Johannes Graf – The Brain BEHIND Sturmwind

Back in 2013 Dreamcast fans were treated to a shoot-’em up that would set a new standard for homebrew and indie titles for Sega’s mighty console. Strurmwind from Duranik had a potted history of development but the results could not have been better. Johannes Graf, the principle developer for the game, gives us some fascinating insight into how this fantastic shooter came about.


For any readers who are not familiar with your work, can you please tell us who you are and what you do? Also, what or who is Duranik?

Hi, we are two brothers, started working on video games as a hobby many, many years ago on the Atari Falcon. Later we did some work on the Jaguar and Lynx. Unfortunately my brother, who did all the programming, is suffering from a very bad disease, so these days Duranik consists only of me more or less.

It has been documented that Sturmwind started out life as Native for the Atari Jaguar CD. Is this actually true and were you involved in that game? Why did Native never see release on the Jaguar or Dreamcast at the time?

Well, Native was done by the same people as Sturmwind, and its also a horizontal shmup, but in my opinion these are the only similarities. The gameplay and weapon system is very different and there were no assets shared between the two projects. We were always fascinated by the Jaguar and thus started working on a project with a hobby development kit. Unfortunately at this time, this was around 96/97, it was not possible to release anything on the machine because the necessary encryption key was not available. Therefore we decided to stop the project.


There was some great publicity around Sturmwind in 2010, a German TV interview with RedSpot and a later stream by Sega for Destructoid. How did it feel to see your game being shown in high profile places and were there discussions with Sega to actually license the game?

There was no discussion with Sega about licencing, I think they have long forgotten about Dreamcast. Yes, the game received a great deal of public promotion. Maybe because new Dreamcast games were very sparse compared to today. Also Redspotgames got a lot of criticism, I think they did a good job on the marketing at this time, unfortunately later they faded into oblivion. I Don’t really know what happened to them and especially Max, suddenly we couldn’t reach them any more or found any trace what happened to them.

How many people help to develop Sturmwind, what was it like working with the team? How did you divide up the work?

The game was programmed by my brother, all graphics and game design was done by me. Music was done by 505 Nils Feske. A lot of other people contributed in testing, especially our lead tester Björn Tasto helped us with lots of refinements.

How did you deal with the pressures of developing a game for an old system, was there a process or objective you set out with?

Most of the game was developed in complete silence, so nobody apart from us two really knew we were working on the game. Later when the game was made public on the German TV show some pressure started to build up because it took still a little longer to completely finish the game.


Sturmwind is known for its high production values and content. Did everything you want in the game make it to the final game? What were the challenges you faced in bringing the project together?

No, not everything was included into the game. There were a couple of levels that were half finished but at one point we decided it had to end and we had to finish now. As with most game projects, the hardest thing is to finish the project. The famous ‘the last 5% take 95% of the time’ is very much true. At the end you can endlessly refine everything.

The initial print run was held up when the factory filed for bankruptcy.What happened during this time and how did you deal with it?

I’m not sure this really happened, I think Redspotgames made this up to buy some time. They was very keen on getting a copy protection on Sturmwind. We had developed a very good protection system, but unfortunately we were not able to get this mass produced with the CD manufacturing plant. So there was another mechanism put on the disc instead, this was very weak compared to the original protection method but it could be produced. All of this took some time to work out as you don’t want to have thousands of CDs which are not working.

The music in Sturmwind is amazing. How did you decide on the style? Please tell us anything interesting about its production.

The music was done by Nils Feske, he also worked with us on our previous project Alpine Games. He is a very talented guy and has is unique style. He is doing a lot of work on classic computers with actual “soundchips”. I think therefore the game has a bit of chiptune style soundtrack, certainly not the type of music you get all day.


When you saw the finished product finally released, what was going through your mind? What did you think of the reviews for Sturmwind?

Most of the reviews were positive, so that was very nice. Of course we were a bit exhausted because the last part of development was very hectic. Overall it was nice to have it finished and out of the door even if not everything was implemented the way we wanted it.

Sturmwind is considered one the DC’s best shmups. What do you feel makes it special and why do you think there is still so much praise for it still to this day?

Well compared to a lot of other projects it was developed for the Dreamcast and not a port of a mobile/whatever game. Apart from that I think the game is very accessible, you don’t need to be a super skilled player to see a large chunk of the game. Often these games are so hard and a lot of players never make it past the first or second level. thanks Johannes for his insight and stories. If you have not played Sturmwind on the Dreamcast you owe it yourself to give it a go. It is brilliant.