Developer Interview : Paper-Castle Games!
After playing through Underhero (viewable here), it only made sense to find out more about this excellent game. After getting into contact with Paper Castle Games, the creators of Underhero, I set up a little interview, so that you could learn what goes into making a game like this!
- How did work begin on Underhero?
Rafael Cabrera (the programmer) and me, Alvaro Dominguez (artist), started thinking about Underhero around mid 2013. We had just finished working on our first game, Aeromagnets, a simple arcade style game for android devices. Having a little more confidence with the Unity engine, we decided to tackle a bigger game, an RPG story.
At the time, we designed Underhero (or RPG guy, as we called it) as a bite-sized RPG for mobile devices, with short 10-minute procedural dungeons and a very simple combat system. The procedural part proved to be too much for us, so we decided to scrap it and make a proper console style game. Story, dungeons, a bunch of characters, a more robust combat system, upgrades, you name it! (Spoiler alert, all of this was a lot more work than we originally thought.)
When we entered production, it took us around two years to learn and understand what we were actually doing. We had to scrap and re-do a lot of what we had made because it was simply not good! We made a ton of mistakes, but we learned a lot too.
As they say in this industry: “fail, and fail faster”. We even failed at that too, ha!
Both of us graduated from our respective universities while working on Underhero. Rafael graduated around 2014 and I graduated by the end of 2016. It could be said that we only started working full-time very recently!
- How did you come up with the unique battle mechanic of rhythm-based skirmishes?
I would like to clarify that Underhero is not exactly a rhythm-based game. We have a couple of extra mechanics that take advantage of the music, but it is not the core of the battle system.
We came up with this system by combining bits and pieces from our favorite battle systems: Paper Mario’s button presses and timing, Mario & Luigi’s dodging attacks, the stamina meter in Dark Souls, Mother 3 music combos, and many others!
Underhero’s combat is better described as a turn-based battle system, without turns! It’s all about timing your attacks and your dodges correctly. We call it “timing-based” combat. The player has to evade enemy attacks by jumping or crouching, and successfully dodging rewards the player with more stamina for more attacks. So, it’s a balancing act between consuming and regaining stamina.
Every enemy attack has hints or tells that let the player know exactly which attack is coming. It’s all about memorizing these patterns, and reacting accordingly. You could even beat the game without getting hit once!
- In the game’s description you state inspiration from the Paper Mario series. Can you give any examples about where that inspiration affected the game?
Aside from the already mentioned battle system, we tried to reflect a lot of the story beats and humor of Paper Mario in our game, with an added element of parody and self-awareness.
Enemies being just normal people with a job is one example that we wanted to expand upon, so we basically took that idea as basis and ran with it. As a minion, you live below the main castle where all minions live. They have a cafeteria, their own apartments, a syndicate, a theater… They complain about patrolling, or setting up puzzles, etc.
Another of our main inspirations from Paper Mario would be the characters. We simply love quirky and funny characters, and we think it makes a story or a game much more engaging if the characters are complex and interesting instead of one-dimensional. For example, our main villain, Mr. Stitches, truly cares for his minions and he can be very goofy most of the time, but he can also be cold and menacing when he’s serious.
- Underhero’s world is filled with odd and colourful characters. How do you come up with their designs?
Hard to explain, honestly. I guess we have an idea of how this character is supposed to be, personality-wise, so I start drawing concepts until something sticks. Others I just reused from my own art and old sketches that I liked. Mr. Stitches came from one of those sketches, actually!
- With Underhero still in development, what’s next on the agenda to add in?
After we release Underhero, there will be a lot more Underhero work to do! We have to consider localization, more distribution platforms, ports, post-release marketing stuff. It never actually ends until one of us dies, haha.
- Many games nowadays seem to keep to themselves during development. Do you feel that keeping a demo available for Underhero has affected its on-going reception before release?
I can’t talk for other developers, but in our case releasing demos has helped us not only improve the game immensely, but also gain a lot of cool fans through sites like Gamejolt and Itch.io.
It has affected our game for the better, no doubt about it. We are incredibly thankful to the community and for the reception we have received.
- For a small team, Underhero is obviously quite well visually polished. Has there been any issues working in a small group for the game’s development?
Thank you for that sneaky compliment!
Well, like I mentioned before, we had to re-do a lot of work because we just got better at this. All character animations had to be re-done, as well as the first area of the game because it simply wasn’t up to our standard anymore. The lesson here is to not make almost finished art when starting out, since you might end up re-doing it anyway. Place-holder art, simple art, works best when starting out a project.
Another issue you might say is the language barrier, since all of us are Spanish native speakers except for Stijn, our composer. Writing an RPG game is not only a lot of work, it also has to be very well written. Testing and releasing demos has helped us a lot to polish our writing, and proofreading has been a top priority from the start.
- Any plans for after Underhero is released?
We have lots of neat ideas for smaller games in the future! We can’t afford another 4-year-long development cycle, at least for the time being. We want to improve our craft by making fun games in the process!
- With the estimated release window of 2017 passed, when can fans expect to get their hands on the game?
2018 is the year! I’m sorry I can’t be more specific than that. When we reach a point where we are truly confident with the state of the game, then we will announce a specific date. But, I can say that we are very positive with our progress these last few months.
- Any tips for players looking to find any in-game secrets?
It’s not exactly a huge game. If you can get to a certain place, it’s for a reason! And this might be obvious, but NPCS are your friends! They say a lot of interesting things, and they might know an area better than you.
Thank you so much for having us!
And there you have it, so juicy insider info about Underhero! If you want to download the demo and check it out for yourself, follow the link here to Paper Castle Games’ official website!
Or if you want to see what I thought of the game, check out the official queuetimes Youtube channel to find out!
Latest posts by Neo (see all)
- Earn Overwatch League Tokens By Watching Twitch! - February 22, 2018
- Kai’Sa, Daughter of the Void Joins the League of Legends - February 20, 2018
- Overwatch Contenders Path to Pro 2018 Update - February 20, 2018