TechRaptor is pleased to bring you another Indie Interview – this time with Nauris Amatnieks, the developer of There Was a Caveman. We looked at There Was a Caveman earlier on To The Green and it’s currently on Steam Greenlight and seeking funding on Indiegogo. We got in contact with him by email and were able to discuss by email some topics regarding his game, Indiegogo and Greenlight.
TechRaptor: What inspired you to use a prehistoric setting for There Was a Caveman as an action-platformer?
I’m a big fan of platformer games, especially platformers with retro-feeling. I’ve been gaming on Sega Genesis and NES, since I was in kindergarten. And those were my most awesome gaming times! Nowadays though, there are really few games that actually catch my attention and I’m wishing that there were more awesome games like those in the ‘old times’. So I myself decided to try and make one! I chose to go with prehistoric setting, because I really like dinosaurs, and everything ‘old’ and kinda medieval. When everyone is on hype about all kinds of sci-fi games with spaceships and lasers, im sitting and waiting for the next medieval hit. There was a Caveman, is just a game I’ve always wanted to play and I think that there are too few games with dinosaurs!
TechRaptor: So, how many dinosaurs do you plan on having in the game in total? In the first level in the demo I saw 4 if I recall correctly plus the boss. How much inspiration do you draw from actual dinosaurs for their mechanics?
Well, I plan to have new ones for each level. So in the end it would be close to 50, I guess. Not necessarily all dinosaurs, but all some weird prehistoric creatures for sure. Well, quite a lot actually, for most of the actual dinosaurs, im watching some videos of the dinosaurs, to see how they move, how they move when attacking etc. But of course there are some creatures that don’t have any prehistoric counterparts, and I think myself how they move, what they do etc. Like those red,fat goo spitting dinosaurs.
TechRaptor: What is the process you go through for creating individual levels?
When creating levels, I first draw real quick sketches of the level in GIMP, with red dots as enemies, yellow dots as health pickups, zig-zag lines as spikes etc. Then I take it to the engines level editor, and create the level like in my sketch. I try to play through it a dozen of times, and if there’s something I don’t like, or something doesn’t work, I change the bit, then play the level a dozen more times, while thinking how other people would play it, and trying to predict other people, like if he goes here, he will sure have right movement key still pressed, so I should put a secret in this wall, to let the player find it, and so that he now knows that there are secrets in the game, and he should keep searching for them. I also replay the previous levels while trying to create this, so that it doesn’t feel easier than the previous levels, or if im introducing some new mechanic, im trying to make it, so that the player has to learn the skill, if he wants to get further.
TechRaptor: What do you think make Action-Platformers such a popular genre especially among Indie developers?
Well, I’ll be honest, it’s not the hardest kind of game genre to make in the very basics, but making it feel good isn’t easy, though! I was actually working quite a lot of time on just the basic movement mechanics. A lot of people just pick platformer, because they think it’s super easy to make, and they actually do make it super easy, but it’s a sluggish, non-responsive platformer for most times, but the developers are still motivated to keep making it, because they can get something playable very quickly, even if it really sucks at first. Action platformer is also a really easy game to get into for most gamers, so people are trying to target the widest audience, compared to for example RPGs, a lot of casual players wont even try those out, and making a decent RPG game, takes way more time!
TechRaptor: Given that popularity, what do you think makes There Was a Caveman stand out?
I’m hoping to make it stand out with its art style, level design and all the enemy variety. A platformer full of dinosaurs is just not something you see so often, in fact I can list the most popular ones and the ones I know, on the fingers of one of my hand – Joe and Mac, Prehistorik, The Flintstones, Big Nose The Caveman. Whereas platformers with blobs as the main hero I won’t even bother counting.
TechRaptor: Early on, in your development blog you mention wanting to be one straight run rather than divided in levels. It seems you’ve changed in that set up now from appearances – why did you originally want to go that way, and what led to the change in plans?
Well at first I wanted to make it a Metroidvania like game, but decided against it, because of my own preferences of linear challenging platformers. I replayed some old games like Metroid, Ghouls’n’Ghosts, Castlevania, and decided I wanted to go with the linear action-platformer experience after all, because that way I can put a lot more exciteness in shorter amount of time, with less backtracking, mindless running around etc.
TechRaptor: Why did you decide to go with IndieGoGo for Crowdfunding and the Flexible-Funding method?
I decided to go with IndieGoGo simply because Kickstarter isn’t available in Latvia. If that wouldn’t be the case, I would definitely go with Kickstarter, as I think it’s much better for gaming projects. And I went with Fixed funding not flexible funding, actually. I just don’t believe it’s fair to use flexible-funding. I think the all-or-nothing scheme is better, because what would I do with just the half of the amount of money I need? Make half as good a game? No, better not play to with people’s money like that.
TechRaptor: Apologies about that – I misread it. If you don’t get funded then, what is your plan to do for music as that seems to be the thing most needed beyond additional levels?
I’m not sure yet, but I’ve gotten lots of offers from musicians, I’m sure I can work something out with some of them!
TechRaptor: Beyond getting music for the game, what are the priorities in polish and additions you want to do with the extra time that you would have from the IndieGoGo funding?
If it would get funded, I would polish a lot of the visual aspects of the game. Add better animations for dinosaurs, also probably not use as much quick death animation effects, and make proper self drawn particle effects, put a lot more time into game backgrounds etc. Also I would probably try to redo some game mechanics, and find better ways of implementing them. I would probably also make the game with few extra levels, if I’d get the funding. Anyways, most of those are all things I will still try to do, it will just take me way more time without the funding, as I got less time to work on the game.
TechRaptor: I understand game designers often feel something always could be better – but what mechanics do you think could use the most tuning at this point in time and why?
Right now, the throwing mechanics need the most tuning. Especially the spear throwing. But there are a lot of things that still need some work, It’s all on my to-do list, though!
TechRaptor: What has your experience been with Steam Greenlight so far, and do you have any thoughts on that process as a whole?
Steam greenlight has been great, it’s going good with the votes, 45% to top 100, as we speak. It has been a very straightforward process for now, you just pay the developers fee, which goes to charity by the way, write-up your game description, add images, videos, title picture and all that, and then just sit and wait! Anyways, people seem to support the game a lot. There hasn’t been any abuse like just random ‘no’ votes spree, or full of negative comments etc.
TechRaptor: Have you done much promotion for your greenlight campaign or have you been relying mostly on word of mouth?
I actually sent out a lot of emails to various websites about Greenlight, and like seriously a lot! I was surprised that quite a few actually responded. 🙂 Which is very nice! It sure did help a lot. But in case of marketing with money, I haven’t spent a single cent for promotion. Just the basic stuffs.
TechRaptor: Anything else you’d like to add?
Anyways, I would just like to say that I’m really grateful to everyone who supports me, because it’s really hard for a complete newcomer like me to come out and try to make a good game, and actually sell it! I am actually very surprised by the amount of positive feedback from people and the constant interest in the game. It just keeps me motivated, and makes me want to work on the game even harder. Thank you!
We’d like to thank Nauris again for talking with us about his experiences, his game and whats going on with it. You can support it right now IndieGoGo, vote for it for Greenlight or read more about it on his DevBlog where there is also a free Demo.
What do you think about There Was a Caveman? What do you think of what Nauris had to say? Anything you agree or disagree with? Do you have anything you want to ask him? Share with us in the comments below!