Category Archives: Developer Interview

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Q&A With Kiro Team

A while back, I came across a new title in development that was nearing a launch on Kickstarter, and now I’m thrilled to bring it to the attention of an even wider audience than what it has been brought to already. Souno’s Curse, under development by Kiro Team based in Lyon in France, is an action-platforming game featuring staple elements of the Metroidvania genre. It features beautifully hand-drawn visuals reminiscent of games such as Hollow Knight and Cuphead and presents a narrative surrounded by mystery and focusing on such themes as love, regret friendship, and decisive action. Curious to learn as much as I could before the Kickstarter launches tomorrow, I reached out to Kiro Team’s Idir Amrouche to understand more about this wonderfully ambitious-looking title, and what gamers can come to expect whilst playing. Here’s what Idir Amrouche of Kiro Team had to say about Souno’s Curse:

 

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What were the influences behind your game?

Different media like books, movies, and anime, and of course video games. If I were to name a few:

– Kingdom Hearts

– Metal Gear Solid

– Megalobox anime

– The Witcher (game and books)

My main inspiration comes from Hollow Knight and Journey

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

The game is around 30% finished. We plan a release window for mid-2023

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

One of them is the creative process when you let your imagination run wild and create new environments, characters, stories, etc…The second one is implementing the created assets in the game and seeing all that you imagined come to life.

 

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What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

The team is composed of people from France, Canada, and the USA, and all of them except for me have full or part-time jobs on the side. The most challenging part was to plan a roadmap taking into account varying availability and finding a workflow that suits everyone’s plannings/time zones.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

I started sharing info about the game on Twitter at the very early stages. I did not expect to have this much support and to have a community this big this fast. So I’d say it has been pretty well received so far.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Souno’s Curse release is planned for Steam and GOG.com. We’d be very happy to release it on Nintendo Switch as well, which is why it is one of our Kickstarter stretch goals.

 

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Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that have since been scrapped or reworked?

A few yes. At first, the game was just an experimental project that was supposed to last 3 or 4 months. But seeing how well it was received we decided to make a full game out of it, so of course, some elements had to be changed in order to adapt to the new scope

 

How exhilarating an experience has it been with the amount of interest taken in the game’s mythology even at this early stage?

It’s honestly crazy. To see so many people following every step of the process is amazing. This also gives us more motivation to come up with the highest quality possible to live up to their expectations. We hope people will love the demo.

 

How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of the project been?

I think player feedback is one of the main pillars of game development. We learned so much about the strengths and weaknesses of the game just from watching the players’ behavior. After spending a certain amount of time working on the game you become blind to certain aspects of it.

 

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Amidst the influx of Metroidvania titles throughout the eighth and ninth generations of gaming, what would you say makes Souno’s Curse stand out in your opinion?

Well first it’s not a full-fledged Metroidvania but it’s borrowing elements from the genre. Second, I really think the themes and story of the characters and the plot will leave an impact on the hearts of the players. At least I hope so.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?

I’d love to work with Hideo Kojima. It always feels like he is 20 years ahead of everyone else in the industry.

 

What is your opinion of the recent influx of indie developers coming out of France?

It’s great! The indie community is growing bigger, and more and more structures are being developed in order to help the developers either financially or by providing more exposure.

 

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Have there been any to have reached out to you guys for advice or to give advice throughout the development of Souno’s Curse?

Yes, many. That’s the good thing about Twitter, it’s always good to network and exchange tips and ideas between developers.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

If I had one piece of advice to give it would be: Don’t hide your game until it’s “perfect”. Let people test your prototypes and ideas as soon as possible and get feedback from them. You don’t need art or animations for a mechanic to be fun. Fail early fail often.

 

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Where on the Internet can people find you?

All the detailed information about Souno’s Curse is on our Kickstarter page. We will answer all your questions there:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kiroteam/sounos-curse.

 

If you want to chat and chill with us, you can join our Discord :

 https://discord.com/invite/ukSraCAaFg

 

We are posting daily content about the game development on Twitter : 

https://twitter.com/KiroTeamGames

 

Do you have anything else to add?

See you on October 1st for the Steam Next Fest and Kickstarter launch!

 

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I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Idir for taking the time to out to talk to me about Souno’s Curse and share more information about the game. If anyone is interested in backing this awesome-looking title, you can do so by visiting the Kickstarter page as of tomorrow when the campaign launches. I wish Idir and the rest of the Kiro Team the best of luck with Souno’s curse’ Kickstarter campaign and subsequent launch, and I hope you guys are looking forward to this game as much as I am!

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Q&A With Joe Mirabello

Today brings a developer interview that has been a long time in the making, and one that I’m thrilled to be bringing to you guys. One of the bigger success stories in the circle of independent video games development throughout the eighth generation was the studio Terrible Posture Games. The company was founded in Boston Massachusetts by industry veteran Joe Mirabello, who previous to this had worked with 38 Studios, working on titles such as Titan Quest and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. After 38 Studios went bankrupt in 2012 following the release of Kingdoms of Amalur, despite the game’s overwhelming critical success, Joe and a number of programmers formed Terrible Posture, and together developed the breakout indie hit, Tower of Guns in 2014, which garnished positive reviews from critics and wowed gamers with its variety in combat, catchy soundtrack and quirky sense of humor.

The ideas perpetuated in Tower of Guns would then later be built upon massively with their subsequent release, 2018’s Mothergunship, which built on the basic premise of Tower of Guns but also introduced a number of new mechanics, such as gun building and a more cohesive story mode. Most recently, Terrible Posture has been developing an episodic gamed named 3 out of 10, described by terrible posture as a playable sitcom and centering around the ill-fated game studio Shovelworks, with the game being much heavier on story than the two former titles, but at the time still perpetuating the same level of humor that Terrible Posture has come to be known for.

With myself having been curious to learn more about Terrible Posture for quite some time, I reached out to the company’s founder Joe Mirabello and requested an interview with him, and he agreed, much to my excitement. So this is what Joe Mirabello had to say about Terrible Posture Games:

 

Where did your passion for video games originate from?

From playing games, of course! And from reading comics and watching movies. As a kid growing up, games and books and movies all kind of blended together into a creative mush; I had limited amounts of time I was allowed to stare at a screen, and so I filled up the gaps with drawing, writing, and creating my OWN games and movies… just on paper.

I can’t quite say when, but sometime between the ages of 7 and 10 I switched from enjoying experiencing stories/games to wanting to MAKE stories and gameplay for others to enjoy; whether that was writing my own Choose-Your-Own-Adventures, making levels in Hyper Lode Runner, or trying to teach myself QBASIC; I found the very act of creation itself to be addicting. Even today, when I get caught up in making something it feels less like work and more like play.

 

Did you have aspirations to develop art for video games from an early age, or was there anything else you wanted to design art for before you decided to go down that route?

Oh, I want to make everything. The lines between art and story and even code are very blurry to me since they all scratch that creative itch… and I feel like you could have flipped a coin and I just as easily could have ended up making comics or films instead of games.

That said, while I did love art from a young age and wanted to work as an artist in some trade, this was in the 90s and you have to understand that no one knew you COULD even be an artist for games back then. The idea that the games were made by people with jobs? Wild! Games were magic, made by magicians only. As I grew up I started modding PC games a little and gradually that route kind of began to reveal itself but it wasn’t until college that it really dawned on me that game art specifically was a valid career path. At that point, I was already studying art and had become quite proficient in working with computers… so it was a natural transition to start messing with game art pipelines.

 

Among the first of your works was designing the art for the Titan Quest games for Iron Lore Studios. What game in the series was your favorite to have designed for?

There was only one game in the TQ series, and then an expansion pack. While I worked on a lot of the art for both titles, the first one was my entry into the industry and it wasn’t until the expansion pack that I was trusted with more ambitious assets like characters, monsters, and some set pieces. I loved making monsters specifically.

 

Were there any elements of the Titan Quest series that influenced your later work?

Honestly, the biggest lesson from Titan Quest for me was that sometimes there is extreme value in quantity. I was tasked with building hundreds of weapons on the game. To hit my deadline I would have to make them fast. Really fast. Sometimes eight or ten of them a day. And the thing is; I wanted to spend days on each one, and could have…. I could have made those weapons look amazing… and the game would have been worse for it.

The leads knew that the game’s success relied on a large number of unique special items; not just a handful, but tons. “Quality not Quantity” is a nice and easy motto to remember.. but can be the death sentence for making an actually good game. The flip side of that phrase is recognizing precisely when “Quantity is itself a Quality” of importance. It’s not every game, but with a game like Titan Quest, that mindset was crucial. While I can work with either mindset, the mark of my progress as a developer has been learning when I need to be deploying one strategy over the other.

 

One of the biggest projects you’ve worked on to date was of course Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. What was it like to work on that game, and what approach did you take to designing what art you did?

I actually didn’t work on Reckoning! I mean, I guess I helped concept out the base world, and some zone concepts were shared between the two games technically but I can’t claim any credit for anything in the game. While the Reckoning team was working away on a single-player game, I was on the MMO team at 38 Studios.

 

What was it like to work with Todd McFarlane?

Todd was hilarious. All of us, including himself, would poke fun of him for wanting to put chains and skulls on everything. I didn’t get to know him too well; as he would only check in periodically with each team, but even still I picked up a few interesting art fundamentals from him. Having grown up loving his artwork, it was pretty cool to know he knew my name, even if only for a short while. I doubt he’d remember it now after all these years. 😀

 

Has Todd reached out to you at any point since the founding of Terrible Posture?

Nope! Every couple of years I get to either see or chat with RA Salvatore though, who was the NYT bestselling writer and third celebrity involved with 38 Studios. He’s very cool and offered some feedback on early builds of Tower of Guns.

 

How rewarding was it to see Kingdoms of Amalur garnish as much critical acclaim as it did at the time?

I felt really happy for the team down in Baltimore. They were kicking their own butts into high gear in order to get Reckoning out the door and it was a heck of a rough development cycle for them—predating that team’s relationship with 38 Studios actually. They should be proud of all the work they did.

 

Of course, 38 Studios folded shortly after the release of the game. What was the experience like on the last day in the office?

It was rough for a lot of people. There were people who were heartbroken. There were people who were in incredibly dire situations financially, medically, or emotionally. Curt Schilling, the celebrity that ran the studio, kept leading everyone on like there was going to be some last-minute financial solution to keep us all working, but it never materialized and toward the end, a lot of people felt conflicted and betrayed.

For my part, I felt guilty; like perhaps I hadn’t worked smart or hard enough. I also felt extreme guilt because there was so much stress and hurt amidst my colleagues… and I did not feel the same. I felt guilty because I was already thinking about “going indie” someday… and the whole closure of 38 was literally the kick I needed to start making Tower of Guns.

 

Were there any further projects planned by 38 Studios following the release of Kingdoms of Amalur, and any information about that which you can share with us?

Well, I was on the MMO project.. that project was the one that started it all, and then Reckoning came along while we kept plodding away on the MMO. There’s some video footage around the web if you look around enough. It was an ambitious project and I spent years working on the technical systems for the environment team, working closely with engineers on terrain, lighting, cinematics, dungeons… it always felt like I was working on something different there and I was quite proud of the visual richness of the world we’d created.

 

Do you still keep in touch with any of your former colleagues at 38 Studios, or have any of them since gone on to join you at Terrible Posture?

Oh, we keep in touch. When a studio as big as 38 implodes, which does happen from time to time in this industry, the team scatters all at once. In a way, it leads to a network of former coworkers, all looking together, and all sharing the same, well, trauma. I would happily work again with many of these people, and I like to think many would want to work with me again. And, in an instant, we scattered all over the world. This network was crucial to helping a lot of the team find new jobs at other companies, both right after the closure and then later, throughout our careers.

As for me personally, I did end up working with a couple of former 38 Studios folks. Most specifically, Chris Zukowski, Master of all things Tech Art and Beyond. He and I have worked closely for years now as a duo, both on Mothergunship and on 3 out of 10. I’ve also gotten a lot of them to help playtest, occasionally help with a little art or sound, and similar things. I would not be surprised if I work with more of them in the future.

 

How exhilarated were you to see Kingdoms of Amalur remastered recently for eighth-generation consoles?

I felt amused, actually. Reckoning’s rights were purchased by THQ Nordic, which used to be just “Nordic Games” or something like that… but they seem to be going around buying everything I’ve ever worked on. They bought the rights and remastered Titan Quest as well! And the rights to the THQ name itself, who published Titan Quest! It’s like they are chasing me! If they are true completionists maybe they’ll ask if they can remaster Tower of Guns someday!

 

Where did the name Terrible Posture come from?

I earned that name through years of hard work not sitting up straight.

 

The impression I got from playing both Tower of Guns and Mothergunship was that the team had a lot of fun during development putting a lot of humorous and random things into the final game. Is having fun one of the main focuses for you and the team while making a game?

Hah. I’m glad the games have that impression. Not all parts of making a game are fun, but generally speaking, if you’re not enjoying the work then that will be reflected in the final game. Enjoying yourself is crucial to making something that fosters, well, joy.. which is what we wanted from both of those games.

 

Of course, going from designing games for others to designing games yourself would’ve come with its own series of complications and challenges. But what was the feeling around Terrible Posture when Tower of Guns went on to become as successful as what it did?

Honestly? It’s been such a whirlwind that I haven’t been able to take a step back and take stock of it. I went from being solo and thinking that Tower of Guns was just a sabbatical to suddenly having a second career on my hands. It’s been a fun, wild ride and I have no shortage of other ideas to bring to people in the future, so I sure hope we can continue to do what we do.

 

I remember Mothergunship being a pretty big deal for an indie game at the time. What was it like seeing that game receive as much critical acclaim as it did; especially when compared to many of the mainstream games you worked on?

It’s interesting that you say that; we were seeing a wave of other excellent titles coming out around then and were intimidated. It was simply a more crowded place to make games than it had been when Tower of Guns was released. That said, I am pleased so many people have enjoyed the game, as it really was a blast to make. I still think future games could even go further though; Tower of Guns and Mothergunship were popular, but I don’t feel like they broke into the mainstream the same way a game with a multi-million dollar marketing budget does. It would be wonderful to work on that sort of game again someday.

 

What was it like for you and your team to make the transition from developing more traditional games to something a little more akin to a visual novel with 3 Out of 10?

3 out of 10 isn’t really a visual novel as much as a playable sitcom… and it was really a labor of love. We had wanted to work on something more story-based for a while and we had a blast developing a unique pipeline and content creation toolset. In a way, me and Chris Zukowski, saw an opportunity to do interesting things using Unreal 4, storytelling, and fast iteration animation, and when we presented the project to Epic, they saw the vision as well. That aspect of the project; working closely with Epic Games to make something completely different, was the chance of a lifetime.

 

What’s next for you and Terrible Posture?

We’re always working on interesting things, most of which I can’t talk about just yet, but I can say that we recently partnered with a company named DJ2 to start working on a television adaptation of 3 out of 10. The project is a natural fit for TV and we’re eager to see where that goes, but we also know that the TV industry moves at a much different pace than games… so we’re keeping ourselves plenty busy with other projects as well.

 

Is there any genre of game that you haven’t yet tried to develop that you might like to at some point?

Well, due to the nature of 3 out of 10 we were able to explore a TON of different genres; puzzle games, rhythm games, Zelda clones, pinball, platformers, car combat… heck, even a physics-based-stealth-quasi-golf-game where you put around a pet crate.  That said, I have always wanted to work on a stealth FPS.. so perhaps someday that will be in the cards (although I’m not working on one currently).

 

If you had the opportunity to work with another developer on any franchise of your choice, which one would it be, and why?

Oh, man. That’s a tough question. Honestly, I consider myself lucky to be working with Zuko, my coworker I mentioned earlier. He and I work very well together and we do pretty awesome stuff. That said, there are other developers I really admire and would love to work with someday. For example, I’d love to work with EdmundM on“The Maxx” game or a horror game with Kenneth Scott. I’d love the chance to make a Tremors game. Or to work on a new Thief game. Or to revive the No One Lives Forever franchise, a criminally forgotten series.

 

Do you have any advice for any aspiring developers who may be reading this?

Unfortunately, the route I took to get into the industry isn’t the same one most developers take now; back in the early 2000s you simply had to show up and be moderately skilled in a technical discipline (like game art is/was) and the industry would pluck you up.

The show-up-and-be-skilled part is still partly true, but the base skill level is much much higher these days. That said, another tactic I used; teaching myself as much as I could through tutorials, side projects, modding scenes, and online communities has become even more viable than it was 20 years ago. These days, the knowledge of how to make games isn’t nearly as gated and tools like Blender, UE4/5, and similar are ever-more accessible. So, today the trick is not getting discouraged. It takes time to gain skill. It takes work and momentum and motivation to keep going. Find ways to give that motivation and you’ll have half the work done.  For example; make a lot of smaller projects so you will finish them. Or, instead, enter game jams, which have a set deadline. Or, instead, join a mod team for some project, where you will have teammates. Or enter an art station contest. Or basically, do whatever it takes to fool your brain into not freaking out about what you don’t know and to just create—that’s the most important thing. Make terrible stuff and then edit your next thing to be a little better than the last. It’s easier said than done, but that tactic is still a valid route to improvement at most trades, game development included.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Sorry, it took me so long to reply to you! Thanks for having me though!

I’d like to take this opportunity to give a massive thank you to Joe and wish him and Terrible Posture Games the best of luck for the future. Joe and Terrible posture have produced some of the most creative and addicting titles of the eighth generation in my opinion, and I can’t wait to see where the company goes next in terms of new ideas and new projects. With the many ideas that Joe has in the pipeline, I believe Terrible Posture has the potential to go even further than what they have already gone in such a short span of time, and It’ll be very interesting to see what they come up with next. If you’re interested, you can follow Terrible Posture by subscribing to their mail list via the link below:

https://www.terribleposture.com/

But in the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed this interview because I certainly did.

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

 

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Q&A With Tefel

Seeking out interviews with developers often puts me in touch with a lot of promising programmers who are working on their game solo or as part of a small team; today’s Q&A is one of those exciting examples. Astro Colony, programmed by Polish developer and former Splash Damage alumnus, Lukasz “Tefel” Czarnecki, along with a small team of artists, designers, and composers, is a relatively new Kickstarter project that has recently been successfully funded after a third of the campaign had passed. Inspired by some of the biggest names in indie sandbox games, such as Minecraft, it focuses on the management and maintenance of a space colony, whereby players must gather resources and supplies in order to expand on their colony, explore the deepest recesses of space, and spend resources on upgrades through an elaborate research system to improve the technology required to maintain the colony. I was approached by Tefel mid-week and introduced to this potentially groundbreaking title, and I was immediately interested in learning more about it. I asked him a few questions I had about the game and what it could potentially evolve into following its successful Kickstarter campaign. Here’s what Lukasz “Tefel” Czarnecki had to say about Astro Colony:

 

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What were the influences behind your game?

Originally I was inspired by Factorio when I met developers somewhere in 2014. Since then automation genre was my favorite, so I had started the development of my own automation game. When I left Splash Damage (around 3 years ago) I met Konrad who suggested that we may want to make a space exploration game with colonies full of life inspired by Space Engineers. Astro Colony is a combination of both, mixing exploration & automation and also adding destructible Voxels known from Minecraft

 

What has the developmental process been like?

I started prototyping the game in 2018 focusing on more complex problems, like movement systems for giant space stations, docking many space stations simultaneously, creating own multi-threaded grid pathfinding systems, and other conveyor / crafting systems. When every crucial mechanic for development was in place, together with Konrad we started to plan more gameplay features, adding devices necessary from the gameplay standpoint.

During this process, I realize how hard game design may be. I got stuck few times, not knowing how to solve the problem. For example, having Astronauts arriving at the colony, but not having Cook yet to prepare food for them. I had to add Hydrotonic to the mix (produced in Hydro generator) early in the game, which fills the gap and allows fulfilling early Astronaut needs before they are specialized to produce more caloric food.

 

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How close are we to seeing the finished product?

Since the beginning, we have been planning every feature of the game carefully to not overload the scope of the project, which makes us currently very confident about delivering the game next year. We have established the main game loop with everything planned and moved to the polishing stage and bug fixing. We would still like to add some additional features, but we want to make sure that everything is fully playable and well balanced before moving to the next stage this year.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

For me as a game programmer, the most exciting was to improve our Astronauts system with a shader animation, which allows adding millions of Astronauts at the same time. It was very funny to watch poor Astronauts getting stuck in narrow corridors!

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

Making sure that Voxel technology works nicely with a grid system, at the same time looking spectacular too. I am using many “tricks” to get away from Minecraft’s blocky look, but still keeping the shape where every device can be placed on the terrain precisely. Procedurally generated planets it’s a key mechanic, so I had to spend a long time to make it right! After having assisted in the development of mainstream titles such as Halo: The Master Chief Collection, what attracted you to the independent development scene? Making my own independent game was always my dream, maybe that’s why I made many prototypes in the past (my YouTube channel is full of them)!

Even before I started working in the AAA game industry, I always wanted something more! I was very excited working on Halo MCC in a fantastic atmosphere with so many passionate game developers. However I think everything got somehow predictable (not saying boring): knowing exactly what is our goal, not working on a new title but porting old ones… the situation was slowly killing my creativity. I reached the moment when I couldn’t stand it anymore.

 

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Were there any veteran developers that you got the chance to work with that offered you any advice ahead of going independent?

Yes, I met many veterans, lead developers with 20+ years of experience telling me stories about releasing games for the first generation of consoles (PSX and Xbox). Ways to advertise are now different, but challenges to overcome are still similar: you start from planning features, listen to community feedback, prepare the first MVP version which is followed by a demo and beta testing.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

During the first few days of our campaign, we’ve been overwhelmed by the community’s feedback! We didn’t realize how many people were waiting for a new automation title.

Certainly having elements similar to other successful games allowed players to immediately understand and see the potential, but many aspects make Astro Colony unique, and certainly, a breath of fresh air teases the imagination of the public.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Currently, we are focusing only on PC, to ensure the release next year! We have many requests from players to bring the game to iOS and Linux too, so we will put an extra effort to make it possible very soon.

 

What are the most prominent examples of science fiction that have gone on to inspire Astro Colony?

Some of the inspiration comes from science fiction films, like Ridley Scott’s The Martian and Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion, where the protagonist finds himself alone in space, having to find and invent ways of using resources to survive.

Nolan’s Interstellar and the French comic Valérian et Laureline (from Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières) also provided inspiration for the aesthetics of planets and environments.

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that have since been scrapped or reworked?

Like I mentioned before, every feature was carefully planned. So far there was no need of removing or reworking any of the already implemented features! Some of them were extended like Asteroid Catcher being automated with the next upgrade.

But elements of the inventory that we created previously – as the floor – are actually in need of a cut: do we really need twenty different types of tiles?!

 

How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of the project been?

We’ve been working closely with some publishers, play-testing the game early to ensure that every mechanic of the game is easily understandable. We wish to open our game to a wider audience and sharing it with the community, but that will come when Early Access is released next year, so every player can give his direct feedback!

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?

Blizzard company will be definitely my choice, as I was a Starcraft programmer and a huge fan of many of their titles, like Diablo and Warcraft.

 

How have your past experiences as a developer helped you along the course of this project?

Having worked as a developer in the past helped me enormously to create a realistic schedule and system to not get lost. Previously, when I was creating other prototypes, I was too quick-tempered., creating mechanics without much plan. Now, instead, I know how important is to take your time testing mechanics, ensuring that the combination with each other creates harmony and nothing is left to chance, so every next iteration is raising the quality bar!

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

Don’t get into solo development too early. You will always have time for your independent project and realizing the game of your dream, but gathering experience in AAA companies is priceless and gives the basis to achieve the best!

 

Where on the Internet can people find you? 

YT tutorial and development channel: https://www.youtube.com/UnrealTefel Twitter for daily updates and news: https://twitter.com/TefelDev, and obviously Kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/teradgames/astrocolony

 

Do you have anything else to add?

I really want to thank everyone who helped us to reach our goal in the ongoing Kickstarter campaign, and I cannot wait to share Astro Colony with the players!

 

I’d just like to take the opportunity to thank Lukasz for reaching out to me and bringing this game to my attention, and also to congratulate him and the team on the game’s successful backing in such a short period of time. Astro Colony looks like a particularly innovative game, so when I first laid eyes on the trailer, it was no wonder to me that this game had been funded as quickly as it was. With the potential, it has in terms of offering variety in gameplay to players, and the interest surrounding the game’s mythology, I can’t wait to start playing this game upon release. If you guys like the look of Astro Colony and would like to fund the game’s stretch goals on Kickstarter, you can do via the link above, but in the meantime, I hope you’re all as excited for the release of this title as I am.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88.

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Q&A With Adventure4Life Studios

Some months back, I had discovered a promising title set for unveiling on Kickstarter rooted in wonder,  conspiracy, and British humor; this week, I’m happy to say I’m able to bring it to the attention of the wider audience it deserves. Plot of the Druid is a medieval fantasy point-and-click adventure game featuring humor inspired by the likes of Monty Python and other classic examples of British comedy. Developed by Adventure4Life Studios, it tells the story of a disgraced druid’s apprentice who sets out to restore the natural order of the world as we know it. What will make this point-and-click stand out on paper (depending on how funding goes) is the fact that it is potentially set to be open-ended, as players can choose to deal with different situations in however way they choose as opposed to it having one pre-determined path. The player must also use spells learned in order to solve puzzles, interact with NPCs, and progress through the game.

Eager to know more about this prospect-filled title amidst its current Kickstarter campaign, I got in touch with Adventure4Life’s CEO Yakir Israel and asked him a few questions in regards to the game, and what kind of weird and wonderful things players can expect going into it, and how it may stand among some of the very best games in the genre, such as Monkey Island, Broken Sword or Grim Fandango. Here’s what Yakir Israel of Adventure4Life Studios had to say about Plot of the Druid.

 

Plot of the Druid 1

What were the influences behind your game? 

I’m a big fan of everything related to fantasy and comedy. I also grew up on point-and-click adventure games such as Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Simon the Sorcerer, and Monkey Island, which shape the main course of my game. When I played Book of Unwritten Tales ten years ago, I realized that the PnC genre hadn’t died, and it inspired me to make my own game with a similar fantasy setting.

King’s Quest, Harry Potter, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz all had an impact on the setting as well. More than that, Plot of the Druid has a big mixture of influencers: The whole focus on druids comes from the Asterix comics and Radagast from Lord of the Rings, the shapeshifting mechanic comes from Visionaries – Knights of the Magical Light, the art style was inspired by the 2D beautiful hand-painted Broken Sword series, and all the wacky characters in the game took inspiration from Simon the Sorcerer, Discworld, and Monkey Island.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

I’ve been working on this game for almost six years, and there were many ups and downs. I worked full-time in hi-tech and saved some money each month to pay expert freelancers for aspects of the game that I can’t do myself, but it was a very tight budget. Some of the team members lost motivation when the budget ran out. And each time someone leaves, it causes delays to find a replacement.
Luckily, since this game is my dream, I keep moving on even so and never stop making it. Now, in the last year, I can say the team has become more stable, and I’ve also gotten small investments from people who believe in the project. These helped me release the prologue, and I came to the conclusion I have to go as soon as possible to crowdfunding if I want the full game to happen.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

My goal is to finish it by the beginning of 2023. Right now only twenty percent of the game is done, but if the game will get funded that can boost the development process. And I can reach that goal.

 

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What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

After the prologue was released I got a lot of feedback, and with the experience, I gained during the years I decided to rewrite some of the story elements. It was very exciting to spot parts that weren’t working very well and improve them. I was very proud of the final result.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?  

Doing optimization – I had to decrease the build size and manage the memory more efficiently. The animations are frame-by-frame, so I had to put a lot of effort into making the loading time shorter. Each load took more than 15 seconds. After optimization, it took less than 2 seconds and the build size decreased by 70 percent!

  

How well has the game been received so far? 

I would say pretty good. It’s listed as Very Positive on Steam and often I get positive messages from around the world. It’s really encouraging me to keep moving, knowing that things are going in the right direction!

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

PC is my main priority, which I think is the main audience for point-and-click games. But if I get lucky and reach certain stretch goals, I will be happy to port to mobile and consoles as well. 

 

Are there any stretch goals planned for the Kickstarter campaign?

Yes, besides the typical goals such as localization, adding voice and mobile versions, I would like to add multiple paths, two different endings, more shapeshifting abilities, CGI cutscenes, and a comic book.

 

What examples of British humor influenced this game?

In addition to the British point and click games I mentioned, Monty Python and Blackadder. 

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that have since been scrapped or reworked?

When I rewrote the story elements, some of the concepts had to be removed or adapted to fit the new ideas. I kept the polished parts, which had taken lots of time and effort, and applied them in a different context. It’s funny since people that tried the first rough versions back in 2017-2018 won’t recognize the new version especially in terms of story and puzzles.

 

How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of the project been? 

Usually, I trust my gut feeling, but of course, making a game isn’t just about the creator. The phase where the player’s feedback has the most impact is beta testing. I listen carefully to what they have to say and decide if their suggestion is practical and if it enhances the game experience, like if something isn’t clear or additional hints are needed. After the release, I tend to work mostly on major bug fixes to avoid unnecessary ripple effects.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?

I would like to make an alternate sequel to Simon the Sorcerer 2! My idea is to keep the game in the same 2D pixel style, but with a different story that starts immediately after the cliffhanger at the end, when Simon and Sordid switched bodies. So you can play as Simon in Sordid’s body at the start of the game, while you see cutscenes of Sordid in Simon’s body in the real world, trying to be menacing but no one really cares. How funny would that be?!

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

  1. Work on something you would like to play yourself. 
  2. Start with a small project – you can learn a lot from the dev process… you will improve later.
  3. Break your work into small milestones – each milestone achieved can boost your motivation, you will have something to show, and you can get feedback from it.
  4. Don’t wait to finish your game and then start to promote it – you need to build a community around it as soon as possible. Building a fan base takes time and effort. Spreading the word is more than 70% of a project’s success, BUT make sure the contents you send to the press are high quality!

Where on the Internet can people find you?

The best place to start is the website – www.plotofthedruid.com, from there you can subscribe to newsletters to get updates and reach our social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Discord.

 

Do you have anything else to add?

We released a free prologue last year, you can play it here:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1544570/Plot_of_the_Druid_Nightwatch/
And like I already mentioned, being funded is crucial for making the full game, please consider

backing it: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/plot-of-the-druid/plot-of-the-druid
There are cool rewards, such as an original big box version like the old school game used to have, the backers can make contributions and even appear in the game itself!

 

I’d like to thank Yakir for taking the time out to answer my questions on Plot of the Druid. Alongside names such as Lucy Dreaming, there seems to be an incoming influx of indie point-and-click adventure games, and Plot of the Druid, at first glance, looks like a game that is sure to deliver an extremely memorable experience to both fans of the genre and newcomers. If you’d like to back the game on Kickstarter, you can do so via the link provided, but in the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed this one because I certainly did.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

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Q&A With Statera Studio

My second of two Q&As today concerns a quirky and diverse fighting game and its crowdfunding campaign. Pocket Bravery, under development at Statera Studios based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is a fighting game reminiscent of the classic 90s fighting games such as Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and the works of SNK such as Fatal Fury and King of Fighters. Another example of the ever-growing indie development scene in Brazil, the game’s IndieGoGo portrays a game with a wonderfully diverse cast of characters, locations to fight, and single and online multiplayer. With 2 weeks left to go for the campaign, I reached out to the game’s executive producer Jonathan Ferreira to learn more about this game and how they hope to make the game stand out among the many classic fighting games it was inspired by. Here’s what Jonathan Ferreira of Statera Studios had to say about Pocket Bravery:

 

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What were the influences behind your game?

Games that marked the era, classics from the 90s like Street Fighter and The King of Fighters. And about the aesthetic part, it’s a mix from games like Pocket Fighter, KOF from Neo Geo Pocket Color, Scott Pilgrim, and Metal Slug.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

We’re a team with 6 full-time professionals and some freelancers. For a fighting game, it is a small number since the genre is one of the most difficult to produce.

 

We have tried to do our best and we believe that we are achieving good results. Everything is going as planned. We will soon focus on making the online mode, which will be via netcode rollback.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

We have 50 – 60% of the game’s basics done, we still have to start making the online. We believe that in 15 or 16 months the game will be ready for launch.

 

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What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

I believe that is everything, as we are a team in love with the fighting genre, every stage, from the conception until its implementation is exciting. All the ideas come from the people passionate about what they are doing.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

Finding a balance between what we want to do and what we should do. As much as we treat the game with all the care and passion, it is also a product that needs to be public attention, and not just another drop in the ocean.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

Very well! And this has been fantastic for us. We were looking forward to watching people around the world playing Pocket Bravery. People’s reception and feedback were better than we could imagine.

 

Pocket Bravery ss3

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

PC, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.

 

It’s mentioned on the IndieGoGo page that one of the stretch goals is to introduce a story mode to Pocket Bravery. How would the story mode be structured compared to games like Super Smash Bros Brawl or the 2011 Mortal Kombat revamp?

It will have its own structure adapted to a 2D game. Mortal Kombat 2011 not only innovated but also renewed how offline content in a fighting game can be added. Our idea is to bring that into the 2D style, an experience that catches the player’s attention and makes him want to follow the characters’ story, interacting and evolving with them along the way.

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that have since been scrapped or reworked?

Certainly! This game came from a need to see that what we really want to produce is still a step bigger than our legs. With that in mind came the Pocket Bravery idea, which would be more simplified, bringing only a small fragment of what we want for the future, however, as the game was being produced, the affection grew along with the potential of not just being a simple game with SD aesthetics, getting deeper layers in its gameplay and focus on small details.

 

What is your opinion on the ever-growing development scene in Brazil with the likes of yourselves, 2ndBoss, and Orube Studios?

There are many talents in Brazil, as an example, many Brazilians work in great gaming companies around the world. That said, I am sure that many good new games will be created around here since the gaming companies in Brazil are getting more professional. We hope to be one of those exponents.

 

How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of the project been?

Although we have a lot of experience with fighting games, receiving feedback from players is always amazing, especially when it comes from pro players, since they have a detailed view of the gameplay that we haven’t yet achieved.

 

Has the team considered the idea of building a traditional arcade cabinet for Pocket Bravery, or has there already been one created behind the scenes?

Of course, this is something that crosses our minds, but to be honest, it is not in the plans. Would be a step much bigger than our legs could reach.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?

As we said earlier, we are a team passionate about the fighting genre, so what marked us was the 90s. Street Fighter and The King of Fighters were the biggest references quality and innovation, work with any of these games and those two companies would be a dream come true.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

Try to specialize in something of your preference and never give up! The difference between those who succeed and those who do not is that they achieved to not give up, even with all adversities. Life is not easy, neither is making successful games.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

People can find us on any social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) by @PocketBravery, or on YouTube as Statera Studio. Will be a huge pleasure if you could follow us. We are always posting news about Pocket Bravery’s development.

 

Do you have anything else to add?

We thank you for the time and ask, if possible, to support us in our crowdfunding. Any amount will make a big difference to Pocket Bravery. You can access the campaign page here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/pocket-bravery/

 

 

I’d also like to thank Jonathan and Statera Studios for taking the time to talk to me about Pocket Bravery and the promise that the final product hold for both newcomers and veterans of the classic fighting genre. There are now less than 2 weeks to go for the IndieGoGo campaign, so if you like the look of the game and want to play it, you can back the game via the link above. In the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed learning more about Pocket Bravery, and are looking forward to playing the final game as much as I am.

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

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Q&A With 9 Finger Games

Today brings not one, but two highly-anticipated Q&As that I’ve been particularly excited about doing; the first of which is on a game I’ve already covered that shows a great deal of promise from a new and innovative development team. Zapling Bygone, developed by 9 Finger Games based in Brighton in the UK, is a Metroidvania game centering around a mysterious alien being known as Zapling who has crashlanded on a foreign planet and resolves to make it his home. It’s a Metroidvania game with a heavy focus on exploration, storytelling and incorporating a very unique combat system inspired by the likes of Hollow Knight and Celeste. At the same time of writing my impressions article about the game:

Zapling Bygone: First Impressions

I contacted the game’s lead developer Stevis Andrea about the possibility of conducting a Q&A and for a chance to relay more information about what influenced this awesome-looking title and what challenges and obstacles have come with developing it so far following the game’s recent successful funding on Kickstarter. So here’s what Stevis Andrea of 9 Finger Games had to say about Zapling Bygone:

 

Zapling Bygone 1

 

What were the influences behind your game?

Initially, I was only inspired by Hollow Knight. I wanted to make a game that felt good to move about, while doing this I learned from Celeste and other precision platformers. I wasn’t really planning to make a game at this point, I was just making a prototype for fun. Eventually, I realized I was making a full game and remember watching a stream where T4coTV was playing Haiku the Robot demo. I realized that if Jordan could make a Metroidvania as a solo dev then I could too. So I started taking the prototype I was making a bit more seriously.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

The dev process is usually the same with me. I like to make things quickly and messy. Then iterate over them loads of times until I’m happy with them. That way I can get a feel for how something plays without committing too much time to it, then I can modify or scrap it without too many headaches. It also allows me to get feedback on things early on, I want people to enjoy the game. Having people play messy prototype builds before a mechanic is “set in stone”; allows me to ensure that it remains fun.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

About 30% of the way there, most of the groundwork, the overarching story, and core abilities are complete. Now it’s mostly getting my head down and making content to flesh things out.

 

Zapling Bygone 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

Probably watching people play my game, having someone play my game and enjoy themselves is a weird feeling. It's exciting to create something that allows someone to break away from reality for a moment and focus on something I have made. It’s also nerve-wracking because I want them to like it as much as I do, but that’s of course not always the case. So far the feedback has been super positive though!

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

Marketing! Marketing is something you have to learn for yourself, what works for one project might not work for yours. Every game is unique and speaks to a different audience. Finding that audience and resonating with them can be difficult. I also hate feeling like a salesman, and when I’m pushing something I am passionate about I can worry that it can come off a bit too impersonal.
There was also a point in the Kickstarter that I found specifically challenging. There was a 5 day period where I only raised a few percent of the goal. That can be super nerve-wracking and stressful. It’s relatively normal for campaigns to have the mid-campaign dip, but it’s still no fun. I’m really happy with how it turned out though.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

Surprisingly well! I’m always my biggest critic so I tend to focus on the parts I’m not happy with. When I watch someone else play it and genuinely have fun it puts a lot of my worries to rest. Loads of people seem to believe in the project and me, and that is really reassuring and heartwarming.

 

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What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

PC initially, and hopefully Switch shortly after Steam launch. The switch is super popular among Metroidvania fans, and it’s also the only console that my nephew personally owns. I’d love to see it on PS and Xbox too, but it’s not the focus at the moment.

 

Throughout your professional experience, which games did you produce or test, and how did they go on to influence you as a developer yourself?

I made probably a half-dozen prototypes and small games, I never really cared for them too much. It was a really good groundwork to use to build on though. I made a load of wacky things for fun. A small prototype where you play as a wheelchair-bound old man with a shotgun and a grapple hook, a frog-platformer that changes time according to what surface it lands on, a Risk Of Rain style game crossed with tower defense.

 

I have been meaning to make a website where I can dump all these old hobby projects for people to download, if I can find them all that is. Professionally, I worked in the gaming/gambling industry. I mostly tested and eventually produced digital slot games, I learned how much I dislike the online gambling industry. I also learned that simply because something is technically a game or “art”, it doesn’t mean there is passion put into it. I want to make games that I am passionate about, with honesty and love. I want a career that means something to me. I am financially worse off than I was working at my previous job, but I am way happier.

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that have since been scrapped or
reworked?

Most of the stretch goals in the Kickstarter are mechanics/areas that I had to scrap in order to keep the budget as low as possible. Who knows, maybe they can be a free DLC if the game sells well enough.

 

You mention on the Kickstarter page that “I’m a solo developer, therefore I am a single point of failure for the project.” Have you felt the pressure that comes with the fact, and if so, do you find you work better under pressure or free of it?

Good question! I worked as a game producer, so I wanted to be honest in the Kickstarter about the risks. Being a solo developer allows me to have complete creative control over the project, but it also means that if something ever happened to me, then nobody is around to finish the project. I wanted to be honest about that.

I don’t think I have felt more pressure because of it, in fact, I might have felt less pressure. I don’t have to rely on anyone else. If the project was to fail somehow it would be down to me. I always mention the definition of work stress. “Having responsibility over something you have no control over.” In this case, I have full control over the project and I am pretty certain I can deliver. So I don’t find it too stressful at all! Plus the ZB community is just so supportive, I always feel like they have my back.

 


How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of the project been?

I’d say it has been the driving force for the project. Even the first builds I was sending to a friend (Hi James!) to get him to see how the movement felt, we probably went through a dozen builds until it felt right. After that, I was posting demo/prototype builds in the discord constantly with a few dedicated people (I’d say friends now) who would play every build. So player feedback has been hugely important, and I’m considering ways I can continue to have that level of feedback throughout the rest of development.

 

You also mention that you reached out to the Hollow Knight community for feedback. Have you tried to reach out to the developers of Hollow Knight for feedback as well?

I haven’t, I’d imagine they are way too busy working on Silksong. I did have the pleasure of meeting Matthew Griffin in a discord voice channel, and I had to suppress my inner fanboy. And no, sadly he didn’t casually mention the Silksong release date.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?

I honestly don’t think I’d like to work on any existing IP that I am a fan of, I would feel like I’m intervening somehow. I wouldn’t want my creative direction to influence their decisions, I’d rather sit back and play their games when they are released. When it comes to new IP, I really like working with passionate people, especially new startups.

After working in the gambling industry I really appreciate when people are passionate about their games and would love to share this journey with more people someday. I miss working in a team in a lot of ways. I like new worlds, new environments and fresh mechanics. So I’d like to work with any passionate indies that are making something unique.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

I find broad advice kind of hard because there are a million ways to do anything when it comes to development. I’d say one of the most important things in game design is to keep it consistent. Everything from art, music, game mechanics, fonts, vibe, whatever. It doesn’t even matter if the art is bad, because if it is consistently “bad” then it looks intentional. Same goes for nearly everything design-wise. And finally, have fun with it. Don’t set out to make a complex game right away, just make small game-jam size games. Or even just fun mechanics. Just because you don’t finish a project doesn’t mean it is a waste of time, build on that experience and make the next thing better. Eventually, you will get to the point where you are comfortable enough to make your dream game.

 

I also found the Scrabdackle easter egg in the demo. I interviewed Jake a while back; have the two of you had anything to say about your respective games or advice to offer?

Jakefriend Interview

Yes, a ton. There are a bunch of indie devs that I chat with via discord almost daily. Jake is in a similar boat to me, at a similar point in development. They say to surround yourself with people you admire, and Jake is definitely one of those people. Like I mentioned before, I love being around passionate people. Jake and the other indie devs that I chat to are so inspiring and motivating. I don’t know if I would have made Zapling Bygone without them.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?
Twitter is @9fingergames I’m pretty active there. You can wishlist Zapling Bygone on Steam here:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1489110/Zapling_Bygone

 

Do you have anything else to add?
Yes! Thanks for your time, thanks for having me, and thanks to every single backer that has
helped me reach my goal!

 

I also want to take the opportunity to thank Stevis for agreeing to our Q&A and sharing as much exciting information as he could about Zapling Bygone and what players came come to expect from this deeply promising Metroidvania title. Zapling Bygone is most definitely one of the most unique-looking Metroidvanias slated for release in the future, and it will be very interesting to see how the final game plays out upon release. There’ll be another Q&A coming later on today, but in the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed learning more about this game, and I hope you’re looking forward to playing Zapling Bygone as much as I certainly am!

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

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Q&A With Warren Davis

Back at the 2015 Play Expo in Manchester, I was fortunate enough to secure the first exclusive interview of my career with Warren Davis. After being initially hired by the company Gottlieb to work on the game Protector  he, along with the character’s designer, Jeff Lee, created the 80s arcade sensation as well as other beloved classics of the time such as Joust 2: Survival of the Fittest and Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

Following the development of the ambitious title Us Vs Them, Warren Davis also went on to work on other big-name games throughout subsequent generations of gaming,. such as Cruis’n USA, WWF Wrestlemania, and Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly. After giving a presentation on the history of Q*Bert and how the video game character became a cultural phenomenon in America in the 80s on par with the likes of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong and the recent resurgence of the franchise with the release of Q*Bert Rebooted and the character’s recent appearance in the Adam Sandler film Pixels, I conducted my own interview with him regarding his retrospective thoughts on his career, his experiences as a developer during the Atari boom of the 80s and the subsequent video game crash, and what he believes the future held for gaming at the time. Here’s our interview: