If you've ever enjoyed a real time strategy (RTS) or co-op party game you've got at least one thing in common with Mario Castañeda. Mario is the cofounder of Prismatic Games, an indie studio based out of Tucson, Arizona. Currently Mario is attempting to Kickstart his newest title Hex Heroes, a game he and his team hope to bring to the Wii U (among other platforms). I sat down with him to discuss the exciting prospect of creating a game like Hex Heroes and the impact he hopes it will have on gamers new and old.
Give me a quick overview of Hex Heroes as a whole.
Hex Heroes began as a Game Jam title last year when my friend and I wanted to finally develop something for Wii U. My team and some friends busted out a prototype and felt it had a lot of promise. We wanted to capture asymmetric gameplay in a way that was deeper than a mini game and so Hex Heroes brings RTS strategy to action/party play.
Are there any games out there like it?
Nothing that actually delivers couch co-op. Hex Heroes is modeled a bit after Savage, which plays online. This will be the first Wii U RTS and possibly the first console RTS that players actually don't mind playing [laughs] *cough-Starcraft*
What board games or video game have had the greatest influence on Hex Heroes?
Warcraft 2 for sure in terms of gameplay. The aesthetic was sort of an evolution of Double Fine's [game] Stacking. As we develop the game, we'll likely be pulling a lot more from other RTS titles.
What is your official role on the team?
I'm the artist and creative lead, but presently I'm spending every waking second on the Kickstarter. I'm sad to say I don't have much time to generate any interesting art.
Is this your full time job or simply a side project?
This is it right now. I'm driving the wife crazy. It's this or get a "normal" job and do it in my spare time, which is never healthy for development. This is really my first year out of school.
Why did you choose the Wii U as your main platform?
For one, I've wanted to develop a new experience on the Wii U, but mostly, it suits Hex Heroes best. Wii U comes with everything you need out of the box. There's so much that can be done on the gamepad. Others have asked us about the game coming to Xbox or PS using Smartglass or Vita, but that's kind of an expensive buy in for the consumer.
What do you say to those who think the Wii U is doomed?
I say... give it time. The GameCube was a Nintendo machine and the Wii U will be in the same boat. I see the Wii U as a supplementary console. I think Nintendo is right to not consider Xbox or PlayStation as competition. I would encourage people to own more than one console.
So have you been working with folks from Nintendo at all?
Other than Dan Adelman, no. Dan is the indie Nintendo guy. He coordinates getting indies on the platform. We're still sorting through the paperwork, as that takes time, but there's nothing stopping us from working in Unity. Thankfully, Nintendo doesn't require an actual studio building anymore. They've removed quite a few obstacles.
Hex Heroes has eight classes to choose from, which one (of the four revealed) do you foresee yourself playing the most?
Oh, good question. Well, I would say probably the rogue.
The last class I was mastering in Team Fortress 2 was the spy and I was really enjoying the way you can become skilled in that class. Mastering deception. So, if we tailor the rogue in that way, I'd gravitate toward it. I also gravitate toward rogues in D&D... I don't know why that is...
You're just a sneaky guy, eh?
I do like sneaking.
What was the creative process on Hex Heroes? Just a bunch of guys sitting around throwing out ideas late into the night?
Sort of. With a Game Jam you kind of have to act fast. So we spent about two or three hours hammering out the idea and then got to creating assets. We felt it was weird that this game concept didn't exist before. It seemed so natural. There are some things we couldn't implement though, things that Im dying to implement.
If balancing affords I really want to add a synergy feature for classes. Currently players pick from two of the classes to play on the field. This makes sure that no team is incredibly disadvantaged or that you're ever up a creek without a paddle, but adding synergies would add a whole other layer of complexity I think hardcore gamers would appreciate.
For example: If you pick woodcutter and archer (which isn't a class yet, let's just assume there's one) and you chop down wood as the woodcutter and then switch to archer before taking it back to base, you can fire double arrows for a limited time. Things like that. Ways in which the combination is all the more pivotal to team building.
We're testing the ways that things like synergies can be implemented. Some involve allowing the gamepad to be more influential, granting them casting abilities to turn the tide of battle.
How complicated can Hex Heroes get in it's current form? How will it fulfill the needs of more seasoned players while also feeling accessible enough for newbies?
The challenge will be making it hardcore and accessible at the same time. When you involve online play you're going to meet the hardcore, but that doesn't mean you can't have fun with your little brother or mom on a local, couch co op level.
What if you have no one to play with locally?
The game will be developed to support both single player and single player online. Multiplayer online (as in five vs five) is a stretch goal for us.
How did you manage to get the great Grant Kirkhope onboard? How will his involvement shape the game?
A friend of mine had just sort of knew him through some channels. We began talking a little and then we met up at GDC this last year; finalized things for good. He's a real great guy. Busy as hell. When I think of Hex Heroes, I think of Grant's music and so as we develop art for the game it's going to look like art that accompanies his sound.
You've already announced quite a few guest stars such as Shovel Knight and Juan from Guacamelee. What character would you most like to see if you had the choice of anyone in the gaming universe?
Good question! I would love to see Raz from Psychonauts. We've been reppin' the indie scene, and lately, Double Fine seems to be the new age indie.
Will these cameo characters have special abilities or will they basically be skins?
So far just skin swaps of our existing classes. Balancing that all would be a nightmare, but if we somehow raised enough we'd love to do it. We'd be sort of an indie strategy Smash Bros.
Who doesn't want that game!?
Are there more cameo appearances in the works?
Yes, actually. I won't say how many we still have lined up. It's' great to have this support in a community way. Admittedly, we are trying to draw in those fanbases with cameos like this.
Any plans to make Hex Heroes a legit board game if it takes off?
That would definitely be (Prismatic Games cofounder) Chris Jennewein's one wish, he's the board game fanatic. A board game spin off would be pretty fun, but that's a whole other beast. That's an entirely different Kickstarter.
All right, time for some off-the cuff-questions. You ready?
Let's do it.
What game do you really want to see announced at E3?
Man… that would probably be F-Zero. It's been a long time coming
Who is your main in Smash Bros?
Ness, throughout all three games actually.
What is your most prized gaming item?
Oh, let me think. Sentimentally it would have to be my copy of Illusion of Gaia (for SNES). You should play it, it's pretty great.
If you were part of a sandwich what part would you be?
Now these questions I like. Um... the red onion. I love onions.
Last question - Why should people back Hex Heroes?
Let me break this into two answers:
A) If you own a Wii U, you owe it to yourself to back the game. Games that really make use of the Wii U's gamepad aren't coming fast enough. That's the reason we bought one, isn't it? For the gamepad, not for COD or Assassin's Creed.
B) If you don't own a Wii U, we do have a PC port as a stretch goal, but also, it stimulates a new way of thinking in games. Gamers should demand more interesting and new experiences. We also offer a reward tier for those without a Wii U. They can still get all the wallpapers and digital goodies as well as the soundtrack.
Hex Heroes has something for everyone.
How good-looking do you have to be to enjoy the game? I'm kidding. Thanks for answering all my questions!
Bonus TAY Giveaway: We will be giving out ten key codes for Mario's award winning game The Bridge today at noon (EST) on the TAY. Check back and you could win a free code!