Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is Team Reptile’s (the studio behind the hit fake fighting game Deadly Federation) the upcoming spiritual successor to SEGA’s Jet Set Radio titles. The game is much more than that. I spoke with the game and team director, Dion Koster, who told me about his start, what inspired Bomb Rushand his goal for “a symphony of street culture”.
What is your background? I remember you posted that you felt the BRC was like an accumulation of things you did before. Did you dance, draw graffiti, and all that?
Dion Koster: I first started inline skating and it quickly became a way for me and my friends to be ourselves against the casual environment or something along those lines . In the case of dance, I’ve loved it since I was a kid. My mother told me about a breakdance class, which I took and immediately fell in love with. A few other people and I just started meeting at random places and in different places by different people. We really delve into the culture thanks to our teachers constantly talking about it and the history behind the art. We really felt like we were part of it and that stuck with me.
From there, me and a few other more dedicated students followed my teacher to a hip-hop school he taught in Amsterdam. We went to weekly classes taught by legendary dancers, rappers and locals. I learned a lot about the culture from there and met people who grew up in Amsterdam and Almere, places where there is more to hip-hop than our small town.
So after being in so many places and meeting and so many influencers, I don’t feel like I’m getting into an outsider’s perspective. I feel I must represent it honestly.
What led you there to the world of video game development?
I’ve had a lot of doubles in my life. Half of the time I spend in my small hometown sleeping or working alone in my room. The other half, I’ll go to Amsterdam for a press conference, training and other fun. The city is full of life but at home it’s not quite like any kid I played video games with.
While playing, I would think things like, “I want to make my own game!” Or I play a game and disagree with something and want to create something a little different. In case Sonic the Hedgehog, I will draw my own levels and have my brother play them by moving his finger through the levels while I “master the dungeon” for him throughout the level.
In the end, I just looked up “make a game” on Google and found the program “Game Maker”. I’ll do it at home anytime I’m not out dancing in the city and really start using other people’s creations and adding or changing things up. There is this little car game where you as the driver have to dodge other cars and I changed the player’s car to Gohan from Dragon ball, added theme music and the ability to fire explosions. I think it’s a mentality I get from my hip-hop side, where sampling is the way to go. I still apply that mentality to games, especially with Bomb Rush if you notice similarities with another game.
After graduating from high school, I majored in game education, I met my co-workers and business partners, and Team Reptile started as a two-person affair. We gather more and more people that we can afford over time with our game release earnings, funding game after game with previous game earnings .
How has your style of game development evolved into the style seen in games like Deadly Federation and Bomb Rush Cyberfunk?
Over the years, games have begun to form more and more of what I feel as my honest expression. At first, the games we made were “game games”, like our first game, Megabyte Punch. Mix only some Smash Brothers with one Medabots Thing. Over time, came Deadly Federation where I admit that I’m not the best artist but I have something no one else has and a mix of my stylistic choices. The current Bomb Rush seems to be its height. I’m not sure I can go any further than this [he laughs].
Sometimes I compare it to the work of other directors, where you can see their youth in the things they create. Miyamoto said he always explores caves and in Zelda, you see nothing but those and the dungeon. Then you’re collecting bugs and other things related to the fact that he’s been outdoors a lot. It was his passion and something that stayed with him for the rest of his life.
For me, I find that going out on the street is an adventure of mine. My fantasy city where the hero’s journey takes place. Going to the city, going to a stretch, seeing people doing these crazy things, competing, cheering my friends on, and just having crazy skating interactions. Then return to your normal home, which makes the city even more like a fairyland.
What inspired the world of Bomb Rush? What are some factors that you feel are important influences?
Image sincerity is really important to me, and most creators get it wrong. The key is something that feels honest. You can really see it in fashion when it comes to clothing and immediately see something superfluous. In the game, there are a lot of things that are superfluous because in real life you have to walk around in them. That’s why we have these absurd looking characters whose excuse is a fantasy so it just works. For me, that didn’t cut it off. With every character, I like to think they’re believable without the connection.
It’s part of the character design that comes to mind and at the same time, you want to create some crazy silhouettes. In case Bomb Rush and its hip-hop inspiration, I feel like hip-hop and street culture is about innovation. When I look at hip-hop, I see a lot of technology. Turntable, turntable. Even the style with sneakers looks like some kind of spaceship or something sometimes.
That futurist mentality is something that influenced me to make Bomb Rush world in this way. I gave them “Boostpacks,” which are jets that allow for more freedom of movement and let them hover in front of graffiti spots for the finishing touch.
What kinds of challenges did you face when creating the game?
Scope for sure. Everything can really get out of hand with a 3D open world. I always tell people not to go check with supplements because of it. Yes, adding that one small thing can make the game better, but you have to see the impact of every little thing you add.
We have a game focused on exploration, so you have to find the graffiti spots in the level, paint them and then you can progress further in the level, meet other characters and clash . All must play together. You can’t have a conflicting system different from the one you have for probing. What you have to do most is have fun and be the tool you use to interact with the world, in this case performing tricks on the go. We can’t let you get into a conflict and say, “And then you pull out the gun.” [he laughs] The same system (tricks and graffiti) should also be how you interact with police enemies.
There has been a lot of praise for your Black character designs, especially the Black women. Their sincere designs rarely appear in many video games. How do you manage them to make them feel real while staying stylish?
What I’ve seen lately is companies going, “Okay, we have to get a lot of different people into our game.” And while intentions are often good, you can feel like it’s done by people who haven’t met those different people and end up falling into the same “stupid mistake” traps as they don’t let. light-hearted black man.
Over the course of my life, I have made so many friends of different cultures that I feel like I can usually create any kind of person without making them look bad. . People with different hairstyles, clothing styles, etc. I feel it is a luxury that not many people have. In some cases, I’ll test out a number of different cultures with friends to make sure everything is honest.
It’s good that games and different media are trying to put as many Blacks in any given context, but I’ve always wondered if that’s really honest. If you ask an office worker to design a group of street people, you won’t feel like a real person. The only solution is to have someone with real experience design them.
What do you want to accomplish? Bomb Rush Cyberfunk?
It’s a growing thing. Right now, it feels like it’s turning into a “street culture symphony” where I’m sending everything I want to show to the wider world. I have so much fun in my life and so many crazy things I’ve known, seen, and still do that most people don’t see. I said earlier that I feel the city is a miracle. People play a lot of Zelda and medieval fantasy or watch those movies. For me, that kind of magical adventure is street culture.
Trying to make one last game, I want to play myself also be a part of it. Not only do I try to teach people these things, but I dig that far. If there was already a game like this out there, I wouldn’t have to do something like this.