Interview: SAK’D Aims At Merging Traditional Metroidvania With Dynamic Combat & Puzzle

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SAK'D - via Alchemy Interactive

SAK’D is an upcoming puzzle adventure video game under development by Alchemy Interactive. The game takes on an adventure of a cute yet brutal pillow utilizing powerful weapons and spells to slash through terrifying monsters across different landscapes. The overall gameplay focuses on creative level design to beat different monster bosses and progress unique puzzles. 

With a Metroidvania-style side-scrolling action, SAK’D perfectly nails the platformer genre with various aspects like hand-painted designs and skills enhancing the gameplay during progression. To expand more on the game, we interviewed Kelly Eros, one of the developers behind SAK’D to learn more about the game’s future. 

SAK'D - via Alchemy Interactive
SAK’D – via Alchemy Interactive

Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your work on SAK'D.

Kelly: I started hobby coding back in the late ’80s, creating choose-your-own-adventure style games for fun when I was about 11 years old. Eventually, I enrolled in college (as a fluke- I was there while a friend of mine applied to CDI and was urged to apply myself while in the waiting room) – and I’ve always had an interest in fantasy writing and games.

I have been a hobbyist in game design for more than a couple of decades now, designing maps in Unreal Tournament, Half-Life, and Quake back in the day – and I’ve always wanted to pursue it as a career, but life has a funny way of yanking a person in unexpected directions. SAK’D is the result of every bit of those experiences and passions, the first-round culmination of my desire to be a game developer.

I created the concept and the main character and enlisted the help of many like-minded people to help make the dream come true, and the rest is slowly but surely making history.

Can you tell us about the initial concept for this game and what inspired its unique premise of a pillow as the protagonist?

Kelly: Firstly, I wanted to work with a character that hadn’t been ‘done’ before, and in doing my research a pillow protagonist was pretty much unheard of. Sak originally started as a character called ‘Pen’ with a flappy top part (much like the depictions of Canadians in the cartoon ‘South Park’) but eventually evolved into the more robust and filled-out form that Sak has now.

I also wanted the character to be something people would see in their everyday lives- so that even passing by a pillow on the couch or getting into bed at night would be something people might reflect on and attribute to our game- really putting Sak’s persona into everyday lives.

Also, when I started to learn animation in college, I distinctly remembered a flour sack being something that people in animation would study very early on, and I wanted Sak to be something that would be easy and fun for kids, as well as amateur artists and animators, to get a handle on, and to want to draw.

Pillow character
SAK’D – via Alchemy Interactive

How did you come up with the idea of blending action, adventure, and puzzle-platforming elements with a Metroidvania style?

Kelly: Our goal was to merge traditional Metroidvania elements of exploration and progressive character enhancement with dynamic combat and intricate puzzles. We wanted to ensure that the game was not just about exploring and fighting but also thinking and solving, making every area of the game integral to the overall experience.

Given my love of Dungeons & Dragons and fantasy from an early age, and the games that stuck with me the most, like Zelda and Castlevania, it was a natural evolution of ‘everything I’d love to play in a game,’ and not wanting to miss a single opportunity for fun.

Could you elaborate on the story of Sak and the realm of dreams? How did you develop the lore and the narrative?

Kelly: Sak’s original narrative was much more complex, and the game itself was more involved and role-playing-oriented. After the pandemic hit, we lost most of our volunteers to other necessary responsibilities, and I was left with a dilemma- shelve the game completely or grab the core team and pick a lighter, easier-to-produce story and game based on the character we love, and in keeping with the canon of SAK’D.

The end of Sak’s origin story finds our pillowy hero lost and alone, tired in a forest with rain starting to fall. Sak falls asleep in the shelter of a hollow in a tree and it is in a cartoon-fantasy version of Sak’s subconscious that the story begins.

Sak must succeed in an epic quest in order to restore the balance between dreams and nightmares, in order to awaken and return to the world of magic and material that gave Sak life to begin with.

It is there (in the planned sequel) that the original narrative experience will take place- a classic story of good versus evil, and of a world in need of a hero.

SAK'D - via Alchemy Interactive
SAK’D – via Alchemy Interactive

The overall theme of SAK'D looks really unique and fun. Especially, the usage of weapons and elemental spells in the first looks fit into the Metroidvania style. What are some examples of the challenging puzzles players will encounter, and how do elemental spells factor into solving them?

Kelly: Using fire magic to melt a glacier wall to reveal a hidden key or activate steam-powered devices, using ice magic to create platforms in front of waterfalls, unleashing lighting to trigger mechanical apparatus’, or launching earth magic to shatter cracked walls are just a few of the ways to wield Sak’s arcane abilities to solve puzzles.

Lighting candles to illuminate a darkened and treacherous cave or unlock a secret area… the list goes ever on. We can promise a lot of brain-teasing along the way. There are also a ton of puzzles not solved by magic but by wit- and Sak will need to find information and allies on this epic quest in order to reach the evil that lies at the heart of the nightmare rift bleeding into the realm of dreams.

Expanding on my previous question, the game features beautiful hand-painted parallax environments and traditional hand-crafted 2D animation. Can you discuss the artistic process behind these visuals?

Kelly: The result of countless hours of conceptualizing on paper before committing to digital art and the brilliant illustrative and animation work of my teammates, like Alejandro ‘Grenias’ Aguirre Cervantes and Alan ‘Lemuzaurio’ Aparicio, who has helped so much.

Rosa Flores and her partner Rich Mauney really contributed to each level’s ‘look and feel’ with her expertise in art direction as well. Bringing Sak’s world to life has been an entire team effort.

World of SAK'D
SAK’D – via Alchemy Interactive

With over 150 enemies and 34 bosses, how did you ensure each encounter feels unique and memorable?

Kelly: A ton of our inspiration also stems from a love of cartoons, movies, and fantasy games like Dungeons and Dragons, as well as mythology from a wide array of cultures, so going into the project we knew exactly what we wanted to achieve concerning personalities and interactions.

Fortunately, I am blessed to work with the unbridled and keen imagination of Grenias, and with barely a word spoken between us, he has the ability to instantly and accurately interpret so much of my descriptions and rambling into visual results that feel like they were ripped right from my head.

The soundtrack is a crucial part of the game's experience. Can you tell us about your collaboration with Brandon Vix and James Thorley on the original score?

Kelly: I was instantly and entirely enamored with the talent of Brandon Vix. He’s a true composer with a genuine love of music and sound, and he wields an uncanny understanding of the projects he’s involved in right from the start.

James came into the project a number of years later to help with the overarching sound design and also had a rapid understanding of what we were looking to achieve – Mario meets Zelda meets Castlevania.

SAK'D - via Alchemy Interactive
SAK’D – via Alchemy Interactive

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during the development of this game?

Kelly: Marketing and funding, of course – are the two most prominent hurdles almost any indie game developer must face. We really feel like we’re developing something a large volume of gamers would genuinely enjoy and a character people will love, but getting more eyes on the project to know we even exist has been a real struggle without a budget to speak of.

How long has the game been under development, and how many developers are actively working on it?

Kelly: The original concept started over 6 years ago with myself and Roland Baranowski heading up the team. We gained the support, interest, and efforts of over 26 volunteers who worked very hard over 3 years at developing the initial prototype, including a 450+ page game design doc – a design that blossomed into a full-fledged 2.5d role-playing game in the style of a puzzle-platformer.

A lot of original inspiration was based on my love of Dungeons & Dragons, and classic arcade and console titles from my younger years, like Wonderboy in Monster Land, Castlevania, Legend of Zelda, and Rayman.

SAK'D - via Alchemy Interactive
SAK’D – via Alchemy Interactive

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers about the game or your development journey?

Kelly: Just that the Kickstarter is LIVE right now, and we’d love to see anyone who wants to help make Sak’s journey a success stop by the campaign page and back the project.

We have also had some notable interest from a few major publishers during recent attendance at game conventions, and we’d love to show those potential publishers that SAK’D has a fan base out there, and we need everyone’s help to do that.

SAK’D is an upcoming puzzle-platformer video game that is under development by Alchemy Interactive. The game is planned for release soon on PC. You can follow their Kickstarter and support the team. 

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