Let’s Interview; Mega Maker Creator Wrecking Programs!

A few days ago, an interesting Mega Man fan game known as Mega Maker was announced. Designed as a Super Mario Maker style level editor for the series, it was intended to let players create their own levels and share them with friends online. Complete with themes based on all manner of levels from Mega Man 1 to 6!

It was the fan game Mega Man fans have wanted for years.

And dear god, did the internet let the creators know that. Why? Because in a just few days, the game went from being virtually unknown to front page news on Kotaku and GameSpot! It’s become the next AM2R or Pokémon Uranium!

But the sites never covered much about the authors of the game in question. So what’s where we come in.

Because this time on Gaming Reinvented, we’re interviewing Mega Maker creating Wrecking Programs about their game and personal life.

So if you’re interested in learning more about the title (and those who made it), keep reading!

Well, you know the drill here. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Who are you when you’re not making fan games?

I’m a student from the Netherlands. I’ve just finished high school and plan to attend university later this year, studying Computer Science. Aside from developing games, I enjoy playing somewhat competitive Super Smash Bros in my free time (mostly Brawl, but I play some Melee too) and I like to play 2D platformers, of course.

And what’s your experience with video games anyway? How did you first start playing them?

My first experience with video games was through the Sega Genesis (called the Mega Drive over here) my parents owned. This introduced me to the Sonic series and platformers in general. I later bought a Nintendo DS, which introduced me to the Mario franchise (and Super Mario 64 DS is still my favourite Mario game to this day). I wasn’t introduced to Mega Man until much later; 2014 if I recall correctly.

What’s your favourite game?

My favourite game is Super Smash Bros Brawl, which I also play competitively as described earlier.

Okay, so where did your username come from? What was the ‘wrecking’ part inspired by?

The ‘wrecking’ part came to be years ago, back in 2012 I believe. I really liked the Skylanders series back then, and my favourite character there was Wrecking Ball, which I based my username on (back then it was WreckingGoomba, so a combination of my favourite characters). I outgrew the series shortly after, but decided to keep the ‘wrecking’ part anyway. Then I changed it to WreckingPrograms about three years ago.

Onto game development now. How did you first get started making games?

I’ve wanted to make games ever since I first encountered them on the Genesis, and after some brief searching I came across Game Maker 8.0 in 2010. I was initially somewhat scared by its focus on programming, but the Drag & Drop system helped me get used to it relatively quickly, and I’ve stayed with the program since (though I’m using a newer version called Game Maker Studio nowadays).

Before you made Mega Maker, you also created a few Mario fan games like Super Mario & the Elemental Orbs. What inspired that series?

As I stated before, I hadn’t discovered Mega Man until 2014, and before that my favourite franchise was Mario. There’s no specific inspiration aside from that. My first few fangames were really bad, naturally, but they became better over time, although I still don’t consider Super Mario & the Elemental Orbs on par with my current standards.

Heck, what’s the status of it anyway? Is the series over now?

Super Mario & the Elemental Orbs is still in development, but progress is slow. It definitely became more of a side project, but I hope to finish it this year.

So Mega Maker stuff now. What made you decide to create a Mega Man fan game?

I wanted to make a Mega Man-esque game as soon as I discovered the series. It quickly grew on me, and initially I decided to create a Mega Man-inspired indie game called Environ. It’s unfortunately cancelled, but you can still watch and play the demo here:

I cancelled the game because I found out indie gaming wasn’t for me, which I discovered while developing the Mega Engine, a Mega Man engine for Game Maker that I created last year that also served as the base engine for Mega Maker. This was initially a side project, but it made me remember how much more fun fan game development was, so I decided to leave the indie scene and focus on fan gaming instead. Of course, the next step was to create a Mega Man fan game, which became Mega Maker.

What about a Mega Man version of Super Mario Maker? That’s an unusual idea for a Mega Man fan game…

The reason I created the Mega Engine was to give the community a more accessible way to create their own Mega Man games, which served as the main inspiration for creating Mega Maker. Additionally, the Make a Good Mega Man Level contest (a contest where people could submit their own Mega Man levels to create a community-based game) served as inspiration as well, on top of Mega Man Powered Up’s level creator.

However, the most important reason I started Mega Maker was the fact that level makers involve a lot of programming (my favourite part of game development) and it allowed me to re-use several official assets, which allowed me to not worry too much about custom sprites, music and more. Part of the reason I left the indie scene is that you have to create basically everything yourself (unless you work in a team, but these are hard to establish for indie games). Mega Maker allowed me to focus on my favourite aspects of game development, while not having to worry too much about most other parts.

And how did you choose what themes to include? Are they all based on the most popular Mega Man series levels? Or just ones you thought had neat differences and gimmicks?

We included as many background and tilesets as we could. Some levels (like Cut Man’s stage) lacked a background and some tilesets (such as Flash Man’s) were not compatible with our autotiler, but aside from that, all Robot Master themes from Mega Man 1 through 6 are in the game.

Flash Man Screenshot

It seems to be mostly eight bit styled here, unlike Super Mario Maker. Is your intention to only include stuff from the first 6 Mega Man games and Mega Man 9 and 10?

The first release will only have content from Mega Man 1 through 6, but we plan on releasing content from Mega Man 7 onwards through updates. We will of course have to recreate the Mega Man 7 and 8 assets to be 8-bit, so we’ll have to see how that goes.

Mega Man 7 Wily Castle Screenshot

Regardless of that, do you think any Wily stage themes or objects will be included? What ones?

We hope to add Wily stage content through updates, but we’re not sure which stages exactly would be covered.

How about bosses? The trailer says 12 of them are included, so what ones are they? Why did you choose those specific ones?

Sorry, I can’t reveal that yet. You’ll have to find out once the game launches 😛

In the trailer, you say how a few weapons and abilities have been altered or made a bit stronger/more interesting. Has the same also happened to enemies? Because Mario Maker gave enemies new abilities if they were underwater or what not…

Again, we can’t reveal that yet, sorry.

And how much customisation is available there? Can enemies meant for certain levels (like Quickman Lasers) be used in other themes?

Yes, you will be able to use any enemies, objects or other assets in any stage theme. You can even combine different tilesets and backgrounds to create your own theme.

What about other customisation options? Are there any extra graphical flourishes in the tilesets and what not? Like in Mario Maker?

Aside from backgrounds, there is no scenery, as 8-bit Mega Man did not have these. However, these are definitely not necessary to create beautiful levels, as seen in screenshots on our website:

Mega Maker Screenshot 1

Mega Maker Screenshot 2

Mega Maker Screenshot 3

Mega Maker Screenshot 4

Mega Maker supposedly also has various extras too. Can you tell us a bit more about these?

Notable extras include two all-new weapons, several buffed weapons (such as Top Spin and Plant Barrier) and an interactive tutorial to learn the basics of the level editor. We unfortunately cannot reveal extras, though, so there will be some more to be discovered at launch.

Okay, online level sharing is a big part here. What kind of features does this aspect have associated with it?

You can, of course, upload your own levels and share them with others. You can also browse for levels created by others with several ways to sort them, such as sorting by best rating, sorting by most played or even sorting randomly. Additionally, you can also search for a specific level you want, you can enter the level ID to play that level and you can let the game pick a level randomly. On top of that, you can like or dislike levels you’ve played.

Are there any filters or options there? Like Easy, Normal, Expert and Super Expert modes?

Sorry, we can’t reveal that yet.

How do you share these levels with others then? Will levels have codes you can share?

Each level will have its own ID, which is just a number. Players can enter this number to play your level.

I also hear the game won’t be open source at the moment. Is that planned at some point? To allow mods to be made and what not?

We’re considering it, but at the moment it doesn’t look like the game will be open source, sorry.

In recent times, we’ve seen a fair few fan games shut down. Do you ever worry Capcom could do the same thing?

Capcom is very lenient with fan games. They have never taken down a Mega Man fan game unless they tried making a profit or contained NSFW, neither of which applies to Mega Maker (all Patreon donations will go directly to server fees). On top of that, a notable Capcom employee has even stated they wouldn’t take down fan works unless these conditions are met, on the Capcom Unity forums no less. I don’t think we have to worry about a Cease & Desist from them.

If they do, will this title be reimagined as an original IP or cancelled altogether?

We haven’t thought about that as we don’t expect a Cease & Desist (see earlier), so unfortunately we don’t know.

Then again, Capcom is pretty nice to fan games. Do you think there’s a chance they’ll make this official? Like Street Fighter X Mega Man?

With Mega Man’s 30th anniversary coming up, they could always decide to do the same thing they did five years ago, which is making a fan game official. The chances of that are very low though, and we definitely do not expect them to make Mega Maker official.

Regardless of what Capcom thinks, it seems the internet loves the game. Did you expect all this hype over it?

I expected some popularity, but not nearly as much as we ended up getting. I wouldn’t consider this a bad thing or anything, and it’s definitely great to see so many people excited about the game, but I do hope the server won’t overload on launch day. We’ll have to see about that.

What about the articles on sites like Kotaku?

I was really surprised to see so many sites cover the game, especially ones like IGN and Kotaku. Most of these articles said the same thing though: the game looks cool, but Capcom may take it down. While I understand their concern, the chances of that happening are low, as explained earlier. Kotaku’s article in particular contained quite some unfortunate mistakes though. For example, it claimed CosmicGem is the only musician working on the project, it stated the soundtrack was chiptune-inspired while it’s real chiptune (it could even play on an actual NES) and it said our maximum Patreon goal is $15, while it is $50 in reality. A lot of sites seem to have used Kotaku as their source, which is a shame considering these mistakes, but I appreciate the coverage nonetheless.

Assuming it does make release day, will the game get regular updates with new content and features?

Yes! Aside from bug patches, we plan on adding content from Mega Man 7 onwards, as well as new features.

What about future plans? Do you have any plans for Mega Man fan games after this one?

Not really. We still plan on updating this game regularly as stated before, so we’ll have quite some work on this project before we’ll move on to a different project, and it’s too early to decide on what this new project would be.

Finally, what advice would you give anyone going into video game development?

Start small. It’s easy to imagine a huge and exciting game with tons of content, but newcomers that decide to create these games always end up cancelling then early on. It’s a much better idea to start small and work your way up; if Mega Maker were my first project, for example, it definitely wouldn’t have seen a launch day. But most importantly, have fun! If you are not enjoying game development, there’s no point in doing it, and if you only enjoy a specific aspect of it (like programming, graphics or music) consider joining another project’s team. You’d be surprised how many teams are looking for people like you!

And you know what we think?

That’s great advice right there. Yes, I know you’ve probably got a million ideas for the game of your dreams. Everyone has. It’s why so many game development forums are filled with newbies posting topics about overambitious, likely to fail ideas.

Why so many indies and fan game creators try and create their MMORPG and fail miserably.

So don’t start with an ambitious project. Start small and make your way up to larger projects as your level of skill improves. That’s how to succeed in the game development scene. Not the ‘I’m going to create a new Mushroom Kingdom Fusion after one day of messing with Game Maker’ route.

But hey, what do you think of the interview? Did you find it interesting? Were the answers provided by WreckingPrograms what you expected to see?

Or do you feel we’ve missed out on a few key question ideas?

Post your thoughts here or on social media today! Also, give ’em a follow on Twitter or YouTube! They’ll appreciate it!

Let’s Interview: Spriter and Pixel Artist SmithyGCN!

Here at Gaming Reinvented, we’ve interviewed all kinds of people in the gaming world. There have been fan game and ROM hack developers, like Kaze Emanuar and Judge Spear. There have been music remixers and YouTube celebrities like the Lonely Goomba, Slopes Game Room and BlueJackG.

And well, on occasion we’ve even interviewed website developers and writers, like the nice folks at Source Gaming.

But one type of interviewee we haven’t talked to yet, is a graphics artist.

Until now. Because this time on the Gaming Reinvented interview block, we’ve got long time spriter SmithyGCN telling us about his experiences drawing video game sprites and pixel art for fan games and other works! You may know him from the Spriter’s Resource where he’s drawn stuff like this:

Smithy GCN Sprite Sample 1

Or MFGG where he’s posted similar work:

Smithy GCN Sprite Sample 2

Either way though, he’s here to tell us just what it’s like being a spriter and graphics artist, as well as give some tips for anyone interested in learning how to get good at pixel art.

So let the interview begin!

Starting with the usual personal background question. Who are you really? Who is the individual behind the SmithyGCN pseudonym?

My name is JohnMichael Earnest Woodard. I am an artist who is extremely interested in cartoon animation and video game pixel art. I am also a decent chef and a Christian. I’m the oldest of ten children in my family.

How did you first get interested in video games? Was Super Mario RPG one of your first gaming experiences, or did you come across it a fair bit after you got into the hobby?

I was introduced to them at a very young age. Indeed, I used to watch my Dad play things like Ironsword and Legacy of the Wizard. I would go on to beat at least Legacy of the Wizard many years later… still working on Ironsword, though. I didn’t play Super Mario RPG until nearly the end of my stay in Wisconsin which would have put me at about 12 years old.

What about your spriting background? What encouraged you to start creating video game sprites and pixel art anyway?

Believe it or not, the advertisements surrounding home computers. I saw how they displayed the Paint programs they had and it reminded me of video game art. When I finally got my own computer, I made up fake and poorly made screenshots of games surrounding my brother’s characters. My first pixel art was of a giant slug like creature from a Dungeons & Dragon’s bestiary. The screenshots have been lost to the annals of time.

Were there any games that inspired you there? Because while a few (like the ghost house graphics you posted on TSR about a decade ago) look Super Mario RPG inspired, others like your recent platformer sprites seem to take a lot of inspiration from 8 bit Castlevania titles.

Smithy GCN Ghost House Sprite

Smithy GCN Kamek Sprites

My biggest inspirations early on were of Final Fantasy games from the NES and SNES eras. Especially Final Fantasy III/VI. When I made that Ghost House, I was trying to go for a more realistic setting to go with my then current project Ganbare Nintendo Densetsu no.009. I wanted the backgrounds to contrast heavily with the characters.

As time went on and GND fell by the wayside, I went to fond remembrance of the NES era and, more specifically, the cartoon of Captain N. I wanted to create something similar that would work with the same premise of GND. So, 2 Souls’ Tale was started. I at first kept the sprite animations simple like that of the NES games, but it wasn’t long before I fell in love with cartoon animation of the western hemisphere and began to apply the principles to my pixel art with great success. However, it wasn’t to last as when my then-girlfriend had left me (she was helping with the story writing, etc), my interest in 2 Souls’ Tale began to diminish over time. That was until I decided to make the two main characters after some of my church friends. Still, I put the game on hiatus while I pursued other artistic endeavours.

Continue Reading…

Let’s Interview: Loeder!

In the world of video game remixers, everyone has their own style. There are plain old remixers who come up with their own take on a popular song. There are people who try and orchestrate old school tunes to make them sound like something from a modern game or movie.

And then there are people who try and recreate songs in the style of another era. Like redoing Mario & Luigi songs with Pokémon soundfonts or seeing what modern Mario game themes would sound like on the SNES.

Loeder is one of the latter. Known for remaking video game songs with NES style soundfonts in an eight bit style, he’s gained a bit of fame in recent years for his takes on the soundtracks for titles like Paper Mario Color Splash and the Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild.

Yet we don’t actually know about him as a person. Who’s behind the YouTube channel? What are his inspirations? Where do his choices for songs to cover come from?

We don’t know.

Until now that is! Because we’ve managed to get an exclusive interview about him focusing on his life, YouTube channel and career. So if you’ve interested in knowing who this mystery video game music creator is, or how he gotten into the whole eight bit covers thing, keep reading!

So hey, you know the drill here. What’s your backstory anyway? Who is the person behind the Loeder ‘brand’ so to speak?

I’m just an 18-year old student from Holland, really. Not much backstory here!

And for that matter, how did you get into video games?

I think my first video game was Wario Land 3 for the Gameboy Color, which I got to play at a cousin’s house. I don’t think I got very far but I ended up loving it and getting myself a Gameboy Advance later.

How about favourite games? Are there titles you really like?

My favourite game is Mario Kart 8! I’m not a competitive gamer at all so getting hit by 10 items in a row just makes me laugh (whereas a lot of people start raging), which is why I think I enjoy it so much. I also exclusively use motion controls.

What about video game soundtracks you think are absolutely amazing? What are your favourites there?

I think I love video game soundtracks because they can’t rely on lyrics to make a song, so they are way more melodic than the music you hear on radio etc. My favourite soundtracks are from Zelda: Skyward Sword and Metal Slug! I also really love the music for a little game called F1-Race for the Gameboy, which is probably what got me into chiptune music.

Or on the other end of the spectrum, ones you’re not so fond of? Any video game soundtracks you feel are outright terrible, or even just somewhat disappointing for their series?

I don’t think there are many popular games with a terrible soundtrack, but I do hate it when music sounds way too happy or generic. A good example would be the music for the Dinosaur world in Super Mario Odyssey, it reminds me of the music you hear in theme parks which I don’t like very much.

Continue Reading…

Let’s Interview… BlueJackG!

He’s been remixing music for years. He’s redone the Wario Land 4 soundtrack. And with experiences in everything from video game Let’s Plays to livestreams and tournaments, he’s turned his a channel into a mini success with thousands of fans.

But until now, few people know much about the guy behind the YouTube channel. Who is Jack? Where did the idea for Blue as a character come from? Why did he choose the songs he did to remix?

We find out this (and much more) in our exclusive new interview with BlueJackG! Hope you enjoy it!

1. So let’s start with the obvious one here. Who are you? What is your personal story here?

Who? Jack or Blue? Hahaha! Seriously, I’m just a guy who happens to play video games and admire them for all details they have. Some don’t realize how beautiful games can actually be! I came from a place where making friends wasn’t easy, and getting bullied too. Sounds cliché, right? Well, I wouldn’t be here if these wonderful games weren’t there after school! My Game Boy was my best friend, to the point that I wondered what these 8-bit tunes would sound like with real instruments! My life isn’t really too interesting, although I can say I have a strong imagination, something I was praised a lot, and still am!

2. And how about that of your character? It’s not often that a YouTube channel about video game remixes has a mascot…

Oh, Blue? She just crashed here, back in 2008! When I created the channel, I needed a brand, and I wanted to create an identity; something unique that would work as my own. When I created the channel called “BlueJackG”, I thought maybe a pair of contrasting characters would be fun! Based on Rhythm Heaven and WarioWare styles, I created the first designs of Blue, which became quite popular at the time! I also based her personality on some good friends of mine, and at the end, she became almost my opposite, contrasting with myself. That’s also why I picture myself wearing red colors, by the way! I know there’s so much potential there, but I don’t really have the skills to give both Blue and Jack their own show.

3. Either way, what’s your history with gaming? What game did you originally start with all those years ago?

Let’s see… I got my first console way back, not sure exactly when, but I remember it was a clunky old Game Boy, that came with Tetris. My parents got me Super Mario Land with it, and those were my first steps in gaming. I also got a Super Nintendo, where I could play Super Mario Kart, Aladdin, the Lion King and, my favorites, the Donkey Kong Country trilogy.

It wasn’t until later that I got the chance to play Super Mario Land 2, the game that made be a fan of Wario! You don’t even realize how shocked I was when I then got my copy of Wario Land; I thought I was dreaming! I wasn’t a huge gamer back then, and what my parents would get me, is what I would play, so it’s not like I could decide what I wanted or had any way to choose. Although I am still sad that I haven’t had the chance to get a N64, since, at the time, I got a Playstation One instead.

I wasn’t sad, but I can say now that I didn’t grow with Super Mario 64, but instead, with Crash Bandicoot. What would I have become if I actually got the Nintendo 64 instead, I wonder….

4. Moving on YouTube stuff now. How do you pick songs to remix anyway?

The music selection comes from anywhere, really. Sometimes I pick a game that pops up in my mind, other times I follow requests and suggestions, and sometimes they’re just related to what I play on the channel, to accompany the series. The idea is to create that nostalgia “slap”, whenever I upload a new remix, trying to stay as close as I can to the original composition. Also, I always try to keep it retro, just to create that effect on people and also because remixing or remastering a track from older games makes it sound more unique.

5. You also seem to be a pretty big fan of the Wario series, based on the amount of remixes from the series. What got you interested in those games as well?

Childhood… I grew up with the greedy man, and I am glad I did, being offered one of the most wonderful and well designed franchises of all time. Wario always intrigued me, as a character: being a goofy looking super strong but super fat and greedy character, collecting riches and bashing through enemies like butter. Also, like I said, the games are wonderfully crafted, offering fantastic controls on some creative level design, all of it coated with great and memorable scenarios, beautiful graphics and music, and a really simplistic story.

6. How about the Wario Land 4 remix project you did recently? Where did that idea come from?

Oh, that project was, actually, a challenge from the Wario Forums, if I remember correctly. I remade one of the tracks and someone challenged me to do the whole soundtrack, so I did, I worked on it night and day and uploaded daily, fixing details each track. I’m not really done with it, but I don’t know when I’m going to finish! Not much left, though. This project was also a dream of mine to see the Wario Land 4 soundtrack be remastered in HD format, hopefully we can see a remake of the Wario Land series soon(?)

7. And did you find it amusing how at roughly the same time, someone else on Wario Forums was also remastering the game’s music?

You know, when that sort of thing happens, it’s really nice to know we’re not alone in wanting to have the soundtrack remastered! If I remember correctly, that was yet another project to use the soundfont from the WarioWare games to make the soundtrack sound like as if it was made for the Gamecube, and that sounded so great! When fans unite, we can do great things!

Continue Reading…

Let’s Interview: Paper Soul Theatre Developers Otyugra Games!

When it comes to indie games in development, some are more well known than others.

On the one hand, you have stuff like Shovel Knight, Shantae and the various Kickstarter disasters that have been released in the last year or two. These games are heavily promoted, have lots of articles written about them and usually end up with a decent amount of information about them online. They have hype behind them.

Paper Soul Theatre is not like this. Instead, some may almost consider it the exact opposite. Why? Because despite it being announced a while back and advertised on Paper Mario fan forums, almost no one knows much about the game itself. The game is like some sort of strange enigma. A phantom game we know exists, but know nothing about.

Until now. Because thanks to a bit of careful persuation, we’ve now managed to get a full interivew about the title courtesy of the folks at Otyugra Games. This includes real concept art, details on the story and mechanics and a ton more besides!

So if you’re interested in the game and wish to know exactly what it is, keep reading. Because this is one hell of an interesting game…

Let’s start with the personal stuff first, just to get it out the way. Who are you? Who is on the team at Otyugra Games?

My name is Matthew Kordon –thank you for interviewing me. Game development has been a hobby of mine for about seven years, and is now transitioning into an occupation. I became interested in game design as a kid when I discovered Super Mario Flash, a browser level editor that had a big community around it in its heyday.

Super Mario Flash
Matthew Kordon previously designed levels for Super Mario Flash in the past

Since then, I’ve worked to become a writer and music composer. I’ve also been drawing my whole life, and as a college student, I’m majoring in computer science.

Okay, sounds good. Anyone else working on the game? Because your site mentions a team…

Otyugra Games as a group of people has changed in size aggressively and repeatedly since the start, but momentarily, the people who help on the team are all what I would call Directors of Game Design who are mostly game writers secondarily.

Including me, there are 4 members.

Right then. Moving on a bit now, how did you first get interested in video games?

My first experience with video games was a 2003 leapfrog edutainment handheld system when I was about 7-years-old. I immediately fell in love with gaming and soon after, I began to play early 2000s kid-friendly computer games and got a Game Boy Advance. My first interaction with the Paper Mario series was in 2007 when Super Paper Mario came out, which was also my second experience with RPGs, the Pokémon series being the first.

Ed: Huh, that’s pretty interesting. Didn’t expect your first Paper Mario game to be Super Paper Mario…

Oddly enough, Super Paper Mario was the game that made me appreciate what videogames are capable of, but it wasn’t until I played TTYD a few years later that I wanted to make a game inspired by the original trilogy. Yeah, for a Nintendo game, Super Paper Mario had an arguably-surreal and very complex story with mature moments, which was a cut above the kind of stories I was used to at the time.

Yeah, it certainly had a unique story for a Nintendo game. Quick question on game development now though. Did you make any games before Paper Soul Theatre?

You betcha. I’m head Game Director, so naturally I’ve had practice. One of my early games is an unfinished point-and-click sci-fi game that was going to deal with the ethics of business on a galactic scale. What’s cool about that game, Everlasting Night, is that it was the inspiration for the 3 RPG classes that you choose between at the start of Paper Soul Theater. As stated before, the class you choose helps determine Aponi’s personality and dialogue options.

Additionally, I made a game called Meat Quest, which is like a tiny, comedic, postmodern version of Myst. Of all my games, I think that one had the most striking art. I made it for a competition and it did really well. I’ve also made a little puzzle platformer, and a strategy game that is basically a Chess-Fire Emblem hybrid.

A past game
A past game from Paper Soul Theatre lead developer Matthew Kordon

However, what exactly is the main gameplay setup in Paper Soul Theatre? Because the description on your site doesn’t say much about the game is actually played…

Paper Soul Theater is a subversive 3D turn-based RPG/platformer/survival horror video game, modelled after “Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door,” about a girl in a surreal fantasy world, and the allies she gains, who use peaceful communication, violence, spiritual help, and the power of ancient totems to stop crusaders from beginning a devastating war with her weak confederacy.

And the newer description isn’t really a whole lot clearer in that sense:

Paper Soul Theater: …is a 3D role-playing/ economics/ action-adventure videogame, modelled after “Paper Mario: Thousand-Year Door,” about a troubled girl and her nomadic allies, who use peaceful communication; violence; powerful ancient artifacts; and spiritual help to return home, all while discovering the true history of her world

Okay then. That’s something. Can you explain it in a slightly clearer way? Like, a way the average Joe on Reddit or NeoGAF can understand?

I think the clearest way to describe how Paper Soul Theater will play is by building off of Thousand Year Door’s gameplay description. Just like in TTYD, you move around “in the fields” to go from town to town, or from town to important location. Along the way, your party battles the corrupted “half-souls” who are cursed to walk the planet. Combat relies on weapon type advantages and Action Commands (interactions required of the player to land an attack or defend, often more complex than simply pressing buttons at the right timing).

Because the setting is a cross between medieval-fantasy, and indigenous-tribalism, melee weapons and magic are used to settle turn-based battles. However, there is a major twist. There are two win conditions in most (if not all) battles; all characters in a fight have both a health total and a Willpower total. If a foe’s Willpower reaches zero, they end their aggression often by running away (if they are unintelligent) or by surrendering (if they can talk).

Paper Soul Theatre mechanics
A general illustration of the battle system in Paper Soul Theatre.

Aponi Oru is the playable character, who you start the game with one of three RPG classes (defense expert, illusionist, and divine dancer). As Aponi, you can choose to fight physically, or use your RPG class abilities to make your opponent back down. The RPG class you choose at the start unlocks new content and changes Aponi’s personality, and it also doubles as a difficulty setting.

Three classes
The three classes you can choose in Paper Soul Theatre

Like in TTYD, and Paper Mario 64, you acquire partners on your journey who help you “in the field” and in battle. The player gets to choose Aponi’s dialogue and actions during slow moments and is capable of buying and selling with not just shop owners, but nearly half the people you meet. Trading goods (whether items useful in battle, food ingredients, or valuables) is a larger focus in our game than it was in TTYD. Just like TTYD, the world is broken up into a bunch of tiny sections as a way to curb our ambition. Lastly, our game features a textlog, which allows the player to see how Aponi’s thoughts and feelings. In battle it records information, like how much damage an attack did. Our game is expected to have systems nearly identical to TTYD leveling up, badges, and Flower Points.

Buying and Selling
Buying and selling items is a bigger focus here than in Paper Mario

Ah, that makes a bit more sense now. The willpower mechanic sounds like a really unique mechanic.

However, does it let you play the game as a pacifist, like Undertale?

That’s an excellent question. The team and I have pretty diverse and intense feelings towards both Undertale and pacifism. Believe it or not, the original concept for Paper Soul Theater back in mid-late 2015 was very similar to what Undertale turned out to be.

At the time, that was only a demo and a recently successful Kickstarter, so I and everyone I told about my concept had never even heard of Undertale at the time. Both games coincidentally star young girls in fantasy interactive-turn-based RPGS in which you can, as that character, choose to be nonviolent or violent to get your way. When Undertale was first released, I was extremely bitter but eventually I looked closer and started deeply appreciating what was new and excellent about it.

Regarding pacifism, I would say Paper Soul Theatre is a response to Undertale, rather than an echo. I’m going to leave it at that as to not spoil anything.

Onto another question now. Can you tell us a bit more about the game’s cast? Who does the game focus on?

Paper Soul Theater centers around Aponi, a troubled 14-year-old girl, and three friends that she makes on her journey back home. At the start of the game, she already found a friend in a nonhuman named Tuari. He follows Aponi at first because he’s deeply concerned about her safety, and the two of them are about the same age. Aponi’s land is governed by a pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, as well as the souls of the not-currently living, known to humans as paper souls. Two of these paper souls play a significant role in the story, but how is a spoiler. There are many species (races) living on Aponi’s planet who live desegregated. Any of these people can choose obedience to one of the many gods, and in that way, the gods play a significant indirect role.

Aponi
Aponi, the main protagonist of Paper Soul Theatre

One thing we haven’t seen much of with Paper Soul Theatre is the art style. What kind of style are you going for here? Is it cel shaded? Paper Mario style sprites in a 3D environment? Something else?

It’s true that much of the art we’ve shown is of different styles, since we’ve been more loose about how we make concept art. Our game has two art styles. Environmental graphics (like the ground and sky), and stationary things (like trees and houses) all have a watercolor, soft, detailed art style, while everything else (like people and animals) have an art style similar to The Thousand Year Door, but with flat colors.

So it’s basically a bit like Skyward Sword’s backgrounds meet Paper Mario’s characters?

That’s a good comparison. We’re aiming for a mixure of Paper Mario’s cute simplicity, and a bit of realism/ detail.

And what interesting looking locations are you going to have in this game? Because one of the biggest things people like about Paper Mario is how each chapter has a unique style to it. Like Twilight Town or the Boggly Woods in the Thousand Year Door…

The imaginative places of TTYD are undoubtedly memorable, so I doubt Paper Soul Theatre will be able to match such an incredible accomplishment, but our plan is to maintain that each place is atmospherically distinct, and filled with interesting sights.

There is one point in which your party ventures through a forest beneath the surface of the planet filled with glowing life, strange stalagmites and albino creatures. I got that idea both from Iroquois Mythology and also the indie RPG Space Funeral.

The locales of TTYD have left a huge impression on all of us, but unlike for that game, the locations in ours will need to look as though they could exist near each other; Thousand Year Door was more of a story anthology than a single narrative.

At one point, PST was going have the entire art style change depending on where you are, but that was immediately scrapped.

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