Tag Archives: PC

Mira’s Brush: First Impressions

Last year, whilst scouting social media platforms and crowdfunding sites for new indie game prospects, I came across a unique-looking 8-BIT title on Kickstarter that was subsequently funded and is due for release in the near future. Mira’s Brush, developed by Duckbill ProDucktions and published by Angel Star Studios, is an 8-BIT 2D side scroller with puzzle elements whereby players must platform and paint their way through levels in order to advance through the game; the best way I can describe the game’s premise is if Super Mario Bros had mechanics similar to Okami. 

I had an interview with the game’s lead designer last year, Blake Speers:

 

https://scousegamer88.com/2020/02/11/qa-with-blake-speers-miras-brush/

 

Who explained to me where the inspiration for this title came from and described in-depth the arduous development cycle that game has had in order to get it to where it was at the time and to get it to the point of which the game was finally put on Kickstarter, where it was then successfully funded. The game is now available via Steam Early Access:

 

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1493880/Miras_Brush/

 

And so I decided to write about my first impressions of the game, about its finer points, and where I feel it could indeed need some improvement before its full release in the not too distant future. Here are my thoughts on the current build of Mira’s Brush

 

 

Graphics

First of all, the world of Chromaland is as wonderfully varied as any other well-established video game universe with a lot of wonderfully outlandish enemies and locations ranging from tropical summer landscapes to icy snow worlds to outer space. In many respects, this game looks to be the labor of love that Blake talked about in our interview, and the conceptual design certainly promises this. However, in its current build, I did find a few inconsistencies with certain textures in certain locations, and a lot of the text around the game giving players instructions still looks quite basic compared to the dialogue text, so that would be something else that would need sprucing up before the game releases, otherwise, it would end up looking fairly unprofessional compared to other games. Regardless, the visual design of the game overall holds great promise for this game.

 

Gameplay

What holds greater promise than that, however, is the gameplay premise. The game involves both precise platforming to advance between each level and backtracking through said levels in order to find hidden items throughout. It has potentially more gameplay value than the average 2D side scroller, as well as providing a higher sense of challenge compared to others with elaborate strategies needed to defeat bosses and solve puzzles. The puzzle-solving element, in particular, reminds me somewhat of Fez, in that the game doesn’t hold the player’s hand throughout, and there is a certain degree of lateral thinking involved in uncovering hidden areas and even advancing through the game normally. 

 

 

Controls

The only problem I found with the game’s control scheme is that it can be tricky jumping on and off of certain types of platforms, namely the huge stars in the second level, due to their changing dimensions, and it can seem unfair to those playing who should have a well-timed jump, but end up falling due to unforeseen inconsistency in the trajectory of their jump as a result. Again, this is something that would need to be addressed before release, but otherwise, the control scheme is as fluent as what is needed. 

 

Lifespan

With a multitude of levels and areas to explore throughout the game, it also has the potential to last far longer than the average 2D side scroller, depending on how much there is to do and how much there is to explore overall. Given the types of games that went on to influence this title and the number of side quests I’ve seen so far, I’m looking forward to finding out exactly how long a game can be made to last.

 

 

Storyline

The story of Mira’s Brush follows the story of Mira, a painter who is hired to save Chromaland from the evil Colonel Blump and his minions, who has arrived to invade the land and sap it of all its color. The basic premise of the game is quite typical of many video games, but what keeps this interesting is that there is a quite strong comedic element to it in the personalities of each quirky character to find along the way, as well as the game is littered with cultural references, namely to classic painters of the renaissance era and more modern contemporaries such as Bob Ross. 

 

Originality

Even at first glance, the game’s level of uniqueness is quite prevalent. It plays out like very few side scrollers I’ve ever played, and the world of Chromaland has its own sense of charm, mystery, and unique design that was everything I was hoping it would be when I first discovered it for myself. With a lot of the basics having been ironed out before release, it does have the potential to make waves throughout the indie community, and I’m very much looking forward to the game’s full release.

 

 

Overall, Mira’s Brush promises an immersing and wonderful gaming experience, and a lot of the hallmarks to be expected are here; it looks great, it plays out great, and the indication is that the final product will be truly something special.

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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 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:

 

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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.

 

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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 Grant Kirkhope

Watch my interview with renowned video game composer Grant Kirkhope. Born in Edinburgh and later raised in Knaresborough in Yorkshire, music has always been a huge part of Grant’s life having learned how to play both the trumpet and the guitar from an early age and growing up listening to a wide range of artists and bands. Throughout his storied career, Grant Kirkhope has composed the soundtrack for some of the biggest video games in history during his time Rareware in the days of the fifth generation of games with games such as Donkey Kong 64, Goldeneye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, and Perfect Dark. A freelance composer since 2008, he has also composed for a number of hit games, such as Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, A Hat in Time, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, and World of Warcraft: Shadowlands. Amidst his current ventures of composing for films such as The Wrong Rock, The King’s Daughter, and The Handler, I chat with Grant on his early career as a traditional musician after having toured with some of the biggest names in heavy metal, his time at Rareware composing for some Nintendo’s biggest games, the Microsoft buyout of Rare, his time as a freelance composer, his film composing career, and some of the fondest memories he has as a composer of video games:

Milky Tea Studios Header

Q&A With Milky Tea Studios

Concerning the success garnished by the many independent video game scene over the eighth generation of gaming and beyond, this interview focuses on something even more significant to me on a personal level; an interview that had been a long time coming, and that I’d been particularly excited about conducting, The video game development scene in Liverpool has seen stability since the home computer era back in the early 80s, with programmers such as Matthew Smith and companies like Imagine Software taking center stage with ZX Spectrum games such as Manic Miner, Jet Set Willy and Stonkers. This momentum was carried on across generations of gaming with the likes of Psygnosis finding success throughout the fourth and fifth generations with Wipeout and Lemmings until unfortunately folding in 2012. But since, the indie development scene in Liverpool has thrived, with many studios having been founded within the city such as Mechabit Games, Space Lizard Studios, and the subject of this interview Milky Tea Studios.

Founded in 2005, Milky Tea began as a designer of advertisement campaigns for companies like Lloyds TSB, Sony, Toyota, and even the NFL at one point. But then in 2015, they released their first full game Coffin Dodgers, a kart racing game with a dark sense of humor. It saw release initially on Steam and was then later ported to eighth-generation consoles, such as the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. After releasing an Android exclusive game named Roller Rally, they have most recently put out a game very different from anything they’ve ever developed. HyperBrawl Tournament is a multiplayer game taking place across an interdimensional universe whereby play football using melee combat to attack the opposition and score as many goals as possible. It has since garnished critical acclaim having been subsequently released on multiple consoles.

A while ago, I contacted the head of player engagement at Milky Tea Studio Simon Whitham to ask him a few questions in regards to Milky Tea Studios, HyperBrawl Tournament, and the company’s opinion on the current development scene in Liverpool and what the future may hold for the many promising developers based around the city. Here’s what Simon Whitham had to say about Milky Tea Studios:

 

Milky Tea Studios 1

What were the influences behind your latest game?

The three biggest inspirations behind HyperBrawl were Speedball, Mario Strikers, and Rocket League, for us we really wanted to build a casual sports brawler that kept players quick on their feet but also was easy to pick up but hard to master.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of developing HyperBrawl Tournament?

For us, one of the most exciting developments for HyperBrawl was our soundtrack and audio design, for the audio production and music composing of HyperBrawl Tournament we worked alongside legendary music composer Steve Levine and through our partnership we’re able to work with Sony/ATV and Sony Masterworks to get the official soundtrack released on Spotify and Apple Music which for indie developers is unheard of.

Throughout the development of the HyperBrawl Tournament, our team also worked alongside the team at Omnio and legendary music composer Steve Levine to become the first-ever video game in history to use this revolutionary music industry and nightlife technology within interactive media.

Using Omnio, we were able to take the audio design of HyperBrawl Tournament and enable players to feel audio and experience music the way it sounded when originally recorded in a way that has never been done in video game development before and displays what is possible with game audio in the modern era.

To convert the tracks of HyperBrawl Tournament our team and Steve Levine passed each of the games audio tracks through a black box provided by Steve containing a unique chipset that utilized a special algorithm to remaster the sound for our team and create audio that is both reactive to the players actions in the game world but also matches the audio to what is happening in the present moment.

 

Milky Tea Studios 2

What has been the most challenging aspect of developing the HyperBrawl Tournament?

I’d say the most difficult aspect of development definitely was online multiplayer, multiplayer is always a challenge for any indie developer and there are a lot of different systems that require perfect balancing so the process of getting those right can be a lot of trial and error.

 

How satisfying has it been seeing both HyperBrawl Tournament and Coffin Dodgers garnish as much critical and commercial acclaim as they had done?

It’s always great seeing the gaming community loving your titles, with both HyperBrawl and Coffin Dodgers we’ve seen some of the biggest YouTube and Twitch stars within the gaming community play our titles and it’s always so rewarding to see the organic reactions of the community.

 

Have there been any ideas from either game that had been scrapped or reworked throughout development?

There are always features that sadly don’t make the cut when it comes to game development. We’ve had many great ideas that we would have loved to see in HyperBrawl but can’t comment on I’m afraid.

 

Milky Tea Studios 3

Have the team considered bringing HyperBrawl Tournament to VR, as you did with Coffin Dodgers?

I would say we would never rule this out 😉

 

What are the developer’s characters of heroes of choice whilst playing HyperBrawl Tournament or Coffin Dodgers?

Our personal favorites are Tristan, Shade, Bazooki, and Rip Deadly.

 

What’s next for Milky Tea Studios?

All the exciting things, new games, new updates, and more 😉

 

Are there any particular genres of gaming that the collective studio would like to develop a game for in the future?

We’re already working on our next games and you could say one of the genres is one we’ve always wanted to work on….you’ll just have to wait and see now won’t you hehe.

 

What is your opinion on the indie game development scene in Liverpool?

The games industry in Liverpool is criminally underrated we have Sony, Lucid Games, Firesprite, and many more top players within the games industry all within a stone’s throw of each other, it’s so great to have so many of our peers all within the Baltic Quarter and surrounding area, there is a very strong level of community and collaboration between us all.

 

As developers based in Liverpool working on a game based heavily on football, is there an equilibrium of Liverpool and Everton supporters at Milky Tea, or is it more geared towards one of the two?

We are all Liverpool supporters anything else would be criminal 😛

 

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

Research is key, look at the market, what the demand is, and what audiences are asking for on Steam and other platforms, it’s easy to fall into the trap of making a game that you love but not what the community wants.

Remember research is everything, make sure to look at where the market is at and how you can improve upon the formula to make a truly great experience.

 

Do you have anything else to add?

Remember stay awesome 😀

 

Lastly, I’d like to thank Simon and Milky Tea Studios for taking the time out to answer my questions and to wish them the best of luck with HyperBrawl Tournament as well as what their next project may be, Milky Tea, along with the many other indie developers based in Liverpool, have shown a great deal of promise in the games they have developed and demonstrated an emphasis on variety in games design, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. If you wish to download either Coffin Dodgers or HyperBrawl Tournament, you can do so via the link below as well as the Nintendo eShop, the PlayStation Network, or Xbox Live:

https://store.steampowered.com/developer/MilkyTea

But regardless, I hope guys enjoyed this interview, and for any scousers out there reading this, I hope you guys feel as optimistic about the development scene in Merseyside as I do.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Flowstone Saga Header

Q&A With Impact Gameworks

After having once again scoured social media for more indie game developers looking to raise their profile and get their game brought to the attention of a wider audience, I discovered another upcoming JRPG that shows all the promise that many of the other games in the genre I’ve covered this year show. Flowstone Saga is a JRPG that takes a drastically different approach to combat than many other classic games that it was inspired by. Combining RPG elements with that of traditional puzzle games such as Tetris, Players attack by clearing lines with tetromino shapes known as flowstones and gaining bonuses in battle such as enhanced attack power, interrupting enemy attacks, and boosting defense by clearing more lines at once. Players can also customize flowstones to gain strategic advantages in battle. The game also has a heavy emphasis on elements such as exploration, character building, and epic storytelling.

The story of Flowstone Saga takes place in the mysterious island landscape of Ocean’s End; it centers around a young lady named Mirai and her pet companion Sprig as they set out on a journey to discover the many hidden secrets of the long-forgotten ruins of Ocean’s End, meeting a massive cast of quirky characters along the way.

Eager to know about what players can come to expect from this game compared to other JRPGs amidst the game’s Kickstarter campaign, I contacted Impact Gameworks, the indie outfit developing the game based in Columbia, Maryland in the United States, to speak with lead designer and artist Andrew Aversa and producer Andrew Luers to discuss with them the influences behind their game, when players can expect to see it released following the Kickstarter campaign and to ask about the challenges and bumps along the road the developers have encountered thus far. So here’s what Andrew Aversa and Andrew Luers of Impact Gameworks had to say about Flowstone Saga:

 

Flowstone Saga 1

What were the influences behind your game?

AL: The most obvious influences are the old school Final Fantasy and falling block puzzle games like Dr. Mario or Tetris. Some that might not be as apparent would be the myriad of deck-building games, like Magic the Gathering or Hearthstone, and more character-driven RPGs like the Persona or Trails of Cold Steel series.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

AL: Challenging but a lot of fun too! The concepts and mechanics in Flowstone Saga are quite a bit different than our first game, Tangledeep, so in a lot of ways, we had to start from scratch before we really found something that worked for us. While some concepts (core gameplay loop, town-building, etc) have remained somewhat unchanged since the beginning, several have been iterated on multiple times, using player feedback to improve the fun and remove the frustration. The mining mini-game, for example, went through several changes until we landed on the time-attack version that we have today.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

AA: We’re looking at a release in Summer 2022, but in terms of visuals, audio, and story in the demo so far, it’s pretty polished. The least polished elements in the demo are all UI. Gameplay is somewhere in the middle: a lot of systems are working really well, others we’re constantly iterating on, such as making the battle mechanics even more interesting and engaging.

AL: Content-wise, the demo is just a small piece of the overall story we are looking to tell. We have a ton of new areas to create, and custom animations for cutscenes that we are slowly putting together. We have a lot created, but we want each area to have something exciting to discover in it, and of course, that takes time and planning.

 

Flowstone Saga 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

AL: For me, it’s seeing the world come to life and the players enjoying the game. Watching the game improve through various iterations, and having the team be excited about building a fun experience for players has been so exciting.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

AA: From the programming perspective, while creating game systems and code foundations can be a lot of fun, it can be challenging to extend or revise those systems down the line. For example, we might decide to change a feature coded two years ago, or add something to it that wasn’t part of the original design. Not only does this usually produce the most bugs, but it also doesn’t feel as exciting to work on. Nobody wants to feel like they are doing the same work twice or paving over old work.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

AA: I’d say as of right now – during our Kickstarter – the reception has been really good. The KS numbers and Steam wishlists are doing well, and player feedback as of the latest versions has been very positive. The best part is that it’s really only going to get a lot better from here on out.

 

Flowstone Saga 3

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

AA: We’re releasing for PC, Mac, Linux, and Nintendo Switch for sure. Everything else is on the table, but no definite plans yet. (It’s actually the kind of game that would work well for streaming services, such as Amazon Luna, where our first game Tangledeep is available!)

 

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

AA: Absolutely. We’ve done an incredible amount of iteration on this game. For one thing, the entire visual style of map/town exploration and cutscenes was scrapped toward the end of 2020. That style had more of a side-scrolling profile, but we decided the top-down look was better.

The battle system has been continuously improved and overhauled. We’ve added and removed mechanics. There have been several iterations of various UI elements. And while the core story hasn’t changed, the writing and presentation definitely have undergone several major changes. Even the name of the game changed from “Puzzle Explorers”. Ultimately, we think this is a healthy approach to game development. Like with Tangledeep, we think it’s vital to listen to player feedback, rather than sticking to a rigid and inflexible design document.

 

Flowstone Saga 4

The soundtrack promises to deliver the soul of 16 and 32 BIT JRPGs to Flowstone Saga. Who is composing the soundtrack, and what styles of music influenced it?

AL: I am the composer for this game’s soundtrack, and I’d describe the overall mood as a classic fantasy RPG soundtrack- An upbeat main theme, rocking battle themes, lots of different moods for various areas, and dungeons, and emotional cutscene moments. Good RPG soundtracks have a huge variety of styles and feelings, and the great ones do well with all of them.

I am going with the approach of making memorable and tuneful melodies that bring out the spirit of adventure of the game, and I hope that players enjoy it! Obviously, the biggest influence is classic game music, but there are a lot of rock and EDM flourishes. 95% of the songs feature live performers, and they are the real stars in bringing the music to life.

 

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

AA: If it’s not clear from my above answers, player feedback has been essential! Developing games in a vacuum is dangerous. It’s easy to lose perspective. Something can seem fun to us that isn’t fun to anyone else. Or, there could be features or characters people love that we didn’t expect.

 

What have been the most significant lessons learned from the development of Tangledeep going into Flowstone Saga?

AA: On the programming side, there are tons of best practices I’ve learned and that I’m applying to the Flowstone Saga codebase to make it far easier to work with. The same goes for player-facing things like UI. There’s also the importance of things like paying for great art contractors, listening to player feedback (notice a theme here?), and being open with your community.

AL: from the creative side, improving the asset pipeline and knowing how to organize and schedule has definitely been an iterative process that I feel we’ve improved on. One thing that is very different with Flowstone from Tangledeep is that this time we wrote our narrative first, whereas the story for Tangledeep was written while we were building. Not only does the story-first approach allow us to have a good idea of what assets we will need ahead of time, we have the chance to add extra details that might foreshadow things as we are building them.

 

It’s mentioned on the Kickstarter page that your previous game Tangledeep ran into issues when ported to the Switch. Would the Switch be the second console you port Flowstone Saga to as well?

AA: Yes, definitely. I’m a huge fan of the Switch and portable gaming in general, so it’s a very high priority. Having gone through the process once, I have a vastly improved understanding of how to avoid some of the same time-consuming pitfalls we hit during the Tangledeep porting work.

 

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

AA: I would love to work with one of Square Enix’s franchises, to make a smaller scale game in an established world using well-known characters. Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, the Mana series… any of those would be incredible to work on. I have so much nostalgia for these series.

 

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

AA: Spend less time planning, researching, and learning (in the academic sense) and spend more time making your game. I can’t overstate how unprepared I was at the start of Tangledeep’s development. My early code was awful, I was using all placeholder graphics, and I had basically no design document. But every day I kept chipping away at it, and little by little, I absorbed more knowledge and created a full game.

Imagine climbing a tall mountain for the first time. That’s what making a game is like – a long, arduous task that seemingly goes on for ages. But rather than staring at the whole mountain and worrying, planning, or researching, you’d be surprised at how far you can go by taking it one step at a time. Another much shorter tip is to pay for good art, particularly cover (or capsule) art. Promoting and selling games is hard. When people browse for games you have literally only a few seconds to capture their attention. Amateur-looking art can blow up your first impression in an instant.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

The Flowstone Saga Kickstarter is live from June 9th:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zircon/flowstone-saga-a-charming-jrpg-inspired-16-bit-adventure/

Our Steam store page is also up, where you can wishlist the game (which really helps us!) 

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1372000/Flowstone_Saga/

Our site, Twitter, and Twitch (where we do live dev streams) are:

https://impactgameworks.com/

https://twitter.com/ImpactGamew

https://twitch.tv/ImpactGameworks

 

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank both Andrew Aversa and Andrew Luers for taking the time out of development during the Kickstarter campaign to answer my questions about Flowstone Saga. To me, it looks like a very unique JRPG with a lot of potential, and with the capability of delivering on what is being promised by the developers, and I can’t wait to get started on this game when it finally releases. The planned release period is in the summer of 2022, but in the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed learning more about this exciting-looking game, and hope you’re all looking forward to playing it as much as I am.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88.

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Q&A with Ajal Game Studios

In yet another attempt to scout out more indie games with the potential to make waves upon release, I came across a science-fiction first-person shooter that definitely fit the bill. Space Invader Kreature, SIK for short, is an FPS boating top-of-the-line visuals and intense gun combat with some RPG elements including upgrading things like health, speed, shields, and more. Developed under Ajal Game Studios based in Sinaloa, Mexico,  A Kickstarter for the game is currently live, and judging by what I’ve seen so far of this game, deserves to gather momentum as it progresses in my opinion. Eager to find out more about what players can come to expect from the finished game, I contacted Brisia Aguirre of Ajal Game Studios to learn what sci-fi series’ went on to influence its conceptual design, where the developers expect to be following the Kickstarter campaign, and details of what the developmental process has been like so far. Herre’s what Ajal Game Studios had to say about Space Invader Kreature:

 

Space Invader Kreatures 1

What were the influences behind your game? 

We love to play multiplayer shooters, particularly the CoD franchise. Although this game is strongly influenced by this game. We also had influences from other classics such as counterstrike and of course DOOM the father of this genre. 

 

What has the developmental process been like?

It has been both a pleasure and a nightmare. We were academics and research is so different from game development. We had to learn more about marketing, testing, iterations, and different gaming concepts that we did not know in advance. Although time does help, we still struggle sometimes when there is a bug or something unexpected happens. 

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

Right now we are close to finishing an alpha version but for a complete product, there is still work to be done. A project like this requires updates because people are used to new maps, gameplay and characters so we will finish the core by the end of 2021 but the development will continue as we increase the number of players and the add ons.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

The teamwork. We have been working together since 2017 and it is a dream come true to be able to work with your close mates. It is a really diverse group because we come from different backgrounds and the fact that we are based in a rural place like La Cruz, Sinaloa, Mexico makes it more unique. Who would have thought that after our project manager studied video game development at UCL in London, she would find her tribe in such a random place? 

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?  

Money, it is hard to find funding for such a venture. We are so grateful for finding our main investor Ramón Campos, he has been so supportive and believes in this project that is Ajal Game Studio. 

 

How well has the game been received so far? 

The people who get to know the game love it, they like how they feel so immersed and love the graphics and the gameplay. The fact that we designed the enemies makes it more unique and engaging but also they like that it reminds them of games like CoD so it is easy for them to understand the game mechanics.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

We will start by launching for windows, in stores like Steam, Gamejolt, and itch.io, which last 2 are known for having a wide number of indie games and have been really supportive of this community. 

 

Were there any other particular facets of science fiction that influenced the conceptual design of SIK?

Yes, we watched a Russian movie called Coma. We were thinking about our main character and the worlds that are hidden in his dreams. When we saw this movie, it connected to what we wanted to do. Exploring the mind has always been a present topic of sci-fi, we wanted to explore this theme to make SIK different from the other shooters. 

 

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

Of course! You always start big! We started with a horror concept, making the nightmares and the story of Elizabeth and Steve but in those days our in-house illustrator left our team and it was really hard to continue so we focused on the shooter part and made it more active. We love the idea of a more frantic game and something that we could test as a team. 

 

As academics, have you found the development of this game harder than progressing through a university course?

Academia is hard! You need a lot of passion and time just like development but I think that there were also many activities in academia that were so time-consuming like politics and all that which is the place where the funding comes most of the time. So even though developing is hard we pretty much prefer it over academia but let’s be clear, we still love that part and would be glad to join academic projects. 

 

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

If we want to build something that is appealing, feedback is a MUST, we appreciate the time that testers have put into our game because they helped us so much by being honest on the spots that were not attractive and implementing some of those ideas to what we have done so far.

 

Have there been any other fellow indie developers who have reached out to you to offer advice?

We are fortunate because we have a great network and other indies gave us so many insights particularly in terms of Unreal, which is the engine we are using and it was the first time we developed with this software and it was hard to understand some of the technical features.

 

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

It is such a hard question haha, I think we could go with Rockstar and GTA. this one because of the huge details and easter eggs and how real it is. Also Activision’s Call of Duty because of the quality of their visuals and how engaging their games mechanics are and how professional their level design is, or, lastly, Soma by Frictional Games, the gameplay was so different and interesting. We like bizarre games.

 

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

Please be patient and never stop studying. Game development evolves so fast and is good to keep informed about new assets or technology that can be helpful. Also, be sure to learn about business because after all, you will be selling what you do if you choose to do it as your main gig then you definitely need to learn your art but also how to market it. 

 

Where on the Internet can people find you? 

Please look for us on our Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AjalGamesOficial

https://www.facebook.com/spaceinvaderkreaturesik

 

Do you have anything else to add?

We are looking for people interested in testing our solo player mode. If you would like to receive the demo please send an email to ajalgamedevs@gmail.com. Thanks!!!

Thank you to Brisia and Ajal Game Studios for taking the time out of developing this game to answer my questions. If you think you’d like to back Space Invader Kreature, you can do so by clicking the link below:

Kickstarter Page

Space Invader Kreature looks like a very promising FPS indie game releasing within the ninth generation with a lot to offer players in terms of both gameplay and story, and I can’t wait to start playing the final product! In the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed learning more about SIK as much as I did to bring this game to the attention of as many gamers as possible.

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Scouse Gamer 88

Momodora III (PC)

Developer(s) – rdein

Publisher(s) – rdein

PEGI – Not yet rated (some non-graphic violence)

 

Released on Steam back in 2014, three years after the release of Momodora II, Momodora III largely reverted back to the basic gameplay structure of the first Momodora; a semi-open world side scroller requiring a small amount of backtracking, but not to the same extent as a traditional Metroidvania game. There were a few new elements synonymous with the series introduced as well as some perpetuated from the first two games, and delivered a fair amount of variety in gameplay, garnishing generally favorable reviews from gamers and critics. In terms of quality, I would put it second out of the original trilogy; not quite as good as Momodra II, but much better than the first game.

 

Graphics – 7.5/10

The first thing to notice when comparing Momodora III to the previous two games is that in terms of concept, it does far better to come into its own and stand out among many other side scrollers. Gone is any trace of science fiction, or the recycled setting of the second game in favor of more varied landscapes from vibrant and colorful forest lands to snowy tundras and deep underground caves. The next game, Reverie Under the Moonlight would then go on to differentiate itself even more from other games in terms of conceptual design, but the third game is where the series truly started to take on a life of its own.  

 

Gameplay – 6.5/10

The gameplay compared to the first two games, however, seemed a lot more underwhelming, as there was simply less to do. Taken away were the facilities to discover new weapons from the first Momodora, and like the second game, it was replaced with finding new items that grant new abilities. But the reason why it works worse in this game than it does in Momodora II is simply that the additional abilities aren’t ostensibly needed to complete the game. It works better on hard mode, but on normal mode, it can simply be rushed through without having to make use of anything else other than the main attack, so the gameplay feature is made quite redundant. The linear gameplay structure also doesn’t help things either, as there is very little cause to backtrack through the game anyway. The third game felt like it needed much more of a boost in terms of gameplay, which unfortunately it didn’t get. 

 

Controls – 10/10

As it plays out more or less identical to both of the first two games, there are at least no problems with the control scheme. But at this point, it was to be expected if the developers were simply going to release a game that didn’t make any strong leaps away from its predecessors and added very few new features in terms of gameplay. 

 

Lifespan – 1/10

Clocking in at around an hour once again, the lifespan of Momodora III is very much below par compared to that of most sidescrollers released either at the time or even back in the fourth generation. For what is supposed to be an ultimately retroactive experience, it does very little to differentiate itself in terms of gameplay, and in turn, the game’s lifespan is abysmal even compared to what was acceptable in days gone by. The hard mode necessitates an additional playthrough for more intrepid players, but completing the game on hard mode offers no incentive, so there’s not much point. 

 

Storyline – 6/10

The story follows either one of two priestesses depending on which difficulty the player selects; Momo or Dora, who are charged with investigating supernatural goings-on around the land of Koho. For me, the highlight of the game’s story was the encounter with the main character of Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight; Kaho. Apart from that, the game’s story has slightly less substance than that of the second game, but much more than the original Momodora, as there is a lot more text, and a lot more going on. It also has multiple endings, which would also be included in Reverie Under the Moonlight, but overall, the story is fairly generic. 

 

Originality – 5/10

Although the third game in the series does far better to stand out in terms of visuals, that’s about the only way it does stand out. Gameplay is very typical of a generic 2D sidescroller, and it needed a massive boost in terms of quality in this aspect compared to the first two games, and I don’t think it got it in my opinion. The series would later be taken to its apex with Reverie Under the Moonlight, but the original Momodora trilogy was overall a fairly disappointing experience, and the third game caps it all off in a very boring and dissatisfactory manner.

 

Niiutral

Overall, Momodora III is a pretty standard 2D sidescroller, which for reasons beyond me, has been touted as one of the best side scrollers on PC. In my opinion, it’s tedious, lacking too much in substance, and only served as a precursor for better things to come; as did the original Momodora trilogy on the whole. 

Score

36/60

6/10 (Average)

SG88 Momodora II Header

Momodora II (PC)

Developer(s) – rdein

Publisher(s) – rdein

PEGI – Not yet rated (Non-graphic violence and some strong language)

 

Released one year after the original game, Momodora II took a different approach to gameplay, playing out as a Metroidvania as opposed to a linear 2D platformer, and carried on the story almost directly after the events of the original Momodora. Although this game pales in comparison to other classic Metroidvanias, the second game is decisively the best out of the original trilogy that was developed before the release of Momodora: Reverie Under The Moonlight.

 

Graphics – 7/10

The graphical quality of the game is just as good as the first, and it seems a lot more cohesive somehow. Gone are the science fiction elements of the first game, such as guns and aliens in favor of a much more fantastical look, with the second game perpetuating a lot of the common elements found in later Momodora games, such as the save points and the variety of enemies found throughout. Gone also is the 8-BIT soundtrack in favor of a more orchestral brand of music, which in all honesty, fits the tableau of the series far better.

 

Gameplay – 7.5/10

Playing out like a traditional Metroidvania game, there is a variety of new abilities to collect in place of different kinds of weapons, and additional items can be found to give the player additional health. There are also a couple more boss fights thrown in as opposed to the one found in the first game, and although again, it falls way below par of what many other games in the genre have to offer, such as Blasphemous, the Ori games, and even Xeodrifter, it is still a pretty fun game to play a good few challenges and secrets to uncover along the way. 

 

Controls – 10/10

Again, like the first game, there are also no issues with the controls, since they practically play out identical to each other. The second game is almost like an extension to the first in respect to controls, but there are a couple of new mechanics introduced in the form of new types of abilities to wield compared to the previous game to at least keep things relatively fresh.

 

Lifespan – 1.5/10

Clocking in at around 50 minutes in total, the second game only lasts fractionally longer than the first, and especially as the second game is a lot more open-ended, it seems all the more underwhelming because of that. I can’t help but think that with a little more thought and time put into it that this game could’ve ended up being far more than what it ruined out to be; after all, Blasphemous had a particularly lengthy development cycled before finally seeing the light of day, and turns out to be one of the most critically acclaimed games of the eighth generation. But the developer seemed to prioritize getting the game out as fast as possible as opposed to putting in that little more effort than was needed, unfortunately.

 

Storyline – 6.5/10

The story of Momodora II, however, is a drastic improvement compared to that of the first game. It follows a young girl who has made a journey into a mysterious lair outside of Koho in order to find and defeat an entity known as the Underworld Queen, who has been terrorizing the land. There’s a lot more dialogue, and therefore, a lot more story and emotion conveyed throughout, and it has a particularly interesting outcome that again, makes it a much more interesting narrative to experience than that of the first Momodora.

 

Originality – 4/10

Momodora II does far better to stand out from other Metroidvanias in comparison to the first game, but still, there are a lot of familiar elements that make it seem quite typical of any game in the genre. Eventually, the series would go on to become something much more distinct than what it started out as, but it was a lengthy process that happened over the course of several years, and it was something that could’ve happened a lot sooner if the developers had tried a few new things like new gameplay mechanics or something newer in terms of conceptual design. Some small contribution to that was made here, but not enough in my opinion.

 

Niiutral

Overall, Momodora II goes leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor, but it is still a fairly generic Metroidvania title compared to others. It may be the best of the original Momodora trilogy, but unfortunately, it is the best of a bunch of below-par games in the lead-up to Reverie Under the Moonlight, which would blow them all out of the water. 

Score

36.5/60

6/10 (Average)