Wie versprochen gibt es heute den zweiten Teil von unserem Interview mit Danilo Dias. Für alle die am Entiwcklungsprozess von Oniken interessiert sind, dürfte es interessant werden.
My name is Danilo Dias, 25 years old and I’m an architect. I’m part of a small indie developers group called “Joymasher”. The Joymasher team has 3 core members, Thais Weiller, Marco Galvão and myself. Pedro has its own indie studio named Arcaica.
What was your motivation to start work on Oniken – what did you want the game to be like once it was finished? Was the game a kind of “ego-thing” meaning did you develop Oniken for your own enjoyment or proof of concept or did you have a target-audience/sales in mind right from the start? What steps were necessary before the first pixel was drawn and the first line of code was coded? How did you plan out Oniken?
Oniken is a redefined version of an old 16bit graphic style game that I was producing alone, when I was 16 years old. I was making a game with lot of shit like exp system (that allows the main character to unlock new combos) and lots of weapons. It was stage based however I was planning to put some alternative routes through the stages. Trying to make some unusual 2D action game because I personally don’t like Metroidvania style games. However I did like the idea of unlockable attacks. After 2 years I finally gave up, it was too much work and the game was very weird, it simply didn’t feel like a good action game, it was a mess.
5 years later, Pedro asked me “Hey man, what about that old project, why don’t you continue it?” and I was like “Nah, I don’t want to make games anymore“. I’ve remembered that conversation was in my mind and I was thinking in how I could fix that broken game. Them I started to play my NES, it was a holiday. I finished up the three Ninja Gaiden games and started to think how they were awesome. And how simple those games were. And… I finally found that is the simplicity of those games that was the best part of them. That was my start point to Oniken. I started the game all over again from scratch and showed to Pedro a gameplay test with a Zaku sprite and some primitive background. He loved that prototype and soon, as far as I remember, we had a stage 1 ready for battle!
At first we did not intended to sell Oniken, so we did not made any plans like, how many sales and how much money we could get. We were making Oniken for people like us, who really loved retrogaming. We changed our minds about selling Oniken when we saw a post of the Beta version in Kotaku Brazil, and lots of guys telling us “Guys, if you put Oniken as a freeware I will not play it! You guys must sell it, come on guys and take my money!” So we decided to ask 4,99 dollars for it, at least to us be able to buy more old games and consoles. Maybe a Neo Geo, who knows hahah.
What is more important to you, an original idea (gameplay ideas, unique design) or technical skill (great graphics, sound, programming) and why?
The most important aspect in a game for me is its gameplay. A game must be playable and it must be fun.
Did you have a clear vision of the final game from the start or were there any drastic changes during the creation process?
Oniken was based in a older project, as I said before, however Oniken itself didn’t suffer any drastic changes during its creation process. There were just 2 aspects that were altered. At the beginning, I didn’t thought that I was able to make a cutscene for every stage. The game would have only an intro and an ending. The other one was that the final version should had an extra stage in a pyramid. Pedro drew almost the entire stage however he thought that maybe it was not a good thing in the game. (For the record, I thought that a pyramid stage could have been awesome.)
What programming language or SDK did you use to realize the game?
Depending on wether you used some kind of framework or coded the game entirely from scratch – why did you do it that way?
Did any unforseen problems turn up during development?
Oniken was made in Clickteam’s Multimedia Fusion 2. Both Pedro and I don’t know how to program, so we choose this “game maker“. I programmed the entire game in it and it was not an easy job. I’m not very experienced in Multimedia Fusion so I had lots of problems making everything work without glitches. I remember that I lost almost 2 months trying to fix a bug in the game, that was tough. Another problem that I had was to make pixel art, at the beginning of Oniken, I had some problems to adapt to the 8 bits graphic style. You guys should notice that the first stage and the first cutscenes aren’t good as the later stages. Pedro otherwise was already a pro. So, his stages (stage 3 and 4) had a very authentic NES style and they’re very beautiful. I also had a hard time drawing the poster and manual art. I’m not used to drawing digital art, I’m usually making drawings using colored pencils and ink. However my friend glauber sent me some cool brushes that looked like colored pencils, so I could paint thosee drawings and give them a more authentic look.
Was Oniken a full time job and how long did development take?
I’m working as an Architect, so Oniken was a weekend project. That’s why it took 2 years to be developed. I hope that one day I could work full time on a game, or at least spend more time with them.
Can you take us through the process of making a stage for the game – from scenario planning to playtesting?
First of all, I think of which part of the story the level is about. Of course, in Oniken´s story we were very liberal about its Verisimilitude, but there were importat things to tell. For instance, mission 4 shows Zaku approaching one of the Onikens bases, he would get there by train (stage 4-1) and pass through a forest infested by Ninjas and Snipers to get there (stages 4-2 and 4-3). So, by telling Zaku´s story I already have a theme for the stage appearance and a inspiration for its main foes. After that, I create some sprites of the stage and start sketching on a paper how the level design will be. Creating this paper mock-up is very important because I can imagine a player’s experience during play just by looking at it and can make major changes on the level construction without losing much time. After I get to a good level design, I build it on the engine, with all enemies and stuff, including the final touches. Since I already tested on the paper, there are generally not much changes, but there are always some little details.
Here it is a example of how a little fragment of an stage can evolve though all these steps:
What did you enjoy most about making the game, and of course which parts of the process did you find less enjoyable/hated?
The thing that I most enjoyed was to make the graphics and the level design. The programming part was a pain in the ass, I hate coding.
How did you develop the graphics style for the game, did you stick to actual NES color palettes and sprite limitations? Did you ever consider adding filters like scanlines or colorbleeding for an even more authentic feeling?
We tried to maintain some of the NES limitations, like 3 colors per tile (sometimes we used 4). We did not use the NES palette but we’ve tried to not use much more colors than an actual NES game. I like to say that Oniken is an 8 bit looking game, something between NES and Master System. We also chose a bigger resolution than the NES resolution in order to make the game more compatible with most VGA resolutions. I ‘m also tried to add some scanline option in the game however it not worked as I expected and made the game slower.
I read your first project was more SNES-like in appearance, why did you limit yourself to 8 bit graphics with Oniken?
We choose the 8 bit graphic as part of the simplicity what we wanted to achieve. As for me another reason was that I had never done anything with 8 bit art style before and I really wanted to try it.
How did you pick your musical artists and did they do chiptunes before? How do you brief someone to make those melodic but also quite dramatic and aggressive themes that old action games had going – how did you inspire them?
Our musicians were close friends, none of them tried chiptune before, that is the truth hahaha. But they’re very talented guys and got it fast. One of them, Tiago Santos from N-Freq was also a huge fan of Fist of the North Star and 8 bit games, he told me that was really easy to him make those tunes because he really enjoyed to make music for action games.
On the topic of music, a lot of the tracks sound like they have different videogamesystems as a foundation. Bruno Araújo’s “Duel” sounds very GameBoy-ish, while “Can’t Stop!” from Thommaz Kauffmann sounds very much like Metal Gear 2 on the MSX and N-Freq’s “Raid!” has some Master System vibes going with it’s clapping sounds and beat – coincidence or is there a method to madness? (and I swear “Riders from the Wasteland” has a little sample going that sounds almost like the screwattack sfx from Metroid)
That was something that I really enjoyed about the soundtrack. You can clearly hear the difference between the musicians.
What were your design goals with the gameplay? How did you know that you hit the right spot with the controls and flow of the game?
I wanted to make fast gameplay, very agile with very responsive controls, for me this is the most important aspect of Oniken. After all, if the game is hard, you have to give players the chance to deal with hard situations. You can die, lots of times, at the begining but eventually you’ll start to play faster and better, to the point that you’re becoming invincible. To the point that you eventually become Zaku, a legendary warrior, killing wave after wave of enemies in your way.
How did you bugfix / playtest the game? Did anything unusual happen during playtesting?
I left Oniken in Beta test for almost one year and lots of weird bugs were reporte to me hahah, I do remember the most weird of them. A guy sent me a picture of stage 2-2 with all platforms missing. You could just see the background and the characters, that was a really weird bug.
Did you ever think of releasing the game for the actual hardware that it’s trying to emulate in look and feel (kinda like the NG Dev Team is doing with games like Last Hope or Gun Lord that they are releasing on Neo Geo and Dreamcast)?
That was our dream, however we cannot afford this kind of release and we don’t have the technical skills to do that.
We heard there is a system called Zeebo that is pretty big in Brazil, any plans on porting Oniken to it?
Oh… Zeebo. To be honest with you guys, Zeebo was a failure here. It was almost expensive as a Playstation 2 but had a poor games library. Zeebo is also dead and the company behind it closed the project.
You label Oniken as a tribute, are there any plans of you guys creating an “original” game? Where do you see Oniken now, was it a success, is it what you wanted it to be? Why should the oldschool gamer try it? Why should the modern gamer try it?
We’re planning to release more games, not sure if the second one will feature a retro style but chances are pretty good. I see Oniken as a good first game and I’m very happy to see that people are really enjoying it. I think that not only oldschool gamers but modern gamers should give Oniken a try. Download the demo version, take a look and have some fun with it. I think that beyond Oniken people should download some old games and play them, to see how fun old games can be. At the end, I’m very glad with people’s reactions. I did not expected that there are still so much people around liking oldchool games. But it inspires me to make more games like this.
Wenn das mal kein schönes Schlußwort ist.
Falls ihr also Danilo und Pedro unterstützen möchtet, auf Desura gibt es die Möglichkeit dazu (sowie die bereits oben verlinkte Demo!). Desweiteren auch unbedingt den Oniken-Blog ansteuern für Neuigkeiten und die Leaderboards. Und wer Böcke auf weitere Spiele der beiden hat sollte sich auch mal auf Joymasher und Arcaica umschauen.
THESE NERDS danken Danilo Dias und Pedro F. Paiva für Ihre Zeit und ein tolles Interview.