A couple weeks ago, a new Kickstarter campaign launched for a classic-inspired adventure game called A Wizard’s Day. The game is the first solo project by game developer Michael S. Tonder, who was inspired to make the game after playing the cult hit Solstice. After two weeks of campaigning, the momentum has slowed, so Nintendo Enthusiast wanted to reach out to Michael to find out more about the game and the plans he has in place for the Wii U, as well as those in the instance that the campaign doesn’t meet its base goal.
Who exactly is Michael S. Tonder? Can you give us an idea of what type of gamer you are?
Well, I grew up with Nintendo systems in the home, NES and SNES being the ones that took the majority of my childhood. I also had my father’s PC, which gave me access to a whole other side of gaming. Friends had other systems, such as the TG-16 and Sega, so I’d get to play those when I was over at their houses. I didn’t really miss out on much. When the N64 came along, I was able to afford multiple systems.
Since Nintendo systems have always been in my home and the ones I just had to get right away, I guess GameCube would be the system I’m most fond of when looking back. I just really liked the games it had, though I also have very found memories of PC gaming. As far as games, there’s too many I like. If I had to pick some? Let’s see — SMB3, Castlevania 3, Ninja Gaiden 2, Monkey Island 2, King’s Quest 5, Yoshi’s Island, GoldenEye, Banjo-Kazooie, Metroid Prime, RE 2, RE 4, REmake, F-Zero GX, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Fallout 3, SOTN, Super Monkey Ball, Dark Souls — I mean, there’s a lot of ‘em. I could go on, but these are just a few that had really taken my attention. Not only that, but they have inspired me in multiple ways. Games like Monkey Island 2, Yoshi’s Island, and Metroid Prime have really influenced me as an artist. Playing a game was like taking a class I didn’t know I was taking.
That’s quite a mix. Have you developed any of your own games before?
I’ve been part of a team that has worked on games, but I’ve never released any that I’ve made on my own.
What is your debut game, A Wizard’s Day, about and how long has it been in development?
The entire project, from concept to now, has been two years. The game has gone through three iterations, with the last one bringing considerable change.
I’ve always had a certain look in mind when I first started: something fun and colorful with a good touch of cartoon. I wanted a modern-day-looking Solstice with my own personality added. Although I had a main style, I went through multiple versions of that style, playing with color, detail, and complexity. At one point, I tried for a pixel art look on polygon objects, but it just wasn’t working well. Plus, making pixel art textures for everything took too long for less than acceptable results. The style you see now is the final look and I’m pretty happy with it.
You mentioned a lot of games just now, but was there any other inspiration behind the game?
I wanted to do something fairly simple in design, something that had enough challenge for me to learn Unity, but also, something that wouldn’t be too overbearing. I was really interested in making an adventure game, an old school-type game, and remembered the NES game Solstice. I felt it was a good template to start with. I liked having a wizard, and I liked the gameplay and style that it could bring.
The story is fairly straightforward: an evil wizard casts a spell and you’re the only one who can take care of it. Though there are little details about it, that’s what it is in a nutshell. I plan to inject a little humor in the dialogue and with how the main characters behave, so it’s not going to be that serious of a game with a storyline or anything. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel with this game. I want to provide a fun and challenging experience that reminds you of the days of old. Expect to think about what you need to do next to be able to continue on. You might even get stuck on occasion!
What kind of variety, scale, and difficulty can players expect from this game?
It’s a smaller game, but I want to have a fair variety of things in it for the size. My goal is to keep the player engaged and not to have them become bored with any certain element, whether that be building upon gameplay with new abilities, items, item upgrades, environments, level design/puzzle design, or enemies. I don’t want the game to become to repetitious in any one area. This ties in with scale as well. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s a smaller game but I want to provide as much content as I can, given my resources. As far as difficulty, I want the game to provide a challenge. It won’t be a self-proclaimed “hard as balls” type game, but it’ll test your skills. The challenge is making sure it’s a satisfying one instead of a frustrating one, as well as that challenge coming from the right places.
The game will also have boss battles. You’ll need to collect six staff pieces — three from the good staff and three from the evil staff — and those pieces are acquired from defeating these bosses. The bosses will require you to use you your newfound abilities to take them down. I guess a good way to think of them are as boss puzzles. There’s no co-op or multiplayer in the game, though that’s an interesting feature to consider with more resources.
We’ve spoken about the games visuals — now onto the audio. Have you considered any special plans for the soundtrack?
I don’t know if it’s a special plan, but I do want a quality OST. I also want the music to be dynamic so that certain areas of a level have their unique take on that level’s overall main theme. Releasing the soundtrack on its own wouldn’t be out of the question, either, but the musical side of the game is still a little ways off. I can’t really speak of too many specifics.
How about the Wii U — do you have any wild ideas on how to make the most of the unique capabilities on offer?
Yes, but I can’t give anything too specific. Stuff like off-screen play and map/item inventory are pretty standard, yet fine, ways to use the second screen, but to really take advantage of the GamePad, it would need to be an exclusive to Wii U. There’s a number of ideas to explore, but I would need a development kit to really be able to flesh them out and to see what works and what is possible.
Right now, the focus is on the game, which is single-player. There could be online features, such as leaderboards, but it’s much too early to discuss anything. Miiverse integration is also plausible, but again, I have limited resources and I also need Nintendo to approve me for development to really go ahead with this type of planning. I do have ideas I’d like to see in the game.
As the game is early in development, when do you see the game releasing?
That’s a solid TBA for the Wii U, but PC/Mac — depending on the Kickstarter success — is Summer 2015. It’s a tentative release window, though. It depends on how much content I’m able to provide the consumer. The further I get into development, the better idea I’ll have of what a good price would be.
The game is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter — it’s at $3,000 after ten days. What plans do you have to get the game to meet its base goal of $15,000 or Wii U stretch goal of $25,000?
I’m doing my best to reach the goal, but it’s been very tough going. I’ve reached out to a number of sites and social media to try and gain traction, but it’s unfortunately come to a very slow crawl. It’s a frustrating thing. I’m always working on ways to get it out and known and to actually get donations. I kind of feel people are looking but aren’t interested in making a pledge. I joked that, so far, the only thing I’ve learned from having a Kickstarter is how to fail at having a Kickstarter. It really is a baptism by fire type deal for me. All I can do is continue trying and reach out to more groups. I’ve got a little over two weeks to make it happen. One thing I can say is that I’m learning a lot with this.
Is there a certain tier you could recommend to our readers?
Yes — the most expensive one, of course! But joking aside, Tier Two I feel has a good variety of rewards and a good price spread.
Have you any plans in place, should you not reach your base goal?
There are a few of options that I’m looking at, but not reaching my goal would obviously be a bad blow for the game and to myself. I really do need this Kickstarter to succeed, as I don’t have any other way to fund it. The development on the project would continue, as I am certainly not abandoning it, but it’d be much slower and difficult to finish. But if this fails, I can try again. I’ll look at what I did wrong and what I can do to be more successful. There are also other funding sites and other avenues I can look into. This isn’t just for a game, but for the starting foundation of a studio. I can’t just say, “Good try Mike!” and go do whatever. This is my plan for my future and I’ll continue to build for it despite the setbacks.
Even though it’s still early, would you consider developing for the Wii U again or even the 3DS?
Absolutely, sure. But first, I have to make A Wizard’s Day a reality for release. Speaking of 3DS, this game was originally designed to work best on the 3DS. I felt its perspective and style would work really well with the 3D effect. Depth would help with the platforming/spacial judgement and the design of having a room in a black “void” would help make it pop. I’d certainly be down to release a version of the game on 3DS that used the older room-to-room structure.
There’s so much more I want to do. A sequel would allow me to really flesh out and expand upon my vision of A Wizard’s Day. But the project I have in mind after this one isn’t a sequel.
You can find out more about A Wizard’s Day over at the official Kickstarter page for the project.