I sat down with Nate Schmold, the developer of Cosmochoria (a 2D-platformer that revolves around, well, revolving and planting plants to terraform and defend planets) to discuss his influences and how his game was developed.
All responses in their original form, unedited.
- How are you, and can you tell us a little about Cosmochoria?
Doing great – very excited / optimistic but also nervous about the Early Access Launch. 🙂 Cosmochoria is a throwback to classic arcade games like asteroids and even mario bros. The object is to explore the procedurally generated cosmos with a tiny cartoon naked cosmonaut and plant seeds on dying planets to bring them back to life. While you’re doing that, you’re getting attacked by increasingly difficult enemies, bosses and other hazards. As you become more skilled at dealing with them you will get further in each play session, and are able to use the currency you earn to purchase upgrades and unlock new weapons, costumes, etc. The currency and upgrades persist so technically you are better equipped to get further each time you play. There is a string of mystery thru-out the universe too because you start to stumble across npc, mystery objects and other things that begin to reveal that there is more to this all than initially meets the eye 🙂
- What inspired the Cosmochoria?
Literally and straight up, I was sitting down to play Soldat one day and thought it would be cool to make a spiritual successor to it haha. As I began working on the core mechanics they began to blossom into something completely different and I essentially just kept running with it. I think even the planting mechanic, which is a core mechanic and ultimately the ‘point’ of the game, came as an accident when i just wanted to have trees spawning on the planets… then i thought.. hey it would be cool if you could actually plant those trees….
On a more general sense, there is so much that inspired Cosmochoria from the art style (Loco Roco, Katamari, Adventure time) to the music (Classic era nintendo stuff cross bred with late 90’s idm like aphex twin & boards of canada) to the sense of mystery (Fez, Knytt Underground). I grew up playing NES and SNES with a passion so i think having that era so deeply embedded in my discovery of video games that it really influenced what I create simply by being an example of something I always wished i could play or see.
- What has been the easiest part of development?
Easiest part of development has definitely been the art. I deliberately went with a simpler style so i could create graphics much faster than if i were making things more painted (braid) or pixel art. Plus it has been easy to really stick with and explore the range of the style without worrying too much about making things too complex for myself, etc. It’s been a lot of fun.
- What has been the hardest?
Hardest part of development so far has been fixing / finding bugs that are machine specific or essentially unreproducible. That being said, everyone I’ve worked with who has had a problem has been extremely patient with me as I passed them new builds / asked them to try again, pass me info and basically help me get to the bottom of it. So for that reason alone, I have been incredible lucky. I honestly love almost every aspect of the development process. Ive been building websites and corporate web apps for years and years, this is just so much more engaging and rewarding in almost every way.
- How was the Cosmochoria funded, and did this add extra stress to the development?
Cosmochoria has been funded 30/70 between personal savings which I used to get the initial prototype / kickstarter demo created, and then once it hit kickstarter that funding is taking me to this point where it’s going into early access. I think its easy to think of Kickstarter funding as stressful because you have accountability to so many backers and I want to create something thats not just cool to me, but something that backers would be proud to say they were a part of. That being said, the biggest stress i feel is not necessarily related to the development because deep down i know im doing the best I can. The stress comes from feeling like maybe i could be doing more to engage those kickstarter backers and give more info, etc. It’s a very hard thing im finding to be a one man outfit and trying to not only make something that takes a lot of time, but also keep a steady stream of information coming out about it. I haven’t really got much complaints, but yeah I always wish I could be doing more.
- Do you wish you had gone with a publisher to deal with anything? Is being an indie beneficial over that?
Its funny cuz i was actually approached by a few and there were some interesting proposals for sure. In the end i decided to stick to my guns primarily because I feel like I have not fully explored my own potential. I want to see what happens when I do something on my own / with my own efforts. See how far I can get / what limitations and challenges I meet and learn whether or not I can actually overcome them with persistence, patience or skill or just straight up hard work. Once i reach a point where I can see im hitting a brick wall and Im not able to take it any further on my own / with the support of the amazing community around me, I think it will become clear to me on what aspects of the ‘business’ i need to seek out help to resolve. The more I can learn to do / get experience in right now the better I’ll be if im looking at this as a long term career move. As soon as I put a huge amount of the work onto a publisher or a pr person, I think i would be missing out on an opportunity of growth / building an awareness of an industry because i’d just think ‘thats their department’ which is true, but at that point, I would be reliant on someone else or another entity for my success, which to me is just as stressful as working at a job and worrying if you’re going to be fired/laid off. I am making this game as an exercise in establishing my own destiny for myself, so i want to be at the reigns of this beast as much as possible.
- Is there anything you’ve learnt during development that you wouldn’t have learnt otherwise?
Development wise its been nothing but learning i think. I was always making interface based applications before where it was something written in some web scripting language like php that interfaced with a database but basically the application itself was nothing more than an html page that output data in a nice way. I had zero to no experience with actual runtime stuff where things are constantly running and the interactions with the code cause other things to trigger and happen, with setup logic rules, loops, etc. It was a whole new world to wrap my head around, and I have a lot of Thanks for the vast amount of info available on the internet to really answer my super noob questions as they happened. As i started to grasp it, the questions got more intense and deeper, but I was slowly able to learn how to teach myself.. almost like… learning a vocabulary well enough you begin to be able to teach yourself the rest of the language in a way… like you know enough of the core pieces that filling in the gaps and holes becomes exponentially easier because you have experience and understanding of what to look for in regards to an answer. That has been satisfying and i think my next game will use another language entirely so I can continue that growth and become more adept in something outside of my current skills. This shits so fun to me, haha.
- What indie games do you like to play besides this?
Recently i was mad into Rogue Legacy. I loved Fez up to the deeper mystery stuff, that was a bit over my head, out of my patience zone. Steamworld Dig is a work of pure artistry in every way. Ive rocked it on every platform it was released on so far and love it every time. Im obsessed with Nuclear Throne right now — learning a lot about game design through that but also how they handle their community / Early Access stuff… so hopefully that rubs off on my as Cosmochoria goes into Early Access 🙂
- What is your favourite game of all time?
This is so hard cuz there are so many good ones. I have to say Super Mario World because its the one game where I have to play start to finish (*96) every year. That game got soooo many things right. When it came out, when i was a kid, it is was the epitome of gameplay variety, control, sound design, music, consistency in style, subtlety and so many other things. It changed how i saw the potential of games. I always wondered when N64 came out why there were never any new 2d sidescrollers any more. It was like this whole genre just went out of style because everyone was so busy utilizing 3d / first person stuff, but i always thought with the hardware power, couldnt you make an amazingly crafted 2d sidescroller akin to SMW… it wasnt until PS3/XBOX360 that I realized there was a whole world of indie devs who were probably thinking the same thing, and who were coming out with their answers to that question. Deeply respected Honourable Mentions to Link to the Past, Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy Adventure, and Final Fantasy 2/IV.
- Is there anything else you’d like to say? Where can Cosmochoria found?
Its mind blowing to think that im being asked these questions about making a game when a year ago today I had literally nothing to show for myself. I was a tinkerer my whole life and always wanted to make a game but never had the courage or nuts to basically take things into my own hands. I dont feel like a game developer… i feel like a guy who is just using the abilities he’s learned in all his creative exploits to finally put them to some cool use on a single project. I hope this can be motivational to people because it took me a long time to realize and truly understand that the only person holding me back was myself. All the tools knowledge and resources were available for me if I just did the hard work of looking for them and practicing, and I honestly think that once you realize that you unlock a crazy amount of potential for the cool shit you can do in life. This game was started in November 2013. I will have gone from being a nobody guy who draws and makes music to successfully kickstarting and making my own video game that is available on Steam in 1 year. I am so proud of what I’ve done so far and already consider myself INCREDIBLY lucky and blessed to have had any success at all… the main ingredient is that I can honestly say i made this a priority in my life, finally, after wanting it for so long. That may seem like some hippy dippy baloney, but I think anyone can do that. And should. The world would be so cool if we all did our best to make cool stuff instead of bitching about all the shitty stuff other people make.