There is a certain rhythm to a family or friend game night. Amongst the chaos, there is laughter, taunts, unnecessary yelling and so many accusations of cheating. Over COVID, my family and friends were trapped around the world and those precious game nights went away. It then became all about finding the games we can play together, even if it is online over a call.
And then I found it: the ideal game. Not just because it is a fun, couch, competitive multiplayer title with a low barrier of entry but a high-skill bar. It is because the team at The Fully Arcade has a driving philosophy to make games for ‘people who enjoy screaming.’ With that as the foundation for their design, you know that anything they make is going to be incredibly fun.
Their first title Arcade Sundown is right around the corner, and I could not be more thrilled. Joakim Hanner, the Creative Director at The Fully Arcade was kind enough to sit through my incoherent noises to tell us more about their upcoming game that draws inspiration from pinball.
Developer responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Why do you want to make games for people who love to scream? It feels reminiscent of an arcade; were they an inspiration?
Joakim: With the screaming part, we want our game to be a social experience. We want to build games with strong interactions. Games that you share with other players. So Arcade Sundown has been built with that in mind.
We are trying to make a high-paced game that is dynamic, with many ways to win. Where you play competitively to become the leader of the session, try to steal the ball, or make short alliances with other players to get the upper hand. We have been playing around with that and trying to get that experience to work really well.
How would you describe Arcade Sundown?
Joakim: In my own words, I would say that Arcade Sundown is a weird concept game that features a deep, core mechanism. When you look at the game, on the surface, it can seem weird and strange because we have married two different concepts: dribbling the ball like in soccer and pinball. But beneath it all, we’ve been working so hard to get the feel of the gameplay right, for the core loop to really work.
The game needed to be really fun but still have depth to it. Something that competitive, skilled players could dive into and master. But also something that is approachable and winnable by anyone. Arcade Sundown has a competitive mode that is playable with up to 4 players and a strong single-player quest mode. The Quest mode features a strong store but is also a great way to practice a variety of strategies.
What was the inspiration behind Arcade Sundown and how did you develop the idea?
Joakim: Arcade Sundown began with us wanting to make our own version of bubble soccer or bubble football. We built a core gameplay loop that was built around it and then we started to iterate on it.
Everyone on the team loves pinball machines because they are so over the top. Big chunks of the team have grown up during the 80s and 90s. Pinball Machines have so much detail. That with the movies and other stuff that we grew up with, helped with the concept and filtered down to the gameplay. We just wondered how it would be to be small and run around in a pinball machine. So, we went ahead and married those two concepts.
Over time, this concept has evolved to create a fun game that can appeal to all kinds of players. We recently rebranded the game from Fenderball, where the way to win was scoring goals, to Arcade Sundown. To represent the game evolving from its more competitive roots to something that is a lot more adaptable to different play styles. Now you not only gain points by scoring a goal, but you can also score points by keeping the ball in your possession for as long as possible. There are now many ways to score and get onto the global leaderboards.
That’s cool! The environment now becomes part of your strategy when trying to score a goal or keep possession of the ball. Because you can use pinball elements as a boost or to block opponents, right?
Joakim: Yeah, exactly! Arcade Sundown was always meant to be a game where you play with others. It was always meant to be a social experience. And so, we started with Pinball and how it works, as well as the different assets or features that are in a Pinball Machine. Then we worked to balance that against the core loop. Seeing like… oh if we have those elements here, how will that affect the gameplay? And trying to work it out to find the right balance.
What were some of the biggest challenges with that process?
Joakim: One of the biggest has been getting the expectations for Arcade Sundown right. If you are a pinball gamer or fanatic, where you really love them, we still wanted to have strong pinball elements so that you can really feel like you are playing Pinball.
But we also want to get the pacing right because Arcade Sundown will have 2-4 players, playing against each other on one screen. We want the game to have movement that feels natural and isn’t disruptive when you use a pinball element. I would say that would be one of the biggest challenges. The other one is the overall readability between the machine, the art, the 3D assets, and the core loop of the gameplay.
Especially since Arcade Sundown is a really colorful, high-contrast game, right?
Joakim: Yes. It’s in a dark room with a lot of lights that go off and a lot of sounds. We still wanted that chaotic feeling of a Pinball Machine and an Arcade. But we also wanted Arcade Sundown to have tight gameplay. We have put a lot of hours into refining gameplay and finding new people who can playtest it. Then we spend all our time trying to read the players and see how they maneuver the screen.
Why did you choose to go with the 80s retro romantic art style?
Joakim: Like I said, a lot of us grew up during and were inspired by the 80s and 90s. It was a very social gaming period and arcades were really big. Something that has been romanticized in movies and TV series lately. So that was very easy to lean into and it fits really well with the pinball theme. And since everything looked awesome then, it was very, very easy to just like dive into. We were also inspired by a lot of comics.
Oh, that’s awesome! What’s a comic that’s been an inspiration?
Joakim: Oh, we have two comics that have really inspired us. We’ve been looking at Tank Girl, which has amazing line work. The drawings and the lines are so fast and really feel underground and punky. We were also inspired by experimental coloring in Paper Girls. They have done everything right, and their coloring really pops. We tried to marry those two and get the feeling right to develop a really punk look for Arcade Sundown.
What is that one experience you want everyone to have when they play Arcade Sundown? Irrespective of skill levels or competition?
Joakim: We want them to feel. ‘What a ride!’. That’s it.
Playing Arcade Sundown should be a punch of gaming. The game is very fast paced with a lot happening in a short period of time. We want the player, for you, to feel satisfied with the session. So, we really try to condense it down and create an adrenaline rush. We want you to feel the excitement of a successful pinball game and the challenge of controlling the ball in every game mode.
The Fully Arcade team had put together some amazing Pinball Machine designs. What is the coolest one that you have created so far?
Joakim: When we talked about this with the team, we all had different views on it. But I would say the level ‘SubLucid Depths’ is high up on everyone’s list. That is because it has 3 levels (height) within its design. So you run between them. It creates a really cool and hectic gameplay where you can push each other down onto a lower level.
Personally, I have fallen in love with all the concepts we worked on. Some of my other favorites are ‘Atomic Zombies’ and ‘Giants of Sleaze.’ Each contributes differently to the storytelling.
How hard will Arcade Sundown be to master?
Joakim: We have tried to create a Core loop that is very easy to use and understand. So, it’s very easy to pick up and play.
You can score points for gaining control of the ball and keeping it for as long as possible. The longer you hold it, the higher your score multiplier. This resets if you lose control of the ball. You also score points by scoring goals. The player with the most points at the end of the level wins. You can adjust your experience and your strategy depending on what kind of player you are, especially if you are aiming for the leaderboards. That’s one way that we built the depth in it.
Your success will depend on how you use the controls and how you want to play. For instance, you can play aggressively and try to use the pinball elements to trigger multipliers and score goals quickly. That is if you aren’t confident in controlling the ball for a long time. Or you can try and control the ball for as long as possible and try to keep it out of the hands of your competition (whether it is the AI is single-player, co-op, or against other players in local multiplayer.)
So it’s all about risk and reward. You take the risk to try and manage the playing field and the other players. That’s one of the most challenging tasks, to read the other players and decide how daring you will be in your game. To really dominate, you will need to understand your competitor, the stadium, and the Pinball boosts, and learn how to use all of it to your advantage.
So this is a couch multiplayer where everyone joins the game together. But will there be an online multiplayer too, with random pairing?
Joakim: At this point, you’re not going to be able to play multiplayer online. It’s one-on-one, but you will be able to compete against the Global Leaderboards for each game mode. So you get to compete against yourself. Irrespective of whether you play with others or against the AI, it is all about Risk and Reward. To get to achieve that really high score, you must play an almost perfect game. That is something you will have to master.
What’s the most unique game mechanic you have right now within the game?
Joakim: The most unique mechanic in Arcade Sundown is something called the Radio Ball. It’s when you get full control of the ball and move that instead of your own character. And the longer you have the ball in your possession, the faster it goes. The challenge here is to keep control of the ball for as long as possible. That will also be stressful for the other players as they will have to chase you down or into a corner. But like I said, you keep getting faster and can own the board/stadium if you get good at the game.
Can you give us some details on the kinds of game modes and events the players can look forward to?
Joakim: In addition to Radio Ball that we talked about, we will also have a ball mode in Arcade Sundown called Rebel Ball, where it’s going to be harder to move the ball. It will move by itself and will run away from your goal. So it’s going to be a little more a punk ball. Then we have another ball mode called Crazy Ball that will move more unpredictably and feel like a more traditional pinball with pinball physics.
In Arcade Sundown’s Quest Mode, you get the back story of the main characters and the demigod Dino who controls everything in the arcade. The arcade challenge is where you compete against global high scores. So that’s the sum up of the different kinds of gameplay.
What do you picture as the ideal game of Arcade Sundown?
Joakim: It goes back to the core idea of everything we design. We want Arcade Sundown to be high-pace with a lot of screaming. We want people to be engaged in the game and to challenge each other. So yeah! Losing time and screaming at each other and a lot of trash-talking. We’re aiming to get that.
When will Arcade Sundown be available?
Joakim: We’re aiming to release Arcade Sundown on Steam in October of this year. But we want to release it on consoles as well. We start porting for that shortly, but that will take a little longer.
To stay updated on Arcade Sundown and The Fully Arcade, follow and wishlist this game on Steam. You can also get updates from The Fully Arcade YouTube page and the Official and Arcade Sundown X handles.