|10-19-2012, 10:52 AM||#1|
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Las Vegas
[Indie Center] MoaCube, Studio behind Bonfire, Cinders, & Magi
CoG: So, who are you? How many folk in the studio, and where's everyone located?
TG: My name is Tom Grochowiak and I head a small indie developer collective MoaCube. The core team is just four people: me, artists: Gracjana Zielinska and Kate Kluge, and Marius Utheim, who sometimes helps us with programming. We also work with composer Rob Westwood and writers Hubert Sobecki and Agnieszka Mulak. Except for Rob and Marius, we are all based in Poland.
CoG: What has the studio's crew worked on before?
TG: I started the whole thing seven years ago, when I released my wizard duelling strategy Magi. Then, I got sucked in by the videogame industry. Worked a bit on The Witcher and then moved to a small independent casual games company Codeminion, where I’ve met Gracjana. We did a few games together. Three years later, me and Gracjana found ourselves without a job and decided to go full-time indie to do our own stuff.
Our latest game is the serious westen visual novel Cinders. Pretty much a feminist retelling of the Cinderella fairytale, with tons of player choices and ending variants. I also released a freeware co-op arcade minigame Co-Op (the most original name ever, I know). It’s pretty cool if you don’t mind losing your friends.
Currently, we’re working on another VN, a battle roguelike Bonfire which is Kate’s and mine personal project, and a third yet unannounced game.
MoaCube's first project, Magi.
CoG: What's an innovation, mechanic, or just a small touch in a game lately that's really impressed you? (or an entire game that's blown your mind?)
TG: Dragon’s Dogma and it’s health mechanic. Whenever you get hit, it lowers the amount of maximum health you can heal up to. It’s brilliant! Solves so many issues troubling most combat-oriented rpgs. It turns every quest into an epic journey, when near the end every member of your party is barely holding up. It makes tanking and healing a bad strategy in the long term, preventing stale mates. And it makes consumables finally useful, as they are the only way to restore max health.
I totally stole... I mean, *got inspired by it* and have something similar in Bonfire.
The Bonfire... bonfire!
CoG: What was the original thought or idea that lead to Bonfire and Cinders? Why the fire names?
TG: Haha. Haven’t thought about the names this way. Cinders is just short for Cinderella. Bonfire -- well -- I had this image of fantasy heroes sitting around a campfire in my head, and bonfire is just a cooler word than campfire. So it’s an accident. I admit I like single-word titles, though. Easy to remember, easy to work into a logo. And stuff.
It’s funny but these games originate from two completely conflicting ideas. Cinders is a VN. It’s all about the story and characters, reading lots of text, making choices. No classically understood gameplay to speak of. We wanted to make something like it since quite a while. A more serious game, focused on storytelling and atmosphere, touching mature themes.
Bonfire is exactly the opposite. For the past several years I’ve been working on casual games, and now visual novels. I love them but it left me a bit game design starved. I missed making more *gamey* games. So one day, me and Kate I picked one of my game jam prototypes and developed it into a full project. It’s a completely gameplay-centric game. All about mechanics, strategy, and challenge. Haven’t worked on something like that since Magi, and it’s a total blast! I get to crunch so many numbers it hurts! And it’s a sweet, sweet pain.
Bonfire Combat! Finish Him... err.. it!
CoG: Tell us about your upcoming project!
TG: Bonfire could be described as battle roguelike. Take a turn-based battle system from an RPG, boil it down to what really matters strategically, add perma-death and randomness, and there you go.
The basics are very simple. The player picks a party of three out of several possible characters, each with three different abilities activated depending on if you click on an enemy, an ally or yourself. You can also find items which offer powerful one-time effects when used. You use that to progress through one of the several randomized quests, and progression unlocks more characters, allows to develop their stats, initial equipment, etc. There’s also a puzzle element. The puzzle is: “How the hell am I supposed to survive this!?”. The game is going to be really challenging.
Most modern combat-oriented rpgs boil down to clicking or mashing the attack button and watching stuff die (with notable exceptions like the Souls games). Indie games are the last bastion of actual challenge, but I’ve noticed many have a problem that inspired me to take a slightly different design approach with Bonfire. There’s this issue that once you find a winning strategy in a game, it becomes a routine. You just keep performing the same effective combo again and again. I want Bonfire to be more like Desktop Dungeons, where you have to improvise even when you’re good at the game. All monsters are designed to break or counter different strategies and the characters are pretty fragile, so trying to do the same thing over and over results in a quick loss. Every turn you must consider what’s the best action to take, depending on the encounter’s compozition, your characters’ status, and what items are available.
I hope it’s going to be fun. In that “Argh! I died again!” way.
Cinders has an amazing art style to it.
CoG: What would you like people to know about your last project, Cinders?
Sure. Cinders is something me and my friend Gracjana Zielinska were talking about since quite some time, while still working at Codeminion. When we went full-time indie together, it seemed like a natural choice for our first project. It's -- as you have said -- a visual novel retelling of Cinderella. Though, it's actually more of a dispute with the fairytale and its morals, rather than an homage. We dislike the fact that the original Cinderella basically boils down to: "Be patient and never speak up, and then maybe you'll get a rich husband." Especially as this fairytale is still a popular trope in modern culture. We wanted to tell a more mature story, where Cinderella is an active protagonist who needs to grow up and leave her naive worldview behind. We also wanted to focus more on the antagonists -- give the stepmother and sisters some actual backstory and motivation behind their actions and behavior. Make the player wonder why Cinders can still change her life while they can't.
As a game, we wanted Cinders to be a bit different from other visual novels released in the West. With much more player agency, different artstyle and setting. This came from playing several other indie VNs and realizing many of them follow the same patterns and have a bit of an amateurish vibe. Made us wonder if it could be done with the same levels of polish that we were putting in the casual games we worked on at that time. There's a demo available, so you can see for yourself if we succeeded.
No, seriously. Just look at that Cinders art.
CoG: Lately I've been reading about strange search terms leading to Indie's websites. What are some of the oddest ones that have sent people to MoaCube's site?
Those crazy search keywords:
Oh, man. I love those.
There are the random ones:
ass shape character font
badass muscle cars
we decided to stay together for the kids
Ones showing well what the popular image of visual novels is:
hentai desperate poop
beer girl hentai game
The clearly disturbing ones:
images of women cruelty
evil sexy stepmother
dragon age sucks
i want to play a game
And legitimate questions about moas:
is there any way to make my moa stay
what are two examples software will you be using as a moa
We'd like to thank Tom for his time, his answers, and the lack of sleep we'll be getting thanks to thinking of who would search for "beer girl hentai game". For those who want to follow along with the development of Bonfire and other projects, You can follow Tom on Twitter here. MoaCube's main site also has updates and places to purchase Magi, Cinders, as well as to download the free game Co-Op. I'd also like to note that Magi was one of the main games next to Aquaria that really got me interested in the Indie scene, so thanks to Tom for getting me on the road of the Indie Prophet.
Catching up with previous interviewees:
Jigxor's Dungeon Dashers now has the first few levels in place, as well as monster gibbing if you get enough over kill. Truth be told, there is never enough over kill!
Card Hunter is inching ever closer to a beta release. Highly recommended that everyone go sign up!
Last edited by Lekon; 10-19-2012 at 11:48 AM.
|10-19-2012, 02:43 PM||#2|
Coked-up Werewolf 4 Prez!
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Northern Virginia
Very cool! I hope to see more interviews like this in the future.....say, around the time my own game is ready to show people...
On topic: I really love that art style!