Haque is one of those Roguelike things everyone has been shitting themselves about for the last few years. Well, not like them like them, as most of the recent ones have concerned themselves almost exclusively with creating a 16 bit aesthetic. In case you’re not familiar, Rogue was the original Roguelike, it’s less than a megabyte in size and it looks a bit like this:
Haque does hark back to those old roots, of cleverly used minimalist aesthetics to evoke the imagination, which are then combined with a healthy amount of modern game design and, in my own opinion, it all looks rather lovely. Most importantly though, I want to play it so you should throw some money at its Kickstarter page (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1507109559/haque) or I’ll sulk. Haque’s creator, a cuddly looking, bearded man named Kevin B. Cole along with his fledgling indie studio, Supertry - which in fairness appears to be just him with some help from a few musicians and artists, you can check them out here: http://supertry.itch.io/. Kevin was kind enough to answer a few of my irreverent questions:
HRG: What're the influences of the game? I guess the obvious one is Rogue/Hack/Nethack.
KC: Nethack was a huge influence on Haque! I played a lot of that and a PS1 Roguelike called Azure Dreams growing up, and those were about it until Dwarf Fortress rekindled my love for minimalist graphics in college. I love how ASCII art games work your imagination like books do and I tried to find a middle ground for that in Haque. Something expressive that also provokes your imagination.
A lot of my inspiration for mechanics comes from JRPGs. Final Fantasy X's battle system had some cool quirks. First generation Pokémon has this elegance to it that's worth studying. Keeping things deep but understandable is really important for me. The storytelling of Dark Souls is another big influence, but I'm pretty sure every game steals a bit from Dark Souls these days.
I also just finished Undertale, and, man, how could anyone not be influenced and inspired by that game? So smart, so charming.
HRG: Your previous game, Project Maiden was graphically quite a bit more complex than Haque, has it been difficult making something so deliberately limited while still keeping the feel you wanted?
KC: I actually find the graphical constraints to be extremely helpful! All the character and item sprites are twelve pixels by twelve pixels which gives me just enough space to make something expressive but doesn't take a super long time to go from idea to finished sprite.
I'm also trying my hand at user interface stuff for more or less the first time (Project Maiden had extremely limited UI) and keeping numbers small and colours limited has been great for learning.
HRG: Do you have a rough release date, providing the Kickstarter works out?
KC: I'd like to take ten months to a year to make Haque. I thought Project Maiden would take a year and it ended up taking two, but I had never made a game before and I had to learn many, many things the hard way. I'm a slightly wiser game developer now and I have a few scars to remind me to keep my scope in check, so I think Haque has a better chance of being on time.
So if everything works out with the Kickstarter, look for Haque Fall 2016!
HRG: You seem pretty enthusiastic to get this done and you're not exactly asking for the world in terms of funding, do you think you'll manage without Kickstarter if it doesn't work out?
KC: Unfortunately, no. Making games is my full-time job and if the Kickstarter doesn't work out I have to find something else to exchange for food and beat back student loans. So the low goal is because I don't tend to spend too much money (I'm usually working), I already own most of the equipment I need, and I really, really want the project to succeed.
If the worst happened I'm not saying never for Haque but it's hard to work another job and program, design, and make art for the game at the same time. I love making games and Haque is a blast to work on, so that's where the enthusiasm comes from, but there's also a little bit of desperation in there too.
HRG: Are you planning various difficulty levels?
KC: In a way! I'm a big fan of challenge-running games and I like games that give you special limitations to work with for difficulty instead of easy, medium, or hard. XCOM's Second Wave system had some special rules you could toggle to make the game harder so I think Haque can try and take that a step further.
I think lot of the replayability in Haque will come from players seeing how far they can get with optional challenges against them.
HRG: Obviously it's a bit difficult to quantify in a Roguelike, but how long would you say it might take to finish the game?
KC: It's a bit early to say, but I'd like Haque to be beatable within a weekend of dedicated play. There will certainly be lots of reason to replay and challenge yourself but people who want to play a challenging game, hear a cool story, and go back to their lives are being kept in mind.
HRG: On the Kickstarter, you can pick up the game for a pledge of $15, will this be the final pricing once the game is finished?
KC: Not sure! Project Maiden is free so I'm not the expert on pricing stuff. $15 seemed fair so I went with that for the Kickstarter but it will probably be in the $15 range when it releases.
HRG: Finally, is that an IBM Model M I hear in your trailer?
KC: Haha! That would be my ancient mechanical keyboard from the early 2000s but I was going for the Model M sound! I put the mic up close and really hammered down on those keys. Unfortunately that's my only Keyboard and I semi-busted the spacebar so I gotta replace it if the Kickstarter budget allows!
That won't be the last you hear of that Keyboard though! I'm trying to evoke a bunch of 80s/90s computer feelings. If I can figure out how to reproduce the monitor degaussing effect I'm doing it.
There are only eighteen days to go (at the time of writing), so you’d better get your skates on. Oh, and if you want a quick look at Supertry’s previous work, check out the charming Project Maiden here: http://supertry.itch.io/projectmaiden