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No GravatarRecently I had the chance to talk with Edward Di Geronimo of Saturnine Games and discuss the upcoming game Antipole DX. Take a look below

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JB: Antipole was originally a game on the DS, the Xbox and PC marketplace. What made you decide to remake the game?

EG: I always loved the gameplay of the original, and it seemed to resonate well with the people that played the original. Unfortunately the original never looked as good as I would’ve liked, and I think that prevented a lot of people from giving the game a chance.

JB: The Nintendo eshop has been a very interesting place for indie games, some succeed and some do not. How have your experiences been with the eshop so far?

EG: The eShop isn’t that different from every other digital store front. Some games do well, while many games don’t. Making games is a tough business, no matter what market you’re looking at. If you’re a big developer, you can release everywhere and find your audience that way. If you’re a small developer, that’s not really a practical approach, so you have to pick your spots more carefully. My game design senses are heavily inspired by Nintendo, and I think it shows in the games I make. As a result, I’ve seen better results when I release games on Nintendo platforms than elsewhere.

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JB: What do you think of miiverse as a means for developers to promote their indie games on Nintendo systems?

EG: I’ve been a big fan of Miiverse. Developer posts get very good visibility, and everyone reading the posts have either a Wii U or a 3DS. It’s a much more effective way of getting word out to my target audience than general social media is. I try to post a screenshot every week or two along with a short development update. The reception has been very positive. I think I’ve been able to build a good following on Miiverse.

JB: What made you decide to make the Wii U one of the target platforms for Antipole DX?  What do you think of the audience on Nintendo systems for this type of game? Do you feel they are particularly receptive?

EG: Nintendo has been developing high quality platformer games for decades. I think their audience is highly receptive to them. They also have a core audience that’s been gaming on their systems for decades. This crowd grew up playing pixel art platformers. I think the audience is going to be very receptive toward games like Antipole DX.

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JB: Can you tell us a few of the new things and changes we will see in Antipole DX that are different from the original?

EG: There’s not a lot left that’s the same! The code is largely the same, but we’ve replaced all the assets. The graphics are all new, with a pixel art style that feels like a 16-bit era game. Last time around the audio side of the game suffered due to the tight space restrictions of DSiWare. The music and sound effects are all new this time around, and are much higher quality now that we don’t have to worry about space restrictions. Players familiar with the original game will still find plenty of surprises in the DX version. The levels have all been recreated from scratch. I usually tried to stay faithful to the original designs, but there are plenty of cases where I removed or changed sections that I wasn’t happy with. I made sure to add new sections to every level, and also included several all new levels. The DX version is on track to have about 50% more rooms than the original game did.

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JB: Who are some of your biggest influences as a game developer?

EG: Nintendo is definitely the biggest influence on my design senses, with Mario, Zelda, and Metroid being the games I look at the most. NES/SNES era Capcom is another big influence, with games like Mega Man and Duck Tales standing out. In general I tend to look toward the 8/16 bit era for the basics of gameplay, and look at more modern games for ideas on how to create a nicer experience.

JB: What are some of the biggest influences and inspirations for Antipole DX in particular?

EG: The core gameplay is heavily Mega Man inspired, although you’ll certainly find some hints of Metroid in there. The speed run challenges are inspired by Metroid’s rewards for beating the game faster. The fast speed of the character was originally a nod to Sonic. I was never as big a fan of Sonic as the rest of the team though, so that aspect of it got downplayed over time. I found that Sonic style wide open levels didn’t work well with the gravity mechanic.

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JB: What are some of your biggest concerns for this game?

EG: I don’t think my concerns are any different than they are with other games. I worry about how much time I put into the game, and if it’s worth it. The industry is always changing, so I wonder if the assumptions I made about the market are right. I think everyone gets afraid that other people won’t like the game.

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JB: Is there anything you wanted to do differently with Antipole DX that you have not been able to?

EG: Coming into this project, I had a list of things I wanted to add to the original but wasn’t able to. I made sure to get those things in. While there’s always room to add more, I don’t think there’s anything I didn’t get in that I felt strongly about. I do have a list of things that would be a better fit for a sequel though!

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JB: Do you have anything you would like to say to the readership of Real Otaku Gamer?

EG: We went all out to include as much as we could in this game, and make it as great as we could. We’re extremely proud of how it’s turning out. I hope you give it a shot and enjoy it!

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You can see a trailer for the game below

You can follow Saturnine Games on twitter here and you can follow Edward on twitter here.

Thank you again to Edward and Saturnine Games for the interview

By Jonathan Balofsky On 19 Jul, 2016 At 02:13 AM | Categorized As Editorials, Featured, Indie Spotlight, Interviews, News, NINTENDO, Previews, ROG News | With 1 Comment
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No GravatarI recently had the chance to talk with Ezekiel Rage, developer of Citidale: Gate of Souls, and discuss the upcoming indie game. Please have a look at our conversation

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JB: Where/How did you get the idea to make your game Citadale – Gate of Souls?

ER: It actually started as a Castlevania fangame. I wanted to do a remake of Castlevania Legends. It was my first time using the engine I use and as such I figured creating a remake would teach me a lot about the program. And as development kept getting more complex and different from the original, I decided to make it its own thing instead of a remake.

JB: Obviously Citadale takes influence from the Castlevania series, but are there any other game series that Citadale was influenced by?

ER: There is a rather obscure NES game called Faxanadu that inspired me greatly. Another influence was the SNES game Demon’s Crest.

JB: Konami’s reputation has taken a beating over the last while. Do you think that will help you with promoting a game that is essentially a spiritual sequel to the classic Castlevania games?

ER: To be honest, I have no particular thoughts on that subject. I hope that the game will be doing well but whether the success of the game is influenced by Konami’s decisions or not is not something I am concerned about. I suppose this discussion would probably be worth having after the game has been released.

JB: You have some interesting ideas for this game, such as it being primarily played on the gamepad, while the TV screen shows a bigger map. What made you decide to do that?

ER: When I decided to port it to Wii U, which was in 2014, I thought that it would be an interesting way to play the game. Of course you can switch views at any given time or not use the GamePad at all, and we do support most input devices on Wii U. The main idea I had was a boss fight that would take up more vertical space than the TV can give you. I realized this boss fight in Stage 3, by the way.

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JB: Besides Castlevania, what were some of your favourite games growing up?

ER: I am a HUGE Zelda nerd. I have a Zelda shrine, so to speak. I own all the games with packages and manuals, lots of merchandise, and I even have a Zelda tattoo. There was also game on Super Nintendo (and Sega Genesis, but the SNES version was better) called Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow – I love this game. Terranigma and Lufia are among my favorite games, along with the aforementioned Faxanadu, the classic Mega Man series and of course the Metroid series.

JB: What Castlevania games influenced this game the most? That is, besides Legends, what other games inspired the design and gameplay?

ER: Well the very first NES Castlevania was not only hugely influential on this game, but also on my younger gaming self. I also took some inspiration from Dracula X on SNES (yes, I know, Rondo is better), in that you can’t upgrade your main weapon for example.

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JB: What were your favourite Castlevania games to play?

ER: Obviously I love Symphony of the Night. I am also very partial to Legacy of Darkness and Simon’s Quest. Super Castlevania 4 and Portrait of Ruin also rank among my favorites.

JB: With regards to the last question, what were some of your favourite game genres growing up?

ER: I love action adventure games, really. I like to explore interesting settings – be it old castles or intricate dungeons.

JB: Making this game focused on the Wii U could be considered risky at this time. What led you to that decision?

ER: I have been a huge Nintendo fan growing up. I always wanted to create a game for a Nintendo system so this was really an easy decision to make.

JB: What do you think of the indie scene on the Wii U?

ER: It is far bigger than most people think, and from what I can tell quite popular. Of course there are positive and negative examples but overall most Nindies are actually very good games.

JB: Do you have any plans to integrate Miiverse into this game?

ER: We actually do support Miiverse. We also have stamps in the game.

JB: What are your hopes for this game? Would you want to make a sequel if this does well?

ER: My hopes are that it does well enough to warrant a release of story DLC. I could do a sequel but I’d much rather release the continuation of the story as DLC – a sequel would use the same graphics and graphical style anyway, because I am a one man development team (well, one and a half, I have an amazingly talented programmer/publisher friend) and creating complex graphics is simply not within my field of expertise.

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JB: Is there anything you would like to say to the readers of Real Otaku Gamer?

ER: Well, obviously I hope you check out my game and my upcoming projects. I would also like to thank you for taking the time for me and I wish you all the best 🙂

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview and good luck with the game.

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You can follow Ezekiel Rage on twitter here and check out his website here

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I recently had the chance to speak with Austin Harper of ScrewAttack Games and Sam Beddoes of FreakZone Games. We discussed how some of their projects came to be, what the future holds and more. Please take a read below.

JB: ScrewAttack is best known as a gaming website. What led to you guys deciding to make your own games?

AH: We are all gamers at heart and we’re really passionate about video games; we decided to take that passion for games and apply that to design. I think all of us at some point in time have daydreamed about being able to make a video game. It’s kind of a childhood dream, you know? We were just very fortunate in having a platform and a great community to support us in trying to fulfill that dream.

JB:  ScrewAttack came out with a rather interesting mobile game a few years ago called Texting of the Bread. What was the inspiration behind that?

AH: Haha, it was very much inspired by the Dreamcast game Typing of the Dead. Essentially we were sitting around talking about how cool Typing of the Dead was, and wondering why nothing like that had been done in the mobile market. We really liked the punny name we came up with, so we decided to take the theme and run with it — hence the main character with a cow strapped to her back and the hordes of gingerbread men.

JB:  What lead to the Nerd being a character in the game? Was it a test run to see how he would be in his own game?

AH: Honestly, we were just really happy that we got to make a game, a real game, with our name on it and wanted to share it with our friends.?

JB:  How was the reception to Texting of The Bread? I understand that one mobile version of the game itself was cancelled?.

AH: The reception was actually pretty good, and we wanted to bring the game to Android, but at the time the ShiVa Engine we built the game in just didn’t have Android support. Our developer made a few test builds anyway, all of them had really ridiculous bugs, like not being able to close the application without removing your battery… Long story short, we parted ways with the developers before we ever got the build completed. Though, you may hear something about our mobile titles in the near future.

JB:  Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is probably the most well known of the games ScrewAttack has produced. How did it come about?

AH: We were talking about making a new game, specifically considering the Angry Video Game Nerd franchise, but we didn’t have a developer in mind. Around that time, Sam Beddoes of FreakZone Games reached out to us, asking us to do a review of his game, Manos: The Hands of Fate. We really liked the game and got along with Sam pretty well, and he happened to mention he was a big fan of the AVGN series. The rest just kind of clicked.

JB: Sam, how did you come to be the developer that worked on AVGN adventures? Did ScrewAttack reach out to you? What was the experience like to work on an officially licensed game based of a reviewer of crappy games? Was it intimidating?

SB: A few years back I made a similar project “MANOS: The Hands of Fate” – A retro-style adaptation of the infamously bad movie of the same name. It was a pet project which did pretty well. The idea was to adapt the movie in the way movies were adapted to games back in the 80s on the NES, and a lot of my research involved binge-watching AVGN, who I had been a big fan of for quite some time, to try and capture that “LJN” feel. Also being a big fan of ScrewAttack, I approached them to try and get MANOS some coverage, and the retro style impressed them, at which point they allowed me to pitch a collaboration to them – that pitch was AVGN Adventures, a game I’d dreamed of making since before I even started MANOS. They liked the pitch, and my life was changed!

JB:  You brought to AVGN Adventures some elements from your game Manos the Hands of Fate, based off that infamous movie. I’m curious how that game came about, being based on a notorious film from decades ago.

SB: MANOS is an interesting one. I’ve been fond of watching terrible movies with friends for as far back as I can remember, and when I caught Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie on TV I ended up obsessively watching that show on the internet (we didn’t have the show here in England, only the movie, which was essentially just a higher budget episode!), and through MST3K I discovered the film MANOS. Since I’d been making games as a hobby since the late 90s, my “bad movie buddy” Chris and I always joked about making a game of MANOS, how it’d be adapted, how it’d play. We joked around with the idea of a point and click adventure, for example. Whilst reading about the history of that film one day I found out that the film and everything in it was in the public domain due to the director’s failure to take all the necessary steps to copyright a work back in the time it came out (similar to what happened with George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead”, thus giving birth to the entire zombie genre), and I was amused to think that I actually COULD make MANOS due to this! I believe I was thinking about AVGN when I realized how much fun it’d be to adapt MANOS the way game developers adapted movies on the NES in the 80s, and so I went for it – The main idea would be to “celebrate badness with something good”; to include all of the tropes of bad game adaptations and bad movies alike, but without making the game itself bad! Not long after the release of the game, I was befriended by most of the remaining cast of the original film, so I suppose you could even say it’s the “official” video game adaptation at this point.

JB:  What is your philosophy to game design and what are some of your biggest influences and inspirations in gaming? I’m talking about both games and game developers.

 SB: I like to keep things simple, challenging, fun and exciting! My greatest influences on my platformers are Yoshi’s Island, Mega Man X and the original Sonic games, but I also find myself inspired by some modern indie developers like Edmund McMillan and the guys at WayForward. Of course not forgetting the masters themselves, Miyamoto, Inafune, Igarashi. There’s so much more, though. Games have been an enormous part of my life and they’ve never not been inspiring me, so it’s a tough question to ask!

JB:  What do you personally hope to Accomplish with AVGN adventures II? Will it come to consoles like the first game did?

SB: Regarding Consoles, that’s up to ScrewAttack to talk about, but obviously that’s something I really hope to see happen. As for the game itself, we’ve learned a lot since the first, so I hope not just to make fans of the original happy, but perhaps win over some people who weren’t too smitten with the first game as well!

JB: Austin, Disorder is an interesting game. How did that one come about and how has the reception been?

AH: Chad and Craig were walking the floor and checking out indie games down at SXSW Gaming when they came across Disorder. Both of the guys thought it was a really awesome game and spent the weekend hanging out with the Swagabyte Games team. After a night of playing games together and drinking, we decided to take on the project as the publisher. Disorder is a different tone than our other titles, it’s bit more serious in subject matter, but most everyone who has played it has responded pretty positively.

JB:  Jump ‘N’ Shoot is an awesome throwback to classic games but I have to ask, why is it on mobile devices only?

AH: Jump’N’Shoot Attack is kind of Sam’s passion project to try and bring a real platforming game experience to the mobile phone that gamers will enjoy.

JB:  Is there any chance there may one day be a Death Battle game? I understand it would be a licensing nightmare but you could use stand ins/obvious parodies for the real characters and even include Wiz and Boomstick (and Jocelyn).

AH: It has definitely been talked about, but at this point I can’t really say much either way.

JB:  Do you see ScrewAttack continuing to pursue video game production? If so, what are some genres that you would like to see tackled?

AH: I think, like with most things, we’ll continue doing it as long as it makes sense and people enjoy it. Being a super small publishing team, we try to focus on a limited number of projects so we can give proper attention to them all. I can say that I’m busy for the foreseeable future. I think one of the hardest genres to do well is horror.

JB:  Do you have any regrets about how things were done in any of the games ScrewAttack produced?

AH: Looking back, if we could do it over again we would have launched Texting of the Bread with a Free to play model.

JB: Have there been any games that ScrewAttack was producing that have ended up being cancelled along the way that people are not aware of?

AH: There have been a few publishing opportunities that didn’t pan out. One example was a small development team that disbanded before the contract was finalized. It’s a bummer, because it was an awesome game that will never see the light of day. I hope one day they reconnect and continue work on the game.

JB:  Do you have anything that you would like to say to the audience of Teal Otaku Gamer?

AH: Thanks so much for reading the interview! If you’re a fan of retro inspired games, we hope you’ll check out our stuff!

Thank you again for doing this.

 

You can follow ScrewAttack on Twitter at @ScrewAttack, Austin can be followed at @PotatoHound and Sam at @FreakZoneGames

 

By Jonathan Balofsky On 18 Feb, 2016 At 02:32 AM | Categorized As Featured, Indie Spotlight, Interviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments
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No Gravatarlogo_500x500_transWelcome everyone to Indie Game Spotlight. Today we speak with Warren Smith, developer of Dark Flame. You can read the interview below.

JB: Obviously your game takes a lot of inspiration from Castlevania symphony of the night. What else inspires your game and what is it that sets your game apart and gives it uniqueness? As well, how do you deal with the criticism that Dark Flame looks too similar to SoTN?

WS: Dark Flame comes from a natural blend of my favorite games. There are quite a few inspirations, but some of the big ones are Castlevania for the art style and “metroidvania” playstyle, Dark Souls for the theme and difficult gameplay, and Diablo for stat allocation and cosmetic effects from equipment. This game has many cool features that sets it apart from its competitors. Some of them are the dialogue choices to affect storyline, magic creation and equipment system, weapon/armor equipment and enhancements, various NPC interactions, secrets, treasures and much more

Honestly, I don’t get much criticism anymore for how the game looks. I believe that when I first introduced Dark Flame publicly, the game’s theme and playstyle wasn’t as profound. I personally would like to think that the game’s art style is comparable to that of a larger company – as that is what I’m striving for. As far as the comparison between the two games – one is inspired from the other but they are both different… Anyways, to answer your question, I would read the criticism, shrug my shoulders, and keep working on Dark Flame.

JB: How did you get into game development? That is what made you interested in and pursue a career in the field?

WS: I don’t think there was an exact defining point when I ‘got into game development’. This project initially started as many different learning tutorials and exercises that were self-motivated. I’ve always been interested in video games and have played them since I can remember. I’ve always thought it would be great to make my own so I just dove into it. Dark Flame is my first project. I’ve been working at it for about three years now and I love everything about it!

JB: What were some of your favorite games growing up?

WS: Well, the first game I ever owned to my name was Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Genesis. I played other games on the NES before that, but I was really into the Sonic series growing up. My absolute favorite game is Final Fantasy VII, as it was the first RPG I’ve ever played and I got totally sucked into the story. I’m also a big sucker for the Souls games and anything with a great story.

 

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JB: What is your main goal with Dark Flame?

WS: Initially, it was a learning experience for me. Now that I am where I am – I want to make the best possible game I can make. Something that is enjoyable and memorable. I want people who play it to have an experience than to just run through another game…

JB: Do you feel there is a healthy market for a game like yours in the industry today?

WS: I do. Then again, I’m incredibly biased towards metroidvanias. I’m not a marketing expert, but I do believe that if a game is good enough, then people will want to play it (as long as they know about it).

JB: What are some challenges you have faced as an indie dev?

WS: Ha! This question should be more like “What are some experiences you’ve had that were NOT a challenge?” Every day is a challenge. On top of just designing the game, I have to deal with multiple failures and struggles with stress on a daily basis. Though, this game wouldn’t be where it is right now if it weren’t for those failures. I have to have these failures to keep me working hard.

JB: The music in Dark Flame’s trailers have been amazing, who is the composer of the music?

WS: Bryan Delerson is the music composer for Dark Flame. He’s created some wonderful pieces for the playable demo that is out now. I’ve also heard some of the stuff that he has in mind for the future of production and it sounds completely wonderful!

 

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JB: The story of Dark Flame that you have revealed so far is very intriguing. What was your inspiration for it?

WS: The inspiration behind the Story of Dark Flame comes from a number of different games. As I said earlier, I love a game with a great story. I also like the dark themes of the Souls games. I’m not the best writer so I’ve sought out Brian Lee and Tom King to do much of the legwork in it. The story will be a great decision-based immersion that will cause you to think about your choices pretty hard… if you like dark stories, then you’ll love what Dark Flame will bring you!

JB: What advice do you have for other indie devs out there who are just getting into game development?

WS: Be prepared to be let down and put way too many hours into something in hopes that people will like it. Game development is something that you need to be absolutely passionate about to pursue. If it is, then listen to feedback from players and don’t give up!

JB: Do you have anything you would like to say to the readership of Real Otaku Gamer?

WS: Yeah – thanks for reading this! I’m really just making Dark Flame because I want to give you a fun and enjoyable game. If you think that Dark Flame might interest you and you love Castlevania and Dark Souls games, then you should play the demo for yourself! Also, I love to hear feedback on this project as well. Sometimes it’s hard for me to see what’s missing because I’m working on the same thing all day every day.

Here is the Kickstarter trailer.

I hope you all enjoyed this. You can visit the website for Dark Flame here and you can follow Warren on twitter @BorishDugdum.

 

By Jonathan Balofsky On 4 Feb, 2016 At 01:25 AM | Categorized As Featured, Interviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments
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1. You are well known now as an indie game advocate. How did you start down this path, that is, what led to your interest in the indie gaming scene?

I needed a hobby, and my boyfriend and family said I should get into blogging. This was June, 2011, when the annual summer gaming release drought was kicking off. Originally, the plan was to talk about movies, but we were going through my Xbox 360 library and stumbled upon a couple Xbox Live Indie Games I had previously bought. I was like “oh yea, I forgot there was an indie section in the Xbox market.” We went through the recent releases and tried to look up reviews for them, only to find all the sites covering them gave overwhelmingly positive reviews to every single game, regardless of its quality. Brian said “There you go, that’s what you should blog about.” We bought a few dozen XBLIGs, and I opened Indie Gamer Chick on July 1, 2011. By August, it was the most popular XBLIG site in the world.

2. You are quite the caustic critic when you need to be and frequently call others out, including me on occasion. Has this ever caused any major issues between you and developers? 

I don’t feel I “call people out.” I do challenge developers to challenge themselves. Indie devs will get  hundreds, or thousands, of people who tell them “good job, your game is perfect!” I say “good job, but here’s where you have room to grow.” That’s what developers want. The ones who only want praise and are too thin-skinned to accept feedback don’t last. But the stereotype of the thin-skinned, egotistical indie dev is greatly exaggerated. I’ve been doing IGC for almost five years and I can count on one hand the amount of developers who I would say were problematic. That’s after 550+ reviews. Most developers can be disappointed by my reviews, but almost all of them use them to get better. Game reviews are ultimately resources, whether you make games or buy them. The most common response a developer has to a negative review since the day I started is “I wish someone had brought this stuff up during development.”

 

3. There is some discussion that the industry in general is in a state of growing pains now, that change is happening. What direction do you see the video game industry and in particular indie games going in?

When I started IGC, only Microsoft was putting significant stock in the potential indies had as a revenue stream. They had created promotions like Summer of Arcade that featured indies such as Limbo or Braid in prominent roles, and they had opened XBLIG which allowed anyone of any skill level to make and publish games for a subscription fee and a 30% royalty on the games sold. Here we are, five years later, and indies are a major part of the console manufacturers’ business model. By supporting indies, they assure quality titles year-round, especially out of peak retail seasons, and that they have titles across more genres, assuring content for everyone. That’s not to mention that indies have changed the definition of what a budget-release is and the quality you can expect for a relatively inexpensive game. While this has lead to over-saturation, the really high-talent studios are gaining a foothold. In the near future, you’ll see more indie studios outright acquired to produce exclusive content for manufacturers, since the cost of acquisition will be much less than a studio that’s been around twenty years.

4. You have helped bring awareness of epilepsy and seizures to many in the gaming community, do you feel you have helped accomplish change for the better?

It’s amazing how far awareness for conditions like epilepsy as it relates to gaming have come in such a short amount of time. I’ve hardly been alone in advocacy for issues like epilepsy, but that I get so many developers approach me or Ian Hamilton asking about it and what they can do with their games to make it less risky (though risk will always exist no matter what) has been genuinely touching.

5. With regards to the last question, how does it feel to be held as an advocate for people with epilepsy and seizures?

It’s actually really flattering that I’ve been able to accomplish a lot with the issue. I’m really proud of it. It’s quite a legacy.

6. All 3 console makers have embraced the indie community in recent years, I’d like to know your thoughts on what the 3 console makers have done for the indies.

Well, they’ve made indies part of their business model. Saying you’re part of a multi-billion dollar conglomerate’s business model might not sound sexy or prestigious, but I can’t think of any better indicator that indies have made it. More over, the really great ones can go on to be so much more. Look at what Shovel Knight is for Nintendo now. They’ve included it in their Amiibo line. Microsoft bought the studio and IP to Minecraft for 2.5 *BILLION* dollars. That’s over half of what Disney paid for all ownership to everything Star Wars. The ceiling is so high on indies now that it stretches the boundaries of reality and crosses over into imagination. In today’s market place, the sky is the limit for indies.

7. You have made your views on Kickstarters well known and with the recent debacle of Ant Simulator, do you see crowd sourcing as becoming a major issue with indie devs?
I’m way in favor of crowd sourcing for indies. But there has to be merit to seeking funding. You have to have the talent and ability to pull it off. Making a game, especially a good game, takes patience and self-awareness. Your first games will seldom come out the way you envisioned them. So I don’t like to see too many first time developers seek funding. They should treat it as a hobby until they have the ability to make it something more. When used right, it’s a remarkable resource. When used wrong, it could set you up to be a pariah for life.


8. With regards again to crowd sourcing, how do you feel the process can be improved upon to actually get a positive outcome?

As unintuitive as this sounds, a campaign is about you, not your game. Developers using Kickstarter have to remember that. Games sell themselves. Make sure you put what makes your game unique, and then just leave it there for would-be backers to digest. You don’t have to oversell a game. A campaign is about your ability to deliver the game you’re pitching. Showing off your talent, your skills, your drive, your determination, and your resolve to finish what you promise. Developers using Kickstarter need to remember that and take the pitches more seriously. Less non-stop sarcasm, less wacky biographies that tell you nothing about their experience or talent, less wacky pictures of the staff. Have fun, but take it seriously. Treat it like a business. Because, if you’re asking strangers for money, you are a business whether you like it or not.

9. What are some of your favorite indie games? both in general and specifically for each console.

As it so happens, I have a list on my site. But for each console, it’s Axiom Verge for PS4 and Steam, Shovel Knight for Wii U, and although I couldn’t finish the game due to epilepsy concerns, Ori and the Blind Forest seemed like it was on track to be one of my favorite indies on Xbox One.

10. In your opinion what makes an indie game stand out?

I think it comes down to the amount of joy you have making your games transfers over to your work. So if you have fun making a game,
people will have fun playing it. Make the kind of games you want to play yourself. With stuff like Shovel Knight or Axiom Verge, you can immediately tell these are the games the developers dreamed of making since they were kids.

11. What do you see as the biggest game changer for the indie gaming scene?

In the not to distant future, indies will be targeted for acquisition by the console manufacturers, and all three manufacturers I’m told have big plans to put more money and resources towards landing top-tier indie devs exclusively on their platforms. We’re maybe months away from seeing an honest-to-God bidding war for the services of relatively modest indie studios. When that starts to happen, I hope the community at large takes a moment to smile and realize that they’ve arrived at the grown-ups table.

Thank you again for doing this interview.
Check out Indie Gamer Chick’s Leaderboard of Indie Games here and her editorial about epilepsy here.
Image courtesy of the book Going Indie.
By Jonathan Balofsky On 15 Dec, 2015 At 04:55 AM | Categorized As Featured, Interviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments
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I had the chance to speak with Eric Kozlowsky recently and ask him a few questions about his time at Retro Studios.
How did you come to work for Retro Studios?
I was working as a Lead Environment Artist at Square Enix. Unfortunately the project I was working on was canceled and the entire team laid off. This was in March of 2011. I spent some time putting feelers into the open and when an opportunity at Retro came up I sent my stuff in and got an interview.
 
What was the work environment like at Retro?
Retro is pretty laid back and easygoing. They respect their employees to manage their workload and get their work done. Out of all of the studios I’ve worked for I think Retro has one of the best cultures. I’ve never seen so much inter-department friendships before. Normally The artists are friends with Artists, Designers with Designers and Engineers with Engineers. But at Retro this wasn’t the case at all!
Retro’s games are typically overseen by Kensuke Tanabe, do you have any stories you can share about him? Any comments on how he interacted with everyone?
Tanabe-San was mostly focused with Design. So I didn’t have much professional contact with him as art was pretty much left to the stewardship of our Creative Director. Personally every time I talked with him he was super friendly and easy going. He even signed my Hyrule Historia book (Tanabe-San was scriptwriter on Link to the Past, and he headed up development on Link’s Awakening.)
 
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What was it like to work on the Donkey Kong series? Did the series legacy intimidate or excite you in any way?
I have to admit that DK has never been a favorite of mine when it comes to Nintendo characters and game. I was a fan of the original DKC. Yet I never played any subsequent releases save for DKCR to prepare for my interview. However as I the project went on I gained a whole new appreciation for the big guy! There game design in the games is really something else. The way the levels can be attempted in a speedrun is really mind blowing.
Then there is the legacy of the art! I mean when DKC released back on the SNES it was a trailblazer for the coming 3D generation of games (even if it was 2d gameplay). So trying to live up to that legacy, as well as the phenomenal art in Donkey Kong Country Returns was very intimidating. As it stands now out of all the games I have worked on (over 10 at this point) I am most proud of Donkey Kong Country:Tropical Freeze!
I can definitely say now Donkey Kong is one of my favorite Nintendo franchises!
 
What would you have liked to work on at Retro?
I would have LOVED to have worked on Star Fox. I even pitched a proposal before I knew that Miyamoto-San was working on Star Fox Zero. I think I have the document laying around somewhere 😛
 I can’t wait to play Star Fox Zero next year.
 
Can you share any funny workplace stories from your time there?
It’s tough to think of just one, after 4 years working there it starts to bleed together. Most shenanigans happened AFTER work! 🙂
What led to you deciding to leave Retro?
It’s tough being an artist in the game industry. It’s very easy to get comfortable and fall into habits that don’t push your skill. I felt I needed to try something new, to test my abilities and try to grow. Time will tell if that was a wise decision!
 
Are you personally excited for Retro’s next game, whatever it may be?
Of course! I can’t wait to see how it’s grown since I left.
Do you feel Retro can now do more than 1 game at a time or would they be best served the way they have been doing things so far…just your opinion.
Personally I think Retro will always do what is best for Nintendo. When I left it was one team, but I’m sure if Retro wanted to move to more teams they would produce the same stellar work they always have!
 
What was it like when you had the chance to meet some of the higher ups at Nintendo?
Meeting Miyamoto-San at E3-2013 is one of the highlights of my career. I got him to sign my gold NES cartridge of The Legend of Zelda, the very same one I had when I was 6! I even pushed my luck and asked him to sign my DK tie that we were wearing to promote DKC:TF and he not only signed it, he drew DK on it! MIND BLOWN! Easy to say that both Zelda and the tie are framed and hanged in my office.
My biggest regret was seeing Iwata-San at that same E3 but I was too shy to introduce myself to him. I was devastated by his passing.
Thank you for taking the time to do this.
By otakuman5000 On 13 Nov, 2014 At 10:37 PM | Categorized As Featured, Interviews, NINTENDO, Podcasts, ROG News, Uncategorized | With 0 Comments
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Well, Hello there! This is Andre Tipton aka Otakuman5000. For those who don’t know, The Fatal Frame series redefined the Survival Horror genre of video games.

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Two years ago when a couple guys wanted to come back to their 1st love they created at the beginning of their careers, they decided to take it to Kickstarter and hoping that that the fans would help bring what they love back to life. After surpassing their goals by $17,232 Zojoi has cleared the path to recreating the game two generation of gamers loved and now so shall this current generation of gamers. Zojoi, thats right the studio behind the classic point and click adventure, Shadowgate from the days of NES has taken the time to answer a few questions about their upcoming title and the re-imaging of that decades old title of might and magic. These Questions were answered by Karl Roelofs, Design Director at Zojoi

 

 

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What made you guys come back to this classic series; was there an outcry from your faithful supporters?

 

Dave and I always had the desire to bring back the original game and tell the other stories from the world of Shadowgate we have written. When we saw that retro-gaming was being embraced by fans again, we decided that the time was right to re-introduce the franchise. So we reached out via Kickstarter and found that fans of the original game (especially the NES players), as well as new enthusiasts, were excited about what we had planned.

 

 

When designing this updated version what from the past titles did you want to redesign and what did you completely scrap?

 

Well, we definitely did not want to do a port – we had done this about ten times before – so we spent a lot of time looking at each puzzle, deciding whether it was something we wanted to keep. I would say that 95% of the puzzles are either completely new or use the same location but are altered in some way to fit with the storyline better. There are a few puzzles from the original that we completely scrapped since they really didn’t fit into our narrative anymore. We’re pretty happy with the outcome.

 

 

What added features and or content have you added?

 

We weren’t constrained by a disk or a cartridge, so we were able to add some of the things that we always wanted to. New to this version of Shadowgate is an in-game map that tracks the locations you have travelled to as well as records the cryptic clues found along the way. We provide 45 in-game and Steam-based achievements that range from experiencing all the deaths in the game to beating the game within a certain amount of turns. We have several side quests and new creature interactions, a full-blown interactive soundtrack by Rich Douglas and three difficult levels that change the puzzles in the game based upon your skill level. Really, there is a ton of new stuff here.

 

 

When designing this game have you placed any Easter eggs of sorts giving a nod to your fans of the past games?

 

Absolutely! We pay homage to several things from original game that didn’t quite make it in this version. Players may get to finally find out what is behind that locked door in the well room and we also give a shout-out to fans of Déjà vu and Ace Harding. Also, should you choose, you can switch from orchestral music to the original 8bit NES music (composed by Hiroyuki Masuno). Additionally, we’ve elevated the role that death plays by scattering a number of hidden deaths throughout the game. These offer several particularly nasty yet humorous ways to meet your end.

 

Who from the original development staff came back to help with this iteration?

 

Dave and I are the only members from the original team (we designed the original game as well as created all the art). We then reached out to a team of folks, many whom we had worked with in the past and they were just as excited to re-imagine this game as we were. Our team is really an awesome group and for the last year and a half has been pouring their hearts and souls into making Shadowgate every bit as memorable as the original.

 

 

How excited was it for you to have the chance to have better orchestrated soundtrack for Shadowgate this time around?

 

We are ecstatic to have Rich Douglas provide not only the soundtrack for Shadowgate but an unbelievable sound design (sound effects, ambience, etc.) Rich took his inspiration from the original soundtrack but went way beyond that, creating both familiar orchestrated themes and brand-new epic compositions. Additionally, the game supports multiple tracks of instrumentation that can be added or removed to enhance the ambiance of a particular room or situation. This really amps up the intensity when you are encountering deadly traps and monsters throughout the castle.

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What do you think is next for your studios?

 

Well, from a Shadowgate perspective, we just made the game available for pre-order at www.shadowgate.com and should have the game out on Windows and Mac this summer. After that, we will release the game on iOS and Android before moving on to doing localization for other languages. We’ll then be looking at other console platforms and since we’ve built the PAC (point and click) engine, making developing other games easier, we plan to re-visit the world of Shadowgate very soon. In fact, we have the story-arc planned for the next two games.

 



 

 

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Hi, Sean Jacobs here I would like to present my interview with Switchblade Monkeys the wonder team behind the upcoming title Secret Ponchos. I would like to apologize for the delay but, I went Clark Kent and transcribed my interview via my handy digital voice recorder. Lets get into this tasty treat why don’t we.

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Me: Hi, Sean Jacobs here from RealOtakuGamer.com can you Please introduce yourself to our readers at realotakugamer.com

Yousuf Mapara: Hi, I’m Yousuf Mapara and I am the Creative Director (and President of Switchblade Monkeys) of Secret Ponchos.

Me: Well, you just answered my second question because I was going to ask you what you’re relation to Secret Ponchos was!

(Shared Laughter)

Me: What inspired Switchblade monkeys to create such a unique game like Secret Ponchos?

Yousuf Mapara: We really wanted to make a game that takes us back to multiplayer fun, That’s just fun to pick up and is not this huuuge learning curve of like 30-40 hours just to be able to have fun. We are all hardcore fighting game kinda fans and so we love that depth but not the (inaudible) Though, the main thing is that we wanted to make a Spaghetti Western game so, that’s where it all started, ya know? its just such a cool genre. Basically our musician and I were sitting playing Soul Calibur and we had um, were playing Ennio Morricone in the background at the same time and all of a sudden everything just magically synced up the music, the epic trumpets and uh ya know the drama from the music and it felt like everything we felt like everything we were doing was just choreographed to the music so, we were like “WOW we really need to make a fighting western game”

Me: Isn’t it weird how things just come together like that?

Yousuf Mapara: I know, I know it wish there was a cooler version on how the game started but, its stupid but, that’s how it came together.

(Shared laughter)

Me: That’s OK because that is the most organic way to come up with an great idea.

 Me: Were there any other influences drawn from other games pulled into making Secret Ponchos?

Yousuf Mapara: We really wanted to make a game that has this competitive, you pick it up and we want your adrenaline to start pumping, that kind of fun. You pick it up and we want it to feel competitive, fun kind of game… I remember lining up to Street Fighter and getting our quarters and this is the type of game that we wanted to make so you could enjoy. A lot of games recently are awesome experiences but, they have also have became like interactive stories with a lot of cinematic experiences

Me: Yeah, like watching a movie you sometime play.

Yousuf Mapara: …and we wanted to take a step back from that, we have developed plenty of projects like that at AAA studios and we wanted to get to the feeling of  “ah man you got me this time I’m going to go home and practice to get the best of you”

Me: Given the multiplayer nature of Secret Ponchos when it is released will Switchblade Monkey launch some sort of DLC to compliment that element?

Yousuf Mapara: You know uh, so our model for DLC is very interesting we don’t want to be very aggressive with dlc. When you buy Secret Ponchos its a complete experience on its own you don’t need to pay more money or buy stuff to be able to fulfill your experience, with that being said the genre is such an interesting genre for character archetypes that we only scratched the surface with our characters so, we are going to keep expanding on the Secret Ponchos Universe and that’s a better road to DLC. As long as the fans want to see the game universe expanded we will keep have new guys and use DLC to fund new characters.

Me: When I was doing research on you guys on YouTube that’s what I was thinking. I was like  They could be in a good position to be able to spin DLC in a good way if infused correctly. I don’t like the aggressive DLC, I don’t like aggressive salesmanship at all so like, if your company create a great package its going to make us the fans want to buy it.

Yousuf Mapara: Yeah don’t want people to have their defenses up when playing our games as if we are trying to pitch them, if they bought the game its a fun universe, right? we hope people are looking forward to new expansions and new characters and we could use DLC to fund that. When you are really excited for a game, like Diablo and you are really looking forward to the expansion and its a worthwhile purchase that is the type of feel we want to lean towards.

Me: What about this game excites you the most and what can you tell people about secret ponchos that haven’t heard of it?

Yousuf Mapara: The two things we are the most proud of is the art style we really tried to focus on a great art style but, secondly when you look at team shooters and fighting games and there is a lot of them and they are all feeling kind of similar it was really exciting that we have found a new twist a new presentation for a combat game in this genre hey we are a small indie company and just by moving the camera over top we kinda made our own type of combat game and that’s what we are excited about it doesn’t have this superficial feel of a slight change on an existing shooter game it has its own thing and that’s what we are most excited about.

 Me: Thank you again Yousuf and it was a pleasure standing here with you and playing with your staff on multiple matches. I can’t wait for Secret Ponchos and the many ways you will possibly expand its universe.

*Before our scheduled interview Yousuf and I had several conversations one that revealed that Secret Ponchos will be on the Steam for early access. Secret Ponchos was originally slated for PS4 release but, after the outcry of the PC community Switchblade Monkeys have decided to appease the masses and give the Steam community an early shot of the former PlayStation 4 exclusive.

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Here is the Trailer for the game.

 

By otakuman5000 On 11 Jan, 2014 At 11:25 PM | Categorized As Editorials, Featured, Interviews, ROG News, Tales of Real Otaku | With 0 Comments
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560059_545217922223147_21166582_nI had the wonderful pleasure of being able to interview Leon Chiro, a respected cosplayer throughout the nerd community who has won several awards for cosplays like Dante from the Devil May Cry series, Tidus from Final Fantasy X and Dissidia, Caius from Final Fantasy XIII-2, and the list goes on and on. Today we get a sneak peak into the life of a competitive cosplayer from his humble beginnings, his current works in progress, and everything in between.

ROG: The classic question; we all started somewhere in our cosplay careers. Tell me a bit about that – how old you were, what inspired you, your cosplay inspirations, and what convention you did your first debut.

LC: Ok, so it was 2010…

ROG: Oh, so you’ve only been doing this for a little while!

LC: Yeah. I only started to cosplay seriously when I realized what cosplay was. But my first convention was in 2010. I’m coming from the modeling world, and I was asking myself, “Ok, I love doing pictures, but what if I try to take a character I love a lot and I model with them?” So, I was thinking of doing Tidus because he’s my favorite character ever, and I was thinking, “what if I contacted somebody to see how much this costume would cost?” And they said, “Oh, that’s simple!” And I was like, “… what?” “Cosplay.” “Ok, what is cosplay?” So he explained it and I was like, “Oh. Hm. Sounds like a carnival thing.” He said, “No, it’s more than that…” So he explained it to me. I could never imagine what the cosplay world was. So, I took my Tidus cosplay, I went to the convention alone, and I was a nobody. I didn’t know anyone and no one knew me. That was fine because I was like, “Woah.. where the [expletive] am I?” (Laughter) Someone came up to me and said, “you should enter the cosplay contest [with the Tidus cosplay] because you are very, very good.”

ROG: Yeah, you did a really great job on that. I’m shocked that was your first cosplay.

Leon Chiro's cosplay as Tidus from FFX

Leon Chiro’s cosplay as Tidus from FFX

LC: Yeah, I did Tidus’ first and second version. So yeah, this guy said I should do the cosplay contest. Ok, what is the cosplay contest? Well, it’s like a masquerade. You have to do an exhibition and interpret your character, and I said “oh, sounds cool!” I discovered that I made it to the finals without knowing it. I wasn’t expecting that. A lot of people were surprised because I was anonymous and I came from nowhere, and I arrived in a place that other people have been trying to get to for years. I don’t know what I did… I did it with my heart. That’s the thing – I did my character with my heart.

I have to say that a lot of people started to go against me – “Oh, he’s nobody,” “He only has one cosplay,” “He has too much success” – just people talking bad about me. So I said, “Ok, it’s time for me to do a second cosplay.” I did Dante, and I tried to do the cosplay contest, but I didn’t arrive in time and I had some problems. People still continued to talk bad about me because they were like, “Oh, he’s just doing it for the body” or “He’s just doing it because of the abs.” By then it was 2011, and I wanted to stop because I was like “What the [expletive] is this world?” I’m coming from the modeling world where a lot of people respect me.

ROG: Cosplay is supposed to be fun, and unfortunately there’s a lot of hate.

LC: First of all, it was just supposed to be fun. Secondly, in the gaming and comic world, if I’m winning a lot in a short amount of time, they should be happy for me, and that wasn’t the case. I wanted to stop, so I stopped for two months and I thought about it, and I said, “Ok, there are a lot of haters, but I met a lot of special people and I wanted to do an achievement exhibition for them.” So I entered the cosplay contest, and the winner won a trip to Lucca. I won first place with Dante, and a lot of people were against me because I was doing good. It’s not easy in the beginning and you’re alone and you don’t have recommendations, but I started like everyone else – a nobody. Everything I did, I did by myself.

Leon Chiro as Dante from DMC3

Leon Chiro as Dante from DMC3

I started to get more motivated, and I was like “Ok, you hate me because I’m doing good? Ok.” And I did Tidus from Dissidia, and I started to face more haters, and I was winning every contest I entered. People started to look at me with more respect. I went to Lucca with my Kung Lao cosplay because he’s my favorite character from Mortal Kombat and I won the Best Interpretation Award, which is the hardest award to get. When you win in Lucca, you can say that you’re a professional cosplayer. Winning that award made me really proud of myself, so after I won, that’s when I made my facebook cosplay page towards the end of 2011. So yeah… that’s my story. After my first convention, I won something like 14 in a row, including Lucca. The most important thing was that people were starting to know who I was and that I did good work. That was the main victory. It wasn’t about being popular – it was about being respected. I got a lot of respect for my Caius cosplay because it was very hard. Do you know of Kamui Cosplay (another respected cosplayer in the community)?

ROG: Yes, I recently liked her page on facebook because I saw it on your page. So I watched some of her tutorials on YouTube – they’re really helpful.

LC: To me, she’s the best cosplayer in the world. I had the honor of her complimenting me, and that was really satisfying… someone that big complimented me. I’m also talking to Rick Boer from Ubisoft, who’s the official Edward Kenway cosplayer (from Assassin’s Creed IV), and it feels great to have his respect because he’s such a humble guy. He’s my Assassin’s Creed idol. (Laughter) So that was a long reply for just one question!

ROG: (Laughter) It’s not a problem! How a cosplayer started out is usually a long one. All right, so an editor from ROG and I were talking and we were discussing that cosplaying seems to be mostly female dominated. What do you think about that and how to do you feel taking part in something that’s so female based?

1531739_565873086824297_1431166684_oLC: It depends, because people usually focus on half-naked girls. But for me, they’re appreciating cosplay – they’re appreciating modeling. It’s not the same thing. I’m not looking for likes (on facebook) – I want to earn them. I try to mix the two because I come from the modeling world and I’m doing cosplay from my heart. It’s female dominated because it’s easy to be popular when you’re barely wearing anything. It makes me laugh because girls will be like “Oh, you’re judging me because of my half-naked pictures?” They barely know what they’re talking about, and after you see their page, you’ll see them in bras and barely wearing anything. Girls will get angry and nitpick other girls’ cosplays, but they’re the ones doing sexier versions of a particular character. A lot of girls will judge girls that they can’t be as good as.

ROG: As a girl, I understand that totally. All right, so have you ever been an invited guest to a big name convention? And if not, what would be your dream convention to be invited to?

LC: I’ve been invited to a lot of European conventions, but I still haven’t been to America, for example. It’s unfortunately really expensive to go there.

ROG: Yeah, which is a shame. But, in the same way, I haven’t been to Italy because it’s really expensive. A friend of mine just left for Rome a few days ago and I was mentally cursing her (laughter).

LC: I mean, for me, a lot of people that go to America are really lucky. But even if I was invited to an American convention, I don’t think I’d be able to accept it anyway. I’d love to. I hope one day someone sees my cosplay and invites me over, I don’t know. This year, I was invited to three conventions. I’m taking things step by step. If you reach an achievement, it’s because you deserve it. That’s what we learn growing up. For me, it’s hard to keep up the good work because people love my cosplay, and they have a lot of high expectations. I always have to do my best.

ROG: Sure, it can be a lot of pressure.

LC: No, it’s not pressure. It’s kind of motivation for me. If cosplay was a pressure for me, I wouldn’t be doing it and I wouldn’t be doing this interview with you (laughter).

ROG: (Laughter) Trust me, we all appreciate your work. So, you’re from Italy, which I already said I’m totally jealous of, and you’re jealous of the fact that I live in New York. What would you say the biggest difference between American and European convention scenes are?

LC: I wish I could know about the American convention scene, but I’ve never been there.

ROG: I wasn’t sure if you just meant you haven’t been to New York in particular.

LC: I can say about Italy and other European conventions that there is a lot less competition. There are two European championships, and they’re the EuroCosplay, and ECG, European Cosplay Gathering. In every main convention in Europe, they choose 2 representatives and put them against the representatives from all the other countries.
I’m really proud to say that I’m competing in the world championship for Italy. It makes things harder because the competition gets more and more intense. Sometimes, competition isn’t healthy here because a lot of people are doing all they can to destroy the other cosplayers, with flames, with fights.

ROG: So it’s not good sportsmanship.

LC: Yeah, there was this guy who used to be my friend, and we’re not friends anymore. He always used to come into my job and wanted the basics to cosplays, and he’s good now, but he’s so arrogant. At the first opportunity, after I helped him meet a lot of contacts, he turned his back on me and left, and spoke bad about me. For example, we had a TV show to do and they were going to choose two cosplayers – one male and one female. They called me instead of him and a lot of other cosplayers, and I was happy about that. He wrote to the director of the show and said, “how can you choose that shitty Dragonball cosplay instead of mine, just to make me look bad. I didn’t believe he wrote and the director said, “yes, he did. Do you want to read?” So I read it and I was shocked. I was like “what the [expletive]? I don’t know what I did to him. Maybe he just ate something bad (laughter).” So I began to understand that reputation in Italy isn’t always good because a lot of them aren’t able to be humble and honest to someone else. Cosplay is a hobby, not work.

ROG: Yeah, I was actually talking to the rest of my team a few minutes ago that I truly appreciate you taking the time out. It says a lot about the cosplay community – you being good at what you do and so respected, but you’ll still take the time out for others. I’ve known and met a lot of cosplayers who thought they were better than everyone else and slammed other people. We’re all nerds, we all play videogames, read comics, watch anime – whatever. We’re supposed to be a family, but instead we just shut other people down because someone can’t sew and craft as good as someone else.

LC: There should be a middle ground between those who share the same passion. It’s not everyday that you find someone who understands you. You can’t always talk to others about video games. For example, when I was doing my Tidus cosplay, I had my hair blonde. I wasn’t wearing a wig and I had to face university with blonde hair. People would call me names like fleshlight (laughter).

ROG: That’s awful! I thought it looked great. Who cares?

LC: Yeah, who cares? I can kick your ass whenever I want, so…

ROG: (Laughter) I’d hate to get on your bad side…

LC: (shakes head) Nu-uh. Ok, so I go to school for motor science… what I would like to do with that degree – that future degree. University is a

Chiro's cosplay of Kung Lao won him first place in Lucca.

Chiro’s cosplay of Kung Lao won him first place in Lucca.

cruel world. Not everyone can pay to go to university here in Italy. It’s very selective. They’ll choose the best 200 out of thousands of applicants. Luckily for me, they were extending applications to former athletes. I was a former national champion in athletics.

ROG: What sport were you in?

LC: 100 meters. I was a runner. I’m doing parkour right now because it gives me freedom of expression. I would take my degree, get a passport, and come to the USA. I’m doing this major for personal satisfaction. I want to create my own future and do the things I love. If I can do something with it, that’d be great.

ROG: That’s a great point. Most parents in America – when I tell my parents, “hey, I want to go to school for video game design.” The first question out of their mouth is going to be “what are you going to do with that degree?” There’s no such thing as going to college for something that makes me happy; it’s all about how to make money out of it. Good for you that you go to school for something that makes you happy.

LC: You pay for your time to study. You can’t live anymore because you have to constantly study. School should make you motivated, not miserable. A good teacher isn’t someone who knows everything. A good teacher is someone who can give you those few things during your time at university and motivate you. It’s not a competition of knowledge. Sometimes it could be a former student going through their own frustrations and they pass down to you what they’ve learned in life.

ROG: Great point. So, we’ve all had that one costume that was a lot of fun, and others that were extremely challenging. What costume did you have the most fun making, and which one was the most frustrating?

LC: Caius was the one that gave me the most satisfaction. It’s full of armor parts, and it was great winning because it didn’t show off my body [like how Dante and Tidus did], but I spent a lot of money on Caius. Especially making this (shows Caius’ weapon).

ROG: Wow… how did you make that?

LC: (Laughter) I don’t even know. It’s a bit damaged now. You can say that it looks good, but since I created it, I can say that it’s definitely damaged.

ROG: How long did it take you to make Caius’ cosplay?

LC: Ahhhh… a month. One month, every single day for five to six hours. If you look on my page, I have a work in progress album that you can see. I started with a piece of wood, and then cut the shape, added more layers of wood, and just added things piece by piece. I was covered in sawdust. I had so much sawdust on me that when I went outside, all the dogs kept trying to pee on my leg because they thought I was a tree!

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Caius was the most uncomfortable to wear. It’s a lot to put on. I went to a convention and I took three redbulls with me… I have no idea why I did that. When you’re anxious and nervous about getting on stage, I had to have a redbull. But then I was like, “Oh my God, I have to pee. What the [expletive] am I going to do?” I had to remove all the pieces of the cosplay. It took a half hour to put it on and fix it. Thankfully, the Dante cosplay from DMC was the easiest. I just had the coat, didn’t have a wig, and if I got hot, I could take the coat off. It’s hard with the Caius cosplay because he does a lot of movement, and it’s hard to move in his cosplay. I need to improve some things before I compete with it again for the debut of Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns.

ROG: What do you enjoy doing the most – the outfit, the props, or the makeup and wigs?

LC: I hate the wig part. I have to make them in a way that it wont fall apart. When you’re on stage, you can’t have something like that go wrong. I mean, you’ve seen my Vegeta cosplay. It’s really heavy. I love doing makeup, but I love making my accessories. I’m well known for my props. I can get help with my tailoring and sewing stuff. If I have to do something with a coat, I’ll buy a coat and alter it. Come, on, let’s talk about it. I think it’s stupid. If you need orange pants, buy a pair and dye it. There’s no need to make one. I mean, sure, it can be satisfying, but really. Just buy a pair of pants and do what you need. With the accessories, you make it from scratch. I go to the woodshop, get the wood, and I get to work. Or you can use regular household items, like tubes from toilet paper, paper towels, or wrapping paper. Even plastic water bottles.

ROG: Obviously it takes a lot of work to keep your body in such great shape. What’s a typical workout routine for you? I know you’re all about ‘eating clean and training dirty.’

LC: I avoid fast food and processed food. I train 6 days a week. You have a choice between choosing an elevator or the stairs. Just take the stairs. Exercise is making changes in habits like that. People always complain because they don’t get the results they like because they’re not working hard enough. Or they reach their result and people think they can take a break. No, it doesn’t work like that. You have to maintain it. It’s not just your metabolism – it’s about habits. Everyone can be in shape if they wanted to. We have two legs, two arms, and a brain, and we can do whatever we want. I work out a bit less in the winter – one to two hours a day, a few times a week. During the summer, I’m training three to four hours, six days a week. I’m a trainer too, so I have to make sure I stay in shape. I don’t do the gym… I’m usually in the playground. You should see the face of the kids. They’re like “daddy! This guy is stealing our playground!” Well, you’re gunna have to fight for it. Round one… FIGHT!

ROG: (Laughter) Your cosplays are absolutely incredible. I see that your cosplays are all video game-based. Do you plan on doing any anime or movie characters?

LC: I do video game cosplays because video games, in my opinion, are the best ways to release emotion. Video games give you the power to choose, and to be that character. I believe in the power of books, but that’s the power of imagination. It’s still good, but they have limited potential. You can have great images from a movie, but not control. Video games combine the two – the freedom of movement and the wonderful visuals.
I did do a non-video game cosplay. Well, it wasn’t really a cosplay. It was a tribute to Spartacus. I did it for a new amusement park that was opening in Rome. They were doing different eras – Roman, Greek, futuristic… They wanted to do some entertainment with gladiators and they asked me, “do you have a Spartacus cosplay?” I said no, and that I’ll call them once I was done making one. I have a recycle box with material – if I don’t like a piece of armor, I’ll put it in there because I don’t want to waste materials. So I took out the box, and I made that cosplay in 4 hours with just the recycled stuff.

ROG: Care to share what character we should expect from you next?

LC: Sure, why not. I’m planning on doing Lloyd from Legend of Dragoon. I usually like to do characters that are newer, but I want to do some nostalgic cosplays too. So, Lloyd from Legend of Dragoon will be my next cosplay. Next, I’m going to work on Gladiolus from Final Fantasy XV. He is such a badass. I don’t think this cosplay is a secret anymore (laughter). I want to learn more about him before cosplaying him. Adam Jensen, from Deus Ex, is a dream cosplay of mine. I really wanted to do Nathan Drake. I could cut my hair, but I don’t want to cut it just for him. I want to keep my hair longer for some cosplays in progress and future projects.

ROG: I can say for myself that you’re a true inspiration for cosplayers around the world – whether just starting out, or an expert. To those just starting, what would you consider to be the best piece of advice you can give them?

LC: Like I said before, do everything with your heart. If you really love a character, do it from your heart, and don’t care about the critics. Don’t do it because you like it – do it because you love it.

So, there you have it – backstage access to the world of cosplay through the eyes of a professional. I was fortunate to be told some exciting news and future cosplays (I was sworn to secrecy!). Thank you again to Leon Chiro for graciously allowing me his time and contribution, 

You can find Leon Chiro on Facebook at Leon Chiro Cosplay Art and look through the rest of his work. You can also find him on Instagram at Leonchiro, and on YouTube at LeonChiroCosplayArt.

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