Tag Archives: Video Gaming

Q&A With Greg Lobanov Volume 2

Back in 2016, one of the games I came across on Kickstarter as part of my ongoing efforts to discover new and exciting gaming experiences and bring them even further attention, was Wandersong. Before it was funded, I reached out to the creator, Greg Lobanov, for an interview to ascertain more information about what looked like a truly promising title in the making:

https://scousegamer88.com/2016/07/09/qa-with-greg-lobanov/

And in the end, I was proven right. Ever since the release of the game, it has garnished universal acclaim from a great number of gamers and critics throughout the industry, including yours truly.

https://scousegamer88.com/2021/01/24/wandersong-pc/

The game has intricate puzzle-solving, an extremely unique approach to combat and progression, and one of the most beautifully composed soundtrack to come out of the indie development community complete with a rollercoaster of a story chocked full of emotional moments of discovery, comedy, and drama. Eager to discover how the experience panned out for the development team on a personal level and what’s next for the people involved in the project, I got back in touch with Greg to find out more information about what more can be expected of this promising young developer and his team in the future, and exactly how the experience of developing this game impacted on their lives and his. Here’s what Greg Lobanov had to say about Wandersong, his new upcoming game Chicory: A Colourful Tale, and his experiences as a developer thus far:

 

How satisfied have you and the team been on a personal level to see Wandersong receive the overwhelmingly positive response it has done since its release?

It’s been very satisfying. 🙂 I always said at the outset that all I really wanted was for at least one person to really, really love the game a lot and we had that happen many times over. It’s very warm to put so much heart into something and see it resonate with people. I’ll be grateful forever that I got to have this experience.

 

How satisfied have Em and Gordon been with the positive response the game’s soundtrack has received?

Very happy, for sure. Gord uploaded all 100+ tracks to youtube and he still sees exuberant youtube comments come in every day and it warms his heart. 

 

You came up with the idea for Wanderson following a cross-country biking trip you took across the US. Were there any particular locations you passed through or people you met that stand out as being more influential than the other?

There were a LOT of tiny pieces borrowed from a lot of places to patch together the diverse cast and world in Wandersong. I’ll mention that I named the first town, Langtree, after a tiny town in Texas called Langtry that only has a dozen people in it in the middle of the desert. I stayed there for a couple of nights through a hailstorm.

 

Of course, Gordon and Em had composed for video games before this. Were there any games that they had worked on that they kept in mind when composing the soundtrack for Wandersong?

Actually, Wandersong was Em’s first game project when she started out, although by the time it came out she had also started and finished working on Night in the Woods ;p In general I don’t think games were a key inspiration, instead we were looking at different musicians and bands and genres and instruments to get inspiration for the musical and audio touches.

 

The last time we spoke, you mentioned the most exciting and challenging aspects of developing the game were the color design and missing audio respectively. But did any of what the most exciting and challenging aspects of development were change later on throughout the process?

Oh, yes… I think at the time I was fixated on the immediate concerns, but once I had Em and Gord audio wasn’t a stress. I think ultimately the biggest challenge was telling a meaningful story. We really wanted the game and everything in it to matter, so we took great care in how we presented things. It’s a lot of careful, thoughtful work to do right.

 

Nintendo titles made up a great deal of the influence behind the game, such as Ocarina of Time and Kirby’s Epic Yarn. If you, Em, and Gordon were given the opportunity to work for Nintendo on one of their series of your choice, which one would it be, and why?

I don’t know about Em and Gord, who aren’t especially big Nintendo fans. But I would really like to work on a Pokemon game. I think it’s a really rich world and game concept that could be explored a lot of ways that haven’t been touched yet. And I just really love Pokemon.

 

Apparently, Steven Universe was a major inspiration for the game’s visual style. From one fan of the series to another, what is your favorite Steven Universe song, and why?

“Love Like You” is a pretty special song. I think I’d have to pick that one.

 

Were there any ideas at this stage of development that had been scrapped or reworked throughout?

A lot of small ideas came and went. I had in my notes for a long time that it would be cool to do a punk show/punk-themed section, and I was curious if there was a way to do something with rap/RnB as well. Neither of those ever found the right spot in the story, though.

 

You abandoned the initial idea early on of making a game about biking when it came to Wandersong. Is that a concept you think you would like to revisit at some point?

Maybe??? There would have to be something more to it for the idea to be interesting to me. There was a new game called “Season” announced recently which looks kind of like the game I would have made, probably.

 

If you could choose any video game character to make a cameo appearance in Wandersong, which one would it be, and why?

Well, we put Mr. Oshiro from Celeste and Ima from Ikenfell into Wandersong; those were my friends’ characters, and we started all our games together when we were roommates so I thought it would be fun to pay them an homage like that.

 

What lessons were learned by yourselves as developers throughout the entire process?

I think I refined my game writing skills a lot by sheer force of effort. Em was extremely maximalist and detailed with the sound design, but in her following projects, she learned to tone it down a bit and focus her effort in the most important places. And this game definitely took Gord on a crazy creative adventure, composing so many songs in so many styles and genres; I think it helped him find the confidence to be creative and try new things at a time when he was starting to feel like he was falling into a rut.

 

What’s next for Greg, Em & Gordon?

Em and I are finishing our next project, Chicory: A Colorful Tale. Em also released work on a lot of really cool indie titles since Wandersong came out a couple of years ago, including Untitled Goose Game and Ikenfell. Gord’s released some OSTs as well, including one for a game called Stela he’s quite proud of, but right now he’s working on his first solo album in many years and having a great time with it–watch for that in 2021.

 

Have there been any ideas contemplated to develop a sequel to Wandersong?

Maybe some passing thoughts, but there’s a lot of other things I want to do and I think the story of Wandersong is complete on its own.

 

What genre of gaming would you like to undertake that you haven’t tried?

That I haven’t tried? Hmm… I’ve tried so many, haha. I’m most interested in taking  ‘creativity’ mechanics and combining those with other genres the way we did with platforming in Wandersong. I also have some other ideas for things I can’t talk about yet.

 

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

Try finishing something small so you can get into the practice of finishing things. 🙂 Find your peers and work together and learn from them, not from people like me.

 

Do you have anything else to add?

Video games are cool.

 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Greg for taking the time out to talk to me again about Wandersong and his own developmental experiences. Wandersong turned out to be every bit as wonderful, enjoyable, and innovative as I suspected it would be thanks to the successful Kickstarter project, the involvement of Humble Bundle, and of course, the love and attention that went into crafting this truly immersive and intricate title, and I on a personal level, also feel proud to have helped in my small part to bring this game to a wider audience earlier on throughout its development. In addition, I’m also very much looking forward to playing Chicory: A Colourful Tale, and I sincerely hope to work with Greg again in the future.

In the meantime, you can check out Greg’s website via the link below to keep up with the development of Chicory as well as any more new gaming ventures of his:

http://greg.style/

And if anyone hasn’t tried Wandersong, I highly recommend that you give this game a go; It’s available to download on a number of platforms, including Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. I also sincerely hope you guys enjoyed reading these articles with me and Greg and for those of you who played Wandersong, that you enjoyed playing it as much as I did.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Q&A With Chris Totten

In my efforts to discover yet more indie titles in the making on crowdfunding platforms, I found another Kickstarter campaign for what is a very promising passion project based on a beloved comic book series. Little Nemo and the Nightmare Fiends is a 2D  non-linear sidescroller based on the works of the innovative US comic book artist and animator Winsor McCay. Having inspired famous animators and artists since, including Walt Disney himself, he left behind a legacy and a mythos in equal parts beautiful and surreal, and this all serves as the inspiration for this game. The player controls 4 different characters throughout, including Peony, a character added to the mythos exclusively for the game, to explore non-linear 2D sidescrolling levels whilst along the way collecting hidden items, engaging in different varieties of combat, and making each character stronger as time goes on. Similar to Mickey Mania, the levels are based on classic Little Nemo episodes and stay faithful to the art style that McCay perpetuated throughout his career.

Wanting to know more about this gorgeous-looking and ambitious title, I contacted the project lead Chris Totten, head of Pie for Breakfast Studio based in Kent, Ohio, to get a better idea of this game amidst its Kickstarter project, and a better idea of the varied team behind it ranging from a variety of different indie development studios who are also helping out on the project. Here’s what Chris Totten had to say about little Nemo and the Nightmare Fiends:

 

Of course, the main influence behind the game was Winsor McCay’s classic comic book series of the same name. But what video games have been kept in mind most throughout development?

We’re really big retro gaming fans so when coming up with a game that involves a cast of characters like this, we take a lot of inspiration from games like Little Samson or Demon’s Crest (where the player character could change his form.) We’re asked about Little Nemo the Dream Master a lot as well and while we can’t remake that (it’s not public domain like the comics), we are going to make lots of nods to it.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

Our team is geographically distributed so that’s always a challenge, but one we’ve dealt with before. Making a game during a pandemic has been a bigger challenge, but it’s also provided something to keep us occupied. I’m mainly responsible for the art and animation so far (with bits of level design alongside Adrian Sandoval) so that’s been a lot of intense drawing – each character has dozens of frames so far and will probably need dozens more before release!

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

Our production schedule is mapped out as an 18-month project from the end of the Kickstarter, assuming we’re funded, of course.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

In my day job, I teach game development at a university and my research is on the intersections between games and older fiends of art, design, and animation. For me, this is an opportunity to use the process of making art to explore an important piece of comics and animation history.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

For me specifically, all that drawing! In general though, when you’re working on the first stages of a project trying to produce sample gameplay on nights and weekends, it can be very difficult to balance when you’re trying to put something out.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

Incredibly well! Folks seem to love the characters and the art style. Either they know the original comics and are excited to see someone use public domain stuff in that way OR they didn’t know about the comics at all and we’re educating them!

 

How did the collaboration with so many other indie developers come about?

These are all friends that I’ve made through years of going to conferences and conventions. We occupy a lot of the same spaces.

 

Do the additional developers share the same love for Little Nemo that you have?

Yes, the team is pretty passionate about Little Nemo. We all have our entry points: either renting the NES game or seeing the movie, but as everyone’s learned more, they’ve discovered a favorite character or comic.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

If we reach our initial funding goal we’re going to launch on at least Windows and Mac, but we’ll consider other platforms depending on funding. We’d love to bring it to consoles!

 

Have you found many other fans of the comic book series have offered their feedback in regards to the game?

Yes! One of our main cheerleaders has been Zachary J.A. Rondinelli, a researcher doing a social media project called Welcome to Slumberland:

(https://zrondinelli.wixsite.com/welcometoslumberland).

Every day he posts a new Little Nemo strip and delivers really excellent commentary along with an audience of contributors. We’ve been able to boost one another’s projects and it’s been fun having a community like that.

 

How much fun has it been celebrating the license by adding new elements to the Little Nemo mythos?

This is the best part of working with the public domain, I think. You can add your own twist to things or address problematic parts of an original work. There are parts of McCay’s comics (from the early 20th century) that are pretty racist, so we worked with a BIPOC artist to create characters so that Slumberland can be for everyone.

 

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

We’re always reworking things. I don’t want to cite anything specifically but we’re always tweaking what characters can and can’t do. It’s a normal part of game development.

 

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

I’m a shameless Nintendo fanboy so anything Mario, Zelda, or Metroid would be in my wheelhouse. I’d love to do a hand-animated Mario game that looks like the original promotional art!

 

Out of the many varied things you’ve done throughout your career, would you say this project is what you’re most proud of?

So far this has been a high point, but one of the best parts of being a game design academic is that I also have a lot of freedom to work on self-directed projects. One of the best things I’ve done has been to write a book on level design. I’m also really proud of the tabletop game I released in 2019 based on Don Quixote (which was also a Kickstarter project!)

 

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

Learn the tools, but don’t think that’s the whole game development experience. Games are about the player experience, and you can make wonderful things no matter what tool it’s in. Make lots of little games, don’t just try to make something that looks like the big commercial games.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

My Twitter is @totter87 and my studio’s website is www.PFBStudios.com. Little Nemo and the Nightmare Fiends can be found at www.LittleNemoGame.com (redirects to the Kickstarter campaign)

 

Do you have anything else to add?

We hope you love Little Nemo and the Nightmare Fiends! Please support and share the campaign so we can make this the game of our dreams!

 

I’d like to close out by thanking Chris for taking the time out to talk to me about this wonderful-looking game, and to wish him the best of luck with Little Nemo and the Nightmare Fiends and its Kickstarter campaign. Little Nemo is clearly a labor of love, and if it sees its full release, I have every confidence that this will be a gaming experience loved by fans of McCay’s work, as well as fans of the 2D sidescrolling genre, and that it will be a fantastical journey that McCay himself would’ve been proud to see. In the meantime, you can check out the Kickstarter page of you would like to back the project via the link provided by Chris, but I hope you guys enjoyed reading this Q&A because I certainly had a fun time learning more about not only this game but also about the inspiration behind it.

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88.

Mickey Mania/Mickey’s Wild Adventure (SNES, Mega Drive, Sega CD & PlayStation)

Developer(s) – Traveller’s Tales

Publisher(s) – Sony Imagesoft & Walt Disney Computer Software

Designer(s) – Jon Burton, Andy Ingram, Mike Glam & David Jaffe

ELSPA – 3+

Released across two generations on various consoles, and being the developmental debut of Twisted Metal creator David Jaffe, Mickey Mania was originally envisioned to coincide with Mickey’s 65th anniversary. However, it was pulled back to allow for more development time. What followed was a critical and commercial success of a game, praised to extent that it was considered a must-have for any fourth-generation gamer at the time. I feel very much the same having played it profusely when it first came out, and for any fans of the 2D sides rolling genre, it has very much stood the test of time. 

Graphics – 8/10

The game is set across several classic Mickey Mouse cartoons from 1928’s Steamboat Willy to that character’s 1990 take on The Prince and the Pauper, and each level in the game captures the feel of the original features flawlessly. It’s one of those games that as one based on a preexisting license with a predetermined visual style, it stands the test of time in terms of graphics because of it. It was also one of the earliest instances I can remember whereby I was introduced to at least pseudo-3D Graphics on a console game, and I remember being blown away by it at the time. 

Gameplay – 8/10

The game is a traditional 2D side scroller quite typical of the fourth generation of gaming, and typical of what games were resulting from the Disney license at the time along with Duck Tales, Aladdin, Toy Story, and others. There’s is also a light puzzle-solving element in certain levels as well, but it mainly revolves around getting from A to B. There is also a couple of memorable boss fight, including that with The Mad Doctor and Pete’s Prince and the Pauper incarnation. The pseudo-3D gameplay sequences have the player running away from impending danger, which provides a welcome challenge to break up the traditional platforming sequences and keep players firmly on their toes. 

Controls – 10/10

As a standard sides roller perpetuating industry standards set at the time, there are no issues with the controls. The way the control scheme is implemented during the 2.5D sequences is handled quite well in addition, especially considering that the idea was relatively new at the time and would’ve taken a certain degree of innovative thinking to effectively manage it. 

Lifespan – 6/10

Just about meeting the standard of Lifespan set at the time, the game can be made to last a maximum of 2 hours. The definitive way to play this game, in every aspect in addition to lifespan, is through the PlayStation version entitled Mickey’s Wild Adventure. It contains every level designed for the game, as well as a few new added features, whereby the Super NES and Mega Drive versions were missing certain levels and sequences. 

Storyline – 7/10

The game’s story is simply a retelling of several classic Mickey Mouse cartoons in video game form. Throughout, each level perpetuates elements of what made the original cartoons captivating and portrays an early example of how video games can be capable of telling a story without the player having to consult the manual. Again, it’s another reason why Mickey’s Wild Adventure is the definitive way to play it since it also included voice acting

Originality – 8/10

In some respects, such as lifespan, the game just about met industry standards and failed to stand out as a result. But in many other respects, including graphic design and gameplay, it stands out among a plethora of 2D sidescrollers that were being released at the time. It almost served as a precursor to what would eventually be released by Sony with the advent of the PlayStation following the deal between them and Nintendo falling through. It seemed like a particularly historical game in that respect the more I’ve thought about it since, and it makes me wonder what the landscape of gaming may have been if history had gone another way. 

Happii

In summation, Mickey Mania was a quietly innovative game that has since stood the test of time with the enjoyable experience it provides. It’s a licensed game that surpassed expectations at the time, and I would still highly recommend it be played today. 

Score

49/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Q&A With Jon Bookout

After once again scouting Kickstarter for more new video game prospects, I came across a title that is exceedingly different from any that I’ve yet to encounter this year. Lucid Soul, developed by a team of numerous artists, coders, and musicians, and fronted by indie developer Jon Bookout of Las Vegas, Nevada, is a JRPG blending horror and dark fantasy inspired by classics of the genre such as Chrono Trigger and the Lunar series; namely Eternal Blue and Silver Star. A turn-based RPG in basic design with a planned minimum of 30 hours hours of lifespan, it boasts a number of gameplay features new to the genre such as two-tier combat flow, the ability to play bosses, and a feature known as cinematic encounters, whereby certain battles take place across multiple screens. The game’s story revolves around the villains taking center-stage as opposed to the heroes, presenting a vast amount of wonderfully sadistic player characters to play as and develop over time. Wanting to know more about this fantastically brutal-looking JRPG experience, I contacted Jon, the game’s head programmer to answer questions I had about the game, and what the final product will possibly bring to players looking for a potential game-changing entry into the widely popular genre. Here’s what Jon Bookout had to say about Lucid Soul:

 

What were the influences behind your game?

I’ve been writing Lucid Soul since high school, but the game was written as a hero’s journey from Rubin’s perspective til about 5 years ago. I, like many others, got hooked on a little show called Game of Thrones. For those of us who love fantasy, it was the first to really embrace a true-to-life adult feeling to it. What WOULD happen if an evil prick ran the country? It wouldn’t be like Emperor Gestahl where the lust for power isn’t shown, it would be FELT. So that show and the fact that you recognize MILLIONS of people gravitated to raw, gritty, adult fantasy, caused a massive shift in my concept. It influenced the design from the ground up to not only do maturity but what about the next evolution of our nostalgic JRPGs and RPGs of old… what about the villain? Not a “SURPRISE! YOU WERE EVIL!” style game, but one you knew going in, you will be the ‘bad guy’ or ‘girl’. So Game of Thrones-inspired what Lucid Soul is today feeling the time was right, but the history of it is the great classics, Chrono Trigger, Lunar: Silver Star, and more importantly Eternal Blue, Final Fantasy (Specifically 6 or 3 in the U.S. and 4 or 2 in the U.S.), Final Fantasy Tactics, Shin Megami Tensei (Specifically Digital Devil Saga), and Silent Hill. Horror tends to be all modern-day, so it felt fresh to bring Horror into the world of fantasy. And we hope our influences shine through to all players.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

Once Sangrde, our character artist came on board, pretty smooth. The past is littered with reaching out to people, asking their expertise and thoughts, trying to have them understand the Horror and artistic styles we’re after, and feeling out who can best slip in. Once the team has been finalized development is smooth, and it’s a treat to be able to know there’s quality because no one would want this game with my talent at the helm for art and pixel work.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

Depending on the final funding of the Kickstarter, I hope to speed our production up by hiring a Programmer, as that’s my task. The projected date is October of 2022 and we feel we can hit that mark, but if I could grab a professional that could drastically speed us into the Beta phase. But to try to be as professional as possible for all involved, 2022 October.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

Oh man, everything! Honest truth, it’s a learning experience ground up, so every time you catch a bug, or pull a Picard Facepalm, or see a wandering pixel and blurt out “Oh hai Mark!”, it’s fun, knowing you have improvements to make on yourself and a game. But the best part is meeting new people, talking about Lucid Soul never gets old for me personally, but it’s that look on a person’s face when you explain it for the first time and feel the response sinking in. That’s what I’m personally after with the players, so it’s great to see and feel it during development as a new person comes on board for acting or art.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

Translating concept to the actual controller in hand gameplay. I imagine this is what anyone who creates goes through, but learning it and experiencing it, that’s a challenge. Notebooks in the house are filled with mechanics and being an algorithm guy more than a coding guy, that’s the most challenging aspect.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

The backers we’ve managed to bring in are absolutely amazing to communicate with and get their feedback on the game’s subject matter, characters, and future plans. Through them I’d say those that put in the pledge to be able to talk, the reception is positive. In truth, the one thing I WISH as a creator I could say is that I can’t reach out to those who don’t pledge or move on. Those that click your title picture but leave. I truly wish I could hear from them as well, because we as creators can never stop learning, and failure I think is the key to success. I’d like to know where I could improve, or what failed to appeal. Praise makes you feel good, and it IS wonderful, but it’s the harsh truths and criticisms that make the end product a better experience, and I openly expect and respect it.

 

Do you and the development team see Lucid Soul as an attempt to subvert the traditional Japanese RPG?

Subvert isn’t the word I’d use completely, because you don’t want to break a wheel that we all know and love. But subverting the EXPECTATION of the JRPG fan, then yes. We want the player to enter Lucid Soul fully feeling comfortable in traditions, the menu, the map interface, the overworld feeling bigger than hubs, a home base to put your feet up, the adventure, the exploration, the artifact gathering, the growing in power. We FULLY want those to be expected and embraced. Much like Undertale’s revelation of what EXP meant to the player, we do hope that the same fun takeaway occurs with our changes. Our team couldn’t think of a mainstream JRPG in which the hero is the villain, and the villain is the protagonist, so how does that affect those traditional elements, is major on our priority and creativity list.

 

Which entries in the Final Fantasy series have you and the team had in mind most during development?

6 is the most influential to style, and a number of distinct personalities. 7 is the most influential for the villain’s journey alongside the heroes. Lastly, 10 plays a major part in influencing the idea of Cinematic Combat, or Combat that continues on multiple screens without actually leaving it, with dialogue and story, reinforcements and such playing a part to be more dynamic. 4 is, forever and always, my personal nostalgic favorite, but it’s also the only of those which kept far away from technology until the Blue Whale and the Babil Giant, keeping its roots very deep in fantasy. One of my favorite conversations with our tile artist starts something like “Ok, but if this were Final Fantasy, how would they make this ship fly. Ok now, how would we do it?”
I think Sephiroth is considered by most to be the single best remembered Villain, at least every gamer I’ve ever mentioned him too, can give me a response on how they feel about him or things they remember. The remake going mainstream of 7 really helps cement him too. So for our JRPG, it’s taking the impressions people have, and then asking the obvious follow up to us: “Would you play Final Fantasy 7, if he was the main character, and if so…” going from there. I LOVE the responses you get from that, and it’s how we adapt and add little pieces to those responses.

 

How instrumental has the involvement been of so many different musicians famous from all over YouTube?

Youtube is massive, and I dare say the single most important key to if we succeed. Through Alyssa Gerwig (SpectroliteAAA), and approaching her for our animated trailer idea, she introduced me to Diwa De Leon (String Player Gamer), and then the network kind of grew from there. I’m lucky, blessed, touched, and thrilled that the famous ones like these and the juggernaut Camila Cuevas staked their reputation to show us support and introduce us to friends and acquaintances of theirs for getting work done. Sound, animation, music, vocalists, all through their good graces. The only musician I can say I personally played a hand in, is Lauren Kinkade, of Laurenkinkademusic.com and if you went to Dodgers games she sang the anthem for many live performances. She’s a girl I luckily went to highschool with and is actually where the Goddess got her name when she agreed all those years ago to sing in the game.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

PC and Mac are first, Steam and Itch are the approved distributors, and our first Platform stretch goal is the Switch. Beyond that we’ll happily do others, Stadia has reached out to me personally, it simply is a budget and programming issue, but we expect to have to gauge feedback on the game first to distribute to more.

 

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

Feeling out spriting budgets, so far the number of Bromides and Souls is the first to be affected, this is why we put those as Tier rewards in our Kickstarter hoping we could take a more personal approach to them also while allowing more in the game. In Lucid Soul, we want the main character Scythe to truly feel like an Everyman/Everywoman to the player, but unlike say Chrono who is played without speaking, you never get to change anything about the visual nature. So a female player may like his story and bond with the team, but feeling like “Chrono is Me” never lets him evolve beyond “I control him first”. How MUCH customization to our main character will directly relate to budget, and that’s the first thing I and the others had to talk about and tone down. Most, for now, have not had to be scrapped, and that’s the only (knock on wood) to need reworking.

 

Which characters have been among the most fun to design out of so many outlandish individual personalities?

That’s tough, lol. I mean even as the one who created them that’s tough. My goal’s always been, RPGs are for their characters, people remember Marle hugging Chrono 20+ years after the game’s out, people still have youtube reactions posted or recount that moment Aerith meets her fate. While I want each one to have a memory when it’s all said and done that makes you even recount some things about the ones you didn’t like, my personal favorite is Synella. I play Tanks mostly in MMOs, WoW, SWTOR, etc. so designing how a Tank could translate to the JRPG tactics style and feel like they had character, has been fun… challenging but fun. Since she speaks in groups of 3, one word for each month, trying to convey her stories and dialogue choices and emotion through ‘which’ 3 words she says, that’s by far the most fun. The other is Wick. She’s my son’s favorite and blew him away when I said she’s my second favorite, just because she’s a unique race design, so you don’t know if the slow-moving, long-eared, magical race that let their blood spill and congeal to make hair and Runes, and you never know if she’ll be liked for that alone. But for her, it’s the personality and making sure it’s presented and played properly. All are fun for different reasons but those 2 stand out for me.

 

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

Disney. It may shock a reader for that one, but because they have the biggest franchises and genres of fantasy that could be taken down different paths, and the money to be TRULY creative with it if they ever chose to. They shoot down Tim Burton for years, and the irony of ironies, bring him back to do a “his style” Alice in Wonderland. I would LOVE to have an hour just to hear what that experience is like. But I have to give credit where it’s due, the 1 game that I never played until the sequel came out, and truly impressed me and changed what video games are capable of, is Kingdom Hearts. When 2 companies with that much history come together and decide to let the storytellers do their thing… Just the ingenious culmination of that was mindblowing. But their franchise now I would love to see how they’d react on a creative team, is doing a Heist movie in the Star Wars universe, like call it Trick, and have this elaborate subverted movie as a husband leaves out his house without any explanation as the wife gets concerned and starts a “what’s going on moment”, all your typical tropes of breaking into vaults, holding up hostages, etc etc but at the end, the coveted Heist item is brought to a man in a robe that waves his hand in front of him and says “You’ve done all you need for the Jedi console… go home to your wife…” and it’s all a Jedi Mind trick.

 

On your Kickstarter page, you expressed the sincerity that to prove your intent to your backers, you will take accountability on a personal level. Although this indeed sounds like a personal passion project to you, how supportive have your team been throughout this entire process so far?

As supportive as anyone can be on the outside joining in, I think. I truly hope if you asked their opinions they’d say that this is as much THEIR game now as mine. The artists especially, from pixel to drawings, tile, and Alyssa’s animations, are just a blast to bounce ideas off of, that you sense they genuinely take an interest in improving things, and I hope I do a good job adapting THEIR creativity into everything also. But they’re an amazing group of people I’m fortunate enough to work with and have been in my life and this project as a result. I know for a fact I’d not be on Kickstarter without each and every one of them, from Augustinas to ZeitDieb.

 

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

Depending on when this article is published or when the person reading it says it… know this: you’re reading this from someone not proven to be a success story or even representing a product that will ever be considered a success. My influences to develop, are Dwarvenaut the movie, Indie Game: The Movie, the creator of Pokemon’s history, Sylvester Stalone’s rejection and aspiration to see Rocky be made, and Tim Burton’s career long before Batman but in the days at Disney when Pee Wee’s Big Adventure wasn’t yet in production. Follow your dreams, believe in yourself enough that people will one day WANT to be a part of whatever world you create, and hold to that. Never believe differently. Creativity is the key to us all playing games and experience things we didn’t know we wanted yesterday, yet today tell our friends we can’t live without, and tomorrow influence someone else’s creation.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

I can’t be the only one who reads this question wanting to channel my inner superhero nerd, and write “Where there is injustice… you will find me… where there is suffering… I’ll be there… You can find me using the Bookout signal!” But sadly nothing so dramatic, our website is the easiest, https://lucidsoulgame.com, and our Kickstarter at the moment, where I’ll happily answer any questions to the best of my ability.

 

Do you have anything else to add?

Just that it’s a true honor to have met you and be going through this experience. I cannot thank you enough for the opportunity to talk to others about Lucid Soul, myself, and my development team. We’re nothing without them. Thank you for the questions and your time!

 

I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Jon for taking the time out to talk to me about this promising-looking game, and to wish him and the various different musicians and artists working on it the very best of luck with its Kickstarter project and subsequent release. Lucid Soul is indeed set to be an incredibly unique take on the traditional JRPG and a standout title compared to many of the classic games in the genre, and I can’t wait to play the game when it comes out. In the meantime, if you wish to support the Kickstarter page, you can do so via the link below:

Lucid Soul Kickstarter

But in the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed reading this article as much I and Jon did putting it together.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88.

Q&A With Hiding Spot Games

Once again looking for more indie video game prospects over the last few weeks, I came across a new game in development somewhat reminiscent of my recent interview with Chris Seavor. Beacon Pines is a hand-drawn, open-ended 2D adventure game combining cuteness with horror. Developed by Dutch indie outfit Hiding Spot Games, the player takes control of both the characters in the story as well as the story’s narration itself in order to determine the outcome for themselves by filling in the gaps with words. The game also gives the player the option to reverse decisions made in order to reshape events as they see fit. The game has since been successfully funded on Kickstarter where it continues to gather momentum with several stretch goals having since been funded in addition.

Wanting to know more about this game, I contacted its soundtrack composer Matt Meyer and put forward to him and the team a few questions I had, and how the game will completely take shape by the time of its full release. Here’s what Matt Meyer and Hiding Spot Games had to say about Beacon Pines:

 

What were the influences behind your game?

There have been lots of influences on the game. Some that come to mind are shows like Dark, Twin Peaks, and Stranger Things, sci-fi books and old pulp novels, other games like Undertale, Night in the Woods, and Life is Strange. 

 

What has the developmental process been like?

It’s been long and wandering. I’d reference this reddit post as a good summary of the development journey over the past few years: https://www.reddit.com/r/Unity3D/comments/lb1wzw/the_absurd_journey_designing_beacon_pines/

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

We’re shooting for a September release date.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

By far the most exciting part has been finally seeing people play the game on twitch and youtube after releasing the demo. Seeing people’s faces light up when they reach important or surprising moments or laugh at funny dialog or comment on how they love the art and music. It has been an absolute joy.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?  

Getting all the parts of the game mechanics to just click was the most difficult. I could go through the details, but again the reddit article probably does a better job of describing the challenges.

 

On the Kickstarter page, it says in Ilse Harting’s description that “There must be something in the water in the Netherlands that produced great artists!” Did any aspect of Dutch culture or Dutch artists in particular influence the design of the game?

Absolutely. Ilse takes a lot of influence from her surroundings: the people and places in the Netherlands have been a big influence on the art she created for Beacon Pines.  Even many of the names of characters and places in Beacon Pines were her suggestions based on Dutch names.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

It has been lovely. We really weren’t sure if people would get absorbed into the story or understand how the mechanics work (with words, story branching, etc.) but most people seem to jump right in and enjoy it. 

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Steam, itch, Switch, and hopefully Xbox and Playstation

 

Is Beacon Pines a deliberate attempt at subverting the traditional cutesy adventure game to any kind of extent, similar to what Chris Seavor did with Conker’s Bad Fur Day?

No, we aren’t deliberately trying to subvert expectations with the art vs the story. We just want to make a game that both looks mysterious/fantastical but also has a mature story that we as adults would want to play.

 

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

Lots (again the Reddit article has some great examples)

 

What lessons have been brought into the development of Beacon Pines from past developmental experiences?

Not all that many, to be honest. I often work with different people and it depends on how they prefer to work. Beacon Pines is also a very different kind of game than what I’ve made in the past.

 

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

That Game Company has probably been the most influential on me as a game developer. I’d love to work with them and experience their process up close.

 

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

Making things, in my experience, is the best and most rewarding way to learn things. It also is massively beneficial to getting work in the field if you already have examples of completed projects. And when you make something of your own, try to pick a project that you will actually want to play yourself. That’ll help keep you motivated and focused. 

 

Where on the Internet can people find you? 

We’re pretty active with our discord community. That’s a great place to find us and chat: https://discord.gg/K4tbFWf

 

Do you have anything else to add?

Thank you to everyone who has supported us on Kickstarter and those who have checked out the Beacon Pines demo.

I’d also like to take the opportunity to thank Matt for his unique insight into this very unique-looking title. It certainly affords a deep look into a game that I’d made some incorrect assumptions about previously, and how the final product will pan out. I’m sure it will turn out to be a very enjoyable and addicting experience and I’m very much looking forward to it’s release. In the meantime, if you like the game, and think You’d like to contribute to it’s stretch goals, you can visit the Kickstarter page via the link below:

Beacon Pines Kickstarter

 

There is also a playable demo to download online via the game’s Steam page:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1269640/Beacon_Pines/

 

But in the meantime, I hope you guys had fun learning about this upcoming game as much as I did.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

The Unlikely Legend of Rusty Pup (PC)

Developer(s) – Gory Details

Publisher(s) – Gory Details 

Designer(s) – Chris Seavor

PEGI – Not rated (some horror elements)

Released in 2018 and designed by the lead programmer of Conker’s Bad Fur Day Chris Seavor, The unlikely Legend of Rusty Pup is an open-ended puzzle game following a robotic dog named Rusty trying to find his way home through a wonderfully dark and dank 2D world. This game is an example of how I came into an indie title completely unprepared for what it had in store, and I was pleasantly surprised with the end result.

 

Graphics – 8/10

The game is set in a steampunk-inspired world made up of cogs and machinery. It bears somewhat of a resemblance to games like SteamWorld Dig and SteamWorld Heist, but with a far more surreal and compellingly bleak atmosphere. Darkness follows the player character everywhere with few specks of light made available to players to activate along the way in order to guide Rusty throughout each stage. The soundtrack is also suitably creepy to go along with the game’s settings. The environments, in particular, made me wonder about the world’s backstory and how it was created, and who created it in a similar manner to what Shadow of the Colossus did; it’s almost a character in and of itself.

 

Gameplay – 8.5/10

Rusty Pup relies heavily on the player’s initiative in order to solve what is at times mind-bending challenging puzzles. Players must make use of light in each stage as well as robots that can be used to temporarily stop time and guide Rusty through certain areas. There’s also a small world-building element, whereby players must set up platforms for Rusty to follow in order to access otherwise impassable areas or to break falls that Rusty would otherwise not be able to survive. This mechanic can also be used to the detriment of NPCs by setting up traps for them. Aesthetically, it takes influence from the likes of Lemmings and Flockers, but it offers an entirely different experience from the aforementioned games that, as I said, was not prepared for in the slightest. It can take some patience to get into, as it’s a game unlike any other, but once the player figures out the core mechanics, it makes for a very enjoyable and mystifying experience.

  

Controls – 10/10

A simple point-and-click game by design, there are no issues with the controls whatsoever. It can be played either on PC or on iOS and for both platforms, the game worlds out just fine. It may offer a different experience if the game was ever ported to conventional consoles, but it wouldn’t create anywhere near enough of a problem for it to render the game unplayable. If Plants Vs Zombies can be ported to consoles, this game certainly can be as well. 

 

Lifespan – 8/10

The base game can be made to last a minimum of 20 hours, but to complete the game to 100% will take a fair bit of additional time. There is also DLC planned for the game in the future, so this will further add to the game’s lifespan in turn. But ostensibly, to make a puzzle game last for the amount of time it does is an impressive feat in any case, with or without DLC, and there would certainly be scope to expand the series at a later date given how potentially extensive the series’ mythology is. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The game’s story follows Rusty Pup, a mechanic dog on a single wheel who has apparently been flushed down a drain prior to the start of the game, with ambiguity about whether or not he fell down or if someone or something pushed him down there. Alone, but with an optimistic attitude, he resolves to find his way out of the steampunk labyrinth and make it back home. The game’s story is as ominous and as wonderfully dark as its settings, with a lot of mystery surrounding how Rusty got to this stage in the first place, and with how wistful he sounds at times in stark contrast to the foreboding situation he finds himself in. All characters, including Rusty, speak in rhyme, which again adds to this contrast; seemingly carefree, yet obviously in a terrible situation.

 

Originality – 9/10

Especially over the last gaming generation, coming across a unique indie title is becoming exceedingly difficult, with me looking for unique settings, unique gameplay, unique control scheme, and unique story. But much to my delight, this game ticks all the boxes flawlessly. After having interviewed Chris Seavor himself:

https://scousegamer88.com/2021/01/24/the-full-twelve-tales-of-chris-seavor/

It became obvious to me that his creative talent was nurtured during his time at Rare, and that having played Rusty Pup, he has demonstrated that he is certainly as capable as Rare’s most standout alumni, such as Gregg Mayles, Kevin Bayliss, Martin Hollis, David Doak, etc, of creating wonderfully weird and delightfully fun games to play as the likes of Banjo-Kazooie, Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark. 

 

Happii

Overall, The Unlikely Legend of Rusty Pup is an unbelievably well thought out, and compelling title that’s every bit as enjoyable to play as any top indie title and I can’t recommend it enough. To me, it’s no wonder why Chris Seavor is most proud of Rusty Pup, as, in my opinion, it’s his best project to date. 

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Skul: The Hero Slayer (PC)

Developer(s) – SouthPAW Games

Publisher(s) –  NEOWIZ

PEGI – Not Rated (some graphic violence)

 

An early indie title released in the first part of 2021, Skul: The Hero Slayer is a rogue-lite that provides a new gameplay experience with every playthrough offering intense combat, platforming, and an insane amount of customization options for the player character throughout each time playing. Similar to the likes of Rogue Legacy and 88 Heroes, the game can make for hours upon hours of playability and a level of variety in gameplay that I haven’t seen for quite some time. It makes for a far better game than either of the aforementioned examples as well as other games of the same ilk developed in recent years. 

 

Graphics – 8/10

Skul makes use of a traditional 8-BIT visual style with a mythology heavy inspired by high and dark fantasy; it’s basically The Lord of the Rings or Dungeons and Dragons in 8-BIT form, featuring creatures straight from the works of Tolkien and Gary Gygax such as ents, chimeras, liches, and demons. But it also has elements inspired by the modern world too; for example, one of the power-ups allows the player to take the form of a biker who attacks with chains and rides a motorbike for a limited amount of time as one of his special moves. It fits interestingly with the tableau of the game, as the character was clearly inspired by the comic book Ghost Rider, but that, along with many of the other powerups found throughout the game, such as the genie and the samurai, add an unexpected, yet welcome level of diversity in character design that I never saw coming at all. 

 

Gameplay – 9/10

The game is a rogue-lite whereby players must face off against hordes of enemies whilst both conserving as much as what they have as possible, including health, whilst at the same time, using items and upgrades collected throughout as wisely as possible. There is an insane amount of power-ups that can be used by players to adopt a ridiculous amount of playstyles, making each playthrough a completely different experience. In that respect, you can draw comparisons to 88 Heroes, only in this case, the feature of being able to play as what are essentially different characters throughout is a lot better thought out in this title and makes for a much more accessible experience overall. Because with 88 Heroes, characters are given to the player at random, and it can hinder the gameplay through no fault of the players. But here, the player gets far more of a choice, making for a better experience overall. On top of that, there are also a great number of perks that can be acquired throughout each playthrough that offer increases in attack, speed, and magic and that also offer passive benefits such as freezing, poisoning, or burning enemies for dealing additional damage. The base stats can also be upgraded before each playthrough such as the attack power and amount of health that the player starts with, making each playthrough more accessible over time, like in Rogue Legacy. But again, in this game, that element is also handled in a far better manner. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s control scheme is also very interesting indeed. Whilst there are common control elements with each playthrough, such as the ability to attack, jump and dash, each character is controlled differently through all their different movement capabilities, attack patterns, and special moves; so the player has to strategize in accordance with what power-up they have equipped. The controls will seem familiar to players whilst at the same time also offering more than what they’ll be used to in the form of the different power-ups, and it’s really quite an impressive feat that’s been achieved. 

 

Lifespan – 8/10

Seasoned players have been able to play through the main game in its entirety in just shy of an hour. However, this is a game that has clearly been designed to be played through many, many times, and players should not stop at one playthrough by any means; even if they somehow manage to beat it on the first time of asking. With everything taken into account in terms of gameplay, there is enough on offer to make this game last an ungodly amount of hours; players may wish to go through the game using different power-ups, or they may wish to try and go through it without using any power-ups or passive abilities at all. The customization options are that insane.

 

Storyline – 7.5/10

But in addition to the compelling gameplay, there’s also a surprisingly touching story behind it as well. The game follows Skul, who is a lowly minion in service to the army of a Demon King. As heroes of humans storm the Demon King’s castle and take him captive, Skul evades capture and resolves to destroy the human army and free his master. The game puts the player on the side of evil and paints Skul, the Demon King, and their allies as the heroes almost, and it’s done in a way that I’ve never seen in a video game before. There have been games that have tried similar things, like Overlord for example, but it’s presented much differently in this game. There’s a sense of elegance about it in each intermittent cutscene that I wasn’t expecting at all. 

 

Originality – 8/10

I’ve mentioned throughout this review that this game threw stuff at me that I was not prepared for in the least bit, and I was pleasantly surprised by all of it. It’s a game that gets the fundamentals right as if it was created by a team of seasoned developers, but yet it also gives players an experience unlike most that have been created throughout the years, and considering that it came from an indie studio really is something. It wasn’t the first game developed by the South Korea-based studio (that would be an app game called BSTG), but their first effort of creating a game designed for conventional consoles, really is phenomenal. 

 

Happii

Overall, Skul: The Hero Salyer is a fantastic rogue-lite with almost limitless possibilities in terms of gameplay, and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s an exciting and dynamic title in every respect and is not one to be overlooked. 

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Q&A With Parhelion Rift

Once again on the lookout for new upcoming games, I came across yet another awesome-looking indie Metroidvania title currently under development. Twofold Tales, developed by indie outfit Parhelion rift based in Vienna, Austria, is a Metroidvania heavy on combat and exploration, as well as incorporating a strong RPG element in the form of character building and learning new abilities along the way. The story involves the main character named Pars, as she embarks on a journey across an entity known as the Iceberg in order to uncover the mysteries that are buried within. With a desire to learn more about the game, I got in touch with Michael and Evelyn, the couple currently working on the game, to ask a few questions I had about it in this early stage of development, to learn more about what can be expected from the finished title. Here’s what Michael and Evelyn had to say about Twofold Tales:

 

What were the influences behind Twofold Tales?

Michael: It probably all started when I played The Battle Of Olympus on the NES in 1991. From a gameplay perspective, we were mostly influenced by classic 2D Metroid games and Axiom Verge. One of our game-defining skills was inspired by an episode of Rick and Morty, called A Rickle in Time.

Evelyn: Aesthetically it’s difficult to pinpoint a single source of influence. We love hand-drawn animations like the movies The Secret of Kells, Song Of the Sea, Ghibli movies, but are also very fond of the Art Nouveau art style like Alphonse Mucha, I think it’s kind of a marriage between both meeting on an arctic island.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

Evelyn: It has been an interesting and challenging learning process so far, as developers and as a couple. In the beginning, we were only able to work on our game in the evenings after our day jobs. Also, it’s a learning process in itself how to work together with your partner, especially when you’re living together and the line between private life and job is blurring. It can be quite daunting sometimes, I have to admit, but on the other hand, it’s the most fantastic thing in the world to be so lucky to create something together with an excellent partner who understands you so well like no one else.

Michael: Currently, we’re fortunate to have personal savings to sustain ourselves for the near future and to channel our whole energy into developing Twofold Tales and raising our baby daughter who was born during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even when there are sometimes tough stretches, we love how liberating it is to have total creative freedom in designing the game we want to make and to be in the driver’s seat.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

Michael: We’re still in the middle of the development process, with no fixed date for the final release. A public alpha demo that includes the entire first area is planned for summer 2021 together with a Kickstarter campaign and we’re really excited to be able to get some additional gameplay feedback, to be able to further improve Twofold Tales.

Evelyn: Most of the underlying systems for the game are finished, the game mechanics are set, the whole world is playable in development mode. What remains is creating a lot of artwork.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

Michael: As with most Metroidvanias, certain parts of the world will be ability-gated. It was exciting to create branching exploration points where depending on what you discover, different areas open up to you first and you often can decide where you want to go next. For most of the game, we want to offer a very non-linear experience where players can explore the world very openly and arrive at different points of the game via a different route and with a different set of main upgrades. All areas had to be balanced around which abilities you might or might not have at that point.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

Michael: While Unity generally was good to prototype and develop in, we were quite unhappy with the physics system for certain aspects of the game, for example for player and enemy movement – especially with high-speed projectiles. We replaced that with a raycasting solution to make this aspect of the game feel more responsive and accurate. The same goes for rope physics, where the hinge- and distance-joints just didn’t look satisfying, so we switched over to Verlet integration.

Evelyn: Also as we’re only a two-person and three-cats team, there is quite a big workload we have to handle ourselves. Developing, creating graphics and audio, writing updates for social media. It sometimes feels a bit overwhelming, but it’s also very exciting and we’ve learned a lot along the way.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

Evelyn: We have only started to release information about the game last month and so far we have received very positive reactions to the aesthetics of our game. It’s exciting and encouraging to see what people think of it. Also mostly you’re living inside your head when you’re developing a game and to correct that possible tunnel view, it’s very helpful to get feedback.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Evelyn: Our launch platform will be PC, followed by Linux and probably Mac. We would love to port it for the Nintendo Switch. We actually got quite fond of the Switch mockup screens we made for ourselves.

 

What were the team’s prior developmental experiences before the formation of Parhelion Rift?

Michael: We both studied media informatics and in fact, this was also when we first met each other. Afterward, we both worked as full-time developers in medium-sized companies, creating desktop and mobile applications for telecommunication- and internet-service-providers.

 

Have there been any lessons brought into the development of Two Tales taken from the development of Cats Who Stare At Ghosts?

Evelyn: When we developed Cats Who Stare At Ghosts, we used the libGDX framework for development. It’s fine to do as much as possible yourself, but once you meet a comfortable game engine like Unity that takes over a lot of tasks, you never want to go back.

 

As a cat lover myself, I have to ask will there be cats in Twofold Tales as well?

Michael: There are a lot of secrets hidden in our iceberg, some of them fluffy 😉

 

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

Michael: As we’re more gamers and programmers than artists ourselves, we’ve re-iterated over certain parts of the graphics and animations several times already and will continue to do so.

 

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

Michael: At the moment, I actually like the freedom of not having to work for another company or being limited by an existing franchise.

Evelyn: I would so love to work on a Zelda title, especially if it follows in the footsteps of Ocarina of Time.

 

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

Michael: Do what you really want to do, not what others deem good or what society thinks you should do. This does not mean that you should ignore feedback, feedback is extremely important and vital during the entire development process and other people spot flaws way better than you ever could. However, in the end, make it your game, the game that you would love to play, but hasn’t been invented yet – make it for yourself.

Evelyn: Start today! Don’t wait for that big idea, but start with something small and just keep learning.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

You can follow us on social media, we love to share the progress of our game and chat.

Instagram: www.instagram.com/parhelionrift

Twitter: www.twitter.com/parhelionrift

Facebook: www.facebook.com/parhelionrift

And there is also our website www.parhelionrift.com

Feel free to get in touch with us! 🙂

 

Do you have anything else to add?

Thank you very much ScouseGamer for the opportunity to give others insights into our game and a huge thank you to everyone interested in Twofold Tales. Your kind words of encouragement and comments mean the world to us and keep us going.

 

I’d also like to thank Michael and Evelyn for their unique insight into what players can expect to see from their game upon release, and also to congratulate the couple on the birth of their baby girl. Twofold Tales holds promise as an extremely standout Metroidvania title with a new and wonderfully cohesive concept, and I’m very much looking forward to what the final game has to offer. In the meantime, anyone wanting to keep up with Michael and Evelyn as development unfolds can do so by following their various social media pages and visiting their website, but I hope you guys enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed working with Michael and Evelyn.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Q&A With Orube Game Studio

Pursuing a new upcoming video game experience currently under development, another two games that I have had my eye on for a long time is Super Mombo Quest and Dwarf Journey.  Both developed by Orube Game Studio based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Super Mombo Quest, in development since 2018, is a colouful Metroidvania inspired by the like of Super Meat Boy heavy on combat that requires players to string together combos reminiscent of classic arcade fighting games, similar to Guacamelee or Dust: An Elysian Tail. Dwarf Journey, on the other hand, is an action-adventure Roguelite inspired by Norse mytholgoy and that incorporates heavy RPG elements, such as levelling up the player character and collecting materials in order to forge stronger equipment. With both games set for release in the early part of 2021, I was curious to find out more about these two great-looking games, I got in touch with Orube Studio and their founder Pedro Savino to pose a few questions about the games and what players can come to expect from the final builds. Here’s what Pedro Savino had to say about Super Mombo Quest and Dwarf Journey.

 

What were the influences behind your games?
Our biggest inspiration is to keep in mind that we can bring the playful spirit of games to any type of person, through simple, affordable, and super fun products. As ours are platform games, we have to mention our biggest influences: Super Mario World, Super Meat Boy, Celeste, and Kirby. All of these have incredible mechanics and game feel that were certainly inspiring for our games.

 

What has the developmental process been like?
It’s been great! We are a team of eight people who work remotely and we are all passionate about what we do. Always seeking to learn more and grow together.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished products?
Both games are almost ready to be released. Only a few artistic details are missing. We are already testing the final versions with people from our Discord server to make everything with the best experience possible.

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of developing both games?
The most exciting part is seeing the number of people that we are captivating with our games that haven’t even been released yet. There are people who have been accompanying us for a long time, giving feedback and supporting our work. It is very gratifying to receive this support.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of developing both games?
The biggest challenge, I believe, is to manage everything so that all we’ve planned for comes out in the best way possible. The challenge in Super Mombo Quest, for example, is making this huge game a reality. The final version will have approximately two hundred and fifty levels. We are producing the biggest game ever made by the company!

 

How well have both games been received so far?
We were surprised by the number of people who were captivated by our games. At TikTok, for example, we were able to build a community of more than 30k people, and we brought over 1,5k to our Discord server. They are always supporting the development, giving feedback, and testing versions so that everything is fine.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the games to?
We are looking to bring them to computers (at Steam), Mobiles (Android and iOS), and consoles (such as Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PlayStation).

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that have since been scrapped or reworked where both games are concerned?
Throughout the development process, there were things that didn’t work and that needed to be redone. In Super Mombo Quest, for example, we changed the main currency of the game and the mechanics related to it in the middle of development.

 

Has the studio been mindful of the influx of Metroidvania and rogue-lite titles within the indie scene in order to make this game stand out among the many others?

We produce games that we have had in mind for a long time. The character Mombo, for example, appeared in my graduation work. We developed and learned more about platformers, which today is one of our specialties. But we are always attentive to trends and trying to predict what will be best received by the public.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or any franchise, which would it be, and why?
Aiming high, I believe with Nintendo. It is a company with young spirited games that inspired me a lot and were part of my youth.

 

What’s next for Orube Game Studios following the release of Dwarf Journey and Super Mombo Quest?
We still don’t know for sure how the next project will be, but we intend it to be one of the big ones. You will have to follow us on social media to find out!

 

Are there any other genres of gaming that Orube Game Studios have thought of working on in the future?
We are planning to make a multiplayer RPG. There is nothing right yet, but it’s a wish that we have for the near future.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?
Currently, Super Mombo Quest has more than two hundred levels, which we consider to be a large scope. However, before producing it, we released several smaller games. The main tip for those who are starting is: make small and simple games. Understand the process and be very aware of how long it takes to produce a game. A game of scope or complexity greater than the team’s capacity can take a long time to produce, increasing its cost and reducing the chances of profit. Sometimes it even happens that the project is not launched because there is no budget to complete, or even that the producers give up on development.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?
You can find us on Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram @OrubeGameStudio! You can join our Discord server too. Here is our Linktree so you can find us everywhere https://linktr.ee/orubegamestudio.

 

Do you have anything else to add?
I think that for those who are looking to live from games, it’s important to know that it’s a very competitive market. Currently, it’s difficult to undertake in the area without having accumulated prior knowledge, much because of the lack of incentives in the sector in some countries. On the other hand, we have an industry under construction and with a lot of potential. More and more companies are consolidating and creating job opportunities for those looking to work in the environment. The game market is growing and will grow for many years to come. With intelligence, dedication, and a little creativity, it is possible to live from games!

 

I’d like to thank Pedro for taking the time out to answer what questions I have as well as providing a very unique insight into the competition that comes with taking the plunge into indie development. It has indeed become an extremely competitive market over the last few gaming generations, as I have witnessed firsthand, but both Super Mombo Quest and Dwarf Journey look to be strong competitors in the plethora of indie games in their genres and I wish them the best of luck with them both, and I hope you guys enjoyed learning more about these two potentially game-changing titles.

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Sonic Adventure 2 (Dreamcast)

Developer(s) – Sonic Team USA

Publisher(s) – Sega

Director(s) – Takashi Lizuka

Producer(s) – Yuji Naka

PEGI – 7

 

Released to a generally favorable response from critics at the time, Sonic Adventure 2 delivered a much different Gameplay experience from the original Sonic Adventure with a more linear play progression, a side quest beloved by many Sonic fans, and the introduction of new characters such as Shadow the Hedgehog and Rouge the Bat. Although I did spend a great deal of time playing through this game multiple times when I was a kid, going back into it with an entirely new perspective, I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer the original game for a number of reasons. 

 

Graphics – 9/10

The main improvement on the original game, however, is the quality of the visuals on the technical level. Some cutscenes are even presented at 60 frames per second unlike the first, which was presented entirely at 30 frames per second throughout. From a conceptual standpoint, it’s just as wonderfully varied as the first game was taking place in vibrant cities, deep jungles, space stations, and even pyramids. As far as graphics go, it was most definitely one of the best looking games on the Dreamcast. 

 

Gameplay – 8/10

The gameplay is structured much differently than the original too. As opposed to having six different overlapping scenarios, there are two scenarios to play between the heroes of the game and the villains, with Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles making up the heroes, and Dr. Robotnik, Shadow the Hedgehog, and Rouge the Bat making up the villains. The gameplay structure is far less open-ended than the original with merely two predetermined paths with the added side quest of Chao raising, which is like raising a farm of Tamagotchis; some players even think that the Chao raising is the best aspect of the game. But to me, in comparison to the first, it falls below par; the gameplay concept of the original game needed to be expanded upon the right way, and the developers didn’t do that, making for a more than decent gameplay experience, but just not the experience it could’ve been. 

 

Controls – 7.5/10

The control scheme is as varied as in the original game, with both Tails and Robotnik in mobile robots this time round, differing from how Tails handled in the first game. But the problem. Being is that Sonic’s control scheme, along with Shadow’s, is the same as what in the first Sonic Adventure, and as such, it still presents the same problems. If anything, they actually seem more prevalent as there are fewer open locations than there were in the first game. So although there are positives in regards to the controls, there are enough negatives to keep it seems as lacking in fluency as the first game. 

 

Lifespan – 4/10

The biggest downgrade compared to the first game, however, is in regards to the Lifespan. The first game lasted an underwhelmingly short amount of time anyway at 8 hours, but the second game can only be made to last about half that time, which for a game in a series as popular as Sonic is unacceptable. The point of a sequel is to build on the ideas perpetuated by the first in an attempt to create a better game, and having the second last less time than the first is not building on the first in a positive way. 

 

Storyline – 8/10

One aspect in which there have been improvements made, however, is in the story and the dialogue. The six characters involved are in the search for the seven chaos emeralds again, but this time, Dr. Robotnik enlists the help of Shadow The Hedgehog and Rouge the Bat to find the emeralds to activate a weapon capable of destroying planets to ensure his dominance over the world. Although there are serious Star Wars vibes, almost to the point of self-parody in fact, the element that makes this game’s story much more interesting than the last is Shadow; on the surface, he seems no better than the likes of Robotnik, but after slowly learning his back story, the player can come to empathize, or maybe even sympathize with him like I ended up doing. 

 

Originality – 5/10

The game stands out from the original but in many of the wrong ways. Although the overall experience isn’t bad by any means, it’s just not the game it could’ve been developed into in my opinion, and it left me wanting so much more than what is offered. It’s an exceptional example of how not to build on a successful game, giving players a somewhat watered-down experience. In the end, I found myself asking a lot of what-if questions about this game, and to me, it’s always a bad sign when I find myself doing so because it’s a clear indication of the game falling short in comparison to what it could’ve been given a little more development time. 

 

Happii

However, for as much as I have criticized this game, Sonic Adventure 2 is still an enjoyable gaming experience with a fair bit to offer for the short time it lasts. Although it’s nowhere near the quality of the game it had the potential to be, it just about does enough to be considered a worthwhile sequel. 

Score

42/60

7/10 (Fair)