IGF Factor 2010: Rocketbirds: Revolution

It's really a game that's a gift to pun-creators, innit?

We’ve talked about the Flashback-with-a-fowl of Rocketbirds: Revolution before. Since then, it’s been nominated for three IGF awards – Excellence in Audio, Visual art and the Seumas McNally Grand Prize. As the big night approaches it’s time to sidle up to Ratloop Asia and desperately resist any chicken-based gags. The interview and Mark the Intern of ScrewAttack.com explaining the game follows…

RPS: Firstly, a brief intro to those who may not know you. Who are you? What’s your background? Why get into games? Why get into indie games?

Sian Yue Tan: I’m Sian Yue Tan and I created the Rocketbirds. It seems like I’ve always been drawing and painting things, capturing stuff from my imagination. When I wanted more, I got into animation so I could watch my creations move around. Writing games seemed like the next natural step and I enjoy seeing my characters think and shoot each other. Next I’ll have to
start farming stuff in big incubators and do it for real.

Way back in 1997 I co-founded Ratloop, inc. together with co-creator James Anderson and IGF 2009 Game innovation Finalist, Lucas Pope. I set up Ratloop Asia more than 10 years later in Singapore to make ‘Rocketbirds: Revolution!’. I guess I’ve been making games, on and off for a while now, mostly for myself, though this is the one I needed to make before I died.

RPS: And… the game. Tell us about it. What was its origins? What are you trying to do with it? What are you most pleased about it? What nags?

Sian Yue Tan: I just wanted to make a game that could show off the Rocketbirds and wanted to make just ‘trying’ the game easy for people to do as possible. I felt that the early non-scrolling platform games like Flashback, Oddworld and Blackthorne could all carry a story well because of their screen based nature, and I think the format was well suited for a flash based engine. What nags about the game we’re fixing as we go; it’s one of the nicer things of having your game sit on a cloud server somewhere.

RPS: What’s your feelings on the IGF this year. Pleased to be nominated? Have particular love, bemusement or hate for any of the other entries? Is there anything you think is missing?

Sian Yue Tan: I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but I’m currently experiencing some kind of weird survivor guilt. But heck yeah I’m well pleased with the triple nomination! Maybe to deal with some of the guilt, I’m gonna just drop some names: Auditorium, Mon & Bot, Ecolpit, Windosill, VVVVVV and Broken Brothers.

RPS: How do you feel about the indie scene generally this year? People have been relatively downbeat about 2009, after 2008 being so obviously incendiary. What are the themes, in your eyes? What are people missing?

Sian Yue Tan: This year is the first year we’ve entered a game at the IGF and I’m still getting to grips what the indie scene actually is. I’m at a bit of a loss, but Teck Lee Tan, who did the brunt of the background art on Rocketbirds usually keeps me updated, so I’d like him to share his thoughts on the matter…

Teck Lee Tan (Artist): The indie scene this past year’s been pretty amazing, with lots of cool games, tools, and community projects (how bout that Assemblee, eh?). While there doesn’t appear to be the same outpouring of adoration for the indie scene as a couple of years back, I can’t say I’d call the outlook downbeat, per se. I actually find myself thankful that there’s been a lot less obsession over the “Are games art” question, and more focus on, well, making and enjoying games. Of course, the crazy number (and sheer variety) of submissions to the IGF this year (the student entries in particular look incredibly cool) speaks volumes to how alive and well the indie scene is.

RPS: And how does the future look for you? What are you working on now and the foreseeable future.

Sian Yue Tan: I can’t help but feel like the Enviro-bear, trying to manage my life, juggling lots of things at the same time, not knowing exactly where I’m going, but at least moving. We’re currently working on our full downloadable release, which will have more improvements than you can shake a stick at and still be compatible with the on-line version – And I’m trying to get one more Rocketbirds movie in there that didn’t make it into the current release.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

You can play Rocketbirds: Revolution’s demo online, and buy the full version for $9.95.


  1. Bhazor says:


    One of the best game intros I’ve seen in a while. The game itself is pretty nice too.

  2. Pemptus says:

    Played the demo of this a couple of weeks ago. I gotta say, the visuals may be pretty, the concept moderately hilarious, but the gameplay is shallow, uninspired, and just plain not fun. Unless the whole game’s been revamped in the meantime, which I doubt.

  3. CMaster says:

    Yeah, I have to say that I really hope this one doesn’t win the grand prize. Gameplay was pretty hideous, despite the awesome styling and oh-wow intro sequence.

  4. The Diddler says:

    Wait……communist penguins with jet packs and German MP5 !? LMAO !!

  5. Yanko says:

    The whole thing was pretty awesome, but the gameplay felt a lot like Flashback. A lot as in “exactly like, just a little more clumsy”.

    Other than the awesome intro, characters and visuals, i think the great thing is the streamed presentation of the game. As i just said on the Ubi DRM comments section, i think it’s totally valid to sell it like that, unlike AssCreed II.

    • Pemptus says:

      Hell, “like Flashback” would be a complement. This game has none of its charm, slickness of controls and the satisfaction of rolling off a cliff and instantly shooting a guy before successfully blocking his shot with the energy shield. Man, I have to replay that.

    • Wulf says:

      I had the same problem.

      Me: This feels like Flashback.
      Brain: Only slower, your reflexes tell you so.
      Me: True…
      Brain: And not quite as responsive, you can’t get off those stylish kills in the same way.
      Me: True…
      Brain: So it looks like Flashback but it doesn’t feel like Flashback.
      Me: True…
      Brain: Flashback was glorious.
      Me: Rose-tinted glasses.
      Brain: There’s only one way to find out…
      Me: B-bu-but… I need to give this a fair try.
      Brain: You wan to play Flashback.
      Me: No, I…
      Brain: Flashback is this, but better, with style, charm… and it makes you look amazing. This game doesn’t.
      Me: True…
      Brain: You want to play Flashback.
      Me: But.. I… GAHFINEOKAY.

      All it succeeded in doing was making me really wanting to replay Flashback.

      And this is what happens with derivative gameplay, where the gameplay isn’t as good as what it’s deriving from.

      I’m going to go play Flashback now.

      I wonder if there’s a HD version, like Another World…

  6. El_MUERkO says:

    power hat

  7. the wiseass says:

    I’ve got to agree. The wrapping paper is nice, but the actual gameplay was not so good.
    Also “z+shift” doesn’t work so well on a QWERTZ keyboard…

  8. Premium User Badge

    Hodge says:

    Just played through the demo, and I enjoyed it, but I think a lot of that is nostalgia for Flashback… and to be honest, Flashback is better, which is a bit of a worry considering it’s nearly twenty years old now.

    For a start, the movement’s all wrong. In Flashback your little bloke always moved in increments that matched the platforms, so you were always lined up for the jumps. In this one your movement is freeform, which makes positioning a nightmare.
    It’s also a lot less inspired in terms of game design. In the demo it had already begun to resort to cheap standbys (like spawning an infinite number of enemies at you while you try to cross an area to collect an item), which doesn’t bode well for the full game.

    That said, it’s still pretty good, and it definitely deserves the recognition for the visuals and audio. Not sure about the Grand Prize, though.

  9. DGB says:

    Honestly, I really didn’t like the intro, the aesthetic, or the uninspired gameplay. I like supporting indie games, and I wish I could like this one, but I simply cannot.