Interview: Ayngaran Vamatheva, Founder of Neptune Interactive Inc. (the Castle Game)
Neptune Interactive Inc.’s founder and lead developer Ayngaran Vamatheva had a lot to say about his studio’s latest project, the Castle Game, and I had plenty of questions. That’s a pretty good matchup.
In your words, what IS the Castle Game?
Simply put, you’re building a castle and defending it. It allows you to creatively build your own defence, and have it tested by a variety of enemies that each have their own ways of trying to bring you down. It’s a learning and experimenting experience.
What I find the fascinating about the game is the fact that there were only two core guys that worked on the project, yourself being one. Can you explain what responsibilities were taken by each person?
I basically did everything aside from art and audio. I designed, programmed, and I also do all of the business aspects. Anthony Godinho, the other core guy, was the artist, but also helped with some design and a lot of testing. He is a great person to work with! It was a great collaboration as we were able to motivate each other. This is probably the reason for the success of the project.
The “bigger team” included Peter Chapman, who did pretty much all of the audio – that’s sound effects, music, voiceovers. I told him how I sort of wanted things to be, and he just went and did it. It was such a smooth process.
There was a ton of work, and we just went at it. Even though there was a lot to do, a lot of stress, and a lot of late nights, I think we enjoyed it and are proud of the game we created.
Did you set out to make a game this ambitious or was it a natural progression?
We had a general idea of what we wanted. In the beginning, it was called the Castle Game and the core idea was that you were to build a castle and defend it. We started off as more of a Rampart-style kind of game, but wanted to make a 3D version where you build a castle on an island and ships come in and attack you. We realized that we didn’t have much leeway with the character design of the ships, because, well, all ships kind of look the same! It was very limiting, as all the enemies had to be sea-based. [That’s when] we decided to make it land-based. It gave us much more flexibility in terms of character and level design.
In terms of gameplay design, I think it was always going to be something to do with building and defending. We had so many ideas that were complex and challenging, but we had to distill it down to what makes sense on a console, and what people could easily pick up and play. It was challenging because you don’t want to make the game too simple.
I’ve never developed a game before, but I can imagine that there were a lot of hurdles that needed to be overcome. What kind of problems did you run into while making the Castle Game?
One was really trying to simplify the building process [within the game], like I had mentioned.
The other big one was the controls. We didn’t want to just make another strategy game on the PC – it’s a tough market to stand out in. You don’t see a lot of strategy games on consoles, but it’s a double-edged sword, right? It’s niche, but we felt we could capitalize on that. We decided to put it on PS4, but that meant changing the controls from keyboard and mouse to a gamepad.
In order to make the controls less confusing, we separated the build and defend modes. The game can support building and defending at the same time without any technical issues, but the problem was that we felt it would become too complicated for the user.
Are there any plans to release the Castle Game on any other platforms?
We originally wanted to launch the game on PS4 and Wii U, but Wii U wasn’t a platform we could release with on time. It has a touch screen, and I actually really want to utilize it. For example, the touch screen would show a top-down view of the battlefield, making it much easier to do things. But to make it right, it requires a lot of time and testing, so I decided we should push that, and an Xbox One version, back until early next year. Perhaps February or March.
We’ve also been green-lit to be published on Steam, and we plan to release it sometime later this year – we’re aiming for November. It just requires some minor development work to get it ready for all of the various platforms [PC, Mac].
I’m the type of guy who loves physical games as opposed to digital games. Are there any plans to release the game on a disc?
I think it will be digital for now, unless there is a really good reason to do a physical release.
You’ve travelled across North America promoting the game. What events did you bring it to and how has the reception been?
Last year, we showed the game off at PAX Prime, and a PlayStation event in Las Vegas, and we showed the complete game at this year’s PAX. What we’ve noticed is that people initially like the art style and are drawn to it, and once they get their hands on the gamepad, they’re hooked.
So now that the Castle Game is out there, what’s next for your studio? Are you concentrating on getting the Steam, Wii U and Xbox One versions out, or are you looking ahead at a new game?
One thing about Neptune is that we like to take on more work than we can handle [laughs]. There are plans to release [the Castle Game] on those platforms, and we have the bandwidth to do that.
As for a new game, keep an ear to the ground. You might hear some rumblings. [winks]