We talk with the people at Epic Minds, a young team that have just started a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for Midora, a beautiful 2D action-adventure game inspired in classic games as Legend of Zelda or Secret of Mana.
Hello! Please, introduce yourself. Who is Epic Minds and the people behind this name?
Hello, I am Mhyre, a 22 year-old web developer from France, currently CEO of Epic Minds and Midora’s Game Director.
Epic Minds is an indie game development studio founded in 2011 by myself. We have since grown steadily up to today, where we are 5 people working on our first game project, 3 of which are full time employees. The name comes from the fact that I love epic adventures (and the word epic itself), and people always told me I was very imaginative. When I was still in school, I decided to start working on a game project to eventually create my own studio. Then someone told me I had « ideas on fire » because I was always writing, prototyping, redoing over and over. The name and the logo became clear at that point.
Midora was first shown in August last year. It was a small concept demo so people could get an idea of what were you doing. Then there was a first Kickstarter campaign, but things didn’t came well. What happened? What were the problems with the first crowdfunding try?
Midora being my first game project, I was very excited to show what I was working on, and it eventually ended up on the internet, however this was a VERY early demo. Buggy mechanics, glitches, incomplete animations. It was a mess, and was probably nothing but a waste of time to be honest. For the first kickstarter campaign, it was a time where we had made significant progress on the game, but were lacking resources to push development further. The campaign was created overnight, hoping that we could get the funds that we needed. Unfortunately, it was a time where kickstarter campaigns really didn’t do well because of Christmas, new year’s eve and all that. It was a complete failure because of how unprepared we were, and the fact that nobody was around to check it out made it even worse. But it was probably for the best.
We didn’t give up our hopes. While the campaign was still running, I managed to find more resources, funds that were certainly not enough to complete the game, but certainly enough to push for a comeback. We had planned to relaunch around late February, but once again many events occurred including artists and developers being sick, progress being slow due to decisions we had made (creating our own tools for the game), etc… Now we’re back, and we’re proud of that.
Then you had a time to think about the project and the campaign. What were the lessons learned?
We learned quite a bit in almost everything, but the most valuable lessons were probably around the communication, the marketing side of things. The first thing to remember is to never overdo it. You can show confidence, but not too much.
The second lesson is to never release anything other than marketing tools. A demo is something that should be very valuable, almost like a product you can buy. Giving that early experience like we did, when there was actually nothing to do, is a very bad idea. People will not expect more, even if you clearly tell them there’s more. Some people might also enjoy it, but never take the time and go back to the game once it is finished.
The third lesson is to always plan in advance. This is another reason why it took us so long to relaunch. Since everyone was sick and we couldn’t make progress, it was clear that we wouldn’t have anything else to show if we launched a campaign with everything we have. So we took extra time to prepare.
Now it seems that the campaign goes better and that you may fund Midora. What are the most difficult tasks to accomplish in a crowdfunding campaign?
Running a campaign is actually harder than it looks. You always have to very carefully choose your words when talking about the game. You cannot spoil anything that shouldn’t be spoiled. Keep what you have made for yourself and unveil it slowly to build hype.
Some controversy surfaced in the net about the graphics. I remember those opinions some months ago but we didn’t share them. Did they concern you? Were they a problem in the game development?
The controversy that spawned is perfectly understandable, but has gone way too far on some of the forums we’ve seen. Even though we explained that yes, the graphics were heavily inspired by Minish Cap, some people still believe that our pixel artist used sprites and tiles from the game in question, scaled and traced over them.
This is completely wrong. Just like everything else we do for this game (engine, scripting language, level editor), the graphics were made from scratch, by simply opening the paint tool and starting to draw. What most people are concerned about is the tree we have in one of our forest. The structure is actually the same, but once again there are not that many ways to draw a pine tree when you are trying to reproduce the same art style, using the same perspective. Something has to be close to the originals at some point, and we can’t do anything about it.
This whole controversy hurt the whole team first, and hurt even more after we’ve seen some comments on a few forums, even though we explained ourselves in the very first update. But instead of feeding the controversy, we decided to go on with our updates and campaign, and ignore most of the comments.
The campaign being successful so far sure helps us think about something else! We hope to turn some of the hate into love by hopefully creating a game everyone will enjoy and remember. Everything we’ve shown up to this point is far from all the graphics we will have in the game, and you can be sure we will have delicious backgrounds and fast-paced gameplay, nothing you’ve seen in games that inspired Midora.
All we really need at this point is for people to believe in us. We have a very capable team, and you can be sure we will deliver an amazing experience if we get funded.
Let’s talk about the game! Midora is a action-adventure inspired in classic japanese console rpg’s. Zelda Minish Cap, Secret of Mana, etc. What do you like most from those games?
Everything! Those games shaped the childhood of the entire team working on this project. We simply ADORE Minish Cap and Secret of Mana. What’s not to love about those games?
And what about the story and the characters. What could the players expect playing Midora? How long would be the adventure?
We cannot predict how long the entire adventure will be at this point, because everyone plays games in their own way. There will be at least three ways to ‘‘beat’‘ the final boss. The first one is obviously to kill him. The others.. well, you’ll have to see that for yourself.
Magic is also important in your game. How will it be integrated?
Magic comes in the form of water and runes, and both are vital to overcome obstacles. Most of the puzzles we will have in the game involve water or some other element, which you can use with runes. Again, a lot of items interact with water, just like the environment. A good example for runes would the shock runes, which can be thrown into a puddle of water to zap enemies walking into it. Some runes remain active as long as there is water connected to it, while some other runes are simply used to help you unlock/detect/destroy a few things.
Some things that also caught our attention were the editor and the Arena mode. Could you explain us something about them?
The Arena Mode is something we imagined a while ago. It is a wave-based endurance fight that includes scripted challenges, and where you can use items and hero stats depending on your progress in the game. If all you want is to replay a part of the game, the Arena Mode allows you to do that, and if what you need is a little bit of practice, just go ahead! There’s a whole arena waiting for you.
The level editor is a program we created from scratch to create the game. With the Arena Mode in mind, we thought it would be fun to give it to players and allow them to create their own map, without being able to alter maps from the game itself. There is also Shard, a very simple scripting language we created just for Midora and the level editor, and we hope that people will enjoy creating new challenges and new maps with the editor to share them with their friends!
The game is aimed to be released in the summer 2015 for Windows, Mac and Linux, but you might reach another stretch goals and get a console release. That would be great, right?
If all goes well, we’ll make sure to do the best we can! Our team is composed of capable developers, artists and musicians, which adds up to over 20+ years of experience in the gaming industry. Our goal is to first create a great game, than make it available everywhere! We recently had a poll on our campaign, and people clearly want the game to be on Nintendo consoles first. So we reworked all of our stretch goals and even manage to make them lower than we had anticipated. We do hope we hit a few of those!