine helped the team bring its vision for Strike Vector EX to life?

PT: UE4 delivers high quality graphics combined with user friendly process. It was the first time we did 3D graphics, and UE4 helped us a lot to achieve that. It's also a really good way to test gameplay quickly and prototype features. 

Are there any aspects of Unreal Engine that have proven particularly useful throughout development of Strike Vector EX?

PT: The Blueprints system helped us a lot to create the single player campaign. As an artist, I was also in charge of the gameplay loop for the different levels of the game. As we have only one coder, it was really helpful for us that I was able to help him, without having a great knowledge about code. I have also been able to create different advanced game prototypes on my own. I will probably learn how to code at some point, and the Blueprint system was really a trigger for me. It will probably have a great impact on the future of my career as an indie dev.

Thanks for your time! Where can people go to learn more about (and buy!) Strike Vector EX?

PT: You can go to the PS Store, follow us on our Facebook page, this is where we are the most active and our Twitter page. Thank you, Daniel. We’ll see you on the battlefield!

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