Ayngaran Vamatheva from Neptune Interactive was kind enough to answer a few questions about their latest game the Castle Game, as well as developing games in Toronto. You can purchase Castle Game on PS4 right now in North America, and the game launches in Europe on August 19th.
TorontoGameDevs: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and Neptune Interactive? How big are you guys, where did you get your start?
Ayngaran: My name is Ayngaran Vamatheva, though I usually go by Seelan so most people know me by that. Neptune Interactive Inc. is my company which I started back in March 2009 after making the first game we ever released, called 7 Cities TD. It was a tower defense game for the iPhone and iPod Touch, back when there weren't too many of those. The cool thing about it was that it had RPG-like stats and experience levels, which were not found in any other tower defense games at the time. The game was featured by Apple and a lot of people seemed to really liked it. I developed the game with a couple of artist friends on the side, while working at a film production studio on a feature film as a software developer. I been wanting to develop and release games for a long time, with doing mods for Unreal, Starcraft, my own game engines, and even worked at triple A studios before the film gig. After the surprising success of 7 Cities TD, we released another game called Tap-Fu, again for iPhone, which was inspired Karateka. The cool thing about Tap-Fu was the gesture-based fighting using touch controls. I also developed and released few more mobile games, all of which were made on the side while I worked as a software developer at bigger firms. For a long time now, I been wanting to dive into making games full-time and finally had a chance to do so with the Castle Game. We partnered with Clapfoot Inc., another indie studio, got some funding from OMDC, and decided to go at it. There were 2 core folks on the development (myself and an artist). We brought in few more folks, all from the Toronto area, to help out with various parts of the game.
TorontoGameDevs.com: What's the elevator pitch for The Castle Game? What has you most excited about it?
The Castle Game has always been about building your castle and defending it. Now that can be understood in many ways, especially with the barrage of Clash of Clans clones out there. But it is at the core, a tower defense game with some unique elements. I've been a long-time fan of strategy and tower defense games, so I wanted to make something that is simple, fun to play, and throws a few curveballs. This idea of taking something and adding some unique elements has been my design philosophy for all my games. The most exciting part about the Castle Game is the many variety of ways to beat each level. All 15 levels are different in terms of layout and available defenses so each level can be beaten in different ways. From watching people play, streaming, YouTube videos, I have seen some interesting and sometimes really clever ways to beat the levels. This has been our goal from the start, to add in a Minecraft-like open playing style. I hope we get to see some more crazy and clever defensive setups in the future.
TorontoGameDevs.com: What made you decide to do The Castle Game as your first console game?
Yes it is our first console game from Neptune, though I do have some experience working on consoles before at other studios. While I respect the mobile gaming scene, I see console game development to be more focused and liberating at the same time. You really only need to worry about 2 or 3 similar hardware specs (if supporting multi-platform), and you can try to aim for higher quality than say mobile or PC with its variety of machines. And what I mean by liberating is that you can aim to put more into the game knowing that the console gamers expect more. Coming from a mobile background, it felt good to think that this game can sell for more than a dollar or doesn't have to be made free in hopes of ads or IAP revenue. So we felt that we should add more content and a higher level of polish than our previous games. Also personally, I felt that it would be a great challenge to take a genre that is typically easier to play on PC and mobile touch screens, and get it working well on a console with a gamepad. It was tough but I think we did a great job with the controls.
TorontoGameDevs.com: What made you decide to release on PS4?
Sony and the PS4. Amazing folks to work with. They been super helpful. Also I love developing for the PS4. This is coming from someone who has so far developed for an Xbox 1 (original), Xbox 360, iPod/iPhone/Android, PSP, and a Wii U. PS4 is my favorite console to develop for. Sony has done a great job of creating an awesome toolset and workflow.
TorontoGameDevs.com: Is a Wii U version still in the works? How is that coming along?
Yes it is. We've put a pause on it in order to get the PS4 version out. We'll probably get back to it to release for next year. It is a fun console, especially with the second screen. I'd love to take advantage of it for our game, but it is not as straightforward as it might seem.
Besides the Wii U, we are planning to release on Steam and Xbox One as well. Our hope is get on to these platforms within an year.
TorontoGameDevs.com: What were your motivations for The Castle Game? It looks pretty similar to Rampart, have you guys played it?
One of the motivations was to create another great tower defense game, as a spiritual successor to our first game. I really liked the open building of Minecraft and wanted a little bit of that in a tower defense game. Strategy games are my favourite type so it felt natural to create something in that space. Yes, Rampart has been one of the inspirations. The original idea for the Castle game had ships fighting against castles built on islands, very similar to Rampart. We changed it to be land-based instead as it opened up more possibilities for defense building and mazing, as well as enemy and defender designs.
TorontoGameDevs.com: What has it been like creating a game in Toronto? Was it difficult to find funding/talent/help? What's the game developer scene like in your view?
Toronto is probably one of the best places to be an indie developer. There are lots of talented folks around. Lots of support from the government through grants and tax credits. I think it will only get better over time. Though, I'd like to see a few more medium sized companies, just for stability and for newcomers to get experience from seniors and working on bigger titles. Trying to be an indie developer without experience at bigger studios can be very tough.
TorontoGameDevs.com: Any final thoughts you have or want to share with our readers?
Yes. What you're doing at Toronto Game Devs is great, and I hope you continue on with more success and support from developers and gamers in GTA. Neptune is pretty small and unknown, so having an outlet like this is great. Thanks.
A big thank you to Ayngaran for answering these questions during a busy time in their release of the Castle Game! You can download the game today on Playstation 4. Make sure to follow the developer on Twitter, and stay tuned to TorontoGameDevs.com for the latest!