Sol Bound is an open-world science fiction RPG currently being developed by Crowquetica Games headed by indie developers Veronica Nizama, and her husband Sergio and operating out of New York. The game blends RPG combat with puzzle solving mechanics and intense combat, and will feature a massive open world insired heavily by Latin culture. Eager to know more about this intriguing-looking game, I recently got in touch with Vernonica Nizama to ask a few questions about the game, and get more of an insight of what players can expect with this title. Here are her answers:
What were the influences behind your game?
Growing up I played a ton of Zelda, Final Fantasy, and other games with strong narratives, strategy and beautiful visuals. It was no surprise to me that when I first came up with a loose story idea for Sol Bound over a decade ago, I’d somehow find myself revisiting Tierrania when I decided to become a game developer and make my own action adventure game. I knew I’d be doing a disservice to my otaku teenage self if I hadn’t!
As far as our style goes, we were definitely influenced by classic Super Nintendo games. However, our culture probably had the biggest visual impact on the game. We’ve infused our rich Latin-American culture into our game in a way that may be relatable to Latinos living in America, as well as provide a fresh new experience for those not familiar with our customs, foods, and culture. Some of these are subtle, like our NPC’s names, diverse racial cast, building architecture, plant life and tropical, bright colours. It not only influenced the look of the game, but the universe as well. A more prominent way we’ve infused our culture is by making our in game food power-ups based off actual Latin dishes – like Cuban Vaca Frita, Peruvian Lucuma Ice Cream and Puerto Rican Mofongo! I think it’ll be a fresh, unforgettable new experience for any gamer.
What has the developmental process been like?
It’s been pretty hectic, but I guess that’s the case when you don’t have any funding. I’ve been in a studio environment for most of my professional career, so working from home, balancing a passion project while working enough on the side to pay bills has been very challenging in comparison to what I’ve been used to. I enjoy working as a team with my husband though – we’re best friends, and this is our baby. It’s definitely a labour of love!
How close are we to seeing the finished product?
Unfortunately, not very close. Pretty much everything you’ve seen so far was created in the past four months, mostly by two people – my husband and I. Because we were running dangerously low on personal funds, we reached out to a few talented friends to help prep our Kickstarter campaign a month and a half before launch. Unfortunately, game development can take quite some time – especially when it comes to a game like ours which will be vast in size and populated by hundreds of NPCs. We’re hoping we can reach our stretch goal of 160k-200k so we can hire our entire team and get the game done sooner.
What has been the most exciting aspect of development?
Just seeing everything come together! If you’ve never had the opportunity of working on a big project with multiple people before, it’s an extremely satisfying feeling. You’re able to accomplish amazing things that you wouldn’t have been able to do so on your own. It’s pretty empowering!
What has been the most challenging aspect of development?
Time management. But isn’t that the case for most developers? As with any passion project, it’s hard to tell yourself that you’ve already invested enough time into a certain asset, shader, animation, etc and to move along to the next task. Being the president of a company though has forced me to really work on this. Aside from the importance of time being money, we now have our backers to consider! We certainly don’t want to let them down with a late release.
How exactly does combat work?
Players will encounter monsters, which we call Desvario throughout Tierrania. Desvario will range in size, behaviour and have unique abilities. For example, some Desvario travel in packs and can swarm the player. Other Desvario may have special attack and defence patterns, which the player needs to memorize in order to defeat it. As sol binded Danny, you’re able to use a short-ranged physical attack, a longer-ranged and more powerful electrical, a jump ability to land on or escape from Desvario, and of course our special Sol binding ability. Sol binding allows the player to possess any organic creature, allowing the player to access unique Desvario or Animal specific abilities. Some of these may be helpful for puzzle solving, some may also be helpful in combat by fighting larger Desvario with an equally large sol bound Desvario.
Throughout the game, players may use food items to temporarily boost stats. They can also collect corrupted sol cores from defeated Desvario to trade in for weapon upgrades.
How well has the game been received so far?
So far we’ve had REALLY positive feedback from people! It’s been really rewarding hearing such encouraging words from total strangers! While we’ve been getting a lot of excitement over having a Latin-inspired game, a POC lead, etc, we haven’t been reaching a lot of people though. Our biggest hurdle is that our marketing budget is non-existent. Heck, our development budget is non-existent! We’d love to hear from a broader audience, so thanks for putting Sol Bound out there!
In the last 7 years of your developmental experiences, what projects had you previously worked on, in were there any in particular that influenced the development of Sol Bound?
Yes! While I’ve been very fortunate to work at smaller studios and pick up the skills to create pixel art, tiled games, etc, the last major project my husband and I worked on, Hiveswap, is what really set us on our course. Originally we had planned on creating our game on Game Maker after one of our co-workers, Toby Fox created his game Undertale using the same engine. It seemed like the fastest way to get a game done, and we were only two people. Unfortunately, after a few months of light production, we realized Unity would be a much better option. Not only where we using Unity at work, and becoming more and more familiar with it everyday, being that it was a small team, many of us had multiple hats to wear. I had to learn how to do lightning, set dressing, and much more on Unity, while Sergio was promoted to work specifically on making Unity tools. Through What Pumpkin Studios we were also able to connect with tons of local Unity developers and find out about Unity events making the engine the most attractive and safe choice for our game, and possibly future projects at our studio.
What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?
Currently we only have a planned PC/Mac/Linux release, but we’ve built the game on Unity, allowing us to more easily release the game on other platforms if the opportunity arises.
Sol Bound seems to have quite an in-depth story but what are the core themes of which?
The core themes in the game is teamwork and survival! Whether it be Sri Sol binding with other animals to solve a puzzle, or a fellow Radioactive creating tools you need to continue on your journey, Danny will need to rely heavily on his team. Survival is also one of the biggest motivations for our Sol Bound cast, as players will come to see how unforgivable Tierrania is. Like many action-adventure games, Sol Bound will have an expansive world with a similarly deep storyline touching upon many themes, so players can expect to laugh, cry and fall in love with our cast too.
Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?
If you love making games, don’t ever give up on your dream! I’ve been working in games for about 7 years, I’ve been laid off along with entire teams at least 3 times, have had to always work a second job to pay the bills, and don’t even get me started on crunch time! I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’d be at the office until 3-4AM with no paid overtime. I know I’ve been underpaid and taken advantage of in the past. Unless you know someone, that’s the path of pretty much any developer starting out. Still, with all that heartache, I don’t think I’d be happy doing anything else.
For my fellow lady-devs, stay strong girls! On more than one occasion I’ve been the only woman on an entire male team, and in the past this has led to me being harassed and bullied. It was certainly disheartening, but not surprising being a long term MMO player – I received this sort of hateful attention all the time without warrant. Even though there are some bad apples, most male developers are really supportive, so focus on creating strong bonds with respectful teammates, and luckily if you have a HR person you can report and help prevent situations like the ones I experienced. Game development is definitely still a male dominated industry, but we all know that diversity makes for better games – so if you love games, follow your dreams!
Where about on the Internet can people find you?
I would like to thank Veronica for speaking to me about the game, and wish all the best with Sol Bound. If anyone would like to back this game on Kickstarter, it can be done via the link below:
Scouse Gamer 88