How Teamwork and Small Lessons Helped Create Astalon
Matt Kap fills us in on how collaboration makes things better.
By Jared Petty
Something a lot of folks who enjoy playing games share is the mutual dream of creating one. We know that for most of us, it will remain a dream because deep down we suspect that while playing games is fun, making games is very hard work. And so we settle down to the deeply-fulfilling pleasures of simply enjoying and appreciating the art of games rather than trying to craft our own.
But every now and then, one among us takes a leap beyond fandom and appraisal and builds something of their own. Today’s interview with Astalon’s game designer shows us a little about what goes into making games on our own, and even more about how much an evolving appreciation for patience and working with a team adds to building something unique and wonderful.
LRG: So, who are you, and what do you do?
Matt: My name is Matt Kap, and I am the game designer, lead artist, composer, and final boss at LABS Works!
LRG: Who, or what, is LABS Works?
Matt: LABS is a game development studio that I started a few years back, mainly because I wanted to work with like-minded people to make awesome retro-inspired games! Before that, I was either freelancing or working on my projects alone. But working solo was very hard and quite lonely, so I wanted to find a small team that I could work with to make games that reached much higher than what I was able to do on my own!
Each LABS game is developed by different LABS personnel. In the case of Astalon, I worked with Jon Lepage—a great programmer who also helped with sound effects, writing, and more. I did the game design, story, art, and music. We contracted the help of Ryusuke Mita (the artist of the comic series Dragon Half) to help with key art and character design, and a few other artists like Glauber Kotaki and Wayne Kubiak to help with in-game graphics.
LRG: Tell us something about your daily routine as a game creator?
Matt: The great thing about working with a small team is that there is no daily routine. There are always tasks that need to be done, and since I wear so many hats at LABS, I can always focus on whatever I feel inspired to work on that day. I'm also a touring musician, and though I haven't been touring much with my bands in the last couple of years, I have the advantage of having a flexible schedule to make sure I can finish what I need to before I leave the computer for a few weeks!
LRG: How'd you get into this? What inspires you to create?
Matt: When I was a kid I used to “draw games” on paper by making a maze and laying out items and monsters, so I think I was always into it! The usual stuff inspires me, movies, other games, music—but I am the most inspired when I see what my favorite artists are doing. I guess that their passion for their work is kinda contagious and helps me reinvigorate my enthusiasm to work on my own projects!
LRG: What's behind the creation of Astalon? What made you specifically want to tell this story, this way?
Matt: Astalon was meant to be the start of a series of smaller games, but ended up ballooning and becoming a full-sized game by the time we were done with it. In contrast to my other game series Castle In The Darkness, Astalon was supposed to be kind of a darker story, told through the eyes of many characters over many generations! We mainly started with episode 2, Tears of the Earth, because it could work best as a stand-alone story for the time being.
LRG: For those who haven't played... what makes it fun? What are you proud of?
Matt: What I wanted to do is make a game that really gives the player a sense of exploration, discovery, and surprise. And judging from what people have been saying, we really hit the mark, and that makes me very proud. Of course, this will be the first time that one of my games gets a physical release, so I'm extremely proud and excited about that as well!
LRG: Think about when you first got started as a developer, and what you do now. What lessons have you learned along the way? What do you wish you'd known when you started out?
Matt: What I wish I had known when I started is that it takes a long time to make a good game and that it's important to accept and embrace that. Those lessons you learn along the way never end; they just keep coming, and that's for the best. I'm constantly learning and re-evaluating/re-planning everything when it comes to game development after 10 years in the industry—almost daily, even.
It took a culmination of many years of small lessons for me to finally realize that working with a team could improve what I was working on. The first fruit of that realization is Astalon: Tears of the Earth, which ended up being much better and more grand than I had planned thanks to the efforts of Jon and the rest of the team!
Limited Run Games:
is a subsidiary of “Freemode”, an operative group comprised of gaming and entertainment companies owned by Embracer. Limited Run Games is the industry leader in the production and distribution of premium physical video games. Limited Run seeks to celebrate the legacy of gaming through its award-winning collector’s editions. Founded in 2015, they have published over 1,000 physical games, exclusive merch, and collectables. Limited Run is the gold standard in bringing digital games to physical form and now re-releasing retro titles on modern platforms via their proprietary Carbon Engine. Visit limitedrungames.com for the latest offerings and to learn more about Carbon Engine development. Follow the brand on your social media platform of choice for all LRG-related updates:@limitedrungames.