Another Castle

Uncade LLC is the name of a company owned by David Byers, a one man developer, who created games such as “Haunted Hallway”, “Blast Ball”, and “Love Me Not” for the PC and mobile devices.

Back in late February, Byers launched a successful Kickstarter campaign for his latest game, “Another Castle.”  The campaign surpassed the initial $12,000 goal and ended up raising $15,685.  “Another Castle” is schedule for released on the PC, Mac, iOS mobile devices, Android, and Wii U sometime in 2014.

Not only was Byers nice enough to do an interview with us, but he was willing to share some brand new screenshots of the game as well.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How did you teach yourself to create games?  How long have you been developing games?

Growing up I was always pretty good at art, and I ended up getting a degree in sculpture. My last semester in college, however, I took an intro programming course and fell in love with it. This left me a bit listless, as I now really wanted to work as a programmer, but all of my background was in art. For a while after college I taught myself a lot about making video game art, specifically digital sculpting, in attempt to put my sculpture degree to use, but my heart wasn’t really into working on just that part of a game.

So in 2010 I decided to start Uncade as a game company, having never made a video game in my life, and only a very basic understanding of programming. My goal has always been to push myself with each game, and essentially learn as I go. I’ve released 6 games commercially since then, and I’ve learned a hell of a lot from making each of them.

Working this way has been really fun for me, and I love being able to bounce around working on the variety of tasks game development requires, from art to programming, and even music. If I’m lucky I’ll have the opportunity to keep making games and improving for a long time to come.

Briefly explain Another Castle for those who have never heard of the game before.

Another Castle combines classic platforming gameplay with the randomness of a roguelike. You play as Andy, a dude who’s looking for a random item, whether it be a fire sword, jetpack, or royalty. When you beat the game you sadly won’t find the item, as it’s always in another castle. Instead the item is now unlocked and can be found in future playthroughs of the game. All of the levels are randomly generated, and along your journey you can find a variety of randomly dropped loot to improve your stats and abilities.

How far along in development is Another Castle?  When we can expect it to release?

Well, the way I’m designing the game is such that once the skeleton of it is complete, I could pretty much keep adding to it forever. I expect the skeleton to be complete around January, and that’s when I’ll start alphafunding the PC version of the game. After that I plan on releasing updates until about June, when I’ll release the 1.0 version of the game on the Wii U, PC, and mobile. Beyond that, who knows? I’d like to keep expanding the game, so hopefully it will be well enough received so that it makes sense for me to do so.

You became a Nintendo licensed developer earlier this year.  Is Another Castle currently running on any Wii U development kits?  If so, has it been a smooth experience porting from PC to console?

Another Castle is indeed running on my Wii U devkit. There’s been a few hiccups getting everything up and running, but Nintendo’s been pretty helpful with any issues I’ve had.

Describe your relationship with Nintendo. Do you find them to be easy to work with?

Nintendo so far has pretty great to work with. Like I said, they’ve been helpful with any issues I’ve had getting set up, and they’re making it as easy a possible to get my game on the Wii U. They seem to be making a lot of really smart decisions to get indie developers on board, a big one for me being the free Unity license.

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The level design in Another Castle seems to be randomly generated.  Why did you decide to do randomly generated levels instead of designing levels in a more traditional way?

I’m always trying to push myself with each game I make, and making well done randomly generated levels is a great challenge to improve my abilities. It’s just a really interesting problem to solve.

Another big reason for random levels is that they’re fun! A lot of the fun in games is the anticipation of an unknown event. What’s in this treasure chest? Is there an enemy lurking around the corner? Where will the roulette ball land? Is this a cursed item? Will this pipe take me to a secret part of the level?

I want to pack as many of these types of moments in Another Castle as possible. Even something as mundane as a game over screen is made a lot more fun if you give it a random message instead of a boring old “Game Over”.

Being that you’re a one man developer, describe what a typical day is like for you.  How many hours do you work on your game each day?

Well, my typical day to most people probably seems pretty boring, as I’m pretty much just working alone from my apartment. I generally get about 8 hours of work done a day, but that number is highly variable. Some days will be great and I’ll get 12 hours of really good work done. Other’s I just can’t seem to focus and I’ll only get a couple hours done in fits and starts.

Unity recently announced new tools and features for developers who want to develop 2D games.  Can you share your thoughts on this?  

I think it’s fantastic!  2D has always been Unity’s achilles heel, so I’m very excited that they’re adding in better support for it.  At this point Unity has become such an amazing tool I’d have to have an extremely compelling reason to stop using it.

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Can you explain the story behind the world or characters of Another Castle?  Is there a story?

The basic story right now is that after a long night of playing video games, Andy wakes up to find everything in his house stolen except for his trusty yo-yo. He then embarks on an Sisyphean quest to recover his stolen goods. Any other story elements will be randomly generated during a playthrough of the game. I generally enjoy games that focus more on gameplay and ambiance as opposed to story, so that’s the type of game I’m making. Making a game focused around a compelling narrative could be a fun challenge in the future, though.

Oh, and Andy can’t swim. Therefore, no boring water levels.

Another Castle’s art direction has a unique look to it.  What are you hoping to achieve with Another Castle’s art direction, and how long does it usually take to create each 3D character models or background design?

At this point it’s safe to say that pixel art platformers are a well established trope in indie games. I’m well aware of that, so even though pixel art makes the most sense for this game, I wanted to do it in a way that I haven’t seen done before. The idea for the art style is that 2D pixel art literally makes up the fabric of the universe, wrapping and twisting around to create a 3D world. I want the game to extremely bright and colorful, to the point where at times it’s on the cusp of being too intense. I also really like dithering patterns, especially when the pixels are pretty large, they can create the illusion where pixel art actually does look like woven fabric.

Individual assets can take anywhere from a couple hours to weeks, depending on the complexity. So far the most involved has been the backgrounds, as they have to tile and be texture mapped in a way that makes the pixel art as seamless as possible. This can get pretty tedious. To make all of the artwork for an environment I’m finding takes me a bit over a month. I’d like to speed this up as I improve my workflow and am able to start reusing more assets.

Recently, we’ve seen companies like Sony and Microsoft talking about Unity on their platforms.  Do you have interest in porting your games to Sony/Microsoft consoles?

To be honest, I’ve got my hands full developing Another Castle for the platforms I’ve already announced. That’s not to say I’m not interested in the other consoles, but it’s something I’ll probably think more seriously about once the game’s already finished. However, if Sony or Microsoft got in touch and said “Hey, we like the way your game’s coming along, what can we do to make it easier to get Another Castle on our platform?” I’d be more than happy to have that conversation.

Have you thought about porting some of your past games like Haunted Hallway or Blast Ball to the Wii U for a super cheap price?

I’ve thought about it, but to be honest I’m not sure yet. I feel like console games should be larger experiences than those games offer right now, so if I ever make them for the Wii U it would be more of a remake as opposed to a port. This would take a fair amount of work, and right now my top priority is working on Another Castle.

Do you have any ideas for games that you would like to work on after Another Castle is finished?

Of course! I get ideas for new games all of the time, and my next game will end up being whatever happens to be my favorite at the time. My favorite changes quite frequently, but the current frontrunner involves mad scientists.

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