We’re only 10 days into the new year and already 2019 has proven to be off to a good start. A Nintendo Direct might not have been announced yet, but it’s been news galore as far as Yoshi, Kirby, Final Fantasy and more, are concerned and there’s been plenty of indie news too.
So, with so much goodness coming to the Nintendo Switch and 3DS this year, we were given the chance to talk to developer Borealys Games and we were not disappointed. So, in preparation of Mages of Mystralia’s upcoming release, get ready to learn a whole lot about it and more, as interviewer Jonathan Ober had plenty of questions to ask:
In typical interview fashion, would you be so kind as to introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your involvement with Mages of Mystralia?
Patric Mondou: Hi! I’m Pat, director of Mages of Mystralia. I’m a gamer – always have, always will be. I love reading, watching movies, playing or watching hockey. I’m naturally curious; I can spend hours on Wikipedia, delving in articles through wiki-links like they’re Russian dolls. That’s always made me very versatile. My background includes a few years in academic research, and I grew up in the ‘80s with the first consoles, so I think our game reflects that: a bit old-school, very systemic, yet approachable.
I basically co-founded our studio for the purpose of making Mages. Like many other seasoned game devs after years in a larger studio, I felt my passion dwindling. I had to make a move and work on game projects that I actually believed in. I was working at the time on iPhone games (not my personal favorite as a gaming platform) and I longed for good old classic games. Félix (CEO) and I recruited a few people among our connections and started working.
Mages of Mystralia in a Nutshell:
Miketendo64: For our readers who have yet to experience Mages of Mystralia, or heard a single thing about it, what is Mages of Mystralia and how does it play?
Patric Mondou: In this game, players design their own spells. It plays like a classic action-adventure, except that exploration, puzzle-solving and combat are done by using spells that the player has previously crafted in his spellbook. The components that make up spells are found throughout the adventure much like you would find items in other games.
The Inspiration behind Mages of Mystralia:
Miketendo64: Mages of Mystralia borrows a lot of ideas from games like the Legend of Zelda series. What were some of the other games, movies, books, media of all types that inspired Mages of Mystralia?
Patric Mondou: There was a lot of Dungeons & Dragons influence in there. I don’t think it’s too apparent, apart from us hiring Ed Greenwood (writer of the Forgotten Realms) to help us with the story, lore and dialogues. Things like the political subplot, magic being banned and the recurring theme of souls and “possession” are much inspired by D&D (its worlds, or specific games that we’ve played). Of course, we were also inspired by more whimsical worlds, like Harry Potter’s, by Zelda: The Wind Waker and gems like Trine and Bastion and so many more.
Miketendo64: Since female protagonist are typically underrepresented in games, was the choice to have Zia be a girl, a conscious decision from the start or did that come later in the games development cycle?
Patric Mondou: It was a decision, initially out of personal choice, that sparked a lengthy discussion (debate?) in the team. Some argued it would look like a gratuitous decision only meant to clumsily appease women gamers (we starting production right at the time of gamer-gate). In the end however, I’m very glad we went along with Zia as the protagonist. It’s refreshing and she’s clearly the antithesis of typical sword-and-shield or swashbuckling heroes that are too often used in action-adventure games. That wonderfully suits a game where magic (wit) defies raw strength.
The road not Taken:
Miketendo64: Were there other art styles you wanted to pursue before landing on the cell shaded style presented in the final game?
Patric Mondou: Initially, we were going for an even stronger story-book style, with most props and characters being 2D sprites (like in Don’t Starve, for example), but we found out that aiming most ranged spells with 2D characters was a hassle. Creating interiors was also a pain in the “you know what.” We went with cell-shading and “flat” lighting to preserve as much of that initial intent as possible.
From Consoles to Switch:
Miketendo64: Since Mages of Mystralia has released on other platforms, what were some of the hardest parts porting the game to Switch? Are there aspects of the game that had to be changed or refined for the Switch port?
Patric Mondou: For most of us, Mages of Mystralia was our first project ever that we ported to consoles. The optimization efforts we’ve made since our initial launch are tremendous and some of our technical problems almost bested us. For Nintendo Switch, it was mostly the continuation of those efforts, both for code and graphics.
Miketendo64: Are there any limitations or advancements that the Switch version possesses that other platforms releases do not? Also, are there any Switch specific aspects of the game that not present in versions that released on other platforms?
Patric Mondou: No, unfortunately. Those close to the studio know how much we wanted that, but we made some poor decisions after the initial launch on PC, one of which was to immediately start working on a new game. Bug fixing and console ports became more time-consuming than we anticipated. Torn between working on a new project and updating Mages, we could only do both very poorly. After months of juggling with both, we had to put the new project on hold and focus on a decent Nintendo Switch port for as long as our budget allowed. At last, we were able to ship it without any compromises on the gameplay, the graphic quality or the controls.
Miketendo64: Was the Switch version always planned when working on the game, or was it something that was decided after the success runaway success of Nintendo Switch presented itself? Also, as a developer and a gamer, what do you make of the Nintendo Switch?
Patric Mondou: When we started working on Mages of Mystralia, Nintendo Switch was not even a rumor yet (not even the infamous NX). We initially thought of our game as a PC option for action-adventure fans. Consoles came later. As soon as Nintendo Switch hit the market however, we immediately knew we wanted Mages on it. We felt that our game was a perfect fit for that catalog and that demographic. Uniting console and portable gaming in one device is a huge plus and games like Breath of the Wild prove that, with proper efforts, top-notch AAA graphics can come out of it, too. Being a long-time Nintendo fan-boy, launching on Nintendo Switch is very, very exciting and I can’t imagine not having Nintendo Switch-specific features for our next games. It’s our target platform now.
More Mystralia is Planned:
Miketendo64: Are there any plans for a Mages of Mystralia sequel?
Patric Mondou: Yes! Sequel or prequel, we’re not sure yet. One frustrating thing about a very systemic feature (such as Mages’s spell crafting system), is that it takes a while to develop (for a small team, at least). On the way, you get plenty of new ideas for it and once you actually finish it, you discover again tons of new applications and possibilities for that system. In Mages, we rebooted the whole spell crafting system twice. When we shipped on PC, we felt like we had only scratched the surface; that the system was not pushed to its limit with the proper enemy designs and puzzle designs. We addressed some of those flaws in a patch when we added the Archmage mode, but we couldn’t do much. We want our next game in the Mystralia franchise to explore other avenues that we previously considered for the spell system. We trust it will turn out to be very different Mages, yet retain its creative approach to solving puzzles and combat situations.
“Sci-fi you say?”:
Miketendo64: Do you have other Switch projects in the works that you can discuss?
Patric Mondou: Aside from this sequel that we’re just starting, we have another game project (in a sci-fi setting) that would work magnificently on the Nintendo Switch, but don’t hold your breath!
It’s Game Time:
Miketendo64: I have only beat a few of the main bosses in the game, so far during my review, just finishing up Sleet, the Ice Lizard, last night. Which boss was your favorite to design? Also, do you have a favourite area of the game you greatly enjoyed designing?
Patric Mondou: My favorite boss to design and develop was the first one, Twiggs! Not only because of the nature of the boss (treant-like creature), but because of its colossal size. While developing it, I kept picturing all the epic-sized bosses that awed me in the past: Flaahgra from Metroid Prime, Belial from Diablo 3, Andross from Star Fox (64 especially) to name a few.
Miketendo64: I love the way the game opens up with Zia navigating the woods and the credits popping in and out as you go along the trail, in some ways this reminded me of a children’s movie opening crawl. Who came up with the idea for the scene and how did it come to be?
Patric Mondou: Hahaha (genuine LOL)! I’m so very happy that at least someone mentioned it! I’m a sucker for credits; I almost always watch credits in video games I play or movies I see and I especially like opening credits. I did the opening scene early on just for fun, secretly, and committed it into the build. I wanted to add credits for our first demo presentation to investors and potential partners but I didn’t want it to obstruct the flow. It stuck for a while, but we had no way initially of displaying overlay text like I did and still be compliant with the localization system, so it almost didn’t make the cut!
It’s funny that you mention children movies because some of our early visual design references for Mystralia are from old children TV shows, one in particular called The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin. I guess it must have transpired in the opening scene.
Miketendo64: If you could live in any of the biome areas of Mages of Mystralia where would you live and why?
Patric Mondou: Haven, for sure. I love remove places and Haven looks especially cozy and relaxing!
Tips & Tricks for Spells:
Miketendo64: Building your own spells can be fun as well as daunting, any chance you can provide our readers with some tips on crafting the best spells? And, is there any spell in particular, which is your favourite?
Patric Mondou: The key to being a powerful mage, I think, is using the right triggers. It’s true that they cause the mana cost to skyrocket, but experienced players will notice that they can use the Random augment to reduce the cost of most spells without generating too much of a drawback. One of my favorite combos is the Impact trigger in a simple Ego spell (the shield), which can easily destroy attackers.
A Message for the Fans:
Miketendo64: Lastly, is there anything you would like to say to your ever-growing fanbase and supporters?
Patric Mondou: Ever since our Kickstarter campaign, we received incredible support from our players. Whether they’re comments, bug reports, suggestions or kind words, your emails and PMs are always welcome. They allow us to grow and hopefully make even better games in the future. Making Mages was not easy, but seeing how much some of you enjoy the game empowers us in ways you cannot imagine. You’re the reason we’re making a sequel. Thank you 🙂
The Miketendo64 team would like to extend our personal thanks and gratitude to Pat for taking the time to participate in this interview. For those of you who are interested in supporting Borealys Games, Mages of Mystralia launches January 29 for Nintendo Switch. Pricing is set at $19.99 and our review for the game will be available for your personal reviewing very soon.