Developer Interview: Uncade's David Byers Talks Another Castle And His Love Of Nintendo

"I think the Wii U is going to be a really indie-friendly platform"

As we exclusively reported a short time ago, Uncade's Another Castle is coming to the Wii U eShop in 2014. An old-school platform epic designed to test your reflexes and tickle your nostalgia-bone, the game is the work of just one man: David Byers. Fresh from announcing that Another Castle would be gracing the Wii U, David was kind enough to sit down with us for a quick chat about its development.

Nintendo Life: What's your background? How did you become involved with game creation?

David Byers: My background is mostly in art, I graduated college with a degree in sculpture. I was looking to get into the game industry as an artist, but ended up falling in love with programming. I realized I had the skill sets to complete games from the ground up on my own, and decided to give it a shot. Discovering Unity also gave me a lot of confidence to try it out, as it really clicked with me, and does most of the boring stuff not directly related to gameplay.

NL: Can you tell us a little about your previous smartphone games?

DB: Haunted Hallway - I’ve been wanting to work on a randomly generated platformer for a long time, and Haunted Hallway was the first step towards this. It’s an endless runner, but with normal platforming controls. It was largely inspired by my love of speed running through the original Super Mario Bros. on the NES.

Blast Soccer - I’ve always been really impressed with the game design in Super Crate Box, and happened to be watching Shaolin Soccer while thinking about it. I ended up coming up with the idea that instead of collecting crates, you should score goals with a wacky assortment of balls. This was also the first game I used a vector art style in, which produces some mesmerizingly psychedelic effects.

Love Me Not - This game started out as a warm-up weekend project for Ludum Dare. I was looking through random themes, and “Plant Protection” caught my eye. I had been wanting to work on a mobile game that really takes advantage of what the platform is good at, so I came up with the game design of tilting to spin a flower, and tapping petals to shoot them.

Kid Vector - Kid Vector is a pretty standard platformer, but with a really unique vector graphics art style. By this point I knew I’d be wanting to work on a randomly generated platformer as my next project, so my goal with Kid Vector was to practice creating interesting level design.

NL: When did you start work on Another Castle?

DB: Last August, just after the release of Kid Vector.

NL: Are you a fan of Nintendo titles? What's your favourite?

DB: I LOVE Nintendo games! It’s hard to pick out a favourite, as there are so many, but my top two would be Yoshi’s Island and Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out. And none of that silly Mr. Dream business, Tyson all the way!

NL: Can you explain the gameplay behind Another Castle?

DB: The game is a platformer that consists of a randomly generated overworld that has about 8 levels. Think about the size of one world in Super Mario World. The last level will always be a castle, that doesn’t contain the item you’re looking for. All of the levels will also be randomly generated. You’ll be able to collect a wide variety of loot as you go along on your adventure, including weapons, spells, clothing, and potions. You’ll start out with a few lives, probably three, but when you lose them the overworld resets, no continues. I’d like a playthrough of the game to be about thirty minutes to an hour.

I want as many things in Another Castle to be as random as possible. So not only the overworld and levels, but also the environments, menus, enemy patterns, secrets, even the rules of the game might be randomized each time you play.

NL: What games provided inspiration for Another Castle?

DB: Besides the obvious Super Mario inspiration, a big inspiration for the game is The Binding of Isaac. I absolutely ADORE that game, having put about 300 hours into it. While playing it I kept thinking about how I could use a lot about what I love in the game for a platformer. One of the things that stuck with me is the ability to unlock new items by completing achievements. This led me along the idea of an item always being in “Another Castle” when you beat the game, thereby unlocking it.

Really my goal for the game is to mashup the roguelike genre with what I love about platformers I played as a kid, such as Mario, Donkey Kong Country, Super Ghouls & Ghosts, Mega Man, and Contra.

NL: What's it been like working with Nintendo so far? How does the experience compare to making games for iOS?

DB: So far they’ve been really nice, and I’m liking what I hear. To tell the truth I was just approved last Tuesday, and then launched the Kickstarter, so I haven’t had too much time to look over everything. I think the Wii U is going to be a really indie-friendly platform, and easily being able to use Unity is a HUGE deal to me. It’s nice being able to actually talk to the people running the platform. With iOS it really feels like there is a wall between developers and Apple.

NL: Do you intend to remain a one-man development team? Do you have any other people helping out?

There are a few people I’m thinking of getting to help out with the artwork for the game. Mainly concept art and enemy design, as I think those are my weakest areas. I’d like to announce something about the soundtrack soon, I think it’s going to be really special. Starting out it’s made sense to be a one-man dev, but I’d definitely like the chance to work with other people.

Something else I’ve been thinking about is crowd-sourcing some of the content in the game. I just discovered Mechanical Turk, and will probably run some experiments and see what comes out of it.

NL: What are the advantages to being a one-man show?

DB: The biggest advantage I’d say is the ability to quickly get the “Big Picture” of the game, realizing how both the artistic and technical decisions are going to impact each other, as I am intimately familiar with both.

NL: 2014 seems like an awfully long way off - why the lengthy development time?

DB: I wanted to be honest with how long I think it will take to make the game, especially as I am doing most of the work myself. It’s really tempting on Kickstarter to give a “best case scenario” deadline, but I don’t think that’s fair to backers of the project. I’m showing off the game pretty early, and I don’t think a 2 year development time (since August of last year) is that out of the ordinary. I want this to become a really special game, that people will love for many years, so I want to take the time to make it right.

NL: Do you have plans for future Wii U eShop titles?

DB: I’m considering making a tiny, quirky project from the ground up just for the Wii U. Mainly just for fun. I don’t have any specific plans yet, all I know is it won’t be a platformer, and it will look completely different from Another Castle.

Thanks to David for taking the time to talk to us!