The debut game of indie game developer Troy Maynard – more commonly known by his Twitch name, Trickeri – Native blends innovative concepts with a funky art style and a curious mixture of the familiar and the alien. The demo is already available to download and test for free and the Kickstarter for the rest of the game is surging ahead. We caught up with Trickeri to find out what really makes his game so unique.
The Metropolist: Tell us about your game.
Trickeri: Native is a cartoon 2D survival side-scroller set in an alien rainforest with emphasis on adding depth to the combat rather than the hack-n-slash that you’d find in regular side-scroller games. I have a system for when you’re tracking creatures in the forest and you have to look for a trail of clues, like footprints and broken branches, to find the prey. I have a choose-your-own loot system, so that you can craft exactly what you want to craft when you kill creatures.
TM: What about your game makes it unique?
Trickeri: I made a lot of the features in the game not super obvious, they’re blended in with the environment art so that people have to be observant to find items. All the items have a black outline instead of being highlighted or lit up or having an arrow pointed at it. The idea for that was to be a bit closer to real life – if you were lost, fruits aren’t going to be blinking at you.
There’s the depth of the combat. It’s inspired by God of War and Dark Souls, which are two of my favourite combat systems in video games. I’ve always wondered why nobody has tried to apply a similar system to a side-scroller game. Most side-scrolling games you have one button and you slash through a ton of enemies and it’s really flat and boring, in my opinion. That’s a shared trait of the majority of survival games right now. I wanted to have a survival game with mini bosses that you have to combat and actually pay attention to their attack patterns. That was always disappointing about survival games, because you spend all this time to establish your hunger or thirst and you have a good base set up, then the only thing left to do is to keep upgrading your armour and your weapon and you find all these really dangerous things, but then the combat isn’t that thrilling.
Instead of navigating a bunch of menus and grids and end up piling up two and three hundred twigs or grass. I tried to focus on keeping the amount of items you pick up really small. You can’t stack items in your inventory, you only have ten inventory slots so you have to manage it carefully.
TM: Why did you decide to make a game in this particular format?
Trickeri: One of the reasons is because I wanted to see that kind of a combat system applied to a side-scroller, rather than a 3D game. The other part of it is because most of this game has been just me by myself. I couldn’t realistically finish something like a 3D game because a) I’m not good at 3D modelling and b) that’s way more complex and time consuming to make. I figured a 2D side-scroller would be manageable. But also, a lot of my favourite indie games that inspired me are ones with Flash Art, like Castle Crashers and a lot of the Team Meat games.
TM: The art style is really distinctive. What inspired it?
Trickeri: The initial inspiration for the entire game was Avatar. I rewatched it about three years ago and there’s that scene where the rainforest lights up at night and becomes bioluminescent. It was such a cool environment, I wanted to walk around in that forest, I wanted to play a game where you’re in that exact kind of vibe. I started thinking, how would that look if you did a cartoon 2D version of it.
It’s also inspired by the work of Jhonan Vasquez, the guy that did Invader Zim. I used to draw the cartoons from that show a lot when I was a kid. I went back and looked at some and realised that I’ve unconsciously drawn from the colour palette of that show too, there’s a lot of neon and bright greens and blue contrasting with black.
The way I layered the forest and coloured it is from the Muramasa series. It has a cool spooky forest, with trees and shadows in the background.
When I made the character, I pulled from Rayman. Part of that was to save time because it’s time consuming to animate full arms and legs and elbows and knee joints, so I wanted to keep him simple.
TM: How much of a plot is there to the game?
Trickeri: Right now, there isn’t one, officially. We were thinking about having something like, he was on a spaceship and he crashed, but then we’d have to keep the spaceship as part of his house. It’s either that or he’s from an alien race which has a rite of passage where they drop him off on the planet and he has to survive. Those are the ideas we’re working with right now, but initially early access release – I’m trying to follow the model of what Don’t Starve did, where they released something super, super barebones in early access. I want to prove how one example of each gameplay concept works in the demo and then add to that through the early access. I do want to add a story, but it’s a work in progress right now. I need to get my artist to want to animate an entire intro for it. That’s one of the biggest hurdles with the story right now, I need money to hire the artists to make those cut scenes. It’ll definitely be in place eventually as the game grows.
TM: Why did you choose Kickstarter to fund the game?
Trickeri: I chose Kickstarter because I figured it’d be the best medium for what I was trying to do. I chose Kickstarter because I do need funds to be able to continue doing this full time. I wanted to make a free demo I could hand out that would prove the concepts of the game. I thought that that would sell the Kickstarter the best.
Some other options didn’t make sense to me. People were trying to get me onto Patreon, which has been picking up this year. But I feel that that’s more fitting for people who do some sort of regular content, like a YouTube channel or a stream.
Kickstarter lets me deliver cool goodies and guaranteed copies of the game as a presale for a cheaper price. That’s cool that the people who believe in it get it for like $5 less than people who are late to the party.
TM: How are you finding your Kickstarter experience so far?
Trickeri: It’s really interesting. I’m learning a lot because this is my first time doing it. It is pretty difficult to generate a lot of buzz about it if you haven’t built your presence up on the internet slowly over time. I streamed the development process of the game for the last two years on Twitch. I thought that would be enough, but I’m realising that the smart thing to do would be to build up more of a general following, like with blog posts over the course of maybe a year, build up a Twitter presence. I think you definitely have to do to a couple of big shows or expos with your game before launching a Kickstarter, which seems kind of backwards, because the point of the Kickstarter is to take off. It’s at a point where you need to build up something ahead of time by meeting people in person or leaving blog posts and posting on forums.
It’s just crazy that people’s faith in Kickstarter has been shaken more than I realised in the last couple of years because the market is so flooded. There’s a lot of big games that, when Kickstarter was really popular for video games about three years ago, delayed their promised releases by a year to two years plus, and that isn’t helpful.
Other than that, it’s been really interesting and pretty cool. I liked working on all the rewards that’s really fun to come up with those things for people.
TM: What are your hopes for the game?
Trickeri: If the minimum is met, what I’m going to do is release it on Steam as an early access game. I say early access, but it’s going to be fully playable with ten to fifteen hours of gameplay and some replayability in the form of generated levels and maybe online leaderboards for speed running. So it’ll still pretty much be a game, but I’ll call it early access because there’s a lot more that I wish was in there – the story for example and cut scenes. If that goes well enough with early access, I’d like to keep generating a lot of content for it and do a full release about a year after that and then probably move onto another project. That’s the plan so far.
TM: Thanks Trickeri!
If you love the sound of Native’s creative blend of action and survival, check out the Kickstarter page and think about pledging some support.