Interview with Duck Block Games on “Forsaken Castle” – A 16-Bit Metroidvania Homage Kickstarter

This weekend, we had the opportunity to interview the fine folks over at Duck Block Games. The developers are currently working on a Kickstarter title called Forsaken Castle, which is heavily influenced on Metroidvania-style gameplay. Brothers Lance and Clint Trahan took the time to provide us some background on the game’s development and history, as well as what the studio has in store.

Marcello: First off, thank you for taking the time for us to interview you guys about Forsaken Castle. So first off, congratulations on Forsaken Castle getting funded! I’m sure that it is a very surreal moment for you guys to see this project coming to fruition.

Lance: Thanks so much for the interview Marcello and yes, it’s been pretty surreal. We couldn’t be happier at the progress we’ve made with the Kickstarter campaign.

Clint: Hello.

Marcello: So tell us a bit about your studio, Duck Block Games?

Lance: We are made up of just myself and my brother Clint. He is the lead designer and artist, while I handle the programming and all the general operations of the company, both online and offline.

Marcello: Forsaken Castle is a Kickstarter project that’s inspired by Metroidvania style. How did the game first come about?

Lance: We’ve played a lot of Castlevania and Metroid games over the years, so we have no shortage of desire to see games from those years come back. We wanted our first project to be something we could faithfully execute on while still giving us some room to do our own thing.

Clint: It was originally planned as a short game for mobile devices with linear levels and limited controls.  We decided last November to expand the project and target a PC/Console release with a focus on the Metroidvania genre.  I’ve always enjoyed the gameplay and setting of the Castlevania series but prefered the level design and upgrade system of Metroid.  We want to create a fun game that combines these ideas in a way that truly fits the “Metroidvania” name.

Marcello: How long has Forsaken Castle been in development for?

Lance: We had our first very basic build of the game that we showed a handful of people on a phone back in September of 2016, with rough prototypes about 3-4 months before that, so probably a little over a year of part-time effort.

Marcello: What engine is currently being used to build Forsaken Castle?

Lance: We are using the Unity3D engine to make the game. It has a bit of a learning curve, but gives us some great flexibility once we started getting the hang of it.

Marcello: Since Forsaken Castle is heavily inspired by Metroid and Castlevania, which installments in those two series are your favorite? Also, were there any other games that helped inspire this project?

Lance: I would have to say Super Metroid for the hauntingly ambient music and level design and Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow for the characters and fun yet sometimes frustrating “Magic Seal” system. Though people may give Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest some flack, I’ll never forget the dread I felt whenever these words came up on the screen: “WHAT A HORRIBLE NIGHT TO HAVE A CURSE.”

Clint: My favorites are Super Metroid and Symphony of the Night.  Also some inspiration from Zelda: Link to the Past and Ys III: Wanderers from Ys.

Marcello: Oh man, that “Magic Seal” system was certainly frustrating in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. Moving onward, tell us a bit about the main protagonist, Lily. How did you guys come up with her design?

Lance: She’s a fledgling paladin in her order. When she was sent to investigate reports of monsters and undead plaguing a small village within the kingdom. She’s excited to do her part and prove that she can be a positive force in the world. Her investigation leads her to a once dormant castle where there is more going on under the surface than she at first realizes. She may be in over her head, but she is undeterred in trying to solve the castle’s mysteries and stop the looming danger with her own hands.

Clint: Lily’s design has evolved from previous project ideas we started developing over the last few years, but never saw public release.  At first she was a knight, used a sword, and didn’t even have a name.  When we moved away from the plan for mobile we changed her story to a paladin, gave her the flail/whip, but she doesn’t have shiny paladin armor (yet).  Then Lance thought of the name Lily, he may have been watching Harry Potter at the time.

Marcello: Will players be able to use different weapons with Lily, or is the whip her defining weapon like that of the Belmont Clan in Castlevania? Also, will there be any upgrading system?

Lance: Her primary weapon will be the whip, though I guess it’s more of a ball and chain flail to be a little more specific. As you progress, Lily will gain access to new sub-weapons and abilities. Her weapons, abilities, armor, as well as her health and mana pools will be upgraded throughout the game.

Marcello: How big is this castle players will be exploring? Is there variety in the castle itself?

Lance: It will be fairly large with roughly 10 unique areas to access. There may also be a way to see the castle from a completely different angle.

Marcello: Being a massive 16-bit fan, it’s really cool to see this game sporting that visual style. How did you guys decide on the game’s pixel art style?

Lance: This one is all Clint, so I’ll let him speak to that.

Clint: This is our first game using pixel art and was mostly done to avoid performance issues for mobile.  I’ve always loved pixel art and for this type of game it just seems to fit.  I want the art to be kind of Anime/JRPG style, but there still a lot to improve on my color selection and detail.  While I’m not limiting the art to a 16-bit palette, I am limiting the number of colors per tile or sprite to be similar to SNES/GBA games.

Marcello: In terms of music, the game is sounding great so far. How did you guys come across Zack Parrish as your composer?

Lance: When we first showed our demo at PAX South back in January, we had cards coming out our ears from composers interested in working on the project. It was truly a humbling process. I was aware of Zack because I was a backer of Valdis Story: Abyssal City, for which he had won an award. He has a really great sound that was already in the vain of what we wanted, so I was excited to hear that he was interested in joining the already in-progress audition we were having. We auditioned a number of composers, but ultimately decided to go with Zack when he swiftly produced a rough cut of the “Lower Castle” theme you hear in the demo and official trailer.

Marcello: Now the Kickstarter goal has been reached, but naturally there are more rewarding tiers as funding increases; In particular, bringing the game to PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Now the PlayStation 4 version has been achieved (congrats on that!) and the Switch version is still a bit away from securing tier-wise. If the funds don’t reach that tier, is there still a chance the game will release on the Switch?

Lance: Absolutely! We want people to experience Forsaken Castle on whatever platform works best for them, so we will definitely be pursuing that. Though it just may take us longer to make those ports happen.

Marcello: There’s no question the game is looking really cool and I personally am very excited for this title to release. Is there any exclusive information you could provide to the readers, backers, and fans?

Lance: Thanks! The greatest reward for me has been to see people excited to enjoy our work. All I can say for now is, you haven’t seen anything yet! We have plenty of surprises planned that we can’t wait to share with everyone!

Marcello: Lance and Clint, thank you so much again for your time. Forsaken Castle is shaping up to be a very cool title that Metroidvania fans should definitely keep on their radar. We cannot wait to see more of what this title has to offer. We wish you guys the best of luck with the remainder of the project’s Kickstarter, as well as the rest of the development cycle.

Lance: Thanks so much for having us!

Clint: Thanks!

At the time of writing, the Kickstarter campaign has achieved over $20,000, double what was initially needed to get the game funded. Additionally, you can even download a demo of the game before even backing it directly from their Kickstarter campaign page. Definitely give the game a look and if it interests you, certainly back this project. The campaign ends on May 24th, 2017 at 11:49 AM EST. Forsaken Castle is targeting a release for October 2017.

A special thank you to Duck Block Games again for taking the time to provide this interview.