Monday, January 31, 2011

Interview: Donny (Codestar Games)

"Hello, I'm Donny, also known as Kaikimi , head developer at Codestar Games. We're a small independent game studio with an assortment of games we are currently working on, one of which is my long time project: FrostFire."

Today, I had the pleasure of sitting down (so to speak) with Donny and talking about his current projects, his inspirations, and various other things I've probably forgotten about that you can find below.

What got you interested in pursuing game-making?
KAIKIMI: Well, I love the idea of building a world from scratch. Just the feeling of creation is what makes me pursue making games. I've played games ever since I was 2 years old and got my first SNES, but it wasn't until some time around middle school that I started making characters for games, which led me to learning how to do pixel art and finally jumping into programming to do things with my pixel art.

Yeah, you do have quite the talent when it comes to pixel art.  Any reasons as to why you chose pixel art over other forms as your style of choice?
KAIKIMI: I've been rooted in doing pixel art for around 6-7 years now. It's what feels natural to me for a game. CG art is nice and all in its own sense, but a good number of the games made with it feel too stiff to me. Pixel art has a greater ability to convey dynamic motion to me. I've played around with doing 3D as well from time to time, but it just seems too time consuming for me to work with.

And that sense of dynamic motion is definitely apparent in the artwork of your current game, "Project FrostFire."  Would you care to give a little summary of what the game's all about?
KAIKIMI: FrostFire is a dungeon crawling/adventure platformer that features the main character, Nicolas, struggling against the forces of the evil King Cold. He must travel through the world in search of magical scarves that give have power of making one's inner ambitions into reality. On the way, he meets a cast of unique characters ranging from angry bosses to music pirates. The game features an assortment of weapons and items that unlock hidden treasures and help Nicolas throughout the game.  To be honest though, the development of it is being put on hold for a new project of mine.

New project, eh?  Would you like to say anything regarding that?
KAIKIMI: I'm keeping it a tad hush-hush at the moment, but I can give out a couple of details.  The game is short; only 5 levels.  The genre is "fast paced run-and-gun beat em up platformer," and it's going to be the first game released by Codestar Games.

My interest is piqued!  Any details on possible release dates, or is it an "It'll be done when it's done" affair?
KAIKIMI: I can't particularly gurantee an exact release date, but I would love to say it will be coming sometime around this summer.  I've actually gotten some help on it from Codestar's newest member: Intermission.  He's our new character artist/pixel artist.

Well, I have to say, I can't wait to get my hands/download bars on this.  Back to a little bit about FrostFire, though.  This seems to be quite an ambitious game.  Have you come upon any particularly big roadblocks during the development process so far?
KAIKIMI: My biggest roadblock on the game thus far has been my solidarity. I chose to work on the game myself to have it as a testament to what I can do as a game developer. The game seemed to grow more and more over time, which is what led to me to working on my new project. I actually realize the scope of the game would impede my development for quite some time, and in that time I wouldn't have anything out from me for anyone to play. The development process is very time consuming because I have to handle all of the programming, scripting, writing, music, pixel art, CG art, music, and level design all by myself.

Fun fact: The same engine being used for FrostFire is also being used for my new project.

Are you proud of your work on the FrostFire engine?
KAIKIMI: Yes, very much so. It was the biggest part of the development process thus far. I've basically turned Game Maker on its head and made it into a very robust system. It allows me to work with pretty much everything outside of Game Maker which reduced the load time on the engine allows for great resource management. I've written an external level editor that I call FrostByte that can handle anything I dish out at it. I've also made a scripting language for myself called FFScript which handles most of the character, NPC, and cutscene code externally from Game Maker.  The engine is very dynamic and has even been used in the development of TSRODIUS (more info here) to make a Gradius-like game, with all the functionality of the original.

You clearly have to have to have a thorough knowledge of the ins and outs of Game Maker to be able to create something like that.  How long have you been using the program, and what made you decide to use it as a development tool?
KAIKIMI: Game Maker was what I initially started out with from the get go. It's basically what taught me the ins and outs of programming logic. I'm using it currently just for its ease of use. I've also worked with other languages ranging from C/C++, java, C#, and even Lua, but I've stuck with Game Maker just for sentimental value I suppose, heh. Although I actually did port the FrostByte level editor over to C# at one point just as an experiment. I can assure you though, with my commercial ideas I plan to release in the near future, I am likely to leave it behind.

If the Codestar Games team continues to grow in size, do you see yourself ever picking FrostFire back up and finishing it, or is it something that you think might be too big to undertake?
KAIKIMI: The future is kinda clouded with FrostFire at the moment. I'm actually hoping that Project LITL, our next project, will pick up some popularity and possibly be a good game to expand upon in the future. However, after its release I can say that FrostFire will first on my list of development priorities.

Looking forward to seeing both projects reach completion!

Some random other questions:
Inspirational figures?
"Art wise, it would have to be Konjak"
KAIKIMI: I'd have to say that notch (of Minecraft fame) has been a good inspiration for me development wise, because he's pretty much living the dream of all of us at the moment. Art wise, it would have to be Konjak (creator of Noitu Love 2), he's a very talented artist and really knows how to convey his pixel art skills in his games.

Games: Art/Not art?
KAIKIMI: Art is creation. When I'm making a game, I don't do it for just the gameplay. I want to portray an experience to the player through the worlds and stories I create. I think all art is just a means of giving someone an experience through whatever medium the artist chooses.

Game development snack(s) of choice?
KAIKIMI: I've got to say, I'm a sucker for pretzels and Mountain Dew. However, I'm trying to cut back on the Dew as of recently for my health, heh...

You can find out more about Codestar Games and their current projects at the Codestar Games Blog and on the Project FrostFire thread on The Spriters Resource.

1 comment:

  1. Great interview! As an aspiring game designer myself, I certainly understand those roadblocks that pop up on larger scale projects... I have to say, I am certainly jealous of those beautiful sprites, too! I can't wait to see how your projects go, Donny!