Since the trailer dropped last week, the internet has been ablaze with neon purple as the hype for Hotline Miami seemed to appear overnight. It's easy to see why; a dark and ominous soundtrack that is full of 80's synths burst out of your speakers as a spectacular display of ultra-violence unfolds on the screen. Gorgeous sprites fill the screen as the character simply slaughters them with splashes of red against the pulsating neon backdrops before the trailer simply ends, leaving us with a mysterious phone number to call.
Mobile users can view the trailer here.
I must have watched the trailer ten times before I started frantically searching for answers. The official website simply hosts a graphic, the trailer and that mysterious phone number. I gave it a call, and was greeted by a creepy voice that mentioned some character names and asked us to leave a message. I did, but ever since I've been checking over my shoulder, expecting something strange to happen at any moment.
Then I finally got some hard details. The game is being developed by Dennaton Games, a new studio that is comprised of prolific designer Jonatan Söderström and Dennis Wedin. This isn't the first time they have worked together, which I learned during a recent interview.
Drumset F@$king Werewolf, the first project Dennis and Jonaton worked on together
"It is the first one, really big," Dennis responded when I asked if this was his first major project since graduating from University. "We did Keyboard Drumset F@$king Werewolf before this, that's how we got started," he continued, explaining the origins of their new studio. Despite Söderström's reputation in the industry, Wedin seems extremely confident in what Hotline Miami has to offer.
The trailer shows plenty of action, but we honestly don't know what Hotline Miami is all about. "You kill people," Söderström replies, followed by a brief pause as we all erupt into laughter. It's about as simple as you get, the basic mechanic to the game is killing people, however the brutality of proceedings has more meaning than a simple killing spree.
I got to meet some really awesome people and I just realised that it was more than just something fun to do in my spare time."
"We worked a lot on it [the violence] so it's pretty important," Wedin explains before Söderström chimes in to give some context. "We want the violence to be really harsh so you don't feel too good about what you are doing, so there is a lot of focus on what the player feels."
That comment leads into the inspirations behind the game, which certainly explain the direction the talented duo are taking. "The biggest inspiration is Drive, the movie," Wedin blurts out passionately, as if he owns a stake in the cult film starring Ryan Gosling. "We actually had some inspiration from Kick-Ass" Söderström explains before Wedin throws in "a bit from Manhunt as well." The combination of anti-hero themes, guilt, regret but also heroism are now prominent, and if you re-watch the trailer with these inspirations in mind you start to see the bigger picture at play. If you thought Hotline Miami looked awesome before, chances are you are foaming at the mouth by now.
While Wedin may be relatively unknown at this stage, Söderström has a reputation for pumping out games every other month. In 2009 he was nominated for both the Excellence In Visual Arts and Excellence in Audio awards at the Independent Games Festival for his title Clean Asia, which was a huge boost for his career.
"Yeah it was a really big step up because it was the first time I had something that wasn't on the internet, something that I had to actually travel to the United States for the first time. I got to meet some really awesome people and I just realised that it was more than just something fun to do in my spare time."
I then asked if there was any particular reason why he pushed games out the door rather than subjecting them to lengthy development periods. "It used to be that I had a really low attention span, I got so many ideas all the time that it was really hard to focus on a game for a longer period of time. Actually, last year I only released two or three games I think, so it's been slowing down a lot," he says rather proudly as Dennis and I begin laughing and I make a joke about three games in a year not being a big deal.
Hotline Miami is a far more focused project however, with what could be considered a lengthy development period for a Söderström game. Dennis and Jonaton have been working on it for six months now, and they still have a while to go. "We're constant saying next month, but it's been like that for two or three months now. We're hoping for August or September [for release]" Jonaton explained, a sense of relief in his voice that his game will actually be out in the open for everyone to play.
I think people should try to make games that don't focus too hard on following trends or copying stereotypical game ideas."
The game was recently shown at the Rezzed festival in the UK, taking out Eurogamer's Best of Show award. A number of awesome blog posts have been appearing, and all of them cite the soundtrack as being a key factor to the game's polish. "We have Jasper Byrne doing some music for the game, he did a game called Lone Survivor which is pretty awesome. Also a friend is doing some music for the game, he's worked with Blueberry Garden and some other game projects. We also have quite a few other artists we are going to feature in the soundtrack, but haven't really paid them yet, so we are talking to them and getting it sorted now so I'm not sure we can talk about it until next week or something," Jonaton explains with a hint of excitement, leaving us to wonder who else could be featured on this already awesome soundtrack.
The trailer displays a fantastic neon pixel art style with a visual flair direct from the late 80s. Dennis went on to explain his reasoning behind the interesting visuals. "I like pixel art a lot better than 3D. I like the neon colours and it works perfectly with the 90s style of the game."
The neon violence looks oh so pretty....
Finally I asked the duo for some words of advice for aspiring indie developers. Jonaton was quick to give a short, but funny answer. "Go for good ideas and don't do boring shit with animal characters." Dennis and I once again began to laugh, but later on Jonaton explained the reasoning behind that statement.
"I think people should try to make games that don't focus too hard on following trends or copying stereotypical game ideas. A lot of people you see at game jams come up with incoherent game ideas using characters (dogs vs cats for example) as a starting point and almost see that as a game concept, whereas you probably should come up with a fun gameplay idea first and then figure out what kind of plot/setting is most suitable to wrap it up in."
Perhaps Dennis had the most useful advice for indie developers out there, which once again was short but sweet.
"Don't start developing a game in the summer, because you will miss out on all the fun," wise words indeed.
We're glad you took this summer off to develop Hotline Miami Dennis, because from what we've seen so far we are tickled neon purple. You can expect a full review of the game coming sometime soon, but until then we'll go back to watching the trailer on repeat.
By Stephen Heller - Bio