A while back, I came across another very promising title on Twitter that I wanted to bring to the attention of gamers for a multitude of different reasons. Aleya’s Ascent, under development at Ursa Minor Games based in New York, is a Metroidvania title making use of superbly rendered 8-BIT visuals with a heavy emphasis on exploration, combat, and precision platforming. The player assumes control of the main character Aleya, who is chosen by fate to tame a series of feral and long-forgotten deities, giving the plot a strong feel of the likes of Shadow of the Colossus and The Last Guardian in my opinion. But seeking further clarification of what influenced the game, what bumps and scrapes there had been along the way in the developmental process and when the game will be released by, I reached out to the game’s lead developer William Henderson for more details about what’s been going on behind the scenes of this excellent-looking game. So here’s what William of Ursa Minor Games had to say about Aleya’s Ascent:
What were the influences behind your game?
Main influences at this stage in development include games like Celeste (big one), both Ori games, Hollow Knight, Castlevania SOTN, etc. The usual suspects as far as Metroidvania go. Also, the style/aesthetic/story is heavily inspired by Legend of Zelda.
What has the developmental process been like?
I carried game dev as a side project for about 3 years before deciding to try and push for a full-fledged commercial indie game as a solo developer, so the process has included a lot of learning the indie game landscape, reading articles, and watching youtube videos.
How close are we to seeing the finished product?
As a solo indie developer working his first game, it can be hard to tell. I hope to release a polished demo Q3/4 2021 and then reassess the timeline based on player feedback. There isn’t any real pressure to release ASAP, so I want to take the time to make Aleya’s Ascent exactly how I envision it without cutting any corners to meet a deadline.
What has been the most exciting aspect of development?
For me, the most motivating part has been sharing some of the art and gameplay that I worked hard on. It’s exciting getting positive feedback, whether it be through Twitter, Reddit, Discord, or with friends and family in person.
What has been the most challenging aspect of development?
I think for Aleya’s Ascent, it has to be finding the time. Life gets in the way and I can’t spend as many nights or weekends as I’d like on development.
How well has the game been received so far?
I’ve been very happy with the response it’s received on the platforms I’ve presented on, but I know I still have a long way to go so I’m excited to share more in the future.
What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?
PC is a definite, with the possibility of a Switch release down the line.
What were your prior programming experiences before developing Aleya’s Ascent?
I have an engineering degree so I was exposed to programming in college, but not object-oriented. I created a handful of game prototypes as practice while in Graduate school before I felt comfortable committing to a first commercial game.
Are there any preliminary plans to expand on the world of Aleya, either through a sequel or DLC?
It’s hard to say at this point. While I have an overarching story prepared, it’s unclear where Aleya 1 would end and Aleya 2 (or DLC) would begin. I certainly would love to continue Aleya’s story, but don’t want to force a sequel before the first is finished.
Are there any programmers or game creators you took influence from?
Definitely. The developers/programmers from the listed influences above would be a good place to start. It’d be impossible to list them all, but the Twitter indie game circles share so much information about neat tricks/tips/shaders, etc. that it really has been vital to my development process.
Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that have since been scrapped or reworked?
A whole lot. I’ve had levels and entire maps scrapped to allow for core gameplay changes. In one iteration Aleya was a robot. I’m not afraid to axe anything if I feel it isn’t good enough or doesn’t quite fit.
What would be next for Ursa Minor Games following the release of Aleya’s Ascent?
Another game for sure. What form or shape or genre that takes is up in the air. I’ll probably develop a couple of game prototypes on itch.io or something and see if any of them get really positive feedback.
If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or any franchise, which would it be, and why?
Nintendo for sure. I grew up playing/loving their games and it would be a dream come true to work with them.
Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?
Well, I hesitate to offer advice as I’m just a first-time game developer and a hobbyist at that but for other hobbyists/solo developers, I found success in chasing inspirations and following whims, I think my best/best-received work has been things that strike me when I’m not working on the game. And definitely take notes once an idea pops into your head, it’ll help you remember and flesh it out into a definitive game concept.
Where on the Internet can people find you?
You can find me on Twitter as @UrsaMinorGames, Reddit as /u/ursa-minor-games, and find Aleya’s Ascent on steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1470540/Aleyas_Ascent/ Also join into the Aleya’s Ascent Discord channel for early concepts, works in progress, and other discussions: https://discord.gg/e5qvqkT78z
Do you have anything else to add?
I’d like to thank you for taking the time and having the patience to reach out and ask questions about Aleya’s Ascent.
I also want to thank William for agreeing for sharing more information about Aleya’s Ascent, and to wish him and Ursa Minor Games the best of luck throughout the rest of the developmental process as well as luck with the eventual release of the game. Aleya’s Ascent was a game that immediately caught my eyes in terms of retroactive graphical quality, and I have hopes for the great gameplay to match. In the meantime, you can visit Ursa Minor Games’ social media pages and the Steam page, but for now, I hope you guys enjoyed learning more about this title.
Scouse Gamer 88