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Jet Lancer » Q&A with Jet Lancer Developers

Today we’re sitting down with the dynamic duo behind Jet Lancer, a partnership better known as

For the folks reading this who aren’t already familiar with you, who are you, what do you do on Jet Lancer?

Vladimir: I’m Vladimir, a self-proclaimed artist and game designer on this project. Although in reality, both of us did a little bit of everything while working on Jet Lancer.

Nicolai: And I’m Nicolai, mostly a programmer and a bit of everything else when necessary. I also make sure our mountain of code doesn’t come crumbling down.

If you were both ACE Pilots, what would your callsigns be?

Vladimir: Utah, probably? That was my old nickname I’ve come up with for some milsim game.

Nicolai: Call me Bob, because that’s the nonsensical nickname my dad has always called me by for no apparent reason. Secretly I prefer to stay on the ground for the most part.

How did you two start working together, how did Code Wakers come to be? How did Jet Lancer happen?

Utah (V): I’ve always had a passion for military aviation and been working on a similar game about a decade ago, but back then I was obviously lacking experience to go anywhere with it. But one day I stumbled upon a video showcasing some gameplay of SkyStrike on Atari ST. It immediately sparked my interest to try one more take on the same concept, but with new knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years. I wrote a design document and made some art in just one week, then pitched the idea to an old friend of mine who helped with coding the gameplay prototype.

Bob (N): I joined Vladimir in working on Jet Lancer after the initial prototype was made. We met through a mutual friend when Vladimir needed someone to help with the programming side of things, so it was the perfect match at just the right time. We started out as hobbyists working on Jet Lancer in our spare time and slowly turned it into a more serious thing. It has been quite smooth sailing honestly.

Was there a particular game or series you played growing up that inspired you to make games?

Utah (V): Anything that had map editor or mod support of any kind. That was literally the main selling point of any game to me, and in some cases I never even played the game in the intended way, spending time just toying around with mod tools.

Bob (N): I was interested in games from before I can even remember as a young child. One of the earliest games I played for hours was the original Age of Empires. It fascinated me that there was this “living” civilization inside the computer and I basically wanted to make games ever since. Took me a while before I realized how to do that though.

You’ve been working on Jet Lancer a long time. What was the most fun or memorable part of this process for you?

Utah (V): Testing stuff that Nicolai added to the game for the first time. New bosses, enemies, etc. It’s always super exciting to see some new content in the game.
Also, just solving game design problems. For more conventional game genre, let’s say a platformer, you already have a huge pool of inspiration to draw from when it comes to gameplay mechanics. With Jet Lancer, we had to invent a lot of stuff almost from scratch. For example, coming up with bosses and enemy AI that will accommodate a player’s ability to zip around the sky at literally supersonic speed with no physical borders.

Bob (N): It’s tough to choose one specific moment, but just seeing the game progress little by little has been great. I don’t think me from 3 years ago would have pictured it to become what it is now. And as Vladimir says, the great thing about working together is that you can often boot up the game and be pleasantly surprised by some new additions.

You both have more hours in the Jet Lancer cockpit than anyone else right now- do you have any tips for pilots picking the game up when it launches on May 12 on PC and Switch?

Utah (V): Performing a dodge roll while your engines are off increase your turn speed a lot. Using it for super sharp 180 turns, followed by a short burst of afterburner, will increase your mobility to a whole new level.

Bob (N): And focus on your evasions! Keep yourself alive foremost, then put in the damage when you get the chance. Also try to keep yourself close to the action and experiment with the wide arsenal of weapons and modules.

Who is your favorite character in Jet Lancer?

Bob (N): Apart from the objectively correct choice of Lem, I also really like the dynamic between Ash and the Captain.

Utah (V): Are you asking me to pick my favorite child?

I am now- which is your favorite Boss?

Utah (V): From development perspective, it’s definitely Empress. It’s animated entirely through code with some inverse kinematics involved, and it was extremely fun to work on it and tweak things around to make sure animation feels just right.

Bob (N): Empress is one of the coolest looking bosses for sure. Maybe I will choose Tower, the serpent, which is a fun early game boss. It was also one of the first bosses I worked on. The high mobility makes it really well suited for aerial combat and the fact it’s a flying mechanical snake that spits lasers is also pretty cool.

A few questions from folks on Discord and Steam:

A lot of people are comparing this game to Vlambeer’s Luftrausers. Does the gameplay have anything in common with Luftrausers? What makes Jet Lancer different?

Utah (V): On the surface, they are quite similar, both being 2D aerial combat games. And Luftrausers players will probably feel at home when it comes to basic handling and air-to-air combat. As for differences, there are some obviously noticeable ones, like story-based structure of the game with short missions featuring different objectives and lots of giant killer robots to fight.

When it comes to core gameplay, I think the main difference is that in Jet Lancer you don’t have health regeneration, instead you get a dodge roll that makes you invulnerable for a brief moment. The whole game was designed around this concept. We put enormous effort to make sure that the game will always feel fair and there will never be a situation where taking damage is unavoidable. This affected everything: enemy AI, bosses behaviour, camera movement, UI.

Was there anything particularly challenging about developing Jet Lancer? How did you overcome these challenges?

Utah (V): When Jet Lancer was in its early stage of development, and it was still a passion project that I had to work on in my spare time, it felt like this colossal ball of different interweaved parts that’s impossibly hard to untangle. When you are left on your own devices and without any feedback and oversight, it’s hard to measure your progress, prioritize right things, know when something is good enough to call it done, etc. What helped me a lot is to break the whole project into microtasks, each one usually taking 10-60 minutes to complete, and then arranging them in dependency pattern. You can do that either physically, with some sticky notes and any wall you’ll find fancy, or digitally through some management tool. After each task is done, drawing a cross or a star on it helps a lot with motivation, because you can see you progressed further with each crossed out sticky note.

Bob (N): One of the design challenges that took the longest to solve was how to make the game work as well as possible in a side-scrolling view. It’s no fun if you get hit from something that you couldn’t see until the last second. We ended up making a dynamic camera system that can slightly pan and zoom to frame the action best for any given moment, as well as added enemy indicators in the HUD that show the rough distance and direction to enemies around you. There are even some high level mechanics like bullets doing less damage the longer they travel, to deter players from hiding in a corner. That also makes for some fun risk/reward gameplay because you can be more effective at close range.

How can Lem talk? He’s a cat!

Utah (V): To be honest, I would be more concerned about how he operates heavy machinery with his tiny cat paws.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Shortly after publication Jet Lancer’s writer, Cory O’Brien, Callsign: Froppy, reached out to clarify, “Lem can talk because of a custom vocoder he designed and built himself.” So I guess that clears that up.

Will there be Steam Trading Cards

Utah (V): It’s ultimately up to Steam to decide, but we’re already working on artwork for them behind the scenes in case we’ll get approved.

Just two more questions: What’s after Jet Lancer?

Bob (N): We’re just as excited to find out! We have some vague ideas, but nothing set in stone yet. Something in 3D or involving multiplayer would be cool some day. For now we are just looking forward to the launch of Jet Lancer and are hoping to support it with further updates.

Utah (V): Yeah, by a lot of miscellaneous use of 3D in Jet Lancer, you can probably guess how eager we are to try out a fully 3D game. But in a short term perspective, I just plan to grab a bag of popcorn and watch people play it on streams or whatever. I was never able to see how the game looks from the player’s perspective, and I’m super excited to finally see people experience it!

Where can people find you on the internet?

Utah (Vladimir): I’m on Twitter @WhyNotArtDump

Bob (Nicolai): Twitter @nicolaigd or come join our Discord and we’ll all hang out there.

That’s it for our chat this week! Jet Lancer launches May 12th, if you haven’t wishlisted the game yet, you can do so using this widget:

See you in the sky.