Venezuelan studio Paper Castle Games, of Underhero fame, took time to speak with us about their recent indie launch and the process behind making a stupendous story happen. Underhero released on September 19 on Steam and has since enjoyed a thoroughly positive reception, boasting a unique spin on the hero’s tale and interesting, unexpected game mechanics. We had the pleasure of speaking with Kay, lead artist for Paper Castle Games, to learn about the studio’s past, present, and the inspiration that started it all.
|| How and by whom was Paper Castle Games started? We hear that a certain pair of gentlemen – Rafael Cabrera and Alvaro Dominguez – might be involved. How did you meet? What inspired you to create a studio? Who’s your current team?
Hello! I’m Alvaro Dominguez, but I go by “Kay” online. I’m the lead artist for Paper Castle Games, and I’ll be answering the questions today!
Rafael and I met in pre-school. We have known each other for about 22 years, which is most of our lives! He is 26 and I’m 25 years old.
It all started at the end of 2012. It was the Christmas break; we both were attending University at the time. We were playing games, specifically a co-op game called Castle Crashers, and after a few hours of playing one of us half-joked that “we could make something like this, easily.”
We were very wrong of course, but even then we decided to take the challenge and started making a little arcade game called Aeromagnets, to test the waters. It took us around two weeks to make, it was fine, a little buggy, but it worked, and it was fun to play! The rest, as they say, is history! After starting development for Underhero a few months later, we recruited Stijn van Wakeren for their amazing musical abilities, and Andrea “Andie” Gallo, who would help in a variety of things, but more prominently with writing, additional art, and as common sense counselor.
|| What was the “very unfortunate name” visual development artist Andie prevented you from giving the company? We have to know.
It was bad, it was “90s Japanese game company trying to sound cool in English” bad. Andie won’t let us divulge it, but there’s a very blatant reference to it at the beginning of Underhero.
|| Paper Castle Games is based in Venezuela, a country that the studio calls “full of difficulties.” What’s it like to develop games in Venezuela in 2018? What are the unique challenges, and consequently, the unique rewards?
Making games in Venezuela is about patience. Patience for the usual government-issued 4-hour power outage to pass, patience for the horrible internet connection to come back, patience for the huge lines you have to do weekly to buy food, patience for the water or gas services to work as they should, patience for those friends and family members that left the country and the promise you made to see them again soon, patience for the insane levels of violence on the streets, patience for the lack of medicine. I could go on, but it only gets more depressing. I honestly think there are no rewards for working here, at all. We hope our hard work pays off so we can leave this place soon.
|| Tell us about your recently-launched title, Underhero. Who is Underhero for? What can they expect from it from a gameplay and a narrative perspective?
Underhero is for the fans of simple, but deep RPGs Nintendo is known for. The Paper Marios, the Super Mario RPGs, the Mothers… with a bit of Castlevania and Zelda thrown in the mix.
You will find a refreshing battle system that rewards observation and reflexes more than menu navigation. Worlds filled with secrets and puzzles, and memorable boss battles!
You can definitely expect a deceptively cute story that gets progressively twisted, with characters that have clear motivations and change throughout the adventure. The story has one ending! No need to replay the whole game for different outcomes, we preferred a solid narrative experience from beginning to end.
|| If you could sum up the experience you want players to have with Underhero in two words, what they be? We might give you a sentence if two words isn’t enough.
It will make you laugh, it will make you gasp, and it will make you feel.
|| What was so compelling about Paper Mario that it would ultimately inspire and inform Underhero? Were there certain aspects of the game that changed the way you looked at the industry? Was it just, simply, that much fun?
When I played Paper Mario when I was a kid, it definitely surprised me to learn that the enemies you have been fighting for so long in other Mario games were real characters too, with their own lives, personalities, and motivations. I really wanted to make a game from their perspective. What would happen if one of those evil minions was able to defeat the hero and then tasked with becoming the new hero? That was the premise that started all this.
And yes, Paper Mario was also a very fun game! Always loved that it was an approachable RPG, a beginner’s entry point for the genre.
|| Can we expect to see any homages or Easter Eggs in Underhero? Might there be any goodies you’ve hidden for us that we should be on the lookout for?
We added a few relatively obscure references, but not too many since we wanted Underhero to be its own game. The game is filled with little details that are very important for the story, especially with enemy dialogues, so do talk to those enemies! They’re more informed than you think.
|| If you could’ve interned at any studio, at any given time, which one would it be and when? Is there a specific title you would’ve enjoyed getting the chance to be a part of?
It’s not precisely a video game studio, but the Game Grumps office always looked like a super cool place to work at. If I ever get the chance, I would love to make my own office like they did.
I would have loved working as an artist for any Sonic game, good or bad.