April 06, 2016 by Daniel John Johnsson

Tommy Gustafsson & Andreas Rehnberg

Everybody loves the eighties. QANDA got talking with Andreas Rehnberg and Tommy Gustafsson, the producers behind the upcoming Swedish retro-action game HUNTDOWN.

You usually don't work together. How did this collaboration between you two happen?

Tommy: We both have offices at a place called Innovatum in Trollhättan, in which many different companies within the creative industry are gathered. A lot of times these companies cooperate in one way or another and that's also exactly what happened between us. Andreas asked me if I was interested in doing graphics for a platformer ... he had this idea about making a pixel game with a lot '80s influences. Which was something that we both grew up with and still enjoys a lot. So it was like being shot with an arrow from Kid Icarus himself. Spot on. Since then my eyes have become square from all of the pixilation.

Andreas: We have a fantastic cooperation. Tommy takes care of the graphics and music while I do the coding. We have exactly the same vision of what Huntdown will be.

Describe that vision...

 Tommy: We want to make the kind of game that we'd like to play ourselves. One with lots of action and varied gameplay. The dystopian world that we have built for Huntdown comes from our own influences. We are both indoctrinated by cheesy action films from the 1980s ... as well as pixelated games on early game consoles like Nintendo and Sega. We also love science fiction and electronic music ... not least from the 70's and 80's ... so Huntdown naturally have those elements.

Andreas: We are also very keen on the craftmanship. The game engine is programmed from scratch and all of the pixels are animated by hand. We have a modified palette that is based on the Atari 2600, which consists of only 162 colors. The music is done in an old tracker program with samples, whom are mostly converted from the Amiga 500 to PC ... where the notes are inserted by hand.

The 80's theme of the game is obviously not very subtle and you mentioned yourselves that you have taken inspiration from movies and games from that period. Are there any particular influences that you've perhaps been watching a little bit closer than others?

Tommy: We have many influences, both from the gaming and movie world. It's difficult to narrow it down to just some ... but to name a few Huntdown is a potpurri of Blade Runner, Terminator, RoboCop, The Last Dragon, The Warriors and games like Contra, Flashback, ESWAT and other childhood memories that are dear to us. Sometimes it can just be about presentation, in other cases it may even be about specific gameplay elements. We try to bring what we think is best from many different directions. But the common thread is of course clearly the eighties idiom.

It seems that many associate the "phenomenon of the 80s" with optimism and glamorous colors ... you know ... pink neon and sunburned characters in white tuxedos driving a Ferrari Testarossa against a warm sunset behind a silhoutte of palm trees to a soundtrack by Jan Hammer. However, we want to go to a darker and a bit gloomier place with Huntdown. A bit like the aesthetics and feel of Escape from N.Y. or Cobra with Stallone!

Why do you think that the eighties have come back as strong as it have?

 Tommy: We believe that there've been sufficient time for the 80's to be perceived as "retro" now. Like with fashion, trends move in waves, and with a saturated market people starts looking backwards to get new ideas. This is also not without nostalgia for "old men" like us of course. The 80's was an incredibly expressive decade ... in regards to design, music, film and fashion. Everything was just a little too much (laughs).

I love the very contemporary narrator from the trailer. Is that a voice actor you got hold of?
Tommy: I'm glad you like it! We made the trailer in all haste before SXSW ... so we had to do a quick recruitment. We stumbled upon a very good voice actor named Eric Hollaway. He nailed the style we wanted very accurately.

What can you tell us about the different gangs in the game? Who they are, how they distinguish themselves from one another ... if there are any conflicts between them and what role they have in the game.

Tommy: Every gang actually represents a different territory in the game. Each area has a series of courses where you have to defeat each gang in a given order. It's a classical approach in which each track has been tailored for the gameplay experience. Specifially, we don't want to reveal too much about the different games right now ... since all of the gangs are now set yet ... and also because we do not want to spoil the curiosity for what enemies that will be encountured in the game.

I saw "Multiplayer" glimpse by quickly on a menuscreen in the trailer. How will that part of the game be?
Andreas: Good eyes! We've made a first prototype in which you and a buddy can play co-op together via bluetooth. That works really well. We also sketched on a version where a player is a bounty hunter and the other takes control over the gangmembers. If multiplayer shapes up as we have imagined it will really give an extra dimension to the game.

Something that I think many been surprised by after seeing the trailer is your platform of choice ... Android och iOS ... which of course is a sign of our times but with this being more of a traditional game, not least with an 80's theme, I think there is this idea that this also belongs on a traditional console. What was it that made you want to develop Huntdown for mobile devices?

 Andreas: We are gaming geeks ourselves ... and we miss really good retro games that been designed specifically for mobiles. The best options today are ports of older arcade games, that's been directly converted to mobile with quite lousy controls as a result. With Huntdown we want to give the iOS and Android players a game that have the best bits of an old-school game but that's also have the feeling of eloborate craftmanship and intuitive controls. We have that even the most seasoned hardcore players will want to play the game for a fun and challenging time on their phone or tablet.

Tommy: That lack of good actiongames on mobile was something that we realized rather quickly. We discussed details of how gameplay and game experience could be better and began to sketch out a concept based on what we wanted. After that the snowball was rolling and now we have really maximized that concept.

Is there any plans to perhaps bring it to more platforms later on?

 Andreas: Absolutely! We want to reach as many players as possible. And Huntdown is also preopared to be played on both television and computer screens. Many have also asked us about support for Steam and Apple TV ... so that's already in the pipeline.

How will the game be distributed? Will it be the full-scaled game that reaches App Store and Google Play when it is released or will it, for an example, be released episodically or with micro-transactions?

 Andreas: We are still discussing the solution, but one thing is certain ... We will not have any micro-transactions in Huntdown, where you have to buy supplies or time to complete the game. We do not want to risk the game experience in any way. The fairest model that we are leaning towards right now is releasing the full game for free ... but if you die you have to start over from the beginning. If you like the game you can buy the whole thing for a lump sum and can continue from the path you died. This way it is possible for you to pass the whole game without having to pay for it ... but it will not be easy

We hope that this will make hardcore players see it as a fun challenge and that we mere mortals will be sufficiently beaten and wants to buy it.

You recently visited the United States, showing the game, what can you say about that trip?

 Tommy: The focus has been on the South By Southwest-conference in Austin, Texas. A big exhibition that has three major areas, music, film and interactive. We've met with different investors and other key people to air our future plans for Huntdown. We've also had the game in a booth at SXSW Interactive for people within the industry to try it out. Afterwards we also let the general public play the first demo of the game at the SXSW Gaming Expo.

Most people who've tried Huntdown so far has really liked it. They want to play more. Which of course is very fun. It's been important to us that Huntdown is a game that's easy to get into. Those who play it quickly understand that the controls are almost the same as in Super Mario ... left, right, jump and shoot! But to summarize, the goal of the trip has been to establish contacts that can help us complete Huntdown as well as to promote the game by showing off an early demo.

When can players expect the game? When will it be released?

 Andreas: We haven't set a release date yet, but we are working to release it as soon as possible.

What retro-game has the best soundtrack?

Andreas: I really like R. Hubbard's music from the Commodore 64. If I have to choose a favorite it must be Commando.

Tommy: I still listen to a lot of Turrican II by Chris Hülsbeck ... for example when I cook. But my girlfriend always turn it off (laughs).

The best 80's actionflick is?

Tommy: Escape from New York. It's magical!

Andreas: If I'll go with the feeling that I had the first time seeing it I'd say The Terminator ... we all know that Skynet will happen, sooner or later.

If you get the chance to recruit any eighties-typical actor to voice a character in Huntdown. Who would you choose?
Andreas: Classics like Stallone and Arnold would be fun of course ... But Clints voice just gets better and better.

Tommy: Rutger Hauer. Easy!


Tommy works with concept, graphics, and music. He usually works as an Art Director for graphic design. Huntdown is his first game. Andreas is a programmer with over 22 years experience building apps, games and MMOs. His career started in the mid-90s, making popular CD-ROM games for Swedish Television.


You can follow news updates on HUNTDOWN at the official Facebook page as well as on Twitter and Youtube.

And there's a website. And company tweets. You can also follow Andreas at Twitter. Kinda.