I was able to play the current version of Merchants of Fury at this year’s Perth Games Festival. It is still quite early in development, but I was able to get a taste of its unique combat mechanic. The mechanic involves clicking your mouse on an enemy and dragging it in different directions to perform different attacks.
I also got to speak with the game’s creator, Sam Holtz, about what it’s like being a game design student at Murdoch University, the benefits and challenges of working on an independent project, and what Merchants of Fury is going to look like in the future.
Have you attended the Perth Games Festival as a developer before? What was your impression of it this year?
I have attended PGF this year and last year, both times exhibiting one of my games projects at Murdoch University. Although last year was run very well, I feel like this time was even more organised, most likely because they are getting better each time. Even with the AFL Grand Final on at the same time as the event, it was still packed with people most of the day so I would say it was a success.
Why did you decide to study games development(?), and how long have you been studying it for?
When it came time in year 12 to choose what I would be continuing on to do, I really had no idea. I went to many university open days searching for something with nothing sticking out as much to me as the games course at Murdoch. I have always loved video games, having played them for most of my life, so the idea of being one of the people to create them seemed like a dream. I started my 3-year Bachelors in 2013, and I am just about to finish my post graduate studies, totalling 4 years at university studying games.
Is Merchants of Fury the first game you’ve ever worked on? (If not, can you tell us a bit about your previous work?)
Merchants of Fury is not the first game I have worked on, but I would say it is the first game I have done that is not just for a university assignment. I have made many small games throughout uni, including a game where you play as a ninja with the simple mechanic of attacking enemies by sword dashing through them, and a game about climbing a tower by bouncing on enemies heads as they try to stop you. The game I exhibited at PGF in 2015 was a group project, a 2D game about a hitman who is only given one clue about his hit target and must find more clues to narrow down who they are and take them out. Merchants of Fury is solely made by me, and in my mind is the first game I am confident can possibly be released one day.
How long have you been working on Merchants of Fury for, and what has been the biggest challenge so far?
I have been working on this game for most of 2016, all as a part of my post graduate course. The greatest challenge in its development has been my time. I am a chronic procrastinator, and in the time when I do work, a lot it is taken up by other units at university.
The game is still in the very early stages of development. Can you describe what your long term vision for it is?
The long-term vision is to hopefully finish it and release on Steam. It would have 5-10 levels to be played through, 20 possible bosses, and as many attacks for the player to use as I can make. It would have a similar scope to The Binding of Isaac and Enter the Gungeon.
The key mechanic of the game seems to be clicking your mouse on enemies and dragging it in different directions to perform different types of attacks. What was your inspiration for this mechanic?
The inspiration for this mechanic came from many places. I have played many MMOs in the past, and my biggest problem with them is the idea that you use WASD to move while also pressing various number keys or other keys with your left hand, ultimately making the movement harder. I wanted a system that allowed more attacks than two (left click and right click) and also did not want to sacrifice your ability to move. The circle of abilities is inspired by many games with similar radial mouse dials, most notably League of Legends with its ping wheel. This means combat can be more than just shoot one type of bullet while still working with a mouse + keyboard setup.
What have been some of the major challenges you’ve faced so far (or are currently facing) in developing this game, and how did/will you overcome them?
One big challenge was getting the dial around the mouse to work as I intended. It is probably the most unique feature of the game, so I wanted to focus on getting it right for PGF so it could be tested. Another large challenge was damage as I needed many types of damage, such as single hitting and persistent, and also that damage comes from the player, the enemies, and also possibly things summoned by the player. I am not the most avid coder in the world, so for me it has been a challenge getting these features how I would like them.
What has been the best part of working on this game?
The freedom, absolutely. I have my game idea, and I get to make it how I want. My vision isn’t tampered with by others so it comes out exactly how I want. With group projects the idea is good, but none of us ever have the same picture in our head, so I feel less creative freedom over it. The others ideas were great, but for a project started by me, it is nice to be free to design it how I want.
Was participating in PGF 2016 helpful to you as a developer? How?
PGF was definitely helpful to me. I talked with some people as they played it, and afterwards, to ask how they felt, what was good or bad. Their feedback has been very helpful in telling me what needs work and what already works. It was also very nice to sit back and watch someone play the game with no help from me, as they got the hang of the mechanic and completed what was there. Even some very young children I thought would not comprehend the mouse wheel, they picked up on it quickly and used it exactly as I intended.
How can our readers follow your work and support your games?
www.corngames.tumblr.com – This is a small blog started as part of my post graduate, to go along with the game. I have not been very good with updating it and keeping a log of the development, but, hopefully, I pull myself together and get started posting.