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Austin Peay State University freshman Dallen Larson develops game, ‘Rhythm Knights,’ for Steam, Xbox

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – Dallen Larson might only be a freshman at Austin Peay State University (APSU), but the 18-year-old Springfield native is also a budding video game developer, releasing his newest creation – “Rhythm Knights”— on September 17th.

“I’ve wanted to be a game developer since I was really young,” Larson said. “I grew up on video games and they’ve always been an escape for me.”

In a rhythm game, the player matches specific patterns to reach higher scores like “Dance Dance Revolution,” “Guitar Hero” and “Rockband.”

“Rhythm Knights,” according to Larson’s website, is a “unique hand-drawn colorful rhythm fighter where four knights combine into one and go on an adventure to avenge their kingdom.” Players explore a large map and battle original enemies created through collaboration with four other artists. Players press the arrow keys in a series of patterns to the beat of original music by jijigri. The better the player does the higher combos he or she can achieve.

See the trailer for the game below:

Early influences drive desire to Create Games

Austin Peay State University freshman Dallen Larson. (APSU)
Austin Peay State University freshman Dallen Larson. (APSU)

Larson is a liberal arts and computer science major. He hopes to make a living as a game developer, either working for a big studio or continuing his work as an independent developer.

“I played a lot of ‘Minecraft’ as a kid and the command blocks in the game were very similar to programming, and I experimented with those all the time,” Larson said. “It’s really funny – a game taught me how to make games.”

Some of Larson’s early influences include “Super Smash Bros. Melee” and “SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom,” a popular fighting game and 3-D platformer, respectively. Both games are considered iconic and influential to millennial and Generation Z gamers.

“I have super fond memories of playing those,” Larson said. “Whatever my brother had I would play.”

Larson is a big Nintendo fan and did a lot of research on Nintendo’s design philosophy to adapt to his own games.

“I looked at what I thought made ‘Smash Bros.’ so great and what I thought made the ‘SpongeBob’ platforming games so great,” Larson said. “There’s a lot of polish in the ‘SpongeBob’ games. When you take a step back and look at it, it adds a lot to the game. A lot of small stuff.”

Most of Larson’s inspiration comes from other games.

“Usually, I start with a game and remix ideas. I’ll play a game like ‘Animal Crossing’ and think if it had this feature, it would be even better,” Larson said. “So for this game that I just released, ‘Rhythm Knights,’ the big idea was what if I made a rhythm game inspired by ‘Castle Crashers’?”

‘A game I’ve dreamed of making’

Larson has released well over a dozen games.

“The most challenging game I ever made was called ‘Drone Kid.’ I had 48 hours to complete it,” Larson said. “To get everything to work just right was very difficult. For making it in 48 hours, me and the team were super proud.”

Larson is now working on one of his most ambitious projects: a 3-D platformer game in the style of “Super Mario 64” and the “SpongeBob” platformers that influenced him. The game is called “Ortheo.

“This is the game I’ve dreamed of making since I was a kid,” Larson said. “And I can’t believe that’s the game that I’m working on.”

You can find “Rhythm Knights” on Steam, Xbox One and Xbox Series X for $14.99. “Ortheo” is slated to release on September 30th, 2022.


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