Tangledeep is a new and in-development rogue-like indie title coming to PC/Mac/Linux later this year, reminiscent of the 16-bit SNES era, and is currently in the last few days of its successful Kickstarter. This past week we had the opportunity to speak about Tangledeep with its developer, Andrew Aversa, a successful musician and composer turned game developer.
Andrew Aversa is also known by his musician name, ‘Zircon’, renowned within the video game music community for his contributions to remixes and arrangements, and with having composed for many video games, Aversa has now set out on his first video game development, Tangledeep. Join Kyle Haste of MonsterVine’s IndieComplete podcast for the in-depth discussion about Tangledeep, a turn-based, dungeon crawling, rogue-like RPG that’s showing plenty of promise.
The interview was recorded and prepared for listening, however an edited transcription of select questions from the interview can be read below. For the complete 45 minute interview, click play on the SoundCloud embed below, or listen via the IndieComplete podcast series with the following links:
The game begins by telling players that they’ve known the legend of ‘Tangledeep’ since they were young, describing it as “the ever-changing, seemingly-endless labyrinth fraught with parole, yet is the only path to the surface and the unknown world above.” You begin in Riverstone Camp, the last bastion of civilization before you venture into the entrance and the depths of Tangledeep. On the Kickstarter you describe the game as a turn-based, dungeon crawling, rogue-like RPG, and people can see the game in motion on the Kickstarter as well as even test out an alpha-build of the game that I’ve gotten my hands on as well, but for those unfamiliar, can you tell us a little bit more about Tangledeep?
Yeah, absolutely. The quick version of what Tangledeep is: basically my idea of “what if Square Enix made a rogue-like for the Super Nintendo?” That’s what I had in mind. I had this idea that I wanted to emulate the aesthetic, the feel of the games that I grew up playing, like Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, and the beautiful 16-bit graphics and sound, and just the way those games were presented. Some of them had all this depth, but anyone could pick up and play Secret of Mana or Chrono Trigger and that’s one reason that they have endured for so long. With Tangledeep I wanted to take that and combine it with the richness of rogue-likes that has been developing for decades now.
And there are so many rogue-likes today, and I would say most of them are pretty intimidating. From the graphics to the hundreds of items, and weird interactions, death traps, things that can make the games very intimidating. So I wanted to take the good parts, the depth, the procedurally generation, getting a different game every time you play, and again combine that with the accessibility and the polish of some of my favourite 16-bit games. So it has a job-system like Final Fantasy V or Tactics. It has very clear and detailed sprites. It has mouse-support, which a lot of rogue-likes believe it or not do not necessarily have.
You mention Secret of Mana and Chrono Trigger as aesthetic and atmospheric influences. What is their aesthetic and atmosphere and how did you bring it to life in Tangledeep?
I think one of the key things is having pixel artists. I’m not an artist myself, I’m a musician and actually became a programmer over time, and a developer. So, I’m the only programmer and designer on the game, but the artists are very very talented. And I wanted to look for people that could really capture that [look]. You have to look at it as… if you are looking at the size of the sprites, there’s a certain color palette and the size of the sprites, and the way they fit on the map. There’s a difference between something like a Nintendo game, an 8-bit thing that’s really retro and chunky, and something where you can actually see those fine details, those little movements of the characters. And so I think a lot of those classic Super Nintendo games capture that detail really well, even though, like if we think Kefka laughing [from Final Fantasy VI], it’s just a few pixels moving really, it’s not a complex sprite like 500 pixels, but it communicates the personality. So getting artists that have a mindset of detail together with a small palette, that’s important. And the other thing is there’s a lot of lush, organic quality to the different environments in the game. There’s trees, there’s grass, waterfalls, it just looks beautiful; and so in Tangledeep, it’s a driving aesthetic, and we’re continuously working on making more organic structures in the dungeons, making it feel lush and natural.
For those with a background in the rogue-like genre, what sets Tangledeep apart from other rogue-likes?
Accessibility was the number one thing running through my head at all times. Just, “how do I make this game accessible to a wider audience?” And there are a lot of things in your average rogue-like that are just taken as an assumption, or it’s a, maybe I’ll go as far as to say a trope. So that’s a centre pillar.
A second thing that sets it apart from other rogue-likes is the idea of what I call ‘dynamic combat’. You could call any role-playing game ‘tactical’, it’s a term that’s maybe a little over-used. When I say ‘dynamic combat’, what I mean is that say if you’re in a room, with a bunch of monsters on the other side, the room itself is going to change during the course of the fight. Because with just about every monster in the cast that we have so far of Tangledeep, they are going to be summoning ice, they’re going to be summoning mud, they are going to make it so you can’t pass through certain tiles, or they are going to push the character into a wall or pull you. As a contrasting thing–there are a lot of rogue-likes where you’re in a corridor, you just sit there until the monsters come, and you just hit them one-by-one and they call it the conga-line-of-death. Another term for it is bump-combat. So I really wanted to not do that. Even if you have the most amazing equipment, and your items are great, if you’re not thinking on your feet every turn [you’ll get killed].
For post-release, are you hoping to be working on more games if Tangledeep is a success, and maybe more additions to the game itself, or form a development studio?
Nobody’s actually asked me that, that’s a good question! I’ve thought about it a lot, and I absolutely want to keep adding to the game once its out, free updates. I don’t want to promise anything but maybe player-modability, so that people can upload their own maps to the game or entire side-areas. So if someone wants to design an 8-floor dungeon add-on with new items and monsters, in theory I think it would be doable. That’s the kind of thing I want to allow, so it’s not just me adding stuff, but also players adding stuff. But beyond that, this has been such a fun experience for me, I’ve been enjoying it so much that I absolutely want to make more games. I think probably the next thing — and its hard to think too far in advance — but probably going to be something in the realm of a sim-type game, like sim or management with RPG-elements. Just because these kinds of games where you’re thinking a lot and carefully considering what you want to do, that’s what I personally really enjoy.