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Interview With Hampus Bankler, Developer Of Sky Knights

Sky Knights is a new aerial MOBA that’s currently in Early Access. The game eschews much of the traditional MOBA format, but does retain a team-based nature featuring planes with varying roles, upgrades that are purchased during matches, and primary objectives. As players pilot planes, rather than take control of a specific character, it also features a much faster pace than more traditional MOBAs and a unique system of having to land properly at your base in order to rearm and refuel your plane.

I recently had the chance to ask its developer, Hampus Bankler, several questions about the game via email. We primarily discussed upcoming features for the game, but I also asked several wildcard questions, such as where the inspiration for the game’s main music track came from.

Me: I’ve read that Sky Knights is a sort of blending of your two passions, but what inspired you to make an aerial combat MOBA instead of a more traditional combat flight game?

Bankler:  I had a lot of friends playing League of Legends at the time. I was really inspired by the teamwork centric gameplay and the depth of strategy. I also think the core loop of MOBA:s is really clever. League of Legends was a little too complicated for me to really get into into, and my friends were way ahead of me already. I wanted to make a game that is easy to get into, but has a lot of depth when you’re starting to discover the details and tactics.

How long have you been developing Sky Knights?

The idea has been there for some time, but most of the hard work has been done over the past year.

Is the music intentionally reminiscent of Danger Zone?

When I was a kid, I watched “that movie” every morning before my parents woke up. In high school, before I became a programmer, I studied music. 80’s rock music has always been an important part of my life, so it was a real pleasure doing the research for what kind of synthesizers and such they used to get that awesome “alright, here we go!!” sound.

Are the in-game flight models based on real-world flight models in any way?

Yes, to some extent. The aircraft generally turn faster than real jets do, which was necessary for the gameplay to make sense. But there’s physics limiting what you can do, and I’ve studied how turn radius is affected by speed. When you get really good at the game, you’ll learn to balance this and find the sweet spots for optimal turning performance when you’re in a “knife fight” with an opponent. There are also performance differences between the jets, that correspond to their real-world counterparts.

What kinds of planes are you planning to add in the future?

I’m hoping to get additional jets in there, if that’s what the players want. Exactly which ones I think I will base on community wishes. I’d like to see aircraft that are less or more effective than the current ones as well, and I’m trying different ways of how to make that balanced, so it’d make sense to fly for instance an 70’s era MiG-21 or an F-5.

Will new planes represent new roles or archetypes?

I have also played around with the idea of adding new roles, like support aircraft jamming the enemy radar and stuff like that. It could be really fun! We’ll see in the future.

As the game is rather MOBA-like, do you intend to eventually add optional microtransactions for skins or additional planes?

I haven’t completely ruled it out, at least not on the cosmetic side, but it’s not where the focus is now. Any updates in the near future will be completely free. You can already unlock visual customizations (nose art and tail art), but only for in-game currency. You cannot buy them for real money.

What plans do you have for seasons and season rewards?

I think a season will be a month. I will have to see how it plays out, though, before knowing for sure. For rewards, the most obvious thing would be customizations, but I can imagine other things as well, like badges on your pilot portrait and such.

Will future maps offer different layouts or will they largely just be changes of scenery?

I think they will have a little different layout. Maybe a larger map, allowing a little more slow-paced gameplay, making flying routes, radar coverage and positioning more important.

How dependent is future development on Early Access sales?

I will make everything I can to finish the game and make an official release post Early Access. Sales help a lot though. It’s definitely more inspiring to spend time and money on developing a game that people actually play. 🙂

Sky Knights is now available on Steam Early Access for $9.99, temporarily discounted to $7.99 until August 3rd.

Matt Chelen

Matt has been playing games for as long as he can remember. He got into games journalism during college.

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