Just recently I (Robin Ek, TGG) got a chance to sit down with PixelMetal (the indie game developer behind the spaghetti western multiplayer action game “Sombrero”) So we talked about everything from  “Sombrero”, censorship in games, PewDiepie, JonTron, SJW agendas and propaganda in games, #GamerGate to “Mass Effect: Andromeda“. So without any further ado, please enjoy my interview with PixelMetal.

pixelmetal logo

Pixelmetal is a New York (USA) based indie games studio (PixelMetal is the studio behind “Sombrero”).

Robin TGG
Would you be so kind and introduce yourself to our readers?

PixelMetal
Sure thing! My name is Nick Robalik, and I’m a Game Designer/Developer at PixelMetal, a small game company located in NYC that’s really just me.

We’ve just released our first game called Sombrero – and by we I mean me and the game’s publisher – which is a local & online multiplayer party game that I’ve been told is more similar to Smash Bros and Duck Game than Towerfall, and then other people have told me it has similarities to Towerfall, so I’d encourage people to just check it out if they’re interested in fast-paced & competitive 2D shooty multiplayer party game stuff. There’s a bunch of different gameplay modes, weapon powerups, characters, and stages. Steam trading cards, achievements and all the other stuff that’s expected. I’m still making tweaks and adding more content to the game pretty often.

I just had a chance to show Sombrero off at GDC at Intel’s booth, and people responded to it very well, so a special thanks to Intel for providing the opportunity. People can find out more about Sombrero at http://sombrerogame.com

Robin TGG
Your Spaghetti Western-inspired multiplayer game “Sombrero” launched back in October last year, so I want to ask you how things have gone for “Sombrero” since then? (what do the players think?)

PixelMetal
Yep, Sombrero launched at the end of October 2016. Since then I’ve been making some updates, including adding a new stage, some new weapon powerups, and a new character or two. I’ll be adding more stages, weapons & characters over the course of this year as well. At least a couple of the characters are from more well-known indie titles, so that’s an exciting thing for me and hopefully people playing the game.

Overall – for the people who actually know about the game – it’s gone fine. Not great, but okay. The biggest complaint I’ve received is that there’s no single player mode, but it’s a multiplayer game and is pretty clear about that before purchasing, so I can’t say I really understand that one much. The only other real complaint I’ve received is there’s not an endless supply of people to play online, but Sombrero isn’t Overwatch, so there’s only so much that can be done about that without a bigger marketing budget. I think if that’s an issue, those looking for more people to play against online should encourage their friends to come over and play with them on their couch, since it does support 4-Player local play, or get others to buy it if they want to play against each other online :).

I think the biggest issue from my perspective, at this point, is people knowing about the game. There’s been some shortcomings there. And sadly no 4 packs, Steam doesn’t seem to allow that any more, which is a shame.

Robin TGG
What’s your take on games journalists who inject social activism, SJW agendas and propaganda into their articles, reviews and game coverage?

Source:
Dear “games journalists”, keep your social activism and fascism bs out of our games!

PixelMetal
If consumers are looking for information about games that isn’t wrapped up in the warped, inconsistent and purposely inflammatory politics of some who cover them, those writers do exist. Some even exist at outlets that largely distribute clickbait-laced headlines. Don’t forget about video content & podcasts either, or Reddit if someone decides they want deeper information than other formats can provide. Online media’s need to post content of dubious quality 24/7 often results in the equivalent of Reddit reposts, usually misinterpreted or given more credence than they deserve, so people might as well just go to the subs they’re interested in to see what’s really going on.

Robin TGG
I don’t know if you have paid much attention to the PR-circus and scandals surrounding Bioware’s upcoming action/RPG “Mass Effect: Andromeda”, but there is indeed a handful of them. So I would like to hear your thoughts on the ugly female SJW designs for “MEA” (not to mention the animations) and Manveer Heir´s anti-white and racist slurs on social media?

Source:
Why does Mass Effect: Andromeda´s female characters look so ugly?
Meet BioWare’s racist game designer, Manveer Heir
LewdGamer
The Gaming Ground
Draconis

PixelMetal
I think that whatever the reason they’re taking their current approach to ME: A, they’ll make money, but I don’t think they’ll make anywhere near as much as they’re expecting. Without a doubt, the toyline is a bit of a stretch. Still, no game promoted so heavily will completely fail, even if it looks like it’s going to suck. That being said, I’ve seen critics who are typically Bioware fans take issue with what’s been released so far (as well as the usual suspects pandering to their audience), it’s a AAA title that’s been pushed back multiple times, and the track record for those circumstances hasn’t been good in recent memory outside of the recent DOOM reboot. If I were a Mass Effect fan I’d be understandably wary.

As for one of the designers on the game who’s gone after people because of their race or gender on social media multiple times, who doesn’t seem like a very pleasant person to be around ever, I’ll just say I didn’t really need another reason to not be interested in what Bioware’s offering with past or upcoming entries in the Mass Effect series. They’re not really the kind of games I’m interested in playing.

Robin TGG
What are your thoughts on JonTron and Pewdiepie’s battle with the mainstream media?

Source:
The Pewdiepie Disney aftermath
JonTron on SJWs

PixelMetal
More power to them both. They’re on soapboxes they’ve built themselves, without the help of millions of dollars of corporate branding, to set the record straight. They’re big personalities with years of their lives documented online, providing abundant evidence that the kind of accusations being thrown at them are baseless. At worst the situation is a speed bump for them and the additional coverage will only help their popularity grow.

Robin TGG
Not too long ago a number of Western developers and representatives (Kate Edwards, William Volk and Lindsay Grace, for example) attacked #GamerGate again, and it seems like 2017 will continue in that fashion. So what’s your take on the matter as a game developer yourself?

Source:
Western developers and representatives attack #GamerGate again

PixelMetal
It seems like the only way some people can get attention is criticizing what others are doing instead of creating what they think would be a “better” version of what they’re criticizing. Maybe they’d be happier if they tried creating something by learning and applying new skills instead of trying to tear down those who have been successful in achieving their goals. Or they could realize that someone else’s product goals don’t necessarily have to be aligned with theirs, nor does anyone have the responsibility to try to do so. Either option works for me.

Robin TGG
Taro Yoko and Nier: Automata has (with no doubt) shown the way in the West when it comes to being very politically incorrect (the lewd content is more than enough to get the SJW movement to grind teeth for months to come). As Yoko and his team hasn’t paid any attention at all about people who have whined about the sexy characters and lewd content in the game. Simply put, Yoko and Platinum Games has made the game that they wanted to create, and by the looks of it. Nier: Automata will become a very successful title.

So my question would be the following to you. Do you think that the wind of change has reached the West? That more Western developers will dare to question political correctness and SJW nonsense?

Source:
Nier: Automata creator Taro Yoko addresses the 2B butt controversy like a boss
Nier: Automata is a very lewd game indeed
Nier: Automata PS4 review

PixelMetal
I think Platinum is best known for making the kind of games they want to make when they’re working with their own IP. Acting surprised by that, or that those games appeal to some people and not to others, is silly. They’re not a Western developer. They don’t have to deal with a lot of the censorial nonsense people here drone on about for clicks. They’re doing their own thing and outside of some quality issues with their licensed IP titles they’ve always created gameplay that is immensely enjoyable.

Overall I don’t think there’s been that much of an impact on any entertainment – games, movies, comic books, whatever – by tabloid media and media personalities who have become louder, and who think their opinions should hold some kind of societal weight. They don’t. I know sometimes it can seem like it based on armies of retweeting bots, critics and keyboard pundits on all sides, but most developers can still make the kinds of games they want to make and I don’t expect that to change. Those that can’t have the opportunity to change whatever developer they’re working at, or move on.

The current climate of shaming people for expressing their creativity in ways that aren’t designed to appeal to every type of person ever isn’t going to last. It never does.

Robin TGG
Censorship in games has existed for a very long time, especially in the West. However, for the last couple of years, matters have gone from bad to even worse. So there is pretty much always a risk of censorship when it comes to Western localizations of Asian games (in particular, Japanese games).

So what’s your thoughts on censorship in the West? And do you think that things will become worse or better over time?

Source:
Video game censorship – The idea of reviewing censored games
The art book for Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE appears to be censored
NIS America appears to have censored half of the motivation images for Criminal Girls 2

PixelMetal
I don’t think things have changed that much at all, it’s that there’s more Japanese (for example) games coming to the West, and in a wider range of genres, which is good. As more types of games come into the West, there will need to be new people working on their localization that better understand the cultural context of what they’re importing and stop trying to apply local values in such an ethnocentric way to those games because that’s not what the audience wants.

It doesn’t hurt to think back on the history of localizing games, going back to original NES titles and seeing how bad those localizations were (before game localization even existed as an industry) and how they’ve improved over time. So, localization shops will continue to improve or they’ll find themselves out of business. There’s not a consumer base asking for translations or content changes that are disrespectful of the source material. I encourage people to keep pushing for better localizations until they get them.

Robin TGG
Just recently there were talks about that gaming could be misrepresented as a mental health disorder, and there have also been plenty of attacks on Gamers and gaming where MSM and the established games media have tried to make a connection between real-life violence and video game violence.

So what’s your thoughts on that matter?

Source:
Despite evidence, Gaming could be misrepresented as a mental health disorder
Germany´s minister of interior blames violent video games for the Munich attack?
Violence in video games? This tired old argument – A response to The California Aggie

PixelMetal
Reliable scientific research as well as statistical data related to crime and mental health points to the exact opposite being true. So my thoughts on people still declaring the world flat despite proof that it’s round is that they’re either uninformed, looking to receive undue attention by claiming otherwise, or both.

gamergate vs anti gamergate banner

#GamerGate has been around since 2014, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

Robin TGG
#GamerGate has been around since 2014, and over the years, they have fought against corruption, censorship, SJW madness and shady business practices in the games industry (broken games on release, Kickstarter scams and so on). Even so, quite a lot of game developers and publishers (especially in the West) have not dared to say anything about the matter. As they fear that they might end up losing their jobs, or end up being boycotted and so on. Thus, they’ve chosen to remain silent about the matter.

So do you think that more Western game developers and publishers will dare to speak their mind about GG in the near future now that Donald Trump has won the US election? As it feels like Trump have cleared up the toxic and politically-correct air quite a bit since he started off as the presidential elect for the US.

Source:
A response to Study Breaks “Trump and GamerGate” post
Doug TenNapel interview – #GamerGate 2nd year special part 1
Brad Wardell interview – #GamerGate 2nd year special part 2
Denis Dyack interview – #GamerGate 2nd Year special part 3

PixelMetal
It’s not a good idea to take publishers or developers not saying anything to mean they support people pushing any kind of content censorship, self-inflicted or otherwise. I think it’s safe to say that if they’re not getting involved in any public debate, it’s because they’re doing their best to ignore it instead of taking sides. That’s the decision they’ve made for their business. I can’t blame them for that when they’re trying to sell games to everyone.

Privately I know indie and AAA developers and writers who are firmly against a lot of what and who receives press in terms of indie games, and the way a lot of coverage from some larger corporately-owned outlets is handled with opinions pieces masquerading as news items. AAA development is in a different bracket and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that most people working at that level are keeping their mouths shut to avoid being attacked by any side in ongoing internet culture wars. Saying anything would easily add a person to someone’s blacklist, somewhere. Wanting to avoid potential professional fallout, while not exactly the highest calling, is a concern for most people. It sucks when it happens, and the last few years it’s been happening a lot more than it should.

Robin TGG
From what I’ve seen and heard, it appears as if GDC 2017 has gone full SJW mode. As the event seems to be more about political agendas, anti-white propaganda and social activism than actual games and gaming…So I would like to ask you what you think about the matter? And furthermore, is there even any Western Gaming events left that hasn’t been injected with the SJW cancer?

Source:
GDC 2017 made me feel like game development isn’t even about games anymore
http://archive.is/lgwsW
http://archive.is/4Ip5t
http://archive.is/t21qt
http://archive.is/SkXKM

PixelMetal
I think some of the GDC panels are leaning away from topics related to game development and more into ideologically-driven crusades against whatever flavor of entertainment some people enjoy and others don’t, for sure. But the expo floor is overwhelmingly about games or tools developers may be interested in using in their game development. The events after the expo each night are about having fun with others in the industry and networking with people you’ve just met. Those with other agendas didn’t seem especially widespread, but I don’t think that should be much of a surprise to anyone at this point. It’s been the same story at every other expo I’ve been to, however many rooms filled with coloring books they have set aside for people who are theoretically adults.

Robin TGG
Why do you think that there is so much fuss about lewd games and lewd content in the West? (thus all the censorship). I mean, my Japanese friends just don’t get that part at all. On a personal level, I just find the whole thing to be really ridiculous. As most lewd games are aimed towards an adult audience, and we are all adults, right?

Source:
10 lewd games that you should be playing in 2017
Vice’s vice with the lovely ladies of Final Fantasy XV
SwimsuitSuccubus interview
HDoom interview with HDoomGuy
Kukuruyo interview

PixelMetal
I think it’s a cultural thing. Here in the US we had a censor board for comic books that said what kind of content could and couldn’t appear. The US also spawned the MPAA and ESRB. I think that generally speaking Western societies are happy telling people what they can and cannot enjoy in their free time, adults or not. It’s an ongoing issue that probably won’t stop, nor should the pushback against it.

nintendo switch console

I’m not quite sold on the Nintendo Switch, at least not yet.

Robin TGG
Do you think that Nintendo’s Switch console will rock or suck on release? And will the console have a chance in hell to survive in the long run?

Source:
A brutally honest take on the Switch console up to now
Console buyers beware – The Nintendo Switch launch-day issues

PixelMetal
People will be excited upon release and thrilled to play a new Zelda game, and then a month later they’ll be sad when they realize they have little else to play that they can’t already play elsewhere, and that it will be that way for months. The Switch will survive as Nintendo’s mobile console, where people will have no other choice but to get one if they want to experience certain game IPs like Pokemon, Mario Bros., Splatoon (sadly no Metroid). As a TV-based console I’m not sure it will achieve its goals. But who knows what Nintendo will get up to, they’re not predictable. Those joystick and pro controller prices need to come way down either way, and at $50 cheaper the console would be better priced if they’re not going to include a game.

ps4 morpheus lady wide

Virtual reality is a big deal for Sony and the PS4.

Robin TGG
There has been a lot of hype about virtual reality for the last two years or so, but a lot of people are dismissing VR as nothing more than a “gimmick” and over-hyped piece of technology. So what’s your take on VR? And do you think that VR as a whole will grow more popular over time?

Source:
PlayStation VR review and impressions
Virtual Revolution Q and A interview – Guy-Roger Duvert
Homebound makes its final descent onto Steam VR

PixelMetal
I played with some neat VR tech at GDC and there are some really polished products coming out, but I think it’s completely true that as VR exists in gaming right now, it’s nothing more than a gimmick and an overhyped piece of technology.

BUT, VR is super cool and has other uses right now outside of gaming where the budgets are bigger for hardware and that’s probably where VR should live before coming to games. Simulation, location-based events like museum exhibits or conventions, 3D interface & interaction design all seem like better places for VR right now than commercial gaming.

Once prices start coming down to around $150 or so for a decent self-contained unit that doesn’t involve a lot of setup, then it’s ready for consumer release. Right now it just seems like 3D TV and it’s a bit half-baked, being pushed to market before the technology and price point are where they need to be for reaching substantial consumer adoption.

AR could be a good place for some games and interactive experiences. I like the idea of a working Iron Man HUD, even if I have to wear a visor to see it projected onto the world. It avoids VR’s limitation of shutting you off from your surroundings and I think that will help with adoption once the tech is ready.

pixel metal and sombrero

It’s going to be very interesting to see what PixelMetal ‘s next game will be like.

Robin TGG
I’m curious to know if you got any plans on making a new game? If so, is there anything that you could tell us at all about the matter?

PixelMetal
I have a few concepts I’m playing around with right now. I’m not sure which will end up being the next game. There’s currently three concepts in the running, and they’re all very different: an action platformer that isn’t meant to be yet another indie pixel art platformer, an RPGish twin stick shooter and an arcadey roguelike action space arena shooter…thing. I’m a little partial to the last one right now but they all need more R&D before I have anything more specific to say. Whatever it is, expect explosions to be involved.

Robin TGG
What’s your plans, hopes and expectations for 2017? And do you plan to visit any big game events this year?

PixelMetal
I’m still figuring out what 2017 is going to look like. I’ll be adding more content to Sombrero, as well as making some tweaks here and there, while looking at porting to additional platforms. I’ll keep poking around with ideas for future games. As for events, I went to GDC 2017. Sombrero was just at PAX East in its publisher’s booth. I’ll probably be attending some events in the NYC area, and I think I should try at least one of the conventions in the Southeast because I’ve never really been to any. I’m aiming to be at some future PAX, so we’ll see what happens.

tgg author avatar robin ek
Robin “V-Act” Ek
The Gaming Ground
Twitter: @TheGamingGround

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