Adventuring down the rabbit hole of Steam’s labyrinth of Indie games is a pilgrimage that any PC gamer worth their salt has taken at least once in their years of gaming and it’s one that I’ve found myself doing more frequently as I’ve gotten older. The 4th of March 2019 saw the most interesting of my Steam store adventures, however, as this is when I found a retro-inspired arcade racing game by the name of Slipstream.
A title that quickly hooked me in with its nostalgic feel and addictive gameplay, Slipstream would quickly become one of my favourite indie titles, even going as far as to be featured in my coursework during my final year of university. Since then it’s been a title I’ve followed rather closely and with its recent releases on Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch, I reached out to developer Sandro Luiz De Paula (@Ansdor) to talk about Slipstream, it’s development and what it means to release his passion project onto home consoles.
Before we talk about the game, could you tell us a little bit about you and your background?
“My name is Sandro Luiz de Paula (he/him), I’m 33 years old, born and currently living in Ipatinga, Brazil. I’m a solo independent game developer, working with games full time since mid-2015. I consider myself primarily an artist, but I also do a lot of programming.”
Was creating a video game always the goal for you or was it something you decided to try out later in life?
“It’s always been my childhood dream. The first time I remember thinking about that was when I was 7 years old. I had no idea how games were made back then, but I knew I wanted to make my own games. I gave up on that dream for most of my teenage years, but with the rise of Steam and indie games in the early 2010s, I was convinced to try again.”
Slipstream as a game is reminiscent of a lot of classic racing titles, often drawing comparisons to SEGA’s Outrun games from players. What does it mean to you as a developer for your game to be seen on that level?
“Slipstream was directly inspired by OutRun, and being compared to it is a huge honour for me as the developer. One thing I like especially about the comparisons is that everyone seems to have recognized that, even though it’s clearly inspired by OutRun, it’s not just a copy of OutRun, it has enough personality of its own to be a different game. I’ve seen people say things like “this game carries ‘the spirit’ of OutRun”, which is exactly what I wanted to hear.”
While we’re on the topic of the game’s comparisons, are there any other video game and pop-culture inspirations that helped you design Slipstream?
“Certainly! The most obvious is Sonic The Hedgehog, referenced in many ways all across the game. Sonic 2 was not the first game I played, but it was the first one I owned and probably the reason why I’m here doing this today. The rivals are inspired by many different things, Initial D, Bob Ross, Isaac Asimov, Back to the Future… I really like displaying my love for the things that inspire me.”
One of the more interesting aspects of Slipstream is the fact it was designed on a custom engine. In an indie scene that’s filled with games created on existing engines like Unity and Unreal, what was the reason you decided to go with your own engine and is it a path you’d recommend more indie developers look into when creating their projects?
“It’s gonna be a long answer. Talking about engines is hard because there is no objective definition of what a “game engine” is. It’s a hotly discussed topic in game dev circles, there is no universally accepted truth. I used software libraries, specifically libGDX (in the past) and FNA (currently) to provide the tools I needed to develop the game, such as access to the OS graphics libraries, sound, input, and so on. Some people would say those are game engines, others would disagree.
When I say Slipstream was made on a custom engine, I mean it’s not just using standard 3D graphics to create something superficially similar to the classic games, it is doing pretty much exactly what those games (such as OutRunners) did, only on modern hardware. It was not trivial, there isn’t much literature on pseudo-3D, and it took me a lot of reading and researching to understand things well enough, and then adapt them to take advantage of modern graphics hardware performance.
You remember how, in classic pseudo-3D games, when you went straight into a curve, without turning, the car would still follow the curve slightly and it was impossible to wander off into the distance? To re-create this effect in a modern 3D game, you’d have to put it there intentionally, it’s not just how movement in 3D behaves ‘naturally’. In Slipstream that also happens, but automatically, as a consequence of how the engine works, just like in those old games.
So, finally, to answer your question: The reason I did it is because I think there’s an intrinsic connection between the way a game renders its graphics and how it feels to play that game. If I wanted an authentic pseudo-3D racer, with the exact same game feel, I’d need to do things the way they did.”
Slipstream has finally landed on consoles after releasing on Steam in 2018, could you describe the process of building up to this day and how it feels to finally have the game out there on home consoles?
“When you’re an indie dev, working (almost) solo, from home, it’s hard to see your work as a “real” game. Artists, in general, tend to suffer from impostor syndrome, and it’s very real in my case. Each step of the process brought a little bit of validation, a sense that I had made an actual game, a real game, that could be sold and some people would buy it and play it.
Releasing on Steam independently was a very important milestone for my career, but this new release, with a publisher, on consoles, of an improved version of the game was so much better.”
To get a little bit more specific from that last question, on launch day you posted a tweet talking about how 26 years ago, your mom gave you a Nintendo 64. Talk me through your feelings and emotions now, seeing your very own game officially released on a Nintendo system for people to buy.
“It’s really hard to describe. I think it’s a sentiment shared by a lot of game developers, especially indies. I’ve been involved with video games ever since I was a small child, I played all the games I could, I eagerly read all the game magazines I found in my relatively small town in Brazil, and I always dreamed of being there too, creating my own game, my own little world. The Nintendo 64 had special significance because it was the only console I got on release as a child, and I lived through all the hype of each of its big releases, like Ocarina of Time. Having my own game on a Nintendo platform is almost unbelievable. I think it would be absolute bliss for 7-year-old Sandro to know this would happen to him one day, haha.”
Finally, what can we expect from Slipstream in the future? Are any updates planned for players to keep their eyes peeled for?
“There are still some features I’m planning to add to the game, such as a modding system I promised in 2021. It’s almost finished, but not 100%, and I want to make it publicly available this year still. With the modding system in place, adding new content to the game will be a lot easier. I want to add a few more tracks and cars to the game in the future, as free DLC, but there’s nothing in the works at the moment.
I also want to make other games. I have a bunch of ideas in mind right now, I want to make a few prototypes and see what sticks. Maybe another racing game, maybe not. If you want to check out my future projects, follow me on twitter at @ansdor. I hope everyone enjoys Slipstream, thanks for having me here!”
If you want to play Slipstream yourself, it’s now available on Steam, GoG, Itch.io, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch. If you’d like to keep up to date with all of our upcoming reviews, news and features here at Gaming Sandbox, follow us on our Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn pages. If you’d like to support us financially, you can do so by joining our Patreon!