Interview: Cataclismo Is A “Castle Story” Meets “They Are Billions” Done Right
Cataclismo is a game about building castles, walls and forts using different building blocks, and surviving against waves of horrific monsters. While the premise makes it sound like a tower-defence game, it familiarizes itself more with the real-time strategy genre. The game takes inspiration from the likes of LEGO and They Are Billions, offering a mix of satisfying elements with a very beautiful art style.
The single-player RTS game is being developed and published by the creators of Moonlighter, a critically acclaimed indie title. As such, the expectations for Cataclismo are very high, as evidenced by how the game has achieved its pledge goal on Kickstarter. In order to better grasp the concept of Cataclismo and get more behind-the-scenes information, we spoke with Javi Giménez, CEO of Digital Suns, over an email interview.
Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your work on Cataclismo.
I’m Javi Giménez, CEO of Digital Sun, a Spanish indie game studio mostly known for Moonlighter and the League of Legends game The Mageseeker. Our third game, Cataclismo, is special for us since it’s quite different from our previous titles and because it’s the first game we are going to self-publish. We are scared 😀
What is Cataclismo about, and what are some inspirations behind your upcoming title?
Javi: Cataclismo is a strategy game about building fortified cities with a piece by piece construction mechanic inspired by LEGO. Then, manage your troops and defend them every night against the attack of hordes of monsters that crawl out of a strange mist.
Centuries ago, the world of Cataclismo experienced a global disaster that left the planet covered with mist, horrors, and glowing orbs. Through the campaign of the game, we follow Iris as the Overseer of an expedition in her quest through the lost reign to understand the source of the cataclysm.
Some inspirations for the gameplay are They Are Billions, Castle Story and Stronghold. Also, there are classical RTSs and, of course, LEGO. We wanted to build a game that fulfilled the fantasy of building the perfect castle when we were kids.
Why did the team go for an RTS with building mechanics? Several games have already combined these two elements, and I am curious to know what Cataclismo does differently compared to other RTS city-builders.
Javi: Probably the main difference is the extremely detailed piece-by-piece building of structures. There are a few games that do this in the RTS space (Castle Story is the most similar one). Also, the game is not a traditional RTS like Starcraft or Age of Empires, instead, the loop is closer to a Tower Defense (we are huge fans of They Are Billions). You gather resources, build your structures piece by piece, keeping all the mechanics in mind, position your troops, and, when the night comes, try to survive the wave of incoming horrors. I would say Castle Story meets They Are Billions but done by a pathologically perfectionist studio is a good way of explaining the game.
How long has the game been in development? And how many developers have actively worked on it?
Javi: We have spent around 5 years since we started working on the idea. A lot of it has been about polishing the core loop of building and defending. Also, we spent a lot of time creating the world and polishing the art direction. 3D was new for us, so that was a challenge, and we are super proud of the result. We tried many different things until we settled for something that worked for us. The team has been an average of 10 people or so during the development, with peaks of around 15.
Cataclismo takes a much different approach than your other games. Even so, are there any elements or aspects that you have taken directly from your other titles?
Javi: Yes, you are absolutely right. This one is very very different from Moonlighter and The Mageseeker. Those games shared being an ARPG with pixel art, so there was a lot of know-how we could move from one to the other. For this one, we had to learn a lot of new stuff. It’s hard to find things they have in common, but I would say that there are three things worth mentioning. The art director of Moonlighter and Cataclismo is the same person, David Aguado. And, even if the game looks very very different I think it’s possible for the trained eye to find some common elements in the stylization and the level of perfectionism David always strives for. Second, technically, this game has been a challenge; it’s more complex than our other two titles, and the experience we had with them has allowed us to push the engine (Unity) to its limits and achieve everything we wanted to do, like having hundreds of enemies on screen or having complex structures behave as we wanted to. We couldn’t have done that if this was our first game. Finally, the lesson we learned from previous titles is that players can see the love that you put into a game, the little details. We like to think that we are not too fast when developing games, but we are patient when it comes to polishing everything about them. We are still learning and developing as a studio, but that’s something we would like to do on all of our games. We just love quality, even when our abilities won’t allow us to deliver as much as we wanted yet.
This will be the first game that you are self-publishing. Is there a particular reason you decided to go in that direction? And were there any unexpected challenges that you encountered?
Javi: As the CEO, I have always looked up to the way Klei and Supergiant do things. I admire those studios both as a player and as a studio head. I love the way they can produce their own games with extremely high standards and deliver them directly to the player. All while maintaining direct conversations with them. I think it’s a great model because it allows you to be more independent in things like planning the development and deciding when and how to address players. We also enjoy working with publishers and will probably continue doing that for several titles. I think it’s going to depend on what is better for each game, but it’s great to have the option to self-publish.
In terms of challenges. Well, everything is a challenge, but I would say our main concern is getting visibility for Cataclismo. The market is crowded with very high-quality titles, and it’s hard to find the attention we feel our game needs. We are doing quite well, but from now until the release, we hope many more people have heard about Cataclismo; we are super proud of it.
What sort of feedback have you seen from the game's demo release? Do you plan to overhaul or improve any particular aspects before the full release?
Javi: The feedback has been really positive, we have seen many players as excited about the game as we are. There has been feedback on several aspects (many related to UX) that we have been able to address. Although the game is pretty much finished, there are things that we are still working on, and that are always tricky, like balancing difficulty. It’s a tricky game to balance, and we would like everyone to have the right experience with the game. From those interested in the story and the world to those interested in extremely difficult challenges.
Any plans to release the game on consoles?
Javi: No, we have no plans for consoles currently.
Are you planning to support the game long-term with content updates, or will you move on to another project and focus mostly on hotfixes and minor patches?
Javi: Yes, we think Cataclismo is the kind that might find its own community interested in seeing the game evolve. We expect some players will love the game and invest many hours into it, and we would like to make sure they can do that. The game is already going to be released with a lot of content and 4 game modes (Campaign, Skirmish, Survival and Creative). What else we do and for how long is going to depend on how large and interested that community is, but we already have some plans to add some extra content and features post-release. Self-publishing makes this kind of thing easier.
What's something in the game that you are the most excited for the fans to see?
Javi: Hmmm, many things… One thing that people might not expect is how immersive and beautiful the game is. Usually, RTSs are not too interested in art, but for us, atmosphere and beauty are always important. Some might be surprised to see that they are actually going to use the photo mode more than they expected 🙂
Also, reversing the question, I would say I’m excited to see what the fans build because I’m sure there will be some crazy stuff we hadn’t expected. People always surprise you in how they use the systems of a game like Cataclismo.
Anything else you would like to share with the readers?
Javi: Yes, an unashamed petition: If you are reading this, go and wishlist the game please! Steam cares about such things, and we are a humble indie studio self-publishing; we need you.
Cataclismo is a real-time strategy game about building castles that can withstand swarms of attacks by various horrors. It will be developed and published by Digital Suns and will be released on PC via Steam sometime this year.
Nauman Shah is a VeryAli’s Guide Writer. With a background in Software Engineering along with immense love for video games and three years in Unity 3D games development, Nauman joined the writing media to share his thoughts around the world. Moreover, he likes to smash people with difficult questions on social media and watch shows with a cat named ‘Blep’.
Nauman primarily plays RPG and Open World Games – His Gamer Tag is #Sammich. You can check his gaming library and connect with him!