Dark Flame was born from Warren Smith’s desire to play another solid Castlevania game in the vein of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and the GBA/DS entries in the series.
That doesn’t mean he’s content to just make his own copy of the game. While Dark Flame is an homage to the venerable series, Smith intends to make some unique tweaks to the formula to add more challenge, more player choices, and more strange, exotic weapons.
Siliconera spoke with Smith to learn more about his motivations and desires for the game.
Dark Flame has obvious ties to Castlevania and Symphony of the Night. What got you to set out and create your own game in their vein?
Waren Smith, Developer of Dark Flame – Probably the same reason anybody makes a game – they want to play more! I really loved that style of gameplay and thought that there should be another Castlevania that would live up to it’s name, but there really wasn’t… So I figured I would make my own game that was similar to the playstyle.
I think my only big thing against SOTN was that it was too easy. So, I thought maybe I should add in that old school formula of difficulty, but keep the pace of the game going. Hence, the multiple deaths and respawns.
In creating this kind of homage, how do you make something different without steering too far from the formula that inspired the game? How do you make Dark Flame truly your own?
Well, I honestly think that some things need to stay the same. I believe that the look and feel of SOTN nailed it, in my opinion, but there are other things that could use work or be built upon. One of the biggest things had to do with the story. Though the voice acting was amazing (:P) the story was very unoriginal and lacking. I mean, how many times are you going to bust into this guy’’s castle and kill him?
Another tangent that Dark Flame takes us on, in regards to formula, is customization. I like the idea of being able to create your own player. Things like different looks on weapons and armor to choices in dialogue can make a huge impact on how enjoyable the game is.
What drew you to add Dark Souls-like elements into the game? What make it extremely challenging? What does this add to the formula?
One of the biggest reasons to add in Souls-like elements was because I like that series! It’s not necessarily the Souls games that inspired to make this one difficult. Actually, it was pretty much ALL of the old school games that inspired that. Games these days have too much ‘hand-holding’ and are just way too easy. I want the player to feel like they’ve made an accomplishment by beating this game.
With that being said, I also take into account the wants and needs of the casual gamer. So there’s actually two ways to play the game. There’s an extremely difficult mode (for old school gamers and speed runners) and an easier version for the casual gamer. There’s also the forgiveness to the casual player of having them keep everything (except currency) when they die. This allows them to get stronger as they get stuck in an area where they can’t progress… allowing them to get strong enough to beat it. A little bit of that is hinted within the demo, but that was just a demo.
With a plethora of weapons, abilities, and spells, how do you decide on an interesting ability or tool to put in the game? What thoughts go into their design and balancing?
Most of the weapons and spells are put in based on whether they look cool or not. I like the idea of having different looks, types, speeds, swings, etc. After figuring out which ones look the best, they get balanced and placed in. Some of them are based on characters or events that happen in the game. The current demo is limited on the types of weapons, but there will be many more types that you can find in the completed game.
The abilities take a bit more thought. I only want to put in mechanics that add to both combat and the ability to progress to new areas. There might be a few tools that allow you to ‘unlock new doors with XX key’, but I’m going to keep that limited. I believe that if you’re going to be given a new ability, it needs to be fun and useful.
Can you tell us about some of the exciting weapons and spells that will be in the game that you haven’t told us about yet?
Nope, sorry :P
What thoughts go into designing the abilities that players will use to get around the world map? What goes into creating a world that can be slowly unlocked and traversed with new discoveries/powers?
There’s a ton of thought that goes into the world layout. Since the abilities of the player depend on how the world is created, that part gets put in after. Level creation takes a lot of practice. That’s why I’ve made so many versions of my demo – for practice. I believe I’ve been getting better and better at it (I mean, take a look at my first demo from over a year ago).
I love exploration and finding new things just like the next gamer – so I take that part to heart. After figuring out the whole world layout, character interactions, and boss placements – the abilities portions get put into play. Abilities can help with fighting a boss as well as finding new areas or even using a new ability to find an item that can assist in taking down a difficult boss. Areas can be unlocked and you can find multiple shortcuts to areas that were previously discovered for faster backtracking.
There seems to be an element of decision-making in Dark Flame. Can you give us some more details on how that will work, and how players can decide to succumb or persevere?
Dark Flame will revolve around decision-making. Whether it’s "should I take the above or below path?" or "should I light this pyre?" – each decision will influence the world of Dark Flame – whether the player realizes it or not. There are many uncertainties throughout the game (much influenced from the Souls series). These can be explained through the context or detail in the game.
There are even decisions with how you interact with other characters within Dark Flame. Your decisions will contribute to whether characters live, die, have things to sell, help or kill other characters, etc…