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Quitting your job to create an RPG – Interview with Disastercake’s Mike Gale about Soul Saga

4fa878ff633c3e915dd6eb92fef25a08_largeA little over two weeks ago, a really cool-looking RPG called Soul Saga popped up on Kickstarter. The developer is a small company called Disastercake, lead by Mike Gale. The game recently passed $100,000 with half its’ time left, and is continuing to be a success. I sat down with Mike Gale to talk about Soul Saga, Disastercake and his approach to indie game development.

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Tobiichi Karlsson: Let’s hear a little about yourself, what was it that made you want to go into game development?

Mike Gale: I’ve wanted to make games since I was in elementary school. JRPGs really inspired me because of their interesting characters and stories. It was kind of like an interactive novel. I’m excited to get to make one now!

TK: Alright, so why the name Disastercake? How did you come up with that?

MG: I was stringing together words and trying to find something unique and catchy and quirky. I didn’t want to sound like a sterile business venture and somehow I eventually came to Disastercake.

TK: It’s a good name, very memorable at the least.

MG: Thanks!

soulsagaheaderTK: Let’s hold off Soul Saga for just a little bit more. What other projects have you worked on in past?

MG: I’ve made several mods across different games like Warcraft 3 and Starcraft. But my professional work experience comes from my time at Microsoft where I had my hand in many games such as Gears of War 3, Age of Empires Online, Fable 3, and a bunch of others.

TK: That’s some pretty big name titles right there, did any of your work on the games at Microsoft help influence your look on game development as a whole?

MG: Yup, it made me quit my job and start my own small company. I realized those types of companies weren’t the reason I am passioante about games.

TK: And your first big project since then is of course Soul Saga, your current project on Kickstarter. What games do you see as Soul Saga’s biggest influences?

MG: It’s influenced by every JRPG I’ve ever loved, which is a list beyond counting. But I would say the biggest influences could be traced to Final Fantasy, Suikdoen, Persona, and Breath of Fire.

TK: I certainly see the Final Fantasy influence, especially in the alpha footage (above) showing the battle-system. Seems very Final Fantasy X or Dragon Quest-esque.

MG: Ya, that’s what I wanted to go for. That was just a mock-up GUI, though. The interface will be completely different once I get that going.

TK: I did feel the mock-up GUI felt a bit more Final Fantasy VII than the rest of the game does, so I figured as much. As for the battle system itself, will it stay somewhat simple and stress-free like it looks right about now, or do you have further ideas and concepts waiting to be implemented?

MG: I have some ideas, but it will remain turn based for now. This will depend on feedback during the beta, though. I’m excited to hear the feedback and ideas of the backers!

TK: I’m sure they are excited to test it as well! While on the topic of battle-systems, Soul Saga recently breached the $100,000 stretch goal for Airship Combat. Mind telling us a little about how that will play out? Normally airships are safe means of travel after all.

MG: I’m still ironing out details ,but I want to encompass something similar to Skies of Arcadia‘s system. You can choose different maneuvers,use different attacks. I’d also like to try and implement customization for the ship’s weaponry. There will be battles against giant land monsters, swarms of flying creatures, pirate ships, and a whole lot more!

TK: That sounds really cool, nice to see people that remember Skies of Arcadia. You gave a brief outline of the plot on the Kickstarter page, what works would you say have influenced your writing the most?

MG: I would say that the the games I listed have a large influence, but lately my writing style is influenced by anime series’ like One Piece, Full Metal Alchemist, and Fairy Tail.
soulsaga02TK: Alright. We’ve seen four party members so far. Mithos, Elise, Max and Taro. Is it fair to call Mithos the protagonist of the story, or is the protagonist role split amongst the characters?

MG: You’ll see some branching story lines and the focus shifting from time to time, but I think Mithos could be considered the star of the show.

TK: Now that Soul Saga will be voice acted, can we expect every bit of dialogue to be voiced or will it just be certain events and sequences?

MG: I had originally planned to voice every bit, but now with the plans to port to consoles as downloadable distribution, it would be a better idea to save on file size to be on the safe side. So right now I’m just planning on voicing major scenes (which are quite a few). So talking with a random NPC probably won’t be voiced. This will also make it easier for expanding content, since I wouldn’t be forced to go get a voice actor every single line of dialogue I want to change or append to.

TK: The game will be available on PC as well as PS4, PSVita and Wii U thanks to reaching the $80,000 stretch goal, do you have any plans to bring the game to other consoles, such as Xbox One or current-gen systems like the PS3 or the Xbox 360?

MG: I’m definitely avoiding Microsoft until they change their policies towards indies. They currently are the only 1 of the big 3 (Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo) that don’t allow for self publishing indies. I may port to the PS3, but I will need to gauge if it’s feasible for the time and money that is required to go into that. The biggest problem is that people are telling me that PS3 is not cross compatible with PS4, so it’s double the work.
soulsaga03TK: How has working with Sony and Nintendo gone so far? Would you recommend other indie developers work with them?

MG: I don’t have a lot of experience with them, but I’m under NDA with each so I can’t talk about it. But so far I think it’s been great

TK: Got it, last question. It’s about length. We’re looking at Episode 1 of Soul Saga, how long do you intend each episode to be and how many episodes have you planned?

MG: I’m hoping to get 15-20 hours into each episode. It’s a full blown game. I am also considering removing the episode title, because it is throwing people off and thinking it’s not a complete game, when in fact it is.

TK: Ah, okay. Well that sounds like good length then. Thank you for taking your time to answer my questions, I wish you the best of luck with Soul Saga, I know I can’t wait to play it myself.

MG: Thank you! And thanks for interviewing me.

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I urge everyone to check out Soul Saga on the offical Kickstarter page. It’s open until July 15th and it’s looking better by each update! Also, make sure to follow Disastercake on twitter for updates from Mike himself.

Soul Saga is set to release in July 2014 on PC, PS4, PSVita and Wii U.

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