This week I have the pleasure of sharing my interview with Angel Polanco (@VeyeralGames), the maker of The Void Rain Upon Her Heart video game...
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into game development?
'I have basically wanted to create video games for my entire life. When I was in third grade, my friend let me play the game Crash Bandicoot: Warped on his PlayStation. This was the first time that a video game had hooked me. I remember that I started imagining and drawing my own levels for that game almost immediately after playing it for the first time. I knew right away that my dream was to create my own video games.
By the age of 9, I had Flash installed on my computer and I was already programming some basic games. I didn't have the internet on my own computer at the time, so I would only rarely be able to get online and copy down what I could. Then I would slightly tweak the code and see what would change in order to figure out what exactly how it worked. That was how I taught myself to program.
By the age of 12, I had started (but never finished) about 20 different games, but the one I remember the most was a Worms clone. Instead of worms it was a game about a war between slugs and snails. I was somehow able to implement a timer based turn system and some decent enemy AI. I really can't remember how I was able to do it with almost no help. Unfortunately, I lost all of my flash game files and never published them anywhere.
Somewhere around that time I discovered a little program called GameMaker. It was super easy to learn and I was amazed at how much my games were improving by using it. GameMaker was far less powerful back then but I stuck with it and it basically grew up with me. It always seemed to get an upgrade just when I needed it. I still use GameMaker to this day and it has never let me down.'
What is your game called and how do you play it?
'My game is called The Void Rains Upon Her Heart. It is a bullet-hell shoot-em-up game where you only fight bosses. The main game has you play through 10 bosses which are randomly chosen except for the final boss. Each defeated boss will give you random power ups that stack together. It has permadeath so you have to start over if you die, but a successful run should only take about 15 minutes. There is also a Quickplay mode where you can practice against bosses that you have unlocked and try to get high scores on them.'
It sounds really fun! What should we be looking out for in your game? What makes it special in your view?
'The theme of this game is very unusual as far as I know. You play as an alien woman who is trapped in a cave surrounded by monsters. You actually control her heart while shooting love bullets at bizarre eldritch monsters. She is actually trying to befriend the monsters while they try to resist with tons of bullets. It has a dissonant mix of cute and creepy visuals that I think helps set the mood. There is obviously a lot of inspiration from Undertale in there, but I also get a lot of ideas from the Kirby series. I always loved how Kirby games start out cute and cheerful, but they always end up with an otherworldly monstrosity as a final boss.
This game also changes up the common bullet-hell formula. Usually they go through very scripted sequences of bullets to dodge, this way players are able to memorize the game and eventually master a perfect run. That is a fine design choice, but I wanted my game to be a bit more random. All of the bosses' attacks are set so they can be memorized to some extent, but they always attack in a random order. On top of this, the power up items you get are also random so you might be able to defeat a boss with ease one time, but then struggle on the same boss next time. A lot of this randomness was inspired by games like The Binding of Isaac. Some veteran bullet-hell players may not like this randomness, but I think this gives the game more replayability for those who are not purely motivated by highscores.'
What can you tell us about the game development process?
'I have actually been working on a much larger scale game called Eye Attack for several years, but I really needed a break from that game. The Void Rains Upon Her Heart is a side project I started to not only take a break, but to also get actual experience in releasing a game. If all goes well, this game will be my first commercial release! I'll be able to return to my main game with more experience. I have already learned so much from this little game.
Unfortunately, the initial conception of this game was not during a happy time in my life. A while ago, I began exhibiting symptoms of an anxiety disorder. I could not eat, or sleep, or go outside without a constant fear that I might have a panic attack in public. During that time I was playing a bullet-hell game and it suddenly occurred to me that the relentless bullet patterns could be used as an interesting way to visualize anxiety. This is when I had the idea to make a bullet-hell game with the themes of depression and anxiety and how people are able to cope with it. Every boss battle represents an anxiety or fear of some sort. Many of the power up items represent different coping mechanisms. Despite all the negativity, the game constantly reminds you not to give up.
Anxiety disorders are a problem that a lot of people face and I have noticed it in many other game creators that I follow. I hope anyone who plays my game while living with these issues will come out feeling like they are not alone in their struggle. Feeling like I wasn't alone would help me out on the worst days. I am one of the extremely lucky ones who was able to recover after only taking one type of medication for a few months.'
How did you go about creating the game music?
'First I will talk about how I was creating music for Eye Attack since a lot of the soundtrack for The Void Rains Upon Her Heart will be similar. I took a music 101 course at my college which was perfect for introducing me to reading and writing music. It taught me just enough so I could start creating some beats and melodies that at least sounded fine. It was good enough, but I wanted to be able to write game music that would be praised as one of the main reasons to play my games.
About a year later I played through Undertale and I was completely in love with the music. I wanted to know how that music was so well designed, so I started reading some analyses on the soundtrack. I was completely fascinated by it, so I began studying all of my favorite game soundtracks. I looked at Kirby music, Undertale's music, and other soundtracks that inspired me. I'm also a fan of heavy metal music, so I started analyzing my favorite bands too. I took everything I learned and just started writing more songs for Eye Attack. I noticed the quality in my own music was improving very quickly!
Very early into the development of The Void Rains Upon Her Heart, I decided that the two games would be connected in story. A lot of the bosses will be showing up in both games. This meant that I could use a lot of the music that I had already written for Eye Attack in this game. Each boss type has it's own musical theme that I tried to match with their personalities. I really hope the music is memorable for those who play my games. At the very least, learning how to write the music was very fun for me so it was already worth it.'
What are your plans for your game and where can we download it?
'The game is still currently in development, but there is an alpha demo currently available at http://www.veyeralgames.com/
There are only 8 bosses in the alpha but I plan on making that total well over 30 before the final release. There will also be a much more diverse set of power up items and plenty of other unlockables.
The game is currently on steam greenlight now so if you like the look of the game - please help to vote for it!
'I would also like to mention that I am incredibly grateful to have a family that fully supports my dream. They have always been 100% supportive even as the development time on my games has stretched into years. Thanks to them, I have not had to worry about getting a job so I have always been able to work full time on my games. I just hope for enough success to be able to support myself financially while still continuing to create more games.'
Thank you for reading this article and for your interest in indie games! Are you a game developer needing some help with your game music? If so, perhaps I (Ninichi) can help. I'm a game music composer and would be delighted to support you with your game. Contact me now at email@example.com to explore how we might work together.
Did you enjoy this article? If so, read about more indie games and game music tips on Ninichi's music blog.
Follow me @ninichimusic