Interview with Adam Kareem about «Protodroid DeLTA», an homage to «Megaman X»

por PacotAdmin el 29 junio, 2020
Videojuegos

Talking about Megaman is like talking about a genre by itself, defined by proper mechanics. Megaman is synonym with smoothness, dash, precision and high level, and not everybody can dream to achieve all these characteristics on their own game. Certainly, not an indie studio. However, sometimes, just sometimes, the right amount of planets get aligned and games like Protodroid DeLTA come to live.

Protodroid DeLTA is presented as the translation of a classic 2D Megaman to 3D format, with deep topics and improved scenery. Created with lots of details in mind, the basis, those mechanics, are  made in order to give the player the feeling of being playing a real Megaman. Or so has Adam Kareem, its creator, established throughout the Kickstarter campaign this game had until recently. And although it is already closed, we are happy to see that the post-campaign situation continues on Indiegogo, where the game can be still supported.

On this interview we are talking with Adam Kareem, about Protodroid DeLTA, its inspiration, its creation, and how this teeny tiny studio can make it all. If you love this genre, you are going to find his answers quite interesting.

Si prefieres leer esta entrevista en español, haz click en este enlace 🙂

Without any further ado, here you have our interview with Adam. Enjoy!

Protodroid DeLTA by Adam Kareem

1. At the moment of writing this interview, you have already overcome the Minimum Quantity you asked to fund the game and you have also passed the 150% mark. Congratulations!! How is the journey going so far?

Thank you! The journey has been EXHAUSTING so far, haha. Running a Kickstarter is almost a full-time job in itself. You have to reply to Tweets, Send new Tweets, reply to Facebook comments on your Page or posts, constantly think of new ways to engage and build your audience, create new graphics and banners for each milestone or update, etc. All while obsessively hitting REFRESH on your Kickstarter tab to see how well the funding is going. There’s just a lot of moving parts

2. Protodroid DeLTA is, as you have already established, an homage to the Megaman saga, with focus on Megaman X. We have read a quote from Destructoid saying that “the goal is to translate the fast and fluid 2D gameplay of the X series to 3D”. As players ourselves, we understand that the controls are going to be a key element in the playability of the game itself. So what is your approach on that respect? Do you feel pressure from the X series fans about the overall outcome and what said homage is going to look like?

That’s a fantastic question. I fortunately don’t feel too much pressure about how to translate the X gameplay into 3D because fortunately I’ve done it before. So as a result, I feel less pressure because there’s less uncertainty for me. A big part of my game development journey has been creating fan games (which are all posted on here). So I created a 3D Mega Man X fan game called, Megaman X and Zero which I used as like a “proof-of-concept” to figure out exactly just how to translate the X gameplay into 3D. And fortunately the playtesting feedback was really positive! People felt the game had tight controls, movement was easy, and the iconic Mega Man X dash was preserved really well. And I was able to achieve this largely by fine tuning the “Character Movement Component” in Unreal Engine. That’s the element that controls player movement. So by tweaking the acceleration, max speed, air friction, jump height and gravity values, I was able to get those “tight” controls on ground and middair.

3. At the current moment, although the backers have already unlocked some Stretch Goals, we only see one more goal waiting to be revealed. Why have you chosen this path about the Stretch Goals? And since the already revealed Stretch Goals are focused on Special Armors, are there going to be different ítems/game modes/characters to unlock until the end of the campaign? You know, looking for exclusive information for the community 😛 

Yeah I chose to hide the stretch goals because that’s the common practice with Kickstarters that I’ve seen. From Sea of Stars to Weaving Tides to The Wonderful 101, it’s commonly used to give backers a sense of excitement as they unlock rewards. About different game modes, I’d personally LOVE to add in a additional story modes featuring AnnDROID and VeGA as playable characters with original stories that focus on their character arcs. For me, I’d much rather it feel like a properly created thing and not just a character swap where the game still is exactly the same. I’d also love to add in a multiplayer mode where up to 3 people can play together as the Protodroids (DeLTA, AnnDROID, and VeGA) taking on waves of enemies as the arena that they’re in changes shape or gets new hazards. Like a co-op version of the Coliseum in Hollow Knight. But! I don’t want to make the mistake of others and promise too much and not deliver. So, I’d look into those as post-launch DLC or as a sequel. Gotta get DeLTA done first.

4. As you have said in the Kickstarter campaign’s info, the levels that are going to be found throughout Protodroid DeLTA can be played in any order, leaving that choice for the player. Since you have also established that the story is going to have a huge weight within the game, and, of course, related to the playability as well, how are you going to mix and match those two elements, to allow a fluid playability with a proper inmersión in the story?

Yeah so the story will essentially have 2 parallel paths – a main story and a sub-story. The main story involves the Doctors and their protodroids and explores their shared pasts and their sometimes conflicting approach to addressing the drone-gang threat. And bits of that story will be revealed in between stages after the player has defeated a boss. The sub-story is about the gang leaders themselves and DeLTAs interactions with them. And each can be considered like an “episode” in a show where the story for that character is self contained within each level. So as a player goes through a boss’s stage, they’ll see the story of that boss unfold. And once defeated, they’ll advance the main story a bit more.

5. The number of characters in your game is quite high (mainly when taking into account a key element about your studio that we are going to talk about in depth later in the interview). However, there are going to be even more characters coming through different DLCs in the future. So we would like to ask you about those future characters as well as other future content for the game. What is your plan for Protodroid DeLTA after its release, apart from these DLCs? 

Thanks! Yeah the character count is pretty high haha, it’s up to 11 characters so far. Post launch I don’t have plans to introduce more characters as much as dive more into the current ones. So I’d LOVE to add AnnDROID and VeGA as playable characters with their own story campaigns

6. Apart from the high number of characters, as we said before, we have been amazed by the deep topics used for DeLTA’s (our main character) background and personality, just like how well developed the other characters are. How was the process of including all these elements (characters’ backgrounds, main character’s build, et cetera.) with the basic (and vital) controls for a game of this genre? 

That’s really great to hear because fleshing out the characters took about 3-4 months haha. The approach for each was I wanted each character to have believable and understandable motivations. I like when villains aren’t just bad for no reason or just for world domination, but instead have personal motivations for why they choose their bad path. The process is fun but really involved since I usually come up with an idea, then discuss it with close friends for a loooonngg time until I feel I’ve got all the details hammered out. So thankfully now, I have about 5 “go to” friends who I bounce ideas off of. And they’ve been such a huge help.

Protodroid DeLTA by Adam Kareem

7. Through all the images you have shown in the Kickstarter campaign, we have been surprised by some references you have included on them, such as Rey Alebrije’s Mask (from Majora’s Mask) and Rocky Jones’ hair (from Final Fantasy VII’s Cloud’s hair). Can we expect more of those references? Are the original games influences for Protodroid DeLTA or just elements of nostalgia? 

Yeah those are actually beautiful accidents, haha. Rey’s mask is inspired by Majora but a lot from Vejigante masks from Puerto Rico and luchador masks from Mexico. And with Rocky, we’re actually going to change his hairstyle a bit haha because I didn’t intend for it to be that close to Cloud haha. But yeah, there might be more references to other Megaman influences or some anime stuff (I loved Yu Yu Hakusho for example). So yeah those things are mostly influences. But I’ll also have some callbacks to the X series hidden throughout.

8. Talking about visual elements, we are still mesmerized by the attention to detail of every single one of them. However, the architecture is just on another level, which creates a nice contrast being an action game, where buildings usually don’t matter. You have said, to avoid any mistake, that the style used is Solarpunk, and we would like to ask you why you chose that style, and if there is any message you want to deliver using it.

Yes thanks for noticing the Solarpunk aesthetic! Yeah I chose it because of how beautiful and refreshing it is. I really want for this game to be in many ways refreshing and to bring new ideas and imagery to gaming. So usually, futuristic settings are either a drab dystopia with like a cyberpunk aesthetic or just generic futuristic looking buildings. So I wanted something that wasn’t sad and pessimistic view of the future but hopeful and inspiring. And from just a searching around on Pinterest I found solarpunk images and immediately fell in love. There isn’t any particular message besides the idea that our depictions of the future can also be hopeful and inspiring. Instead of always imagining that things get worse and become a dystopia in the future or that AI would at some point want to cause harm to humans, I’m hoping to paint a more positive future. Something of us to aspire to achieve.

9. And, all of these… just by yourself! Because this is a “one man job” and you are creating almost every single element in Protodroid DeLTA alone. So we want to ask you about how much (or how little) help you are getting from “outsiders” and how you can manage to do it all by yourself.

I’d probably put it at 80% solo. I get help with anything that I literally can’t do myself haha. So that includes: voice acting, 2D art, 3D models, and music. But story, script, character design, game design, level design, and programming I’m doing myself. But I really do love the team of folks helping me, most of all Deftjuzz, my 2D illustrator. His work is phenomenal and he has an amazing ability to bring my ideas to life. You can find more of his work on instagram.com/deftjuzz or twitter.com/deftjuzz.

10. Although some may think that Protodroid DeLTA is your first game, the reality is that you have some previous projects in your backpack. For example, Sonic Explorers, Megaman Legends 1.5 and Megaman X & Zero: Training Missions, being all those three fan games, and Tuff Stuff, an original idea of yours. How do those previous projects help developing Protodroid DeLTA”? What differences have you found between them so far while creating them? 

Those previous projects have helped TREMENDOUSLY for Protodroid DeLTA. You can think of each of them as like training grounds where I was able to learn more about game dev and get better at it over time. For example, Sonic Explorers was my first game and took about 1 year to complete. Tuff Stuff was my last game and took about 2.5 months. So each project has taught me something different about game design that’s improved the next game afterwards. One small example is just how to fine-tune the character movement controls. I’ve gotten really familiar with doing that in Unreal now simply because of how different the controls have been between Sonic Explorers and Megaman X and Zero, for example. The biggest differences between them is actually in the gameplay loop design. Like, answering the question of “what does the player do repeatedly in the game? How do they advance in the game?”

11. Checking the percentages of usage for the money you are going to obtain to make Protodroid DeLTA a reality, we have happily found a great plan to mitigate losses in relationship with the development of the game itself, mainly being that “one man job” previously mentioned. If there is something that diminishes the value of Kickstarter as a platform for crowdfunding is the lack of security about the final result for those games funded on it, or even the total disappearance of the teams that develop them. As a developer, and surely a “man of business”, do you think this type of “mitigation plan” should be implemented by all game devs? What tips would you give to any “amateur” in the field?

Hey thanks for noticing and appreciating that. I would encourage any amateur or newcomer to not quit their day job as they pursue their game dev dream. It’s possible to do both and safer and you have a lot less stress about “will my game sell? Or “where will I get money from?” because you still have those things taken care of. Granted, this would slow down the development of your game by comparison.But I’ll take that if it means I can have total creative freedom and produce a game that I truly want and not one that has to also be marketable or somehow sell enough to support my family with.

12. We understand that, although you are the only person developing Protodroid DeLTA, there is some help coming from “outsiders”. How do you manage to get it all running? Where and how does that help come from?

I’ve been heavily making use of Fiverr and Twitter. Fiverr is a great platform for finding freelance talent. And that’s where I found Deftjuzz, my 3D modeler, and my musicians. Through Twitter I’ve been able to find nearly all of the voice actors which has been a fantastic experience. It’s really difficult otherwise to find talent if you’re not like “in” the game dev industry and have connections. And I’ve had very poor experience or success with reddit or polycount.

Protodroid DeLTA by Adam Kareem

13. In relationship with the “mitigation plan”, we have also read about your purchase of assets through different marketplaces to help in the development of Protodroid DeLTA + the use of better, improved, high quality assets for key elements in the game. We think there is some kind of negativity surrounding the idea of getting assets from the outside, just like a team should do everything from “head to toe” for the game. Do you think this (that a team should do everything) is a real possibility, mainly for smaller teams or even just one person like you are? And what types of assets are you going to purchase to ease the development process?

I would strongly encourage fellow small teams or one-man teams to use as many stock assets as you can that don’t reduce the quality of your game. It’s incredibly less expensive to use attack animations or running animations available on the Unreal Marketplace or Unity Asset store than it is to pay for custom ones. And the assets are so plentiful that it’s not likely people would recognize the same asset used between your game and someone elses. I can understand that some people feel that it’s like you said some negativity around that, but to me that’s just a person’s ego and arrogance talking. All the time you spend creating a custom asset could’ve gone towards gameplay or game features – things that only you as the dev can meaningfully bring to the player. So as long as purchased asset doesn’t clash visually with your game or cause some other issue, you stand to benefit much more from using them.

14. We have just found about the game not only coming to Steam but also to Nintendo Switch as well. Congratulations! How is the process to get Nintendo to give the green light to publish Protodroid DeLTA on its platform? Are you planning on launching it on other platforms such as PlayStation 4 or Xbox One in the near future?

No plans currently to publish to PS4 or XBONE at the moment, especially considering that by the time my game releases both the PS5 and Xbox Series X will have been out for about a year. And for the Nintendo side, I have great help from publishing partners to assist with porting the game over to the Switch. So with their help it’s been pretty smooth so far.

15. And just to finish with this interview, apart from being a “one man job”, and developing Protodroid DeLTA just by yourself, you also have a family and kids! How difficult is the process of conciliate work time and family/home time? What tips do you have for any person, now that lots of people are working from home with their families? Do you have any time to sleep at all?!

Hahaha well that’s the first thing that kind of goes away is sleep! But yeah in honesty my wife is a tremendous support through all of this. She takes on the kids for some time throughout the day to allow me to spend time on doing more development work. And a lot of it is just being disciplined with time and aggressively using any free time for development. So an hour before work in the morning, another hour during my lunch break, then a couple hours after the kids go to sleep. Things like that are how I’m able to make progress on everything. But don’t get me wrong – this is INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT hahaha. But I have a strong passion for game dev as my hobby and so it helps power me through it all.

And here you have our interview with Adam Kareem about Protodroid DeLTA, this homage to Megaman and, mainly, Megaman X. If you like it, check his Indiegogo page, where you can still support this proyect and take this game home.

We would like to thank Adam for his time and disposition, answering all our questions with great kindness. We wish him, his studio and his family the best.

If you have enjoyed this interview, check all the interviews we have made and published so far in the Magazine. And, you’d like to see an special interview of ours with an special someone, leave a comment saying whom.

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