Indie Developer Spotlight : Rhopunzel

Tuesday, July 2, 2013 | 9

AAA Games are bad and getting worse.

In a world where every new game has a number after it, a few brave souls take the road less traveled and work on titles that are completely original. Rhopunzel is the resident badass on Starbound's team. She is important enough for me to start a whole new column for so if anyone says anything negative in the comments section I will personally hunt down and thank them for reading my terrible website. We have fun here. INTERVIEW GO!!!

Miguelito: As a super-important part-time unpopular gaming blogger, I get a lot of stupid questions. The dumbest question I get is, "Durrr... how is Starbound different than Terraria?" Can you formulate an answer that will appease the types of lazy idiots who can't just visit Starbound's website and read?

Rhopunzel: It's in space, and we got guns and shit.


Miguelito: As a Designer/Developer myself, I believe that the hardest part of every project is pushing through the last 10%. With all of the progress y'all seem to make each week, have you found a cure to the apathy that comes with a nearly complete game? Can it be bottled?

Rhopunzel: We've all got our own ways of dealing with it. Mine's Evan Williams whiskey. Yes it's bottled.

I've seriously never thought of that before. You may have saved my career.

Miguelito: I'd like to clear the air. I checked out your Deviant Art page and noticed some EvE pixel-art. Do you play the massively multiplayer spreadsheet trainer, EvE Online? Be warned, there is only one answer that won't result in ridicule.

Rhopunzel: Oh man, you did your homework. I played it for like 2 months in 2007 with Goonfleet. I was on some shitbox computer that turned the game into a slideshow any time I got into a fleet battle. I felt kind of stupid paying $15 a month to get yelled at by nerds on Teamspeak while playing a slideshow, so I lost interest pretty quickly.

Combat in EvE isn't exactly for the free-thinking types unless you're the .01% of players with any pull in a fleet. The most important thing you can do once you start playing EvE is quit. Immediately.

Miguelito: Do you feel like smaller teams are better at cultivating a classic charm that AAA developers have lost the handle on in recent years?

Rhopunzel: Yeah, I guess, but it's not a given. If small teams start taking that for granted we'd be back to square one.

Yeah, I get the feeling that the availability of self-publishing and crowd-funding mechanisms is turning indie games main-stream. It's only a matter of time before EA starts buying up two-man teams and pumping out quirky shit. What's the indie-game equivalent of the anti-littering native?

Miguelito: When you're done making magic, what types of games do you like? Are you looking forward to anything in particular?

Rhopunzel: I have a weird taste in games, but I really only get to play on the weekend anyway. I love strategy/management games and simulation games. I do have a tiny attention span so I usually get bored of a game after a few weeks, but the one game I can always pick up and play will forever be X-COM UFO Defense. The original, not that bloated remake. Man that makes me sound boring.

I don't think that's weird at all, though I don't think the new X-COM is bloated. In fact, I found it to be extremely shallow when compared to the previous generation in every way except voice acting (The SWTOR Treatment). One of the recent weird simulation/strategy games I remember enjoying is "The Guild II".

Miguelito: One of my favorite terrifying things about the internet is that more people know me by my alias than actually know me in real life. Do you worry that your impending massive popularity might cause you to lose your original identity? Do your parents call you Rhopunzel the same way I'd imagine Patrick Stewart's parents call him "Jean Luc Picard"? Is your hair purple in your dreams?

Rhopunzel: I actually like it that way. I hate my real name. Lots of people have actually suggested I change my real name to Rho. I'm strongly considering it.

I'd change my name to Miguelito, but there is already a teenage Puerto Rican reggaeton artist with that name. To be clear, I'm not him. Stop sending me his mail. It's really more of an ironic nickname anyhow.

Miguelito: After designing assets for Gnomoria and Starbound, do you enjoy drawing isometric or side-scroller assets more? What games inspire you most with each style?

Rhopunzel: I have the most fun doing isometric, but it's the least rewarding as an artist. A lot of pixel artists say isometric graphics are easymode, and I'm inclined to agree. That's why you see so many of those giant ridiculous Habbo-style collages all over the place. I have no idea what inspired me for Gnomoria, the art style was actually defined by a previous artist who had to leave, so I just did the best I could to emulate his style as I could rather than scrap everything and start over.

I didn't define the style for Starbound either - but that itself was directly influenced by a bunch of pixel art wallpapers some guy did in a very similar style that was set as the criteria to us. The only real difference is that we use outlines.

I definitely appreciate how much simpler isometric landscapes are, but when it comes to sprite sheets and organic stuff, side scroller is less time-consuming... Although most side scrollers require all sorts of flipping animations (and apparently Megamanesque beaming... which is awesome.

Miguelito: Do you cringe every time a funding goal that requires items and races to be designed gets met?

Rhopunzel: Yes. We honestly weren't expecting the preorder to be so insane, so we had no plan at all for stretch goals and kind of had to make it up as we went along. We stopped at $1m because it was just going to spiral out of control otherwise.

Why stop there? Why not pull a Star Citizen and extend stretch goals out so far that you can finish features in 5 years from an island resort?

Miguelito: What's with Tiy's scarf?

Rhopunzel: I don't know. I called him a hipster the other day because of it and he was like "I don't even wear a scarf all the time, I only wear one when it's cold." He lives in England by the way, which is freezing all the time.

My Texan sensibilities don't allow for any type of eclectic scarfery.

Thanks a bunch to Rho for answering some of my inane questions. Anyone who doesn't know much about Starbound or Gnomoria should google that shit immediately. Starbound is currently #1 on my list of upcoming games and my taste is flawless. Here's some footage:


  1. I am slowly becoming more and more obsessed with pixel art. It is such a gorgeous art style. I recently picked up Gemini Rue on and what an amazingly beautiful game. Awesome interview! Starbound is high on my "cant wait for list".

  2. I do not know... what this means...

  3. It means that I enjoyed the article and I support Rhopunzel's endeavours (enDEVours haha, because Rho is a dev, get it?). Sorry to just waltz in throwing dings around.

  4. Oh. I was just assuming that you spontaneously leveled up in my comments section.


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