"I was a solo developer with very limited time, so I had to work fast anyway. Even though that was somewhat disappointing, I recall the insanely amount of work I had to do, such as drawing it all up in one shot!"- Gino
We are pleased to have an interview with Mr. Gino, the developer of the Japanese mobile game "SOULVARS". It is a very popular game application that recently ranked in the top 10 in App Store sales ranking alongside Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. I would like to hear about the secret story behind the development of your work. Nice to meet you!
Thank you. My name is Gino, a solo game developer. Nice to meet you today!
First of all, I'd like to start off by asking you about the JRPG action game "SOULVARS," which was released on January 8, 2022 on the App Store and Google Play. Could you give us a brief introduction?
"SOULVARS" is a deck-building JRPG with dynamic pixel art animation and a hard-boiled story set in modern times. Despite its deep strategic nature, players can enjoy simple and exhilarating battles, training, and dungeon exploration with vertically held smartphone controls. Unlike the solo rogue-like deck-building games that have become mainstream in recent years, you can enjoy party battles consisting of up to three characters, and the game follows a royal JRPG style with story-based progression.
The best part is the original, fast-paced deck battles that take place! It is very good to select different types of cards (soul bits) and have a quick battle. It really makes you feel that a lot of trial and error went into the development of this sophisticated battle system in game programming. How long did it take you to develop the battle system alone?
The total development period was about three years, but the most important part, the battle system, took about a year of repeated scrap-and-build. I was making adjustments right up until the very last minute before release, so I continued to work on the battle system from the beginning to the very end of development. Especially in the battle system, there were many more elements we wanted to include. While it was very interesting to work on the implementation of these ideas as they came to us during development, we could not see the end in sight, so we had to drop many of the specifications in tears.
Maybe that happens a lot. I am also very interested in the elements of the battle system that were rejected. The movement and quality of the pixels of the characters is also cool, as it really unifies the world view. The user interface also uses a unique yellow color, and you adopted an original pixel font. I think it is still rare for an indie game to use original fonts, but what were you particular about?
I had always wanted to try my hand at making the dots work interactively, which I started out doing as a hobby, so I naturally improved little by little as I drew the necessary graphics while developing the game. I am ashamed to admit that the backgrounds are quite messy, but I think I was able to create a general sense of the world.
Game programs were created mainly in the hours before going to bed at night, sitting at my desk. I would often draw graphics while soaking in the bathwater (with my phone in a Ziploc) and then continue with the graphics before going to bed or on the train ride. I would also fine-tune the graphics (adjust one more pixel, etc.) each time I was in the middle of creating a game program. I was a solo developer with very limited time, so I had to work fast anyway. Even if that was somewhat disappointing, I recall the insanely amount of work I had to do, such as drawing it all up in one shot!
To be honest, I was also inexperienced in building user interfaces for games, and since I was somewhat designing them, I personally recognized that they were not very good, as there was not much sense of unity except for the colors. Whenever I come into contact with the UI of commercial games and products on a daily basis, I realize that the work of professional UI designers is great.
I had wanted to use a pixel font since the beginning of development, but we couldn't find the best one. And then I saw a font by Hicc on Twitter that matched this work perfectly, so I decided to use it. Sadly, My skill level does not allow me to set up the pixel mapping beautifully, but even so, I think you have played a very important role in creating the overall atmosphere of the work.
Hicc's website http://www17.plala.or.jp/xxxxxxx/00ff/
You work stoically! I also compose music in my home studio, but sometimes artistic ideas come to me while I am taking a shower. As I recall, Joe Hisaishi, the Japanese famous composer of Studio Ghibli, had the same approach. I know that many people, including myself, work in libraries and cafes, but it must be rare to find people who work on pixel graphics even on the train. It is wonderful that you are making effective use of your time. And if you come to Japan on a trip, try drawing graphics while riding a Japanese train :D
And in fact, Our Game Music Pack are used in every play scene in "SOULVARS"! How did you come to know about SOUND AIRYLUVS collection of Music Albums and how did you decide to incorporate them into all scenes?
When I was looking for music assets in the UnityAssetStore, I listened to a variety of music and compared them, but there were few music assets that fit the worldview of a modern society like this work, and I had the impression that they were generally biased toward fantasy or cyberpunk. So I had the impression that we could coordinate the music with the worldview of this work with a sense of unity in terms of both the quality of the music and the number of options available, so we decided to use SOUND AIRYLUVS' music albums for all the scenes. Even the techno music of EDM and cyberpunk had emotional melodies, all of which matched the worldview I wanted to produce.
Maybe everyone who uses your music thinks so, but I feel like it is fate, and I even have the illusion that all music was originally written for my work. However, some game players actually tell me that, so maybe it is not an illusion lol
Thanks for your very nice comments. My favorite scene is the ordinary battle theme "Eyes on Darkness"! I released this song a long time ago, but it wasn't very popular on social medias when I first released it, and I was shocked that people didn't recognize it, even though I worked pretty hard on it... but it was used a lot in the game! This made me very happy.
This game tells the story of "Soul Bearers", those with a special destiny and abilities, who complete difficult tasks in dry relationships with their friends. "Eyes on Darkness" seems to have a cool intro part, an anxious verse, and an emotional chorus, all of which match the game very well. So this song has become "Soul Bearer's Theme" in my mind. In my opinion, a piece of music is naturally valuable in itself. However, I think that with a music asset, combined with the narrative and visual presentation of the various game productions, the greatness of the song is multiplied many times over. I think it's one of the best songs ever and In fact, it's very popular among my game players!
Wow I see... I'm learning a lot! I am very impressed that you have chosen the background music with that much consideration.
Many music tracks from "Vol. 9 Stealth Code Sci-Fi Game Music" and "Vol. 11 CYAN TRIBE 2097 Game Music" were used to match the near-future worldview of the game. For the scenes of movement on the map, "Sonar," "Anonymous," and "Savage Junkies" were used. I thought it would be really difficult to use this music, especially "Savage Junkies," but I found it fits very well.
I think I've listened to almost every piece of music you've produced.
Especially "Stealth Code Sci-Fi Game Music" and "CYAN TRIBE 2097 Game Music" are very useful because many of them fit the world view of this work. "Stealth Code Sci-Fi Game Music" is perfect for this work, which is set in the modern, and "CYAN TRIBE 2097 Game Music" is cyberpunk style, but the modern world of this work also has some futuristic elements, so some of the songs were a good enough fit.
The music track "Sonar," which is used in the situation of exploring the field, seemed to fit well in the scene of wandering and exploring in the devastated cityscape, as the name of the song suggests. It was probably the first song we decided to use.
"Savage Junkies" created a sense of tension that was perfect for the hard dungeon exploration. The dungeons in this work are made of reinforced concrete buildings, the high pitched sound of this song, which evokes the sound of metal, was perfect for the dungeons. And "Anonymous" was a good fit for the process of getting closer to the truth at the end of the story. Perhaps there were better choices after listening to more of the other albums, but I am happy with the unity of them.
I don't know if I should say this because it would be a spoiler, but I really laughed when the highway gate battle suddenly started. "Too sudden!" was the first response. and "Perfect use for Dark Engel 2097!". Isn't that a really cool way to start?
The intro of "Dark Engel 2097" seems to have fit perfectly with the sudden throwaway effect, so if you thought so, it was a great success. I thought it was one of the coolest in "CYAN TRIBE 2097 Game Music" and definitely wanted to use it somewhere, and I'm glad I found the perfect use for it!
Thank you! We hope that our supporters will enjoy playing "SOULVARS", which offers both a challenging combat system and a JRPG story! Finally, could you tell me as much as you can about your own future prospects for game development and for those who are new to game development?
This is the first game work I have released to the world, so I can't speak too highly of it...I have already mentioned the background of coordinating the music with the game, but in fact, I look back and think that the music was often a guidepost for the worldview and story.
I remember that listening to songs helped me to break through when development was delayed because the direction were not decided. When game development is not going well, it is good to listen to various songs and adjust the scenario and direction.
While this may not apply to mega-production, many individual developers will either create their own music, spend money to order custom music, or use background music assets. Those assets already have different worldview and we listen and use them in our own game productions. The worldview that music has helps us develop. This is a special right of the solo game developers.
I can't say much about my own future plans yet, but I hope that more people will enjoy this game. Also I am preparing for the sequel and will do my best to release. As development tools become more sophisticated and simplified, I believe that indie game development will become even more active in the future. The demand for royalty-free music albums will increase so please keep up the great music!
Thank you very much. I will do my best! And thank you very much for everyone!
Apple Store (iOS): https://apps.apple.com/app/soulvars/i...
Google Play (Android): https://play.google.com/store/apps/de...
Release date (Japan): 2022, January 8th
Release date of the English version: 2022, April 17th