Brave Earth: Prologue Interview – Fine-Tuning a Throwback Castlevania Experience

Brave-Earth-2

Brave Earth: Prologues is a challenging and engaging action platformer crafted in the 8-bit palette of the original Nintendo Entertainment System.

It’s heavily inspired by classics like Castlevania, Ninja Gaiden, and more – however it tries to balance methodical, high-risk gameplay with aggressive, exhilarating action.

I had the chance to speak with the project leader, Kayin Nasaki, regarding the game, its development, and more. You can find our interview below:


Diogo Teixeira: Why don’t you tell me a bit about yourself, Kayin?

Kayin: Hey, I’m Kayin, creator of I Wanna be the Guy, and I guess also I Wanna be the Guy: Gaiden. Though I suppose with that, people mostly remember it being played by Floe at EVO.

Diogo Teixeira: I Wanna Be The Guy is quite a legacy. A great deal of people have played it at some point, and your character even makes cameos in games such as Super Meat Boy. How do you feel about being famous?

Kayin: It’s strange, but fun. Notoriety of my level is pretty much nothing but fun. Enough people know your work so you can surprise people with it, and people will be excited to meet me, but I don’t ever have to vaguely worry about it. Or even people being weird about it. If you’re too well known, people get intimidated by you, and that isn’t fun.

Diogo Teixeira: So you could say you’re comfortable with your current level of fame?

Kayin: I’d say so. I’d always like for my work to be more well known of course, but people’s interest in myself, personally? This is fine. I like being able to keep up with my twitter mentions!

Diogo Teixeira: Which at the moment it’s around 3k followers. I already told you how much I enjoy your Twitter avatar.

Kayin: Fellow game designer Tyler Doak, creator of the awesome Aces Wild did that for me. It was two Awesome Games Done Quick ago, because I was getting mad that they were going to save the animals. He said that must have been my face.

Diogo Teixeira: And now you just released the Steam Greenlight for Brave Earth: Prologue. Your first commercial release game, am I right?

Kayin: That is correct!

Diogo Teixeira: Any particular reason behind going from freeware to commercial?

Kayin: I don’t think of it as much of a change. Some games are better suited as freeware. Even besides the obvious legal issues of selling IWBTG, it wouldn’t really work as a paid for product, would it?

Maybe it could now, but when it was released… Who was going to pay, 10, 5 or even 1 dollar on something they knew they’d probably hate? Brave Earth: Prologue, in terms of scope, level of polish. Obviously there is an appeal in monetizing my work.

IWBTG did wonderful on ads for a long time, but with the rise of adblock and IWBTG’s diminishing popularity, that’s less of an option. Not that I might adblock, but its a sign that I should change focus.

Diogo Teixeira: So now you present to us a homage to Castlevania games titled Brave Earth: Prologue. How did you get the inspiration to create it?

Kayin: I’m a fan of old games, obviously, and one of the things that is important to me with old games is to not just “go back and replay my childhood.” I think about them like old movies or books — rich experiences I missed, or, in some cases, weren’t even born in time for.

Castlevania was not one of my favorite games as a kid. No one I knew had it, and when I’d rent it I’d hate it. A rough, unforgiving game. But as an adult, I went back and deeply enjoyed it.

Its smart level design and expert enemy placement… It encourages such cautious, measured play. I wanted to do a small Castlevania style project as a small freeware thing, but it spiraled out of control and started claiming its own identity.

And for me, so my games take from the Mega Man school of design — air control, quick attacks and all that. I wanted to recapture that slow, measured feeling. I wanted a jump that was more forgiving than Castlevania, but still screamed ‘commitment’.

brave earth prologue 04-16-16-5

Diogo Teixeira: One of the features I’ve noticed and I’ve found quite interesting is how you manage difficulty settings. Each difficulty level not only dictates common stuff like damage dealt and knockback but it also dictates enemy placement and even level obstacles and traps. To be honest, I don’t remember any other game of the genre with the same amount of control. Was it hard to balance it all those aspect in the end?

Kayin: Many older games had slightly different placements or enemy spawn rates at different difficulties, but most people don’t notice because its such a hard, particular thing to pick up on. I feel like it was easy for Bravely Earth: Prologue though.

Since encounters require so few enemies, the process of tweaking encounters is pretty easy. There are usually some challenges that are two difficult that I remove from the game. Those can go into advanced.

And then I just remove or downgrade problematic enemies in the easier difficulties. Megaman 9 is the only one that does the ‘cover pits with platforms’ thing, but it’s not too bad. It takes some time, but not too much.

Diogo Teixeira: Would you get offended if someone referenced your game as “retro Dark Souls?”

Kayin: Well considering “retro Dark Souls” is Castlevania, there is some truth to that.

Diogo Teixeira: Who else collaborated with you developing Brave Earth: Prologue?

Kayin: It’s mostly a solo endevour, though there are music and sounds made by NecrophageonIII and Ionustron which helps a lot with the final product. I also have another close friend and artist, Neolucky helping me occasionally with cutscene work. But still, day to day, it’s mostly just me.

Diogo Teixeira: An endeavor that started around…. 2011? With a planned Early 2012 release. Anything you would like to say to the 2011’s Kayin?

Kayin: Feature creep is a real bitch.

brave earth prologue 04-16-16-2

Diogo Teixeira: 3 different characters, multiple paths, memorable bosses, there’s quite a list of features you’ve added to the game. Anything else you haven’t mentioned like multiple endings? Secret level? Belmont’s dead corpse hidden somewhere because he tried to use a whip against armoured foes?

Kayin: There might be some bonus ending content and some unlockable characters and modes, but I don’t want to commit to anything because I don’t want to spoil any surprises and some things might have to wait till a post release patch. I don’t want to over promise and under deliver.

Diogo Teixeira: That’s quite a commendable standard to keep as a game developer, in my opinion.

Kayin: It was important to me for the trailer as well. I took a hard line to not show a lot of cool stuff because I hate playing games or watching movies where I saw all the key things in the trailer.

Diogo Teixeira: The game is titled Brave Earth: Prologue. Does that mean it’s part 1 of X? How many parts or Chapters to be expected?

Kayin: The project was originally going to be a time filler while I waited for certain software to mature. So it is meant as an introduction to a world. I just didn’t expect the introduction to take this long.

brave earth prologue 04-16-16-1

Diogo Teixeira: Anything you want to say to the fans and gamers that voted for Brave Earth: Prologue on Steam Greenlight?

Kayin: Thank you! I wasn’t too worried about getting through Greenlight, but the outpouring of support has been inspiring. Everyone has been so awesome to me.


Niche Gamer regularly interviews developers on a variety of subjects—if you’re a developer and want to chat with us, please contact us!

Diogo Teixeira

About

A gamer since a young age, starting with oldies such as the IBM 386, Atari, and Commodore 64. A Portuguese guy with a tendency for snappy and witty remarks. Also harbors an obsession for adventure games.