Nintendo Enthusiast: First, please introduce yourself, and PawByte. How did PawByte come to be?
Nathan Hurde: Hello, thank you for the interview. I’m Nathan Hurde the Founder, Project Leader and main Designer and Programmer at PawByte. PawByte came to be while I was in college when I decided it was time to go indie. The name itself is named after my dog who died many years ago named Paw. The Byte was just an add-on to the studio name to make sure people know we are pretty technical and it was also a play on words with “bite.” Don’t worry, we aren’t furries. Currently, my mom just got two awesome puppies and I plan to incorporate them into PawByte somehow as well.
NE: What type of games are you interested in developing?
NH: PawByte is what we envision indie to be. So what are we developing? On the books we have Agriduel, Command Throne, a secret project titled UCBL and Agent AAA. We are simultaneously developing Agriduel and Command Throne while awaiting to begin UCBL and Agent AAA development later this year. All of these games are coming to the Wii U with Command Throne and Agriduel being Nintendo console exclusives due to the awesomeness of the touch screen on the GamePad and 3DS.
NE: There’s a lot of middleware to choose from. Why go to the trouble of developing your own Wii U engine?
NH: Middleware tools are great, but I personally dislike many of the editors for them. Another thing I noticed was many middleware tools have a lot of overhead and MOST of the popular ones being closed source. The new Unreal Engine is, of course, open source, but it does not run on the Wii U (allegedly, at least). The Wii U has some great middleware tools already like Impact, Construct 2 and Unity but they all have their pros and cons. With our tool we aim to take the best traits of the middleware tools we know of and attach to it with more console-preferable optimizations and features.
NE: To a layman, describe what GamePencil really does (rendering, physics, animation, AI), and what its strong suit is intended to be.
NH: First, I will like to say, “hello layiety.” The Game Pencil Engine is a tool that is used to make games. So for anyone out there wondering how the process works, it goes like this. Art is created in MS Paint, Photoshop, etc. and imported into the Game Pencil Engine. Audio and Fonts the same way, as well. Users take those resources and build an “engine” from that to make cross-platform games.
The editors people will find themselves making most of the magic happen in the script, object and scene editors. Scripts are self-run codes that happen whenever the user chooses. Objects are methodical beings which contain properties aka variables as well as scripts to execute all sorts of logic, collision and rendering calls. Scenes also have a small amount of properties, but their main attributes are that they contain objects, tiles (clipped tilesheets) and more.
NE: What sorts of games do you intend to make with GamePencil? Strictly 2D sidescrolling, overhead 2D, 3D?
NH: The Game Pencil Engine will be at least PawByte’s end-all-be-all for all of our 2D and hopefully 2.5 and maybe one day 3D games. PawByte plans to make overhead games (Command Throne and Agent AAA), sidescrolling (Agriduel) and more via the engine. With the engine being a publicly free engine people can choose what they want to do, as well. In hindsight I kind of regret not starting Command Throne before Agriduel since I hope no one thinks this editor’s first commercial game is the end-all-be-all of the engine.
NE: Agriduel seems to be the first game in the pipeline. How did it come to be, and how far along are you?
NH: Agriduel came about by my love for farming games and in the days where social farming games were super lackluster I decided to build my own niche farming game to be fully dramatic, action packed and full of exploration, as well as strategic farming.
Agriduel was previously prototyped in Game Maker 8.1 and later a pure C/C++ engine. In terms of its Wii U port, it is dependent on the completion of the Game Pencil Engine. The Game Pencil Engine will be fully featured by the end of May. In terms of art, most of the game’s art is done with the exception of the new player animations since I made the decision to allow the player to be fully customizable instead of the original design of Daniel Peter. The story and level designs are also already fully fleshed out.
NE: Please describe Agriduel’s gameplay (for those unfamiliar with Harvest Moon and its ilk). What will be its defining feature?
NH: Agriduel is a game where the player is given a farm to manage (see upcoming E3 2015 trailer in June for how) and you are tasked with planting seeds, nurturing them to harvest as well raising farm animals. That is how the player levels up his skills along with many mini-games and side-quests he can choose to embark on. As a non-married person you can also go around in search of a new spouse and form a marriage and later have kids. Kids, like in Fire Emblem: Awakening, will be very important in this game, too (especially for replay value). The defining feature of Agriduel is the concept of nearby rival farmers and evil organizations. Interactions with these groups is the main way the main-quest and story progresses. You will be given a concrete story in which you can actually fail. In most farming games, there was a laissez faire approach to how fast the player can make good harvests, but you can actually get a Game Over screen pretty quick to keep players on their feet.
NE: Will you be using the GamePad’s touch screen?
NH: The GamePad’s current use is off-TV play, however we plan to incorporate dual-screen play for multiplayer, as well as inventory management, minigames and an experimental player thought message randomly displayed on the screen.
NE: What challenges does the Wii U hardware present?
NH: The Wii U hardware has not been difficult for us to develop for. To be honest, I often roll my eyes when I hear some developer saying the Wii U was too weak to make their game for. Now, before I come off as a condescending twerp, I only do this in cases where a game is 2D, since I don’t have the Unity3D pro skills yet or a 3D engine to run within the Game Pencil Engine. The Wii U helped teach me that I had some bad coding logic in some areas. I cannot go into too much detail, but I did a lot of things wrong as a game developer until I started Wii U development.
NE: Lastly, any future projects you can hip us to?
NH: Well, a few months ago we conducted a survey of what game genres players will want to play on the Wii U. With 996 people who voted, 60% choose Horror Survival. So, that is a game we will look forward to making in 2016. For now we have so many hats and things on our plate – Agriduel and Command Throne will dominate most of 2015 development as well as a polished free and open source Game Pencil Engine. If Agriduel does extremely well a sports game with free yearly DLC for roster upgrades may also be developed for 2016.
Many thanks to Nathan for taking the time for this interview. Hopefully we can talk again soon about Agriduel’s development.