Last year brought welcome news of a return of a cherished name in video gaming, and in tandem with that news the discovery, to me a minimum of, that another well-known name in computer game wasn’t possibly as inactive as I’d idea. With the release of Turrican Flashback later on this month – a collection of the much-loved run-and-gunner series’ highlights – we’re not just seeing the return of the Turrican name, however likewise of designer Factor 5, the renowned clothing behind the Rogue Squadron video games and numerous other interesting tasks that regretfully closed down in the turbulent wake of Lair’s release.
“We never ever divided even if the studio closed down here in the United States,” studio creator Julian Eggebrecht informs me from his Marin County base. “[The studio in Cologne] remained open in lots of methods, and we simply rotated from video game making to video-on-demand services. While the business was going through the personal bankruptcy, I got in contact with Netflix, and we got a great deal of the early customers for all of the streaming tech back in 2009 – and after that practically all of those streaming apps that you have actually been utilizing on consoles and great deals of other platforms also.”
It’s heartening to understand that, without even understanding it, there’s been a little piece of what was as soon as Factor 5 on the different consoles I’ve owned for many years – and I’m sure it was a rewarding turn for Eggebrecht and co. too. “We did that for a years,” he states, “and it wasn’t the worst bet!”
That success resulted in a brand-new chapter in the group’s story that started last August. “What has actually type of been Factor 5 the previous ten years signed up with Epic together,” states Eggebrecht. “We still have our old structure because half of the group remains in the Bay Area, and the other half of the group remains in Cologne. I’m generally leading the entire group, which is nowadays the media tech and services group inside Epic, here from California.”
As interesting as all that is, it’s the side hustle Eggebrecht and his group have actually been released on that’s possibly of a lot of interest, and the return of Turrican is something that’s been practically quarter of a century in the making. “We required to figure out a tonne of rights, since the scenarios around those video games were a total problem,” states Eggebrecht. The last resting location for a lot of those rights wound up being at the now defunct THQ, and it was the publisher’s failure that provided a chance to Factor 5.
“Ironically an actually buddy of mine – Jason Rubin, the creator of Naughty Dog – took place to be the last bad soul who generally needed to lead THQ as their CEO through personal bankruptcy. So the minute I check out it, I right away struck up Jason and stated, Hey, did you understand that you own parts of the Turrican rights back in Germany. He resembled, I had no concept, however sure if you desire it then make us a deal. And that’s precisely what we did.
With the rights protected, Eggebrecht was approached by the head of Strictly Limited Games – a self-confessed Turrican superfan. “He stated can something lastly be finished with Turrican,” states Eggebrecht. “Then, naturally, can we do a brand-new Turrican? Well, we’ll see about that… But initially, we can a minimum of bring Turrican back and reveal the Americans what they missed out on with the Amiga variations, and reveal the Europeans what they missed out on with the SNES and Mega Drive variations. That got the entire ball rolling, and after that with the 30th anniversary naturally showing up here we are, lastly.”
Turrican Flashback, which releases next week on Switch (with a surprise PlayStation 4 release recently) unites 4 of the video games – Turrican, Turrican II: The Final Fight, Mega Turrican and Super Turrican – with a couple of mod cons besides. The controls have been re-mapped, should you not want to have to press up to jump, though of course the option to keep things untouched is there. There are filters and wallpapers, and a light amount of supporting material. “Unfortunately we didn’t find that much, but we basically sent out a beacon to everybody who worked on the video games,” says Eggebrecht. “It’s maybe less than people were hoping for, but on the other hand, I think we really got everything.”
What really matters, though, is the chance to play these games again – and to see how their urgency and action hasn’t dimmed at all over the years. “When we did Turrican 1 and Turrican 2, it was just for the heck of it,” Eggebrecht says of the original’s appeal. “It was super organic, there was no elaborate planning around the level design, about game mechanics and everything that you would do nowadays. But because the games were so self-contained and so small – it was all iterated and basically you just went for it, right?
“A lot of the games from back then were really born out of tech experiments. Turrican 1, for example – Manfred Trenz started it on the Commodore 64, just having the ambition to figure out a game which scrolls in all directions, and throws around a tonne of large objects and has these huge levels. That was the ambition and that was the game design because it technologically had never been done. The ambition was to solve this tech problem. And then the game design and the actual game that came afterwards.
“Coming back to it having made games for 30 years, it’s strange because you suddenly start analysing it to death. I guess that’s the George Lucas syndrome, right? When he went back on Star Wars, he started fiddling – and I understand him a lot better now. Looking at the old games, you immediately feel the urge to tinker as this wasn’t really perfect, and this wasn’t really perfect, but then you need to step back and say, wait, that’s the charm of it. I’ve resisted that urge, basically.”
Turrican Flashback is a neat little package that shows off the series in its prime, and of course it begs the question of what’s next. Factor 5 returned to the series a small handful of times, exploring the potential of what it might look like in 3D. A Space World demo debuted alongside what would become Rogue Leader.
“It was a spiritual successor to Turrican called Tornado, which was basically attempting the whole Turrican-style free roaming levels in 3D,” says Eggebrecht. “We got to the prototype stage, but then at the end of the day Nintendo basically said, we don’t think with your team size you can handle that – we were pitching that as a first party game. And they said, we really, really need Rogue Leader for launch – the only game that they knew at the time which would potentially make it for launch was Luigi’s Mansion. So we said let’s put Tornado on ice, and it never really came back off it. That demo is unfortunately, as far as I know, completely lost, because that would have actually only worked on a prototype GameCube and certainly early prototypes of Flipper and Dolphin.”
Another attempt at a 3D Turrican came in what would be the final days of the original Factor 5 with a PS3 demo titled Cyclone: The Eternal One. “It was a white box,” says Eggebrecht of the 2009 effort. “So it’s not very pretty, but it has the whole gameplay elements and everything in there. I think the whole thing would have been super cool. We couldn’t get a publisher at the time to pony up the money for it – although we were pretty close. And suddenly we were out of money and the rest is history.”
So what of the future? With Factor 5 back there’s every chance Turrican could make another return, in some shape or another. There’s the catch of course that we all have day jobs at Epic,” says Eggebrecht. “It’s awesome in the first place that Epic even allows us to do these little extra things on the side. Realistically, the one thing which we’d love to do is a 2D Turrican, if this is really successful – a modern 2D version of Turrican. I don’t think I would wish to go back into 3D as that’s quite frankly not something which really excites me anymore.
“But a really nicely done 2D one, which would include the ability for people to do their own levels, similar to Mario Maker. I think the typical pitfall that you have, you have a different memory as the original makeup as the fans who experienced it, and they might want, especially with the Turrican games, it’s tricky, right? The first two Amiga Turricans, the original ones, feel vastly different than, say, Super Turrican 2, which was clearly an homage to the Japanese design style.
“How do you cater to that? That’s always the problem. So I’d love to do something where everybody on the team does our version of what we want do with it – and in all likelihood it will probably feel like one of the old games – however then we also put in all of the tools for the fans. That would really excite me – and then I play a level that I’ve never seen, or somebody does a weird tweak or a mod which just generally does something completely new with the whole thing – that simply blows my mind.”