Today I interview solo game developer Tyler Goodale, creator of the fascinating god game Deus Novum, A spiritual successor to Lionhead Studio's cult classic Black and White, this is one game to look out for!
Indie Corner Episode 18: Reviving Old Classics
Previous Learning to Enjoy Flawed Games
The AAA god game genre has been dead for years, which was a huge shame for me. I love god games. The relative failures of Black and White 2 and Spore in 2005-6 sparked a downfall in major god game releases, and since then we haven’t seen many. The indie scene has kept it going with some nice games such as War for the Overworld, Tethered and The Universim, but nobody has been able to come close to replicating Lionhead’s Black and White.
At least, until now. Deus Novum released very recently, and it’s a one-man’s mission to become a spiritual successor to Black and White. I’ll be writing an impressions review for this game in the next Indie Corner Episode, but I have never seen anyone try to pull off what Black and White did. While Deus Novum has a way to go yet, I wish this guy all the best in getting it out there. I had the honour of interviewing Tyler about his ambitions and his new game, and you can pick it up by clicking on the link!
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you do?
Hi, I’m Tyler Goodale, the sole developer of Deus Novum, a spiritual successor to the cult classic Black & White. I’ve been teaching myself all of the aspects of how to make games since I was about 10 years old and I’ve finally released one!
What does being a game designer actually mean?
Being a game designer is being an artist. I consider games to be one of the most incredible types of art because they combine all of the disciplines in to one experience while also allowing a player to shape that experience with their own thoughts and ideas.
Like all art, games are an iterative process. Not only are you building upon your game, but you are building upon the mountain of art, ideas, and creativity that humanity has been creating since the dawn of our existence. We’re able to use this accrued knowledge and combine it into new and exciting ideas.
There has been a great deal of controversy in recent years about micro transactions in gaming. Not so much an opinion, but why do games tend to cut out content to sell later as DLC and lootboxes? Is it to do with development costs? Or is it time related?
It’s pure greed. I know first-hand games are expensive to make, but the way a lot of games monetize these days is excessive. There’s no justification for this behavior. By splitting a price up into little chunks, they are more easily able to convince you to spend more for less.
Tell us about your current project.
Deus Novum is a physics sandbox God game with a learning AI animal creature, base building, magical spells(miracles), enemies that attack your villages in a variety of AI directed events inspired by Rimworld, and it was just released into Early Access. I’ve been working on the game for about 3 ½ years now.
Black & White was one of my favorite games as a child and like many others I have been waiting for a sequel for many years now. I decided enough waiting and took the matter into my own hands.
Black & White was a great experience, but as a game it was lacking in certain aspects. I used Black & White as a foundation while removing annoyances, deepening systems, and focusing more on gameplay.
As anyone who creates anything, we must all deal with criticism from consumers. How do you go about it particularly in the prolific and viral standard of gaming today?
This is definitely something I’m still getting used to handling. After my first round of marketing, I think I was insulted on every single aspect of the game, but now that people are playing the main complaint has just been bugs, which are inevitable, and most have been easy to fix. It’s important to understand that when someone criticizes your work, they don’t have the full understanding of the piece like you do. In my case they may have only seen a few seconds of my trailer, which is not indicative of the entire game. Even if they do fully experience what you’ve created, it’s impossible to please everyone. Even the most successful games in the world have thousands upon thousands of people who absolutely hate them.
Most importantly, your creation is not you. Criticism of your creation is not criticism of you as a person.
What advice would you give budding developers into taking the plunge into game design?
The go-to advice that everyone ignores is to start small. I ignored this advice as well and made something incredibly ambitious and it’s taken over 3 years. Was this the right move? It’s hard to say, but it has taught me a lot.
If you’re still learning and haven’t fully grasped all of the aspects of development, go as big as you want. You’ll learn more by covering more topics. But once you’ve settled down and decided that this is the project you’re going to release, lower your ambitions. Instead of adding a new feature, polish an existing one. This can be extremely hard to manage and takes a lot of self-control, but it will pay off in the long run. You can always add more later.
If you still have time to play video games, what are some of your favorite ones to play?
I definitely don’t get to play games as much as I used to, but when I get the time, I like to play games with deep complexity like Rimworld, Kerbal Space Program, Civilization V, Crusader Kings II/III, Project Zomboid, Kenshi, Valheim, and modded Minecraft.
When I’m dead tired and that complexity is a bit much, I also enjoy Noita, Slay the Spire, and Dicey Dungeons.
What inspires you to do what you do?
I love to create, and I love to think. I have an unending well of ideas to pull from and it’s amazing to take those ideas and turn them into something tangible. Combining these ideas with each other is a great experience as well. It feels awesome to realize that the tornado you just added can work with the fireball you’ve had in the game for ages to create a fire tornado! Or to connect two pieces of lore into something more cohesive even though you hadn’t planned it from the start.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Bug fixing and marketing.
Bug fixing is an emotional rollercoaster. You spend hours trying to fix something and often the solution is something simple like a missing equals sign or a function you didn’t realize was getting called. When you fix something like that, the feeling is amazing. But then it might break again next week.
Marketing is a real pain. I find it to be incredibly dull, feels soulless at times, and takes a lot of time. Nothing about it is particularly challenging, but putting together the willpower to do it is difficult. The reason I make games is to make games. Not to market them. It’s an entirely different task.
What was your favorite thing about game development? Is there anything you find difficult or challenging in dealing with the struggles?
Like I said, I love to create. Taking an idea and turning it into something real in my game is just awesome. Whenever I play other games there are always things I want to change or add, and I love being able to do that with my game.
The biggest struggle is probably just the mountain of work, but I guess I only have myself to blame for my huge scope. Some days are a blast like when I’m adding new feature, but then I have to completely finish what I’ve added. That can really drag on. It’s fun to make a fireball or a new building or something, but then adding sounds, interactions with everything else in the game, and polishing it gets old sometimes.
What lessons have you learned from your first game?
Deus Novum isn’t my first game, but it’s the first I’ve released. All of my projects have taught me a lot, but Deus Novum has taught me how to make a big game as well as how to complete all the things I ignored in other projects like settings, saving and loading, and dealing with a lot of assets.
What are your future project(s)?
Right now, I’m fully focused on Deus Novum, but I’ve always got new ideas for games. I write down all of my ideas, so that once Deus Novum is complete, I’ll have a good starting ground for the next game.
If you couldn’t be a game developer, what ideal job would you like to do?
Mattress tester? I’m not sure an ideal job exists. It would have to be a job where I have creative control and that creation is my focus, but games are my favorite thing to create.
What is your ideal video game if money and time was no object?
Combining my favorite features from basically every game I like into one massive cohesive game.
Spore: Take the creature creator and expand it to include organs, non-organic life, bionics, magic, and more.
Modded Minecraft: Take the procedural world and factory automation.
Valheim: Take the combat and unique monster attack patterns.
No Man’s Sky: Take the massive universe to explore.
Elder Scrolls: Create a world full of interesting monsters, magic, lore, quests, and politics.
Crusader Kings: Complex diplomatic relationships between your faction and others and create schemes to sneakily get your way.
My previous, unfinished project, The Phantom: Hive mind system where you can swap control between all members of your faction.
Finally add a time travel system so you can bring your entire nation-state with you forwards or backwards in time to see how things change or change something in the past and see the ripple of effects.
Of course, there would also be co-op and competitive multiplayer.
The scope is completely insane, but I’d like to work on a much smaller version of this idea someday.