Mario Castañeda is the talented artist behind indie gem, The Bridge, among other games. Chris Jennewein is a game programmer with experience on PC, XBLA, and mobile. Together they are the two halves that make up Prismatic Games.

[Smosh Games has a pretty good review of The Bridge, if you want to get a sense of the quality of art and gameplay design that Mario brings to the table.]

Their first game together will be Hex Heroes, an exclusive real-time strategy game for the Wii U. Here are some of the most important highlights of the game.

An RTS with Unlimited Possibilities

One player gets to be the commander, making executive decisions, managing resourcces, and surveying the broad map from a god-like GamePad bird’s eye view. The other players choose different classes that will give them unique abilities, and they will go directly onto the map, with an individual point of view, in order to build up their city, fortify it, explore dangerous new territories, and fight off enemies.

When you join a game, you start off by choosing two of eight skills (called classes) that create a unique combination in what each player brings to the table as an asset to his team. For example, if you like stealth and range as pair, you can go with the Rogue/Archer combo. If you want to be well-rounded you\’ll go Woodcutter/Knight. Want to be a support player? Be a Woodcutter/Scout instead. With four different players choosing their combinations and then joining together as a team, each game will have its own strategical way to win.

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Only Possible on Wii U

It is Assymetrical gameplay at its finest. This game could only have been made on the Wii U. Between the executive management of the GamePad-wielding player and the four-player split-screen cooperation of four unique individual characters, there will have to be incredible communication and a team effort to win. In its current development stage, it already has become apparent that very often chaos ensues from all the shenanigans of having 5 people try to coordinate with each other. It becomes an obvious choice for parties. And when have you last heard of an RTS being the life of a party?

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Visuals: A Living Board Game. Audio: Grant Kirkhope.

The visual style of the game was specifically chosen by talented artist, Mario Castañeda. His first game, The Bridge, won the 2012 Indie Game Challenge award for Achievement in Art Direction and Achievement in Gameplay. He continues his artistic vision with Hex Heroes. While simple in complexity, the visuals are meant to give off the feeling of being inside a strategy board game. One player will have the bird’s-eye-view of the board game map, while the others will look like little figuring pieces in a board game. In a sense, you will feel the nostalgia of being a kid, playing with toys and board games.

Another big draw will be the composer: Grant Kirkhope will be making the soundtrack. Yes, THE Grant Kirkhope of Rareware’s glory days, and more recently Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning.

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Kickstarter Campaign in the Works

Prismatic Games will soon begin their Kickstarter campain to fund the making of Hex Heroes. They will be relying on Nintendo fans to pull through on their behalf and make Hex Heroes a reality. There will be many opportunities for backers to get involved in the development process of the game, such as deciding on new classes and skills for in-game characters.

The Kickstarter campaign will hopefully begin on March 25th, 2014.

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How Hex Heroes came to be

In a recap after Game Jam, Prismatic Games shared their dreams of making a Wii U game:

\”Game jams last 48 hours and developers can use any tools to create a game. Although we’re given a theme at the start, we had already been planning the game the week before.

 Before the jam, we knew we wanted to make a Wii U game. There was just so much potential to create something innovative, even in just a weekend. Being fans of Nintendoland, we wanted to expand on the party genre in a more complex way, with one player on the gamepad and a four-player split screen on the TV. Eventually, we decided on making a cassic RTS game, using Warcraft and Age of Empires as inspiration, among other games.

The first step in planning for a game jam is identifying your resources. This doesn’t mean just the game engine and software we plan to use, but our own personal skills. With a part time animator and only 48 hours, our art had to feel complete with minimal animation. As a result, we decided on a board game look and feel, where the characters would be on wooden bases and the terrain would be made of hexagons.

We coaxed a couple of friends of ours to help us during the game jam. In the end, the art team was comprised of a building modeler, an animator, and Mario, who modeled characters. Two programmers helped on AI and player actions. and I programmed the gamepad and UI. By the end of the jam, we had a small demo that controlled all four players at once as they chopped trees and battled wolves and the gamepad view that could scroll over the action and place buildings on the terrain. There wasn’t much of a goal or a semblance of a level, but the assets were there and the audience could see our ultimate aim. We took home “most innovative concept” and that was a win for us.

In planning our game before the jam, we sacrificed any real way to incorporate the jam’s theme in a meaningful way. “Ascension”, the theme of the gamejam, became nothing more than the working title. After a couple months of bouncing names back and forth, we decided on something we thought sounded whimsical and worked with the theme. Mario’s obsession with alliteration bred the name “Hex Heroes”. The name both referred to the aesthetic of the game, and to the plot he had in mind, where a hex had befallen the land you fight to save.

In the following weeks, we met often to plan out our next steps and prioritize the work ahead of us. During one of these meetings we decided to make it our mission to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, marrying the social experience of local play with the core experience of an RTS. This mash up of two genres invoked Mario’s revelation of the ‘paRTS’ (par-tee-ess). Like most puns, it was worthy of facepalm, but we had to use it.

We’re giving it our all to make Hex Heroes a must-have for Wii U owners.  We can’t wait to start showing off the game and the progress that we’ve made so far. We have big plans and lots of work to do!\”

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