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Codex Interview RPG Codex Interview: Monsters of Mican

Infinitron

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Tags: Blankitt Productions; Monsters of Mican

Monsters of Mican is an unusual-looking Might & Magic-inspired indie dungeon crawler with a "whimsical" sense of humor released on Steam back in March. It's the kind of game that surely would have remained in complete obscurity if it hadn't been randomly spotted last month by our own JarlFrank, who as a fan of all things eccentric gave it a try and found that he liked it. In fact, he liked the game so much that he decided to contact its developer, a gentleman who goes by the name of Skittzo, to learn more. In the interview, Skittzo tells us what led him to create such a game, his thoughts about bespoke content vs procedural generation, and also about his plans for an open world follow-up called Magic of Mican. Here's an excerpt:

2. Monsters of Mican is very whimsical. Pretty much every piece of writing contains a joke and the majority of monsters are visual puns. What made you decide to go for this tone? Is it because funny monsters are easier to create with a limited budget? A lot of them feel cobbled together from various asset packs.

My writing style has always leaned heavily on humor and more particularly puns. I blame/cherish the QFG series for instilling that in me. Also as I noted above I was also using Dragon Quest for inspiration, which is also known for excellent monster puns.

Even if I had a larger budget and better modeling skills I think I would've used the same style of monster design. I have modeled a few from scratch before, and they'd all still wind up named Tyrannosaurus Specs (a dinosaur with glasses) or Raybee (a bee that shoots lasers from its stinger). A light, jovial tone is just something I've always appreciated in games that really resonate with me.

As for how these monsters were made, I would actually say that did more to inform the story of this game than it did the tone/sillyness. I started off under the presumption that most of the monsters I made would be placeholders until I could secure funding to contract artists, but I kept having so much fun combining and editing things that it made the story concept of the "amalgam anomaly" just click into place. I had always planned on there being an ancient event that brought all the monsters to the world but the way I designed this game is what really inspired me to write it in the way I did.

3. My favorite part of the game is its variety. Every dungeon level is different, with unique traps and puzzles and boss fights. How did you approach the level design for this game? Did you have any major inspirations to draw from (other RPGs, pen and paper modules, etc) or were most of your ideas original?

I approach game design as a player first, so I always look at what I've made and say "if I was playing the game would I enjoy this?" To that end one of my biggest gripes with RPGs specifically but a lot of games in general is the lack of meaningful variety in both combat and exploration. Sure, you can happen upon some aesthetically cool area in Skyrim like Blackreach but you'll still wind up traversing it the same way you would any other area. Or, in Breath of the Wild you'll see a new enemy but it's just a stronger reskin of the same thing you've been fighting over and over.

I wanted to make sure you never have that kind of feeling in my game. The variety needs to actually be meaningful- one level introduces collapsing floors, then the next powerful water currents, then lava fields and crushers. It serves both the effects of keeping the gameplay fresh and also actually reasonably reflecting the world/area you're supposed to be in. A mine can have collapsing floors, that makes sense. It probably won't have lava, and probably not pirate ships making waves. So save that for other levels!

Many of the actual features were my original ideas. Obviously a minecart ride is something that's been done (and I just wanted for the quick thrill of it) but that pirate ship idea, or freezing the water in the kraken lair, or giving the Zebrarian boss literal plot armor (made of books) were my original concepts.

4. Avoiding repetition is a worthy goal, and I feel like your dungeon design achieved that quite well. It's a great approach to level design especially in today's gaming world where procedural generation is being used more and more by both indies and larger companies - think of Skyrim's radiant quests and the flood of roguelikes and roguelites released nowadays. What do you think of this popularity of procedural generation among developers? Is level design becoming a lost art because of it? In my opinion, procedurally generated levels always feel the same, there's no variety because it's just an algorithm recombining the same elements over and over, unable to think outside of the box. Do you think we can fight back against this trend by developing games with excellent hand-made level design?

I tend to agree that procedural generation can be looked at as one of the root causes of games becoming stale and repetitive, but I don’t think it’s necessarily always the case or the only cause. Specifically for something like Skyrim, I believe the scope of the game is more to blame- you have hundreds upon hundreds of dungeons and NPCs and quests, and only a limited development team, so it is just a necessary fact of development that you’ll need to repeat certain themes, mechanics and elements. So in this instance I think the issue is more the scope of most bigger games from AAA publishers- the amount of content they think is necessary for consumers (rightly or wrongly, I can’t say for sure) drives the need for repetition.

That’s something that is mostly not an issue in the indie space. An exception as you mentioned is with roguelikes, and while I don’t necessarily agree that they always get repetitive (personally I think Binding of Isaac is one of my favorite indie games of all time) you can run into that trap. But here’s something I didn’t really understand fully until I started developing my own game:

Hand-made level design is hard!!! Like, really really hard!

Taking a completely blank slate and deciding on a theme, mechanics, gimmicks, and then eventually putting all the pieces together is an incredibly overwhelming and draining experience. It’s no wonder why procedural level generation is so popular, because it removes so many of the pitfalls and difficulties with this.

I’ve played with the idea of using procgen to come up with a base map, and then just editing that to match an idea in my mind, but even that can begin to feel repetitive and predictable for players, so I did wind up just making everything by hand, piece by piece, and I think I plan to do that for the next game too. Hopefully (for my sake) I can make a few custom tools that help make this process a bit faster to actually carry out, but mentally it is still quite draining trying to fill a blank slate like that.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Interview: Monsters of Mican
 

Late Bloomer

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This type of content is super enjoyable to read. Great questions by the Jarl. Nice insight into what appears to be a very strange game. Dragon Quest as inspiration might not be everyones cup of tea, but that sold me on it. Steam Summer Sale is right around the corner.
 

Don Peste

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No link to the game

cosas-t%C3%ADpicas-de-Espa%C3%B1a-1_opt.jpg
 

JarlFrank

I like Thief THIS much
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Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.
(if you pick Epic you're gay)
God forbid the dev gets an 88% cut instead of 70%.
Wasn't 88 your favorite number?
itch.io gives the dev an even higher cut if you care about that (90%), and doesn't come with the industry's shittiest launcher attached

But everyone seems to ignore that store and only focus on Epic vs Steam. Probably because, unlike Epic, itch isn't a loud-mouthed bully.
 

*-*/\--/\~

Cipher
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By the gods it looks bad. As if every asset was taken from a different game with zero sense of art direction. Do I smell Vogel 2.0?
 

KeighnMcDeath

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(if you pick Epic you're gay)
God forbid the dev gets an 88% cut instead of 70%. Wasn't 88 your favorite number?
itch.io gives the dev an even higher cut if you care about that (90%), and doesn't come with the industry's shittiest launcher attached But everyone seems to ignore that store and only focus on Epic vs Steam. Probably because, unlike Epic, itch isn't a loud-mouthed bully.
(if you pick Epic you're gay)
God forbid the dev gets an 88% cut instead of 70%. Wasn't 88 your favorite number?
itch.io gives the dev an even higher cut if you care about that (90%), and doesn't come with the industry's shittiest launcher attached But everyone seems to ignore that store and only focus on Epic vs Steam. Probably because, unlike Epic, itch isn't a loud-mouthed bully.
Hmm.... time to buy it from itch.io then. I don't need steam slamming its cybernetic cock platform into my laptop slut some more. Envy feels violated and glares at me for putting steam on in her.
 

thesheeep

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Codex 2012 Strap Yourselves In Codex Year of the Donut Codex+ Now Streaming! Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Torment: Tides of Numenera Codex USB, 2014 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech Bubbles In Memoria A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag. Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
Yeah, Itch is cool. I wish more people were using it.

But as it is, it is IMO at least a good place to release very early versions of your game at. Versions too early for Steam's users not understanding what actual "early" access means.
And of course, it is a means to provide a fully DRM-free version (afaik the Itch client just downloads an archive of the game, and you can just grab that?).
 

JarlFrank

I like Thief THIS much
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Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.
(afaik the Itch client just downloads an archive of the game, and you can just grab that?)
I don't even know if there is a client. When you buy a game on itch, you straight up get a download link on the game's store page which lets you download the game in whatever archive the developer decided to pack it in (rar, zip, .exe installer, etc).
 

thesheeep

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Codex 2012 Strap Yourselves In Codex Year of the Donut Codex+ Now Streaming! Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Torment: Tides of Numenera Codex USB, 2014 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech Bubbles In Memoria A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag. Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
(afaik the Itch client just downloads an archive of the game, and you can just grab that?)
I don't even know if there is a client. When you buy a game on itch, you straight up get a download link on the game's store page which lets you download the game in whatever archive the developer decided to pack it in (rar, zip, .exe installer, etc).
There is a client. It mostly just wraps around the itch website and has some basic download/install/notify about update/apply update functionality.
 

CryptRat

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The reason why I know there's a client is that whenever I forget to check the Windows box when uploading a file then someone eventually mentions that he couldn't download it using the client.
 

TheDeveloperDude

MagicScreen Games
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Jan 9, 2012
Messages
437
It is an interesting game. Really a Might and Magic clone. It would be better if the inventory and character equipment would be on the same screen. This is somehow confusing first, have to get used to it.
Yes, there is help, the equip better option. But I am not sure I want to equip a 6-10 damage sword instead a 5-9 mace when I have only the Blunt skill and no Sword skill?
 

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