• Aaron Mendoza

Interview: Flashpoint Studios, Developer of 'Aggressor'

It has been roughly six weeks since 'Aggressor' began its early access period. During that time this visually striking lowpoly arcade flight simulator has received multiple updates. Flight model tweaks, user interface changes, bug fixes, new aircraft added to the roster and more. Skyward Flight Media reached out to Flashpoint Studios to discuss the game, initial user feedback and to get to know the developer a bit better.

Hello, and thank you for accepting our interview request. Congratulations on the release of Aggressor into early access. Can I ask you to introduce yourself?

Thank you very much! My name is Mark, solo developer of the flight action game Aggressor. I live in the Netherlands and I'm currently in my first year studying the programming side of game development. I'm 19 and I've got around 4.5 years of experience developing simple light-sim and arcade flight projects. I started out doing game development in my free time just for fun and went from there as ideas started flowing, it's honestly great for me being able to turn this into something more than just a hobby. Right now I'm working pretty much full-time on Aggressor. My goal is to develop it into a complete game with a well-defined start and ending.

Before we get to Aggressor, we'd like to get to know you a little better. How did you become interested in aviation?

It started early for me since I grew up close to an airport. Was always fun going there and it sort of sparked my interest for aircraft, it's the classic story really. From there on I picked up flying in air combat games and got hooked pretty fast.

Were there any flight games or flight simulators that you have played in the past that eventually inspired you to become a game developer?

Absolutely. Among the first was IL-2 1946. This game was my first experience with a simulator, essentially it's where I learned how to roughly control an airplane. I played it for about 4 years. During this period there are a few other flight games that I tried along the way such as IL-2 Cliffs of Dover, War Thunder and briefly FSX. In the end I stuck with 1946 because of its seemingly endless possibilities with the mission builder. Before 1946 there was another IL-2 game I had on my Nintendo, but that's really long ago. I've also played SimplePlanes for some time where I got into modding that eventually led me to pursue game development.

Interesting, we did not know you were a mod creator. Which games did you create mods for? Are you still actively creating mods?

I used to create them for a game called SimplePlanes. I made a variety of mods that are still available today, though I'm not sure if they are in working order. I did this until late 2018 when I stopped to focus fully on game development.

Have you always had an interest in game development?

Not always. Honestly it was not until I started making mods that I realized how nice it could be to create something yourself and have it work. You can credit SimplePlanes for that.

How did the concept for Aggressor form?

Aggressor went through many design phases before becoming what it is today. Prior to Aggressor I had been experimenting with flight physics and damage models for a while. I knew I wanted to make a low poly air combat game, but wasn't sure what it should be about. Last year in August I continued work that I abandoned earlier on a sort of part-based flight model that allows aircraft to break apart. To my surprise the initial concept was a lot of fun to play around with.

This was all before the project even got a name. At first I was actually going to call it Overkill, having no missions and only a gamemode where you take down waves of aircraft in a sort of roguelike fashion, it would have been a much simpler game for sure. As development went on, the concept for Aggressor kind of formed along the way. The one thing that has always remained the same though is the art style; a lowpoly aesthetic with console-like graphics.

This game has many aircraft that are hardly seen in other games. It’s not the same set of somewhat expected fixed-wing fighters that people are used to seeing. How do you think the aircraft selection has been received by players so far? What are your thoughts on the aircraft selection?

I've had surprisingly little comments about the variety of types available, but those that do comment are generally positive about it. Personally these sorts of experimental aircraft that you see in the selection interest me the most. It's great fun for me to be able to fly these in a game. Only downside is that for some of them it's hard to find info like handling/performance stats. Though I later found that's not too much of a problem since it's an arcade and the only true-to-life values I really want are weight and thrust, everything else I can estimate from that in flight testing.

It's exciting to see some old experimental and prototype aircraft from the 50s and 60s flying. There are a few other uncommon but familiar aircraft in the roster as well. Are there any aircraft you are particularly happy to have in Aggressor?

Mostly the more uncommon experimental aircraft are very interesting to me. Especially if I haven't seen them in any other game yet, I'm happy to be able to fly them in Aggressor.

There are a few unknown aircraft that have appeared on the official Twitter profile. Referred to as “all black planes”, is there any more info available about them? Are they still planned to be included into the full game?

Yes they are. These will belong to a third nation hostile to all the others. Such planes will see action only every now and then, but their impact in battle should be great. Under no circumstances will they be player-controllable though.

About the single player campaign, what level of complexity are you considering going forward? The current short mission format or is something more elaborate being considered?

At the very least, a mission briefing to help create some context. The short mission format is here to stay, as in campaigns made up of a list of missions. That is until I find a better way to stitch things together. The briefing would happen in 3D, with a simple representation of the map with all allied/axis units deployed. I think Project Wingman does it really well.

Right now Aggressor is focusing on air-to-air combat, but are there plans for land and seaborne enemies for more complex missions in the future?

Both of those are planned yes. Ground vehicles are work-in-progress rig