At PAX East 2020, OnlySP had the opportunity to speak with Justin Cyr, an animator at Tribute Games. We spoke to him about the inspiration behind the studio’s latest game, Panzer Paladin, as well as Cyr’s history in the industry.
OnlySP: Can you tell me the inspiration behind Panzer Paladin?
Cyr: It’s our sixth production. It’s been kind of a pet project of our co-founder Jonathan Lavigne. He wanted to make an action platformer in the style of an 80s-90s anime with big robots. One of the core mechanics is the idea that you can steal monster’s weapons away from them and use them against them. Again, Jonathan has had this idea in his head for many years and now is the right time to do it.
OnlySP: Why did you pick the girl and mecha suit as the concept/setting?
Cyr: As you pilot the mech, it’d be fun to eject from it. It’s a fun gameplay thing. The pilot has her own set of moves She has a whip and grappling hook mechanics. The contrast to the playstyles is something that many people have picked up on. We found that many people ejected from the power suit and play as the pilot even though she has a much more limited moveset. It was an idea and people just caught on with it and so we just went with it.
OnlySP: What was the soundtrack for Panzer Paladin inspired by?
Cyr: We’re working with a long time collaborator. He’s been doing the music for most of our games like Flinthook, Mercenary Kings, and Curses N Chaos. He’s a sure bet and he knocked it out of the park like always!
OnlySP: In terms of animation, was there anything different when working on Panzer Paladin compared to Tribute Games’ previous titles like Curses N Chaos or Flinthook?
Cyr: For us, it’s a throwback to the 8-bit style. It’s just the style that we really like. Flinthook and Mercenary Kings were more to the 16-bit style of things. It’s just something that as a group, we really enjoy. It’s cheating, of course, it’s not pure NES restrictions, but I love the limited sprites and palettes, but I like to go hog wild with where the animation allows.
OnlySP: You’ve worked at bigger studios before, such as Gameloft and Ubisoft. Can you describe the difference between working at a studio like Ubisoft compared to a smaller studio like Tribute Games?
Cyr: There are pros and cons to everything. We got our start at Gameloft, and both Gameloft and Ubisoft were in the same building so it was easy to make the switch between the two. We all started in mobile games in the early 2000s. We worked our way up to the handheld department at Ubisoft and that’s where we learned our craft. It all culminated with the Scott Pilgrim game. After that, there wasn’t anything else for us to do. It was the right time to start our own thing. We would have never been able to do anything better than Scott Pilgrim. The tradeoff is that you call all of the shots. It’s a double-edged sword because it’s not as easy as it looks. The satisfaction of doing something well and that you made the right decision is that it’s worth it.
OnlySP: What are some of the most important things you’ve learned as an animator on previous projects that helped you on Panzer Paladin?
Cyr: Animation is something you really need to get a feel for. My personal pet peeve is the way people perceive animation as just more frames per second. It’s not quite that. It’s almost the opposite. You have to know how to put in the right amount of frames in order for something to “feel right”. Take something like Guilty Gear. That’s a 3D game that tries to simulate a 2D look. They actually chopped out frames, so that it looks more like 2D. It’s always about doing the right amount of frames and making sure everything feels right.
OnlySP: So Limited Run Games helped out with the physical release of some of your games, like Curses N Chaos and Flinthook. Can we expect the same for Panzer Paladin?
Cyr: We are planning to have a physical release but I don’t know exactly through what means. We have worked with Limited Run Games in the past, so it’s certainly a possibility but it’s only speculation at this point. Yes, a physical release is in the plans, but how it comes about, I can’t say for sure. That’s not my call.
OnlySP: You recently announced that the game will come to PC and Nintendo Switch. Are there any plans for other platforms in the future?
Cyr: If people have a demand for something, we’ll do our best to ship to it. In the past, we’ve shipped on every console available. It’s amazing the difference from last year to this year, that if you’re not on Switch, you might as well not release a game. We love Steam, but the demand is one hundred percent on Switch, or so we’re led to believe from the fan reaction today and all weekend. If the demand is there for something, we’ll do it, but for now, we’re launching on Steam, Switch, with other consoles to be determined
OnlySP: So what’s next for Tribute Games in 2020?
Cyr: We actually have two interesting projects in the pipeline, neither of which I can comment on. I can promise you that one is something that people have been asking for, and the other will surprise and delight people if it all works out. In a way, we didn’t even see this coming. Stay tuned to what comes next! The tentative release date for Panzer Paladin is summer 2020. The exact date is to be determined.
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