Built On Memories
Published 5 years ago
Winning the approval of your childhood self
Hi. My name's Shadi Muklashy, and I'm the developer of Invisigun Heroes at Sombr Studio. For me, this game is infinitely more than just a passion project — it's not just something cobbled together from thirty five years of technical and artistic experience. It's much more personal than that. Invisigun Heroes is the literal culmination of my most vivid and nostalgic childhood gaming memories.
I think these memories are very relatable to my peers, and I'd love to share some of them.
I remember reading every single page of a Nintendo game instruction manual in the car ride home from the store. This even included the warning pages about potential seizures. At the time, I (unfortunately) attributed them to someone experiencing more fun than they could possibly handle.
I remember the smell of those manuals, and the precious pages of backstory and character illustrations that I'd surely trace and practice drawing later.
I remember lying on the floor of my room, intensely scrutinizing screenshots of upcoming games in magazines (before the Internet existed). In particular, I loved comparing art and pixel changes between sequels and their originals.
I remember my first moment seeing and playing a NES — specifically, Super Mario Brothers. My brother and I went over to a friend's house after school, and they hadn't arrived yet. Their mom asked us, "Do you want to play with the Nintendo?" We replied, "What's a Nintendo?" Five minutes later, I could not believe what I was seeing, and I couldn't think about anything else for a very long time after that. I still remember how smooth the scrolling was!
I remember hearing the first stage music in Castlevania, and I wasn't prepared to like a video game tune as much as I did. In fact, I wasn't prepared to like it as much as my favorite bands at the time, and enjoy it at the same level. It would be hummed for years to come.
I remember playing Bases Loaded against my brother every day after school, and the inevitable glorious grand slam for whoever got to choose the team with that notorious batting order: Ryder, Becker, Paste. Paste was so overpowered.
I remember watching The Wizard starring Fred Savage, just to catch any glimpse I could of the mythical Super Mario Brothers 3 in the final tournament. It did not disappoint.
I remember carefully resting a book on the right D-Pad of controller two to enable the jump-higher cheat in Mega Man 3. I can't even tell you how I learned about that — again, before the Internet. But, somehow, every kid knew it.
In high school, I worked as a pizza delivery driver. I remember delivering an order to a college dorm, and they were playing a shiny new Nintendo 64. I purposefully dragged out the transaction for as long as possible just to watch a little more Super Mario 64 from the doorway.
I remember the extreme difficulty I had with Renegade on the NES, and actually crying when I finally reached the last boss - only to discover he had a gun. Up to that point, it was all melee combat, and I felt this was just entirely unfair. I was seven. 
I remember the first time I saw Zelda: A Link to the Past on a friend's Super Nintendo, and almost having the same reaction to seeing the original NES. More specifically, I was mesmerized by the rain — the world felt so incredibly alive!
I remember the first time I saw Street Fighter 2 in a mall arcade. I stared at the stage floors. I had never seen such amazingly rich parallax in a game up to this point. The gameplay of the Street Fighter series would capture my soul for the next 25 years, but it was those incredibly detailed floors that grabbed me first. 
With Invisigun Heroes, I wanted to create something that feels at home in the world of my memories, but still holds a strong presence in the contemporary gaming landscape.
I remember the launch of Street Fighter 2 on the Super Nintendo, and one of my friends being the first to get a copy. We literally played morning until night, and then we all felt like we were somehow cheating the government to play this much Street Fighter without spending quarters.
I remember all the yard work necessary to earn enough money to buy a game a couple times a year, aside from birthdays and Christmas. I remember turning around and selling my Genesis and all my games to purchase a Super Nintendo and Final Fantasy 3. Absolutely no regrets.
I remember landing Setzer's airship in Final Fantasy 3 in The Veldt, turning off the TV, and letting the music loop on little gray speakers while doing homework.
I remember the thrill of trading games with a classmate for a couple weeks — carefully packing mine in my backpack the night before, calling my friend and double-checking they did the same, waking up anxious to get to school, and finally the confirmation nod that we each fulfilled our part of the deal.
I remember a friend showing me some import Japanese Super Famicom games running on his Super Nintendo — and the discovery of the simple hack of filing down some plastic tabs to allow the cartridges to fit. We couldn't read Japanese, but memorized the locations of all the menu options to play. When it came to fun, the language didn't matter.
With Invisigun Heroes, I want to create something that feels at home in the world of my memories, but still holds a strong presence in the contemporary gaming landscape. While I enjoy games from every era and level of technological achievement, there is something attractive about the low resolution aesthetic. With less room for realistic detail, elements become more iconic and abstract, and, in my opinion, read more clearly. This means that presentation can actually take a backseat to natural and responsive gameplay, and this is always the ultimate goal.
We recently showed a playable build for the first time at PAX South 2016 in San Antonio. We spent four long days driving, and three exhausting days running the booth - but all the work involved faded away while watching people get more and more excited (and competitive) at the booth.
My favorite player? A wide-eyed, enthusiastic little kid in a green shirt and backpack. He had no preconception of what "good graphics" should be, no baggage of online console-wars, no feeling of being at the losing end of publisher and corporate exclusivity battles, no cynicism towards an industry with over-saturated genres, and no sleepless nights pondering the Indiepocalypse. All he cared about was playing the game and screaming at the end of each match.
While in line, he exclaimed "OH MAN I LOVE THIS GAME" and he hadn't even played it yet. In one sentence, that kid made me ten years old again.
Shadi Muklashy