It’s always interesting to see and who and what indie developers take inspiration from when creating their games. When I sat down to play Ballad of Crater, I instantly noticed the queues it had taken from games like Dark Souls and The Legend of Zelda. It’s an interesting title that’s equal parts creative and established, and I had the pleasure of chatting to Juan Van Litsenborgh, one of two developers, about the game, it’s development, and its showing at PGF.
For those who aren’t familiar with your game, can you give us an elevator pitch?
Ballad of Crater is a quirky top-down action adventure game in the vein of classic Zelda but infused with twin-stick shooter action and a fun humour where the player explores a large world and several large dungeons in order to grow their collection of weapons and upgrades.
What set you on the path to develop it in the first place?
In the beginning, we wanted to tackle a game that was small enough that we could complete it, being a two-man team this genre seemed like a good fit for us to hone our skills at complex level design on a large but small scale. It also started off as a project targeting the PS Vita three and a half years ago, so we felt that that platform was missing out on a game like this one.
Are there any major inspirations for the style of game you’re going for? If so, what are they?
Obviously, we draw some inspiration to classic Zelda games like A Link to the Past, but we also draw some quirky inspiration from games like Banjo or Conker. As for the twin-stick shooter elements, we just felt like it was a natural and fun modern twist on the genre.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
Time. Throughout this project, my brother and I have been in different states of studying at University and working full time. I’ve just wrapped up my bachelors, but I also work full time at a serious games studio down in Fremantle, so finding the time needed to work on this project has been excruciatingly hard.
How long has the game been in development, and how much longer has it got left?
We have spent around 3 years in development now, and if we keep the current pace we are at now, we are quite confident that we only need about 6 months to a year to wrap up the project.
The game is currently planned to release on PC. Have you considered porting it to any other platforms?
We would love to support as many platforms as possible! We do have our eyes fixed on PC for the time being, but we are extremely eager to reach out and start to get the ball rolling on other platforms. Personally, I think the game would be amazing on Switch, but would also be great on PS4 or XBO. But first, we need to do a little business stuff to get that ball rolling.
As a developer, how does it feel to attend PGF and have your game showcased? Did you get any good feedback?
It feels really good to have people play your game and be happy and impressed with it. The best part is watching people and just taking notes about how they play and interact with the world. What frustrates them? What takes too long to figure out? What is obtuse? These questions are answered just by watching as a player plays your game, and it was satisfying this year to only come away with about a page of feedback, whereas last year we had pages and pages of the stuff. It just proves to us that we have been doing a good job!
I understand that you work on the game in your spare time. What drives you to keep putting effort into completing it?
Honestly? I just love making games. I spend most my spare time on Crater, but if it’s not that, I’ll be tinkering with AI or VR or perfecting my technical art skills. I just find every aspect of creating games fun, and there is nothing more rewarding than putting the time into crafting something like Crater over a long period of time. The reward grows each step we take that brings us closer to release so that others can experience something that we hope will be special by the end of development.
Are there any plans for future content post-release? Or do you plan to start work on a new title?
Early on in development, we toyed with prototypes for couch co-op and couch PvP, but ultimately, we have decided to cut that to focus on creating the base game. Once we are done with that, we may work to bring those elements over to the base game.
If you’d like to continue to follow the development of Ballad of Crater, check out the following resources: