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Hex Heroes developer interview with Mario & Chris

Prismatic Games announced Hex Heroes just a few days before GDC and now that the madness has died down, we’ve had a chance to sit down with Mario Castañeda and Chris Jennewein of Prismatic Games to talk about their upcoming RTS game for Wii U. The RTS genre has been pretty sparse on consoles which is a shame, since the Wii U is well suited to the genre with the addition of a touch screen. We wanted to talk about the game and ask about Wii U specific features that Kickstarter backers can expect to see in the final game.

Wii U Daily: First, tell us a little bit about yourselves and your experience making games.

Mario: My real foray into game development began about midway through college in 2008, but I was drawing Mega Man like levels and coming up with dungeons as a kid. I pursued a degree in computer science thinking I couldn’t make a career out of art alone (boy, was I wrong). Hoping to be a jack of all trades, I refined my art talents and learned to code. In 2009, I was hired by Sunken Coin Studios through an internship to help develop a tower defense game on iOS, Towers In Space (unfortunately no longer available).

I took several game courses and joined every indie project I could until meeting with Ty Taylor and arranging to work on The Bridge. Lucky for me, most of The Bridge’s development happened while under the umbrella of schooling and it’s many, many loans. After that, I’ve had the opportunity to network with several other indie developers and really become a part of the community.

By the way, if you’ve somehow played Towers in Space, you’re my hero.

Chris: I studied programming in high school and took a small class on game development. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to go to college specifically for games or just computer science in general. I decided to do a more traditional undergraduate education and then get a graduate degree with a focus on games.

As an undergrad I released my first game with a team of students on the Apple App Store, which sadly is no longer available. But you can still see our work at ChromaWaves.com. Since then I’ve worked on various game projects and specialized in non-game app development to provide for myself.
I was the programmer for Hex Heroes during the game jam, but I’ll be moving more into a producer role for the game and also manage the business side of Prismatic.

Wii U Daily: Hex Heroes is one of the first RTS games for Wii U, why choose this genre?

Chris: We’re both fans of RTS games. Mario couldn’t help bring up mechanics from Warcraft as we planned the game. And one of my first PC games was Age of Empires. I think just like many other fans after the Wii U was revealed, we saw the potential that the GamePad afforded and dreamed of all the games that we could previously only play on our PCs.

Wii U Daily: Your focus is on multiplayer, will you have any single player components to your game?

Chris: The fans have been asking for it, so yes, we’ve decided to include a single player mode! Details will come, but the major concept will allow the player to switch roles between the Gamepad and TV characters. In addition, we’re including online capability for the single player mode. Can you outmaneuver your opponent?

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Wii U Daily: What sort of ways are you utilizing the GamePad to make sure Hex Heroes is unique?

Mario: Primarily, the GamePad will serve as the top down view for Hex Heroes. In co-op modes, this means cooperating with your friends on the TV since no one person will have all the information necessary to win. In local versus modes (which is a stretch goal), the GamePad will function much the same way, but instead have a bigger influence – placing down enemy spawns and coordinating attacks on the TV players. A rich local versus mode like this is something we haven’t really seen. Even Zombi U barely scratched the surface with that kind of experience.

Chris: NintendoLand, like Wii Sports before it, did a great job of proving how fun the new features of the console are. But we haven’t seen many more asymmetric games since the Wii U’s release.

Wii U Daily: Can you tell us a little bit more about the different units in the game?

Chris: We’ve announce the first four classes that can be selected by the TV players: Knight, Scout, Woodcutter, and Rogue. During the Kickstarter, our backers will get to vote on the other four classes. Like other class based games, Hex Heroes will require you to often have a well rounded team to build off each classes unique abilities.

Mario: Right, a team of all Knights would likely not fare well! To add to that, accessibility is important to us, which is why Hex Heroes will feature male and female variants of each of the 8 classes. On top of that, we’ve reached out to several indie developers for inclusions of cameo characters. Cameos are something I’ve always enjoyed in games, as they add an extra layer of character… um, no pun intended.

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Wii U Daily: How big are the maps in Hex Heroes?

Mario: That’s something that each mode will decide, but we’re laying the groundwork for maps to range from cozy to sprawling. Everything rendered in a game adds to the performance requirements, and it’s our aim to keep that as low as possible while still looking good. In the event that we want a hundred enemies on screen or a map that rivals Twilight Princess’ Hyrule Field, we’ll be able to accomplish that.

Wii U Daily: Balance is one of the hardest things to achieve in an RTS. Do you think focusing on co-operative play in Hex Heroes makes this easier or harder to achieve?

Chris: I think cooperative makes it a little easier to balance because the focus is on building a team. As we flesh out the classes, we’ll be designating the role they play within the team. This allows us to build limitations into each class, and that really helps from a design perspective.

Mario: We’ll likely spend more time balancing than creating content in the end. Remember, Hex Heroes isn’t solely co-op, it features single player versions of each mode and one-on-one online play, both of which we want to feel like fully featured experiences, not afterthoughts.

Wii U Daily: What inspired you to focus on the Wii U as a platform?

Chris: Mario and I were both early adopters of the Wii U. In fact, we’ve always owned Nintendo’s latest console and handheld (Virtual Boy excluded). So when Nintendo announced that Wii U development would be possible through the Unity engine, it was well within our grasps to see our game on their platform. It’s been a dream of ours.

Nintendo also lowered the barrier, no longer requiring a publisher to make it onto the eShop. This allowed us to take a risk in the game design. We believe in the Wii U GamePad, so we wanted to make a game for it.

Wii U Daily: Ambient music for a RTS is an important aspect of play. Any inspirations there?

Mario: Lots. I’m a big fan of Warcraft 2 (it was my first PC game, and on Mac no less) and that music struck such a contemplative tone. With Grant Kirkhope on board, we’re going for something similar, but a lot more recognizable. We want the music to be something you hum or whistle, but supplementary to the action on screen in a subtle way. That’s something Grant is sure to deliver.

Wii U Daily: Anything else you’d like to add?

Chris: Our Kickstarter is going to be filled with tons of updates and announcements. As Mario mentioned, we have lots of developers lending their characters to Hex Heroes. We’ll be revealing more cameos through our updates, plus chances for our backers to win prizes.

Mario: Bigger studios may be jumping ship on the idea of the Wii U, but we haven’t. Please support Hex Heroes and prove that innovation is still king in the gaming world. Thanks!

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  • lonewolf

    Cool people :)

  • http://gentlerobot.com/ Gentle Robot

    Oh, great. Couch co-op. Welcome to the 21st century, guys.

    Anyone actually know 4 people who’ll play video games with them at the same time?

    • wrackune

      We’re glad to be here, this century has smartphones and taco bell breakfast. Hex Heroes will feature single player as well as single player online, so don’t sweat it ;)

    • ElCharlo

      couch co-op is the best, and we always play 4-5 players co-op when we hang together with friends

    • Paladinrja

      Awwww ya need a hug :(

  • steveb944

    This article reminded me to support. Thanks!