Today I am going to be interviewing Artisano: the developer, artist and creator of Anime.Ace’s latest Video Game, Skeleton Boomerang. Skeleton Boomerang is an indie-platformer that can be purchased on Steam right now. If you are curious and want to know more about the game then check out our review! It will be worth your time.
First of all, now that Skeleton Boomerang has finally been released how does it feel?
There’s a lot of complicated feelings, but more than anything I’m relieved. It’s been weighing on my mind for a long time so it’s good to finally be able to put it out there and start thinking about the future.
Skeleton Boomerang is the second game you’ve worked on but the first one you’ve designed and coded yourself, correct?
Correct, the previous game I worked on, Aliens Go Home Run, was coded and designed by Ult, who worked as something of a producer on Skeleton Boomerang.
Did you have any experience in game creation before this? In your free time, or while growing up?
I had spent a good few years messing around in Gamemaker, but I could never actually finish anything. My primary goal with Skeleton Boomerang at the start was simply to make a game I was confident I could finish and wouldn’t abandon part-way through. The scope of it expanded a lot as I developed it.
What inspired you to make your own game?
I played a lot of Mega Man and Pokemon as a kid, and I always wanted to design my own Pokemon and Robot Masters. That simultaneously got me into thinking a lot about drawing, character designing, and game designing all at once, but I don’t think it was until I played Cave Story that it really hit me that making games as an indie developer would be a possibility for me and I started to think more seriously about it.
How long was Skeleton Boomerang in development for?
About 4 years. I started some time in late July-early August of 2013. Development was on-and-off for most of that because I made the questionable decision of starting at about the same time I began going to college, so I would regularly have to take weeks or months-long hiatuses from it.
Where there any issues that cropped up during development?
There were a couple instances of me losing contact with some people that intended to have some part in the game and having to find replacements. There was also the framerate issues. Gamemaker always defaults to 30 FPS and I hadn’t paid much attention to it for the majority of the development time, and after that point it became kind of a huge undertaking to convert. I had originally intended to convert it to 60 FPS after launch in a patch, but I managed to squeeze it in with only a couple days to spare before the release. It was so close even some of the review copies that went out were still stuck in 30 FPS.
Let’s rewind a bit. You were an artist/graphic designer before this, right?
Art was my primary focus for a long time, it was only a few years ago that I started getting a greater interest in programming.
Have you been drawing all your life? Tell me about how that all began.
Basically ever since I could hold a pencil, mostly just drawing whatever cartoon or video game characters were in front of me at the time. I started to take art a bit more seriously in my teens. It helped a lot that my parents have always been very supportive of it.
I noticed on your Tumblr that there is a recurring Snowwoman character named Alberta. Can you tell me a bit about her?
My favorite part of being an artist is designing characters. Sometimes I like to design them just for fun based on simple themes. Alberta is just an instance of that that my followers took a liking to, so I continued drawing her. She became kind of a mascot for my blog for a while.
Are there any plans to make a game starring her or will she remain exclusive to your drawings?
I don’t know if she will ever star in a game, but I think it would be fun to give her a cameo.
So, before you made Skeleton Boomerang you provided the graphics for Anim.Ace’s first game, called Aliens Go Home Run. How did that project come about?
I had created the story and characters for it some years back, I think my first picture of the hero and one of the aliens was back in 2012. I’d done a lot of sketches and art developing them over the years with a variety of ideas. I met Ult through tumblr, I think he took notice because he had seen some of the work I was doing on Skeleton Boomerang and we had been part of a lot of the same developer communities, and he approached me to do art on another project with him. Though shortly after we met up on that, a game jam had started up and he came up with the basic concept for AGHR based on my artwork of the characters. Once that was done everyone was satisfied with it enough that we expanded it into a full game.
Is this also how you first became associated with Anim.Ace?
Yes, Anim•Ace essentially came out of the partnership between me, Ult, and +TEK.
On to Skeleton Boomerang, the game seems to take a lot of inspiration from various other classic platformers. What games did inspire you for this one?
The biggest ones are Mega Man X for the movement/controls and the freedom with choosing where to go next, Donkey Kong Country 2 and 3 for the stage designs and secrets, and Castlevania for the general tone and themes.
The boomerang is a unique weapon of choice. How did that come about?
It was a very spur-of-the-moment decision. I was originally considering giving the main character a gun, but thought it would be better to give him something more unusual. I gravitated towards a boomerang since it would still give range but have a much more unique feeling.
I really love the rolling attack. It allows the game to feel more high paced and keeps the momentum going. It impressed me a lot. What was the decision to include it?
Once I had come up with the idea of comboing enemies with the boomerang, I pretty quickly ran into the problem of it being very hard to avoid taking damage while leading the boomerang into enemies, so I decided to add a dodge mechanic. The fact that you could do it in the air wasn’t something I intended when I programmed it in, but it felt good and it made me think of it more in terms of how it affected platforming. I started to take inspiration from the dash mechanics in Mega Man X for the physics, and it eventually became an important part of the game’s movement.
I understand that the music was the one part of the game you didn’t work on yourself. Was that always the plan?
From the start, music and sound effects were always areas I was highly uncertain of due to my inexperience in them. Early on I was considering just putting together a simple chiptune soundtrack in Famitracker, up until I met a couple of musicians. I met Dimwiddy through tumblr, he took an interest in one of the early demos and allowed for a few of his songs to be used, and wrote a new one for the game, then I met up with +TEK through Aliens Go Home Run and he wound up handling most of the work.
So, why skeletons?
Shortly before I started work on it, there had been a lot of skeleton related jokes floating around the websites I frequented, especially related to that “Spooky Scary Skeletons” song, which put the idea in my head. I thought it would be funny to make a game entirely about them, and that it would be an interesting challenge as a character designer to try and see how much variety I could get out of that singular theme.
Currently, this game is only on Steam. Are there any plans for a console release?
There aren’t any plans for that at the moment, mainly because of things like cost and portability issues with Gamemaker.
Would you be interested in making a sequel to either Skeleton Boomerang or Alien’s Go Home Run, or would you rather work on a brand new series?
I’m always open to the idea of sequels, assuming I’ve got a good enough idea for one. Given Skeleton Boomerang just launched, it might be a while before I start considering things like that. As for Aliens Go Home Run, I won’t divulge too much but there have been some ideas floating around and I think everyone at Anim•Ace wants to see those characters return. I’ve also got about a hundred other ideas I’d like to get to some day, but I’m still trying to organize myself and decide which of those could happen next.
Have you ever played the Super Smash Bros. series of games?
Yep, love em.
If yes, which is your favourite game and fighter, and why?
I’ve got a nostalgic attachment to Melee, but the fourth one has Little Mac and Mega Man, so I think I have to go with that one. Mega Man in Smash was a dream of mine ever since I first got into the series.
Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Would you like to let people know the best place they can contact you/see your work?
I’m happy I could take part in this! I can be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ArtisanoArt and my various game development efforts can be found on tumblr at http://artisanogame.tumblr.com/. You can also follow Anim•Ace on Twitter and tumblr as well at http://anim-ace.tumblr.com/ and https://twitter.com/anim_ace.