The art of making a solid arcade shooter demands skill and dedication. Finding the balance between twitch reflexes and nuanced strategy is no small order. Make a shooter too difficult and players will walk away. Make it too easy and no one will come back for more. Luckily for RetroStyle Games, their latest endeavor sticks the landing perfectly.

Strangely Awesome Games was able to speak with the developers at RetroStyle Games about their upcoming title, Codename: Ocean Keeper, a twin-stick shooter/mining hybrid. We were able to discuss what makes their game unique, what inspired them to keep arcade action alive, and what players can expect from it in the future.

1. What features do you believe make Codename: Ocean Keeper unique among other twin-stick shooters?

For us personally, Codename: Ocean Keeper stands out in the twin-stick shooter genre for several reasons. First, the game’s dynamic and ever-changing underwater environment ensures that no two game scenarios are ever the same. This constant variability keeps players on guard, forcing them to adapt and strategize each time they play. 

In addition, the combination of exploration, resource extraction, and intense combat creates an addictive gameplay that engages players and keeps them playing the game over and over again. In the latest update, we finally added a new game hub along with character, mech and weapon customization elements. Unlike most roguelike games (where customization is mostly minor), here you will actually see your character getting stronger, faster and more resilient as you level up.

2. What were the major influences on Codename: Ocean Keeper’s theme and setting? I definitely thought of seaQuest DSV and The Abyss while playing it.

You nailed it with those references! SeaQuest DSV and The Abyss were definitely on our inspiration board. We also drew heavily from games like Dome Keeper and Vampire Survivors for their gameplay mechanics and intensity. 

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In terms of atmosphere and world-building, titles like StarCraft, Stormgate, and Project Entropy were major influences. We wanted to create a world that felt vast and mysterious, with a sense of depth and danger lurking around every corner.

3. What inspired you to merge the two different types of gameplay together for Codename: Ocean Keeper?

The idea to combine exploration and intense combat came from our desire to offer a more complete and challenging gaming experience. We wanted players to experience a sense of adventure and discovery as they travel the ocean depths, but also face intense, adrenaline-pumping battles that test their skills and strategies. 

This combination allows for a more intense gameplay experience where players must balance resource management and combat prowess. Similar mechanics can be found in the Dome Keeper game, but we decided to explore them in more detail. In the future, we would like to make an infinitely generated open world, so that the exploration and discovery phase by the player becomes more obvious.

4. Did you find it challenging to find the perfect balance between the exploration and the combat phases?

Balancing exploration and combat was definitely one of the trickiest parts of development. We spent countless hours playtesting and tweaking the game to ensure that both elements felt rewarding and well-integrated. The key was to create a seamless transition between the two phases so that players feel a natural progression from exploring and gathering resources to defending their mech and fighting off waves of enemies.

In addition, we are still considering whether to introduce a kind of “fog of war”: so that until the player has not trained a certain skill, he doesn’t know when the monsters will attack him, which can keep in more tension.

5. Will there be a Story Mode incorporated into Codename: Ocean Keeper or will it stick strictly to being an arcade-style shooter?

We are working to introduce a compelling story mode to Codename: Ocean Keeper. While the game has strong arcade elements, we believe that an engaging narrative can add depth and context to the player’s journey, making their actions more meaningful. 

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In our team, this is being handled by a game designer Taras, who loves playing DnD and coming up with different plots. The story will unfold gradually as players progress, adding layers of intrigue and motivation. 

Though again, it should be understood that the possibility of character customization will influence the replayability more than the story (remember, did you go through the Story Mode in Mortal Kombat?).

6. Will a two-player co-op be incorporated into Codename: Ocean Keeper?

We are exploring the possibility of adding a cooperative mode for two (or more) players. We know how much players enjoy teaming up with friends, and believe that cooperative gameplay can add a whole new dimension to the game. However, before we start developing a co-op mode, we want to make sure that the core gameplay is polished and balanced.

7. Is there a definitive ending to Codename: Ocean Keeper?

At the time of the pre-beta test, the game was ending with a boss on wave 11. We plan to make a dozen different bosses so that the player will gradually beat them in the final of each of their plays. 

While Codename: Ocean Keeper will have a main story that players can follow through to the end, we have also developed an endless game mode with high replayability in mind. Players can continue to go deeper into the game by unlocking new power-ups, upgrading their mechs, and challenging themselves to survive longer and defeat new waves of enemies.

8. Do you have any words of advice for players who are new to this type of game?

My biggest piece of advice is to be patient and persistent. Codename: Ocean Keeper is designed to challenge you, but also to reward you for learning and improving. 

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Take your time to explore and understand the mechanics, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different upgrades and strategies. Remember, every play is a new opportunity to learn and grow.

9. What kind of content can fans expect in future updates for Codename: Ocean Keeper?

We have a lot of plans for future updates. Fans can expect new underwater environments, additional enemy types, new mech modifications and new game modes. We also want to include more story content and expand the game’s story. Your feedback will be crucial in shaping these updates, so let us know what you want to see!

10. And lastly, I need to ask: what’s your favorite loadout for combat?

Oh, that’s a tough one! I’d have to say my favorite loadout includes the Sniper Rifle for picking off enemies from a distance, paired with the Napalm Bomb Launcher for dealing with groups of foes.

Also love using Detonation Charges to set up strategic traps, which adds a layer of tactical gameplay. Combining these weapons allows for a versatile approach to combat, giving me the flexibility to handle both single targets and hordes of enemies effectively. Plus, it’s incredibly satisfying to watch those explosions clear out a swarm of sea monsters!

Wishlist Codename: Ocean Keeper on Steam and download the demo today!

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