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

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.



  • Etherblaze

    Cute girl sprites!

  • João Carlos Honório Pedro

    “Not that I might adblock” hate?

    Nice interview, btw.

  • Extrange

    adblock does remove a lot of income from ads indiscriminately.

  • João Carlos Honório Pedro

    Someday, ads won’t be annoying. But it is not this day. :^)

  • blackice85

    I’m torn on it myself. I realize sites that I enjoy need the revenue, but so damn many of them have become ridiculously obnoxious. It’s really the advertisers fault, they kept pushing it and now most people just say no to everything.

  • KissDisqus

    I think he just found the phrasing to be weird.

    Like instead of “Not that I might adblock “, it might have been “Not that I hate adblock” although I think it’s probably “not that I mind adblock”.

  • KissDisqus

    Oh is that face portrait in the last image sweating because of the low health or just wet because it’s raining?

  • Chocolate ISISCream

    It’d be nice if we could add exceptions.

  • blackice85

    You can, at least the adblocker I use lets you. The problem here is that puts the onus on the reader to sift through the crap and/or the website in question going out of its way to ask for an exception so they can earn some adrevenue.

    The advertisers have screwed up monumentally, because many people are at the point where they just don’t care and aren’t going to bother making exceptions, they’ll just block it all. If they hadn’t pushed things so far we wouldn’t have this arms race of sorts between adblockers and increasingly annoying ads and popups.

  • Smug

    No that’s because she’s fighting a qt obviously duh

  • Galbador

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

    What? Castlevania on the NES?! This game is laughable easy, I mean I cleared it in one day when I got it. Now Bayou Billy was a difficult game, I admit because I finished it and crushed a controller over the ridiculous high difficulty level, which were not in the japanese version (thank you Konami for this bullshit). Final Fantasy 6 was partly difficult or Blue Shadow (Shadow of the Ninja in the US). But Castlevania… I never had problems with it neither on the NES, SNES nor on the N64. Sure, there were some riddles, which had you like the tornado in Castlevania 2 or the Nitro in Castlevania 64, but gameplay wise, the game was not as difficult as Dark Souls. That would be like you say a toy gun is as deadly as a real gun.

  • Galbador

    I believe it is just a glace of her skin.

  • Michael “Kayin” O’Reilly

    This is a great answer

  • Galbador

    The problems with ads in the internet is a problem, because sometimes, you get on a site, where it bombards you with pop up ads and kills your browser. Or the adds are so ridiculously place, that they overlay the actual page or text and there is nothing you can do to close them.

    A different thing is, when those ads (I seriously don’t know who makes them) always shows you the same stupid ad about how ugly kid actors got or how this woman lost weight in 10 hours, which you can report to this company to not show you again and it doesn’t work because on the next day, it shows you the same damn ads again!

    I mean, I white listed this page and Techraptor while those ads are there as well, but anywhere else, I use adblock because I’m sick and tired to see them poping up again and again.

    The worst thing, however, is when you go mobil into the web. It slows you so much down, that you think your smart phone or tablet will burn through (no kidding, my tablet could be used as heater). And honestly, I neither want to lose my tablet (it was xpensive alright) nor do I want to lose my bandwith at the begin of the month because of this.

    This is why I use adblock on my phone in general for everything (sorry, it is impossible without) and on my pc with your page and Techraptor as the only white pages.

    If people want to stop this adblock thing, they should think of making useful ad block functiones for the web and not such, which turning smart phones and tablets into mobile grills.

    And if a website user is so smart and says “You can’t watch my stuff with adblock on”, guess what? There are tons of other pages who will. I understand if some people need this for income to finance their servers, but then, make your webpage user friendly, so that we don’t suffer from an ad bombardment.

    Sorry for the wall-o-text, but this topic is really difficult and I hope that people will find a solutional way unlike Youtube, who puts an ad at the begin of the video, three ads in the middle and one at the end again (no kidding, this was a real thing) and a reason for me to us adblock on them for this annoyance.

  • Michael “Kayin” O’Reilly

    Mileage varies on how hard people find Castlevania and clearing it in a day is w/e because it’s relatively short, but Castlevania and Dark Souls share two strong factors in common.

    1) Acting is a commitment. Attacking or jumping in CV is a comment. Attacks are relatively slow and hold you in place for quite awhile You jump like a thrown brick. Your actions must be deliberate and calculated. The same is true for Dark Souls.

    2) The defining nature of both CV (at least the old ones) and Dark Souls is ENEMY PLACEMENT. Enemies in both games are maximized by putting them in new and challenging contexts that exploit the player’s natural weaknesses.

    Those two things mixed with a fondness for a gothic aesthetic give the two series a lot of shared design DNA beyond the idea of just being ‘hard’.

  • Michael “Kayin” O’Reilly

    This is totally true. It’s unfair to users to be expected to carefully check if each site has tolerable ads or not. And requiring exceptions is, in a lot of ways, unfair to random sites. Its lose lose and the only reasonable thing for the consumer to do is to do the thing that makes the internet tolerable.

    You’d need add networks that basically focused on non-horrendous ads. Like, HARSHLY. NO MOVING, NO FLASH, NO EXECUTABLE CODE MAYBE– MAAAAYBE A GIF AND A LINK and then go the route of “I allow all ads from this network” and go from there. Adblock+ tried to go this route thing but things there are… dicey.

    Also I blame youtube. I feel like add hits dropped the most when youtube started putting in long unskippable ads. That’s really what drove me to installing it. Ads (as long as they’re safe and pop up or down) don’t bother me too much, but huge video ads do. Again, its a no win situation though =/

  • Michael “Kayin” O’Reilly

    Thank you!

  • Galbador

    I actually never thought about that, but then again, I never analyzed those games, so you got me on this one. But is it true that people from this gen (90s 00s) have problems with NES games? I mean, compare to the latest gen games, those “Retro” games are extremely easy. The only diffcult thing I’ve saw is when people make ridiculous levels like Kaizo Mario or put hordes of enemies into it, only to make the game difficult. For me, this is not difficult, it is lazy level design.

  • Michael “Kayin” O’Reilly

    I find this position odd and interesting! I find current gen games very easy, but older ones harder on average. More games now want you to succeed. Dark Souls is hardish, but I wouldn’t say terribly hard in the scheme of hard games (I think a lot of DS’s rep is that it’s appealing and approachable enough to get people playing a hard game who usually wouldn’t). Like they’re a good challenge, but when I beat it I wasn’t like WOO MISSION ACCOMPLISHED THATS ONE FOR THE BUCKET LIST like beating Ghosts and Goblins or Contra without the konami code or like, Actraiser 2. Or deathless Ninja Gaiden (though I guess that’s more akin to SL1 DS which I did feel really accomplished doing). Certain virtues make certain older games easier though. Patience makes games with unlimited continues way easier. A big barrier for a lot of people is a lack of saves. CV3 is a long ass game for an NES game and it can be grueling for new players. It had passwords but most people lost them so a lot of times people were just starting from scratch and pulling their hair out and just getting their will ground away. It might also depend on the order you played games? Like if you play DS and then go back to CV it can be like “OH THIS IS EASY WHILE DS IS HARD” not realizing how easy DS becomes once you learn that kind of methodical approach to gaming.

    I also wouldn’t say Kaizo games are “lazy”. A lot of them take a tone of effort and planning to get the best effect and humor and challenge. There are plenty of “lazy” NES games though — difficulty because the game is a mess more than the game was cruelly designed. But I can definitely see that as unappealing level design for a lot of people.

  • Bitterbear

    Uh.. The blonde character needs a bit more detail on her cleavage, otherwise, when she stands she looks like this:

  • Immahnoob
  • KissDisqus

    It’s obviously a red choker but gosh now I can’t unsee it now.

  • darksoulflame

    The game looks great! The gameplay definitely reminds me of Castlevania. I hope you consider porting it to consoles like the Vita :)

  • Galbador

    I have a question here and maybe one can help me with it to solve. This game has prolouge in the name… is this an episodic game?!

  • RPG

    Ah, I have fond memories of when I wanna be the Guy released. There were many fun times had with myself and my friends crowding around our respective computer, laughing, cursing, getting drunk, and torturing ourselves trying to see how far we could get through the madness.
    I am a big fan of the classic castlevania games (especially Castlevania III), so when I first heard about this project, I voted for it in greenlight immediately.
    I am eagerly anticipating what you have in store for all of us Kayin. Thank you for all of the great times you have given us thus far, and good luck in the road ahead.