Daisuke Amaya was one of the first indie developers to make waves when he released the seminal Cave Story. He’s been keeping busy since then, and Siliconera recently had the chance to ask him about the development of his new game, Kero Blaster.
One chapter of Kero Blaster called “PINK HOUR” is already available for fans to play for free. Why did you decide to present this chapter separately?
To be frank, the aim was publicity for Kero Blaster. Since we were to participate in PAX this year, we tried to think of something to do for publicity like creating a brochure or novelty goods, but I guess you could say we either couldn’t think of anything or we hadn’t really thought it through enough. We really just wanted to make and sell a game, so we didn’t have a desire to make a brochure.
And so the real motive was the idea that since we’d made a game, we should use the game as publicity.
We planned PINK HOUR after the level designer Kawanaka commented that ‘I really want female players to try Kero Blaster, so if we put a cute character out in front, it should catch their eyes.
Many of your games star or prominently feature animals. There have been squid, rabbits, and now a frog. What do you like about animal characters?
I’ve been drawing pictures of animals for a long time. With people, you have to research things like fashion, lifestyle, and time periods, but with animals, they’re easy to manipulate, and you don’t need to draw fingers, so that’s a relief…
Sorry about that.
Are there any animals you would like to feature in a game that you haven’t gotten around to yet?
Maybe a penguin?
Kero Blaster was originally announced as a different game called Gero Blaster, but partway through development it was delayed and the name was changed. What are some things that have been altered under the new title?
After reworking it, it became a different game. I had already announced the world view and story for Gero Blaster with a trailer, so I didn’t want customers to get confused.
Also, “gero” means vomit in Japan, so my kid didn’t like it.
I understand that Kero Blaster was made by you in collaboration with one other programmer. Was this your first time bringing someone else onboard to help develop one of your games? How did working with another person change the creative process?
Back when I was a student, I had created a simple game with my friends called “Glasses”. Also, for Cave Story, I asked my friends to debug or give me some ideas so actually, I haven’t really created a game completely on my own.
With the group work this time around, our process worked out so that while I focused on the characters or functions necessary to the game, the level designer Kawanaka constructed the stage designs and event scenes.
When working alone, I would worry over a bug for a day and would often get dejected about not making any progress, but when we started working as a pair, it was nice to see that while I progressed with the simple and minute, stages were steadily coming to life. Also, by leaving the creation to another person, I was able to suddenly view the stages without having been directly involved.
When making Cave Story, there were a large number of things to do, and I had no idea where to start, but when working with someone else to create, the goals for each day were clear so there were almost no delays in the work.
Even I was surprised that in this comparatively short time frame we were able finish a game like this.
You were given the story concept credit in 2011’s NightSky. Have any other creators reached out asking you to contribute to their projects? Is there anyone in particular you would like to get the chance to collaborate with?
I don’t think I’ve made a prominent contribution to anything in the gaming industry. Compared to professionals of art, music or programming, I’m only at half their level, so ultimately, there isn’t a job that I’m in demand for.
In the aforementioned ‘Glasses’ game, I did ask my friends to do the illustrations or music. However, when I make a game, I start the work without a concrete, complete image in mind so even if I’ve made a request, it might end up unnecessary, which I do feel guilty about. Up until now, I haven’t really mad requests of others.
This time, though, I’d like to work again with the level designer that helped me with Kero Blaster.
Kero Blaster is the first Studio Pixel game to release on mobile platforms. Why did you decide to expand into the cellphone space?
I had two friends who had been really helpful with game development ask me at the same time, “Amaya-kun, what about an iOS game?”
Since they had both asked at the same time, I felt like this meant it was worth a try.
Also, at that time, Cave Story had already been sold to a producer overseas, but I was still being bothered with language barriers or time differences. So I thought that if I use iOS, I can go into the market on my own and make a living that way.
Your love of 2D action games is well documented. What are a few of your favorites?
I like games like Super Metroid, Final Fantasy V, Mega Man 2, The Final Fantasy Legend, and Ihatovo Monogatari.
I played games like Astronot, Metroid: Zero Mission, and the Mega Man series during development and got a lot of inspiration from them. But I didn’t have the time to play carefully, so I wasn’t able to clear Astronot.
With Zero Mission, there was a new layout for the game that allowed for quick playthrough, so I cleared that the same day I started.
One thing many people may not know about you is that you’ve made your own program for writing music, and that it’s available as freeware. Is Pxtone still something you work on? Did you use Pxtone when composing music for Kero Blaster?
Yes, I used Pxtone to create both the songs and sound effects. It’s really helpful for keeping the overall game light.
Many successful video games get sequels, but so far you’ve made nothing but original games. Would you ever consider going back and making a sequel to one of your older games? Is there any one in particular that you would want to revisit some day?
To create sequels or the next original, there are a variety of things I’d like to do in the future, but realistically speaking, with the maintenance and sales going on currently, things are going to get busy, so to be honest, I don’t give it much thought. I feel like the next step is still rather far off.