Interview: Benjamin Reichel of ByteRockers’ Games

beat slayer interview
Image credit: ByteRocker's Games.

Recently, I reviewed the rhythm roguelike Beat Slayer from developer ByteRockers’ Games. I had the chance to talk to team member Benjamin Reichel about the musical influences behind the game and the resurgence of rhythm games in general. 

What is Beat Slayer about?

Beat Slayer is the story of Mia, a young tinkerer who lives in a dystopian version of Berlin in the 80s/90s. Players accompany her on a rescue mission to free her brother from the clutches of the evil ex-musician Dietrich, who is holding him and all of Berlin’s inhabitants captive with his brainwashing radio.

Why choose Berlin as a setting?

Since we’re a Berlin-based indie developer and considering the history of the city, we thought that Berlin would be a perfect location for our story. Berlin is also known for its vibrant techno scene and since music should be the central element in any rhythm game, we believe Berlin was a very good choice.

Beat Slayer regular combat
Image credit: ByteRocker’s Games.

There are a lot of pop culture influences on display, with nods to John Carpenter’s They Live, Eminem, and the art of Frank Miller and Sin City. How did your relationship with other media inform the creation of Beat Slayer?

I would describe Beat Slayer’s style as “grungy comic style meets cassette futurism”. Our artists looked at futuristic titles like Metal Gear Solid and took inspiration from other titles with unique art styles, such as Into the Spider-verse, the Arkane Netflix series, and Disco Elysium, and have developed their very own mix. We also wanted to portray Mia as a movie and music lover, which is why she knows her stuff very well 😉

Music is an essential part of the game and its mechanics – what led you to this particular style of rhythm game?

Since we’re situated in Berlin, we wanted to focus on electronic music but combined it with different genres. This makes the music in each act of Beat Slayer unique. For the final act, we worked with an orchestra, the Filmorchester Babelsberg, to create an epic finale.

What kind of music has been most important to you in your life, and how has it shaped your outlook and creative process?

I have a wide taste in music. I think the music I listen to reflects my current emotions very well. There really is a lot of it. If I had to listen to Dietrich’s monotonous sounds, I would go crazy at some point :D. In general, music always helps me focus and develop new ideas.

Beat Slayer power up upgrades
Image credit: ByteRocker’s Games.

Who are your favorite musical artists?

I’m a big fan of rap, which is why Eminem and Kendrick Lamar are right at the top of my list. But even they can’t beat the German band Kraftklub, I can’t count how many of their concerts and gigs I’ve been to.

Can you talk about the creation of the music in the game? How much of a collaborative process was it, and how did you land on the overarching genre?

Music is the most important part of any rhythm game. For this reason, we worked together with the composer Markus Zierhofer and his company Audio Creatures from Berlin. Throughout the development process, we worked closely with Audio Creatures to create this special genre combination.

What are your favorite rhythm games, and what about them makes them special?

For Beat Slayer we took inspiration from various games, which also go far beyond the rhythm game genre. My favorite rhythm game, Crypt of the Necrodancer, is also among them. In CotN, you move to the beat of the music, and with its genre mix of roguelike, rhythm game, and dungeon crawler, it was one of many important inspirations for us.

Rhythm games seem to be seeing a kind of renaissance, with games like Hi-Fi Rush coming out of nowhere and becoming incredibly popular. Why do you think there has been such a resurgence in music-based games in the last few years?

Rhythm games have long been a niche with few titles, but they offer a very rewarding gaming experience. The more experienced players get in a rhythm game, the better they get. Suddenly, they can master an ultra-difficult map in Beat Saber or crack the difficult bosses in Crypt of the Necrodancer. It’s this tangible improvement that makes it so appealing. Hi-Fi Rush has now opened up this niche and introduced it to the masses, and the genre has gained a lot of new fans.

Is there a console release on the horizon following the Steam release?

Let’s wait out the Steam release, but this much can be said: Never say never 😉

Is there anything else you would like people to know about you as developers or about the game?

We are happy about everyone who takes a look at Beat Slayer, be it a direct purchase or a wishlist. This means a lot to us as indie developers and we look forward to talking to you on our Discord.

Beat Slayer is out now on Steam.

Avatar photo

Written by Emma Oakman

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *