A Miketendo64 Interview Interview Nintendo Switch Theme Week

[Interview] Making Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom a Game to Remember


FDG Entertainment doesn’t just have one game planned for the Nintendo Switch, they have two and since we’ve already interviewed FDG Entertainment’s Thomas Kern about Oceanhorn, we fancied learning more about Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom. So after speaking with Philipp Döschl, this is everything he had to say about the upcoming title:

 

Hi Philipp, thank you for taking the time to do this. Would you mind starting things off by introducing yourself and telling us about your involvement with Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom?

Philipp Döschl: I’m Philipp Döschl and I founded FDG Entertainment together with Markus Görl and my childhood friend Thomas Kern. I’m taking care of a couple of projects as well as things that involve travelling, such as PAX, Gamescom and Tokyo Game Show. Since we’re a rather small studio with 14 people, there are many other things I’m taking care of, but it’d be too much to list everything here.

At Monster Boy I’m the co-producer. Giving feedback, ideas and supporting the project wherever I can is what describes it best. I tried to keep my distance to the game in the early development stages in order to be able to have a fresh view on the game once it gets closer to the finish line. My involvement has become deeper about a year ago.

Thomas and I just finished our first review pass. This means we’re playing the game from start to finish and leave no stone unturned. We look at all visual elements, backgrounds, objects, level design, game design, basically at everything in the game and decide if it’s ok or not. If it’s not, we discuss if we want to keep that element and tweak, change, replace it or if it might be best to get rid of it completely. This is a very time consuming endeavour. One hour of gameplay takes up to two days to play, discuss, analyse, make suggestions and discuss the feedback with Fabien from Game Atelier. Depending on what changes are needed, it may take weeks till they’re finalised.

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Thank you, and now with the introduction out of the way, we can begin the interview.

 

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Monster Boy in a Nut Shell:

Miketendo64: So Monster Boy. You’re bringing it to the Nintendo Switch, it looks stunning, I’m looking forwards to it, but in your own words, just what exactly is Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom?

Philipp Döschl: ‘Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom’ is the first new game in the Wonder Boy/Monster World series for about 23 years. Some of you might remember Wonder Boy or Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair from the arcades in the late 80’s, early 90’s.

The latest entry will be a mix of adventure, jump’n’run, roleplaying, exploring and puzzling. An intense combination of what we loved in the previous games of the series, plus what loved to play in the past 30 years. We’re taking all this to the modern days, with full 1080p hand drawn, cartoon inspired graphics, a stunning, classical Japanese video game rock soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro, Motoi Sakuraba among others and fresh take on the game play. In short, it’s a modern take on a classic genre.

Fan Reaction:

Miketendo64: And with development on Monster Boy almost at an end, something I’m sure everyone is relieved about. What has been your favourite thing during this whole process?

Philipp Döschl: Oh yes, indeed! Though the toughest times still lie ahead of us. Once the game enters our QA and gets close to the release, it’ll be hell. The real crunch time starts about 3 to 4 months before the release. When we did Oceanhorn, we’ve been working till 4 a.m. in the morning as we had to hit the final release date.

It’s hard to name one phase as the best, or the favourite phase, as all of them have their own pros and cons. Besides working on the games itself, one thing I enjoy recently is travelling with the game, showing it to people all around the planet, seeing them enjoy the game, talking with them about Monster Boy and the whole project and taking the feedback back to the team.

 

“Teamwork is more Important than ever!:”

Miketendo64: Now, since developing games is never easy, especially when it’s a game like Monster Boy that was originally intended to release in 2015, in your own words, can you tell our audience about the difficulties the game faced and talk us through this long development journey?

Philipp Döschl: The biggest challenge is the size and scope of the project. We haven’t worked on anything comparable before. We had to learn a lot, new approaches how to handle this game production, the financing, etc… Teamwork is more important than ever before. Luckily we could already gather some console experience with Oceanhorn. This gives us a very good feeling already for the certification processes, which can be… challenging.

Other than that, the visuals and game design is what is very time consuming. The graphics are hand drawn and getting their third pass right now. As you can see on our blog, a lot has happened. We have to do a lot of trial and error as well with game mechanics, enemy and boss design, level design and so on. It’s impossible to plan everything in advance, so we have to build something, play it, tweak, play again, maybe tweak again, and so on. Until it’s as good as it has to be.

Since we’re not only making a sequel to a legendary series but also a console game, everybody’s expectations are a lot higher than anything we’ve ever worked on.

Last but not least, there are many complex business decisions we have to take we never thought about before we started the Monster Boy. It’s a huge and challenging game, yet we enjoy every aspect of it.

 Miketendo64: Glad to hear it.

 

The Kingdom of Booze Name Change:

Miketendo64: Now fun fact, Monster Boy wasn’t always called Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom. It was originally called Monster Boy and the Kingdom of Booze? What promoted such a name in the first place?

Philipp Döschl: The game starts with Jin’s uncle Nabu going crazy after getting drunk. I don’t want to spoil the story, so let’s say we had our reasons why we thought it’d be a cool name. However, the response was mixed so we finally decided to change the subtitle to ‘…and the Cursed Kingdom’. Which actually fits the story a lot better.

Looking back, it was definitely the right choice to change the name.

 

Working with Nishizawa:

Miketendo64: Another fun about Monster Boy concerns Ryuichi Nishizawa. He is the creator of Wonder Boy series, which inspired Monster Boy. How did you get him involved and how have you found working with such a video gaming master?

Philipp Döschl: We have all creative freedom, so we can do whatever we want. He’s been more involved in the very beginning of Monster Boy when the general direction of the game was decided. Now he’s giving feedback on a more irregular base. He’s involved since the early Kickstarter days, when Fabien contacted him. Nishizawa being officially part of the team, it also gives us access to all of the original assets, including characters and music. Fans of the series will encounter familiar faces such as Pepelogoo or the pig.

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Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom Doesn’t have any Switch features (Yet!):

Miketendo64: While Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is coming to a few platforms, (Nintendo Switch included,) are there any version exclusives and will Monster Boy be taking advantage of the Joy-con Controllers HD Rumble feature and the Switch’s touch-screen?

Philipp Döschl: We will decide this a bit later. We still have to do a couple of things before the game runs properly on Switch. Once it does, we will look into which Switch features we will support.

 

Co-op is Just one of a Few Ideas FDG Entertainment have for Monster Boy:

Miketendo64: While Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is coming to a few platforms, (Nintendo Switch included,) are there any version exclusives and will Monster Boy be taking advantage of the Joy-con Controllers HD Rumble feature and the Switch’s touch-screen?

Philipp Döschl: A co-op mode is one of many ideas we have in order to add more to the game after its release. It’s too early to talk about such a feature or even confirm it, as many things have to be taken into account for such a mode. Right now we’re focusing on polishing the game and finishing it up for release.

 

It Could be a Good few Months before Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom Releases on Switch:

Miketendo64: Even if you can’t reveal the release date, could you at least give us a good idea when you’ll announce the release date, for all platforms?

Philipp Döschl: Besides finishing the game itself, the logic and bug fixing, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done for the 3 console platforms. Especially when there’s a new platform like Switch, it’s hard to make an accurate guess when we will release. A lot of things have to be coordinated to make that happen on the same day.

We’ll announce the release date once we know it ourselves. We don’t want to create false expectations.

Miketendo64: A very reasonable response, thank you.


More information on Jin’s Transformations is Coming Soon:

Miketendo64: Now Jin is able to transform into 6 different creatures. Can you tells us a bit about each form, their uses in-game and which one is your favourite?

Philipp Döschl: Every form plays and feels different, as they all have their own set of skills and abilities. The human form can use all types of equipment, items and cast magic, whereas the pig or snake forms obviously can’t wear any equipment. In return, they have other skills that will help exploring the world. The pig can find hidden areas, doors and treasures by smelling with its snout – the snake can climb certain walls and ceilings or spit poison on enemies. Not all transformations are completely revealed by now, so stay tuned for more in depth information about them soon.

My personal favourite is definitely the frog. I love using the tongue to swing through the areas. It kind of reminds me the ninja rope in Worms – which I loved to use and my friends hated me for!

 

Monster Boy’s Difficulty is being kept “on a level where it’s enjoyable for new players to the genre as well as hardcore fans:”

Miketendo64: Puzzles, enemies and adventure, Monster Boy is like Oceanhorn and the Legend of Zelda in many ways. Do you have any favourite puzzles from the upcoming title you think will fascinate and frustrate players and are there any enemies we should watch out for?

Philipp Döschl: Oh yeah, there’s quite a bunch of puzzles! I just don’t want to spoil the fun yet though. As for frustration, we’re trying to keep the difficulty on a level where it’s enjoyable for new players to the genre as well as hardcore fans – which is a bit of a challenge sometimes.

Bosses are certainly one of the highlights in Monster Boy. They draw a lot of inspiration from the golden age of 8 and 16 bit and from different genres. Just like everything else in the game, we keep each of them unique. Instead of repeating things over and over again, we’re streamlining the game on all ends to make sure it’s fresh all the way from the beginning to the end.

The Successor & the Original:

Miketendo64: As someone who has access to the game and can play it, how does it compare to the Wonder Boy games?

Philipp Döschl: It catches the explorative vibe from the original series very well. When I was a kid, every Wonder Boy/Monster World game felt like a big adventure that totally captivated me and I couldn’t stop anymore. Monster Boy has so much variation, nothing repeats and you will constantly discover new areas, abilities and more. This keeps you going on and you don’t want to stop anymore once you started.

When we did the first review pass, I often didn’t want to stop playing. But I had to, as we had a lot to discuss.

Monster Boy Demo & Plans for PAX East:

Miketendo64: Since FDG Entertainment will have a presence at PAX East, can you tell us exactly what games you will have playable. Just how far players can get as far as Monster Boy is concerned and what did you make of PAX South? 

Philipp Döschl: The ‘Monster Boy’ demo has 3 playable parts which can be selected when picking up the gamepad:

  • The first part is the longest of the three different parts. It’s very beginning of the game, so it starts with the game’s intro, at the beach, which sets the story. There’s monsters, items, equipment, hidden treasures, 3 different areas to explore and even a boss fight! It’s about the first 20 minutes of the full game, depending on how fast people play.
  • The second part is played with in snake form and is very different from all others. The snake has a totally different set of abilities, as obviously it can’t carry a sword, but in return can climb walls and reach areas other forms can’t reach. Gameplay here has more puzzle elements than the first or the third part, which is…
  • …played in frog form, when you’re on the way to a mysterious aztec-style temple. This is about 3 to 4 hours in the full game. When playing, you’ll notice that also this form has its own unique approach, thanks to the frog’s tongue. Especially this part in the game has a focus on player’s skill and dexterity, as you can swing with the tongue and do all kind of crazy manoeuvres.

 

The ‘Monster Boy’ demo only scratches on the game’s surface, showing approximately 40 minutes of 13 hour game. But it’ll give players a very good feeling how varied the game is. Besides ‘Monster Boy’, we’ll have ‘Blossom Tales’ which will be released very soon on Steam. If you like A Link to the Past, you’ll love ‘Blossom Tales’. Here’s an early trailer:

We’re also showing ‘Oceanhorn’ on PS4 and Vita, which will both see a physical release together with Limited Run Games in a couple of months. And then there might be a fourth game, but that’s not yet decided.

As for PAX South, we had a blast! A lot of gamers, cool people and media was there, great developers, etc… It was an exciting gathering, so we’re looking forwards a lot to PAX East.

 

Making Monster Boy a Game to Remember:

Miketendo64: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about the upcoming Monster Boy game?

Philipp Döschl: We know a lot of people can’t wait to finally play the full game. We’re doing our best to make Monster Boy a game you will remember for years. Other than that, feel free to ask any questions here, on our blog or on Facebook.

A Message for the Fans:

Miketendo64: Last call and final question, do you have anything you would like to say to your fans?

Philipp Döschl: What more can I say besides a big THANK YOU for all the amazing support so far? We can’t wait to release ‘Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom’. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it and spend time in Monster World you won’t forget. Until then, we still have a couple of surprises for you!

 

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Philipp, it was an absolute pleasure and thank you for making me even more excited about a game I was already very excited about.

 

 

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