In this week’s interview with an indie developer, we catch up with Yar & Stas, two members of the indie development team behind the upcoming game Molecats. Stas is the Lead Designer for Molecats and does almost all the art and animation for the game, whilst Yaroslav is a programmer/software scientist responsible for the technical development of the game. In this interview we explore what drove them to develop Molecats and why they thought it would be a good idea to cross a cat with a mole.
Could you tell our readers a little about the people behind Molecats ? Who are you guys and how did you get into game development?
Yar & Stas: Yep! We are an international team, which consists of: me (Stas Gailunas), Yaroslav Rybak, Wasiliy Kashnikov, Samuel Justice & Michael Benzie. I’m creating the game’s design, art & animation (with a little help from my wife). Yaroslav is programming & designing the game; he is also responsible for technical support of the website. Wasiliy is a composer of Molecat’s wonderful soundtrack. You may have heard the music he wrote for Ice Pick Lodge’s games: The Void, Cargo and Knock-Knock. Samuel is an extremely talented and dedicated sound designer who has a working experience with large-scale AAA-titles as well as some pretty famous indie projects. Michael helps Samuel a lot with bringing the Molecat sounds to life. I’m from Russia (as well as Wasiliy), Yaroslav is from Ukraine, and Samuel & Michael are from the UK. How did we get together? Via the void which binds, I think.
When you aren’t developing indie games, what do you get up to?
Yar: I am busy with a lot of stuff that can be done on the computer. It’s my hobby and work, everything is interesting for me. I started as a web-programmer, worked on many projects for a few web companies, then I switched to freelance and doing games by myself: everything from art to music. To improve the quality of the games, I’ve started working with Stas. To achieve good quality you need more time, and sometimes you are forced to share the interesting work.
Stas: As an all-around CG artist, I started working in the video game industry in 2004 (10 years ago? Really?). Today I’m freelancing for various mobile/social gaming parties and teaching 3D graphics & animation (and a bit of game design) in the Saint-Petersburg State University of Cinema & Television. That’s apart from living & playing games. ;)
Could you tell us a little about Molecats ? What inspired you to make this game?
Yar & Stas: Molecats at its base is a path-finding puzzle game. It is about finding the way out of the labyrinth. But what complicates the goal is the fact that you don’t have direct control over the main characters (molecats), but rather need to guide them through the game by indirect means. We want to make a game with very simple set of rules and easy controls, but fill it with lots of secrets and challenges.
There was a small flash game called Continuity which reminded me about the table-top tile-placing games from the past. And we decided (with my old friend, not the Molecats team) to make two games based on tile mechanics, like a friendly competition. He has made a small fast-paced arcade labyrinth runner where you can rotate the tile in where the main hero is (and it’s available on Newgrounds for a looong time, though we are still in development). I was always into intellectual games where you take your time, so I’ve decided to do a puzzle game.
What is your main vision of the game? Why will gamers fall in love with Molecats over any other puzzle game?
Yar & Stas: We think it’s the molecats themselves and their simple but somewhat weird logic. They can sometimes frustrate you, yes. But when you finally understand how they act in the game’s collisions, you will learn to control them effectively. It is designed in a way that may actually make the game more difficult if you are rushing things and making mistake after mistake. Although the game is totally in real-time, it’s for those who prefer to stand still and think before acting.
But we don’t know, actually. It is the game we’d like to play ourselves and to see our children playing. We hope someone else will be pleased to play it, too.
How did you go about designing and producing the game? Can you tell our readers a little more about your process and working methods?
Yar & Stas: We have an issue in our team: we are both “visual types,” so, for example, Yaroslav can’t start programming if the assets he is working on are not “beautiful.” It doesn’t mean he needs final artwork & animation to start working with characters or levels, but he must be pleased with the way it looks in the process. It means we are always trying to make things beautiful, and that is not entirely bad.
Most of the time we are trying this and that, different things. Designing, redesigning, restyling etc. It is an iterative process. The main problem that we are facing – we don’t have that much feedback and playtests. So, if you want to help, please do! Try our demo and write a few words about your experience. Even better if you’d love to volunteer for being a permanent tester! We would really appreciate it!
What games are the main inspirations for Molecats ? When initially looking at the game we saw at it as a cross between the classic game Pipes and the well-known classic Lemmings.
Yar & Stas: Yes! But not really! We liked the idea of indirect-control, but it wasn’t actually inspired by Lemmings. We have decided that it will be a game about connecting paths inside rotatable tiles, but haven’t thought about Pipes. But it happens so, that when we were asked what would the game be about, we have suddenly described it as “Pipedream + Lemmings.” This was totally unintentional, but then we’ve found out that it fits the concept perfectly.
How did you come up with the idea to cross moles with cats? It sounds like the recipe for a rather sinister genetic experiment. (Please don’t try this at home, people!)
Stas: At first they were unnamed underground-dwelling creatures, like “diggers.” Then I invented that name in Russian (“котокротики”). It sounded fun. Those creatures, I thought, must be associated with the underground and caves, so it could be just “moles” or “mole-people.” But nobody actually likes moles – they are pests. Cats, on the other hand, are loved by literally everyone. So, with “molecats” we have balanced it! I didn’t want to make “supercute” characters, that everyone will like for sure. Instead I wanted them to be a bit weird, somewhat crazy. Simpletons, but not as dumb as lemmings. Self-willed.
How are you finding the indie developer life so far? The biggest discussion we always have with indie developers is how hard it can be from a financial point of view. What is your solution?
Yar: It is very difficult money-wise, so you have to have a different profitable job. One job is for money, other - for yourself. You need to think about the budget, you need to play games, you simply must know everything that is happening in the game industry, and you should keep your ideas unique and “fresh.” Oh, and after all this hard work you can receive a “big punch” and nobody could be interested in playing your stupid game.
Stas: The most difficult part - it can take too long to develop a game when you don’t have a budget. You can get tired of the project. This is the worst thing that could ever happen. There is no universal solution. Everyone fights with his own “improvised methods.” My recommendation would be hard work and dedication.
Can you tell us a little about some of the other projects you have in the pipeline?
Yar: I am still exploring several ideas, but I can’t tell you anything about them yet, as that will ruin all the fun.
Stas: We have a few smaller projects (not much to talk about, actually), as well as some interesting ideas in pre-production state, so it’s too early to talk about those. But now we are concentrated on finishing Molecats.
If time and money was no object, what kind of game would you see yourself producing?
Yar: Dozens of different games in different genres, it’s very difficult to focus on one idea. Whenever I am working on a new game, I have a lot of other ideas at the same time.
Stas: This would be totally a Post-nuclear Role-playing MMO! Just kidding.
I am a big fan of Fromsoftware’s *Souls series. And I am a huge fan of Looking Glass Studios “Immersive Sim” genre. So I would preferably make something like “Sci-fi Dark Souls” with a greater emphasis on immersion, exploration & survival. Less fighting, more stealth & puzzles. :)
Thank you very much for your time! We’d like to wish you the best of luck and hope we’ll see your studio release some great games in the near future! Keep us informed :)
Stas: Thank you!