I had a chat with Fevzi Özgür Nergis, one of the game designers for Macrotis, a game I recently reviewed and thoroughly enjoyed. With Macrotis being Proud Dinosaurs‘ first release, I wanted to find out what led to its development, how Proud Dinosaurs has grown as a developer since its release, and what’s in store for Proud Dinosaurs in the future.
Brenden: So, first and foremost, could I start off with an introduction to yourself?
Fevzi: As me, or Proud Dinosaurs?
Brenden: Well, we can go either way really.
Fevzi: My name is Fevzi Özgür Nergis and I am one of the game designers/writers of Proud Dinosaurs. I [didn’t] have video game dev experience before I started working on PD, but I am a game master (tabletop role play games) for like 15 years and also a dedicated video game player like since I [was] born.
Brenden: Ah nice!
I guess that was part of my first question really.
So, you had no dev experience?
Fevzi: I love creating stories, games and sharing those with my friends. So being a video game designer was kinda my life goal. I cannot explain how emotional and satisfying this is.
I wouldn’t say I don’t have [experience]. As I said I created games before, but those were not video games.
Brenden: Ah. Would you mind if I asked what kind of games?
Fevzi: Hmm. Like small board games.
Brenden: Very nice! I wanted to try making board games once upon a time, but they never really worked out, haha.
How do you feel your experiences making board games helped in creating Macrotis?
Fevzi: Not making board games but being a game master (do you know what is a game master? :D) helped me a lot. That experience taught me how I can create a story and a game which I can give the feeling I want for a player to experience.
Brenden: What board games did you grow up with? Maybe a little Dungeons & Dragons and such?
Fevzi: I played some local board games with my family. I met D&D when I was 15, and I loved it. I cannot see D&D as a board game. That is something completely different thing.
Brenden: Yeah; I didn’t mean to class D&D as a board game, haha.
As someone who is still learning, it is so much fun! What’s your favourite class?
Fevzi: We do not play classic D&D here btw. We don’t use maps or figures. Mostly we didn’t have access to them in Turkey at the time. Our games are like more role playing and imagining.
Hmm, my favorite class… That’s a very hard question.
I love playing tanky characters and using a shield but I also love playing am intelligent mage.
Brenden: Nice! I’m more of a Bard guy myself.
Fevzi: I can see that.
Brenden: Haha! So, first proper question I suppose; What were some of the ideas and themes behind creating Macrotis? and what was your favourite thing about creating the game?
Fevzi: There were some crazy ideas. At some point we were creating a game in which our main character was a psychopath bunny and there was a lot of gore and dying and enemies, etc.
XD It was completely the opposite of Macrotis.
Brenden: Really? Why the sudden change to a more family friendly game?
Fevzi: It was our fist game as you know. During the development we saw that we could not implement the mechanics we wanted at the given time (that time was our own dead line).
With each mechanic we removed we had to add something to make the game whole and fun to play, so it evolved itself.
I have to admit this; at some point we had removed our main mechanic from the game. I opened the D&D Spell Book and checked the spells which we can use as a mechanic.
We came up with idea of a magical form that way.
Brenden: Yeah, that mechanic was pretty cool to use. What was the original mechanic?
Fevzi: I don’t want to spoil it too much. We may use it in the future. We still have some of our puzzles with that mechanic.
Brenden: Ah! I can’t wait until you guys release your next game then! How long was the development time?
Fevzi: Two-and-a-half years.
But I have to clarify this, our next game wont be a puzzle platformer probably.
We want to make something different.
Brenden: Ooh, what genre are you guys aiming for? Like more of an action game or something?
Fevzi: It is still very very on early stages and can change any time, but yeah, there is more action this time.
Brenden: Nice! I can’t wait to play it.
So, as an Aussie myself, can I ask, why did you guys go with a bilby as the main character?
Fevzi: We wanted something original.
We needed an animal which can live underground. We researched a lot
and come up with three animals at the end: jerboa, bilby and shrew.
Shrew are kinda predators and we wouldn’t make an action game so we eliminated them.
As jerboas jump a lot (like 1 – 2 meters), it would be inconsistent with the game, so actually bilbies were the only good option for us. Then we learned that they are endangered.
That was another reason for us. Maybe we could rise some awareness of them.
we actually wrote a dev blog [about] why we choose them as our main character.
Brenden: Yeah, I read that a while back. It was cool to find out how the bilby was chosen.
I have to say though – if you remember from my playthrough – I loved the fact it was a bilby ’cause it made the game a little more sympathetic; a mum looking for her lost children and all that; a simple premise that worked so well.
Fevzi: Yes I remember 🙂
It was also cool for us to watch you playing the game.
Brenden: Haha, thanks! Even though puzzle games aren’t really my thing, I really enjoyed it! And also the written story parts at the end were a lot darker than I realised! Was that a part of the original idea?
We wrote them before and wanted to use them [as] we created a world for Macrotis.
With its rules and story, there are lots of things we wrote [and] planned but never used on the game.
It is kinda our thing as the designer team. Both Berk and I loves to create solid worlds.
Even [if] we wont use it ever [again], we wrote how the magic works in Macrotis‘s world.
Brenden: It is a shame it wasn’t used. Personally I like a fleshed out world in a game, so that would have been awesome to read into.
Fevzi: Yeah, but Macrotis wasn’t a game for that much info. It is a mother’s journey at the end.
We want to make an RPG game at one point. Maybe we can wrote that much info at that time.
Brenden: Was it always the idea to have magic in the game – not as a game mechanic, but as a part of the world of Macrotis?
Fevzi: Yes it was. Even with the gore game we wanted to make something magical in the game.
Brenden: Were you planning to make it a big focus on the game as it evolved?
Fevzi: No. We always focused on the gameplay and the story.
Brenden: How have people reacted to the game up until now? And obviously, how has that made you guys feel, as a team?
Fevzi: It really made us proud, [but] we couldn’t reach a lot of people though.
Nearly all of the streamers I encounter on Twitch loved the game.
Most of them cried at the end.
Brenden: Haha! I’m glad I wasn’t the only one XD
Fevzi: You wouldn’t believe who cried.
That was… I don’t know. Btw even in Turkish I cannot explain my feelings.
That was… awesome.
Very, very emotional for us.
I sometimes cried with the streamers.
We were nominated for the best indie game on The Digital Dragons btw.
We didn’t take the award though.
Brenden: Oh nice! That’s a pretty big achievement for a first game!
Brenden: I have to say, it’s nice when you can share a moment like that with a creator of something like that. As a player, it makes me feel like I have an attachment to the game that ties into my enjoyment, which is a great thing.
Fevzi: Thank you.
I have to add something. We talked about how you liked the game, how awesome we are.
We even nominated for the best indie!
But – and there is a big but – we made lots of mistakes too.
Brenden: That does tie into my next question actually:
What were some of the bigger challenges you guys faced while creating the game?
Fevzi: More than being its our first game?
With Macrotis, we learned how to make a videogame.
Actually the biggest challenge is that we wanted to create a game which is hard and old school. People don’t play these games nowadays.
It is really hard to reach people, and as I said we made mistakes.
The biggest one is we introduced our main mechanic at the second chapter.
We wanted to create a good tutorial sequence while not making the player feel like it is a tutorial,
which is our first chapter actually.
Brenden: I didn’t find it to be out of place when I played it.
Fevzi: Most of the players who didn’t like the game are the ones who didnt finished the first chapter.
People thought that Macrotis is a regular puzzle platform with no unique sides.
Brenden: I gotta say, it was nice to see the mechanics evolve with each chapter.
Fevzi: Yes, but we had to give magical form early.
Brenden: So I’m assuming you wanted to make a longer, more in-depth game?
When we first designed the game there were nine chapters with more side characters and even main characters.
Damn, I was gonna give a big spoiler.
Brenden: Haha! Almost let that one slip hahaha.
How have you guys grown as a developer since Macrotis was released?
Fevzi: We know what we can do; what our team can do.
And we know how long will it take to create a game now.
I hope this was the answer you were looking for XD
As I said before, we made big mistakes and now know what we should do.
We started marketing very late, etc.
Brenden: Its definitely a learning experience, for sure.
I saw some of the promotional material from Twitter and such.
I saw you guys had booths at a few conventions. How did that feel?
Fevzi: Ah yes.
We selected to be on Respawn at 2017 Gamescon, we selected to be on indie arena booth at Gamescon 2018.
We also went to our local expo’s in Turkey. It was very exciting.
We couldn’t sleep before the days of announcements of the selected titles on Gamescom.
It really made us [as] proud as our name.
I couldn’t believe [it at] first. This is our first game and our Digital Dragons which is a polish event.
Brenden: I’m sure that would have been awesome to experience for both you and the team!
Any plans on going bigger for the next game?
This time we will get the reward; not just be a nominee.
Brenden: I know you don’t wanna give too much away now, but how far do you think you guys are into development for your next game?
Fevzi: Very early stage.
Our development team hasn’t started coding. The art team’s just made a few concepts, but the design team’s [been] working on the game [for] like two months now.
That was also a mistake for Macrotis; all the departments started to the project at the same time,
so we had to wait for each other. The art team waited for our decisions to make the characters or the 3D objects in the environment. The development team waited [for] the art team to create the character and we waited [for] the development team to test our puzzles on Unity, etc.
Brenden: So I guess you guys are taking a little more time to make sure everything goes smoother?
Fevzi: Yes and no. While we are working on the big project, other members of our team are working on small mobile projects. When the design team is ready, other departments will join the big project also.
Brenden: So I gotta ask:
What’s the big dream game for Proud Dinosaurs at this stage?
Fevzi: An rpg game With lots of choices and characters.
Actually that’s my big dream. Everyone wants to create something different, but we all agreed on making a game with which we would be proud.
Brenden: One thing I absolutely loved about the game was its beautiful art style. How did you guys come up with a mix of beautiful underground caverns, then having the big underground city?
Fevzi: I think on a leveled game, every chapter has to be different from each other. That’s what it means to be chapter you know. You can give a new mechanic, or you can change the environment.
We wanted to give both of these to the player so they could feel the progress they made and also the story progress with every chapter.
I don’t want to spoil it too much, but I think you asked how we come up the idea of the different environment?
Brenden: So I guess it was more of a progression thing, to tie in with the player progressing. I have to say it’s a very visually stunning game.
Fevzi: Thank you so much. Yes it was.
We also wanted to introduce mechanical puzzles, and what is better than an abandoned old underground city with lots of traps?
Brenden: Very true!
How long did it take you to come up with each puzzle?
Fevzi: From one hour to one month, and it was very inconsistent.
We made some easy puzzles over a very long time and some hard puzzles over a very, very short time. We didn’t want to overuse our puzzle mechanics, so it was very challenging for us to create different puzzles each time.
Brenden: I found they were very varied.
Which puzzle mechanic was your favourite?
Fevzi: Magical form of course.
But my favorite puzzle is the one with two elevators in the third chapter.
Brenden: Ohhh, that one took me a while.
Fevzi: We created that puzzle in four hours maybe, and it was the last puzzle we designed btw.
I think that’s why it was hard.
Brenden: I also have to ask:
How many puzzle concepts were there? Did you end up using all your ideas?
Fevzi: There are forty-six puzzle rooms.
We mixed our ideas around.
Some of them are tutorial puzzles of course, and we didn’t use our all ideas.
We even still have some ideas that we never used in the game.
I think there are twelve concepts in the game? Maybe more.
But some of them don’t work without others. They’d be be meaningless otherwise.
Brenden: I also wanna discuss that beautiful soundtrack as well. I even had one of my viewers asking where they could buy it from.
Fevzi: It is on YouTube right now. They can listen there.
Imp Media created our music and we are very happy that we worked with them.
They really made our game better ^^
Brenden: It does suit the game very well.
How long did it take before you found the right composers?
Fevzi: No time. We’ve known them for a while. They are our real life friends.
They made some demos for us and we loved them.
Now, I’m kinda stumped for questions at this point, haha.
You can ask for the voice overs and I will answer that.
We didn’t search for them; they reached [out to] us. We wanted some demos and and liked their voices! Both Mallory and Andy were perfect.
Brenden: Yeah, they fit their characters so well.
Any plans for any ports? To be honest, I would love to see it on The Switch.
Fevzi: Actually the Mac port is kinda ready and I hope it will be around in a few days.
About other platforms; we are working to release Macrotis on them, and you can be sure that we would love to see our game on consoles. Especially on Switch. Everyone says that our game should be on Switch.
Brenden: That might also answer my next question, haha.
Which console do you imagine would Macrotis suit the most?
Fevzi: All of them. But Switch would be slightly better I guess.
Brenden: When can we expect the Mac port to be released?
Fevzi: Very soon.
Brenden: Okay! I think that’s almost everything I needed to cover.
Got anything else that I might have missed, or that you’d like to talk about?
Fevzi: It was my pleasure.
I hope bilbies won’t be endangered soon. We love them.
Brenden: Am glad! We’re still working on a few things to keep them safe.
Fevzi: I am following Save the Bilby Foundation. They are working really well.
Brenden: They do some great work.
Thanks dude! It was a pleasure interviewing you! I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with next!
Macrotis: A Mother’s Journey is available here.