What is City of Brass you ask?
“Leaping from the pages of the Arabian Nights, adventure awaits in the accursed City of Brass – a place of legend, filled with danger and reward. Infested with mischievous spirits and deadly traps, its shifting streets are brimming with the wealth of a nation.
Assume the role of a cunning thief, battling to reach a fabled treasure at the city’s heart, wielding a blade and whip that can be used to disarm, trip or stun enemies, to swing to safety, grab inaccessible objects or even break through flimsy barricades.
Leap across pits, slide under blades, dodge spears, and sidestep poison gas traps – all the while manipulating hazards to your advantage against diverse spirit foes.”
I’m going to let this interview speak for itself but there are a couple things I want to mention about City of Brass. It looks beautiful. Not just for an indie game, but for any game. The scenes, the environment, the architecture, the enemies, just the overall ambiance of the game is stunning. The other thing is that they are paying close attention to feedback with every new update. Blessings and Burdens is update 0.5 so where the game is going to be when it hits 1.0 should be pretty mind blowing!
Let’s start with some big news first… you are soon to release update 0.5 Blessings and Burdens. Can you give us an idea of when “soon” might be?
Nope! Just “real soon now”.
The update Blessings And Burdens allows the player to tailor the game to their experience level. (Which I think is awesome!!!) What kind of aspects can a newbie gamer alter to make game successes more attainable?
A lot of feedback we got was that people loved the game, but that maybe one small thing or another was taking away from their enjoyment. We wanted to embrace that feedback, and so the idea with the Blessings is to make the game more accessible and enjoyable to a broader audience. For example, you can increase the player’s damage or their health (very helpful in a world where everything – even the city- is trying to kill you. I don’t want to give away too much more until we release the update.
While so many games seem to be propelling their stories into some future time, yours takes the player back to a time when weapons of choice were scimitars and whips. What motivated that decision?
A few things. One was that whips and swords are just cool, and underutilized. Another was that we wanted to experiment with hit locations on enemies, and for that to read well it means you want to have the enemies as large as possible on screen, which is tough to do if your main weapons are long-distance. Finally, the Arabian Nights is a terrific setting, and it gave us the visually different hook that we’d been searching for.
If you could go back in time to any time and place where and when would you travel?
I’d probably go back to feudal Japan … as long as I can take a slew of modern medicines and weaponry with me.
The graphics are fabulous. Where did you turn to research the details of the Arabian Nights like world?
There is so much to draw on for this setting, and we threw the net pretty wide. There are a lot of great illustrators out there who have done similarly themed stuff, so there’s plenty of reference there. We also looked at real-life examples of architecture from the time period the game is set in. And there are the tales in the Arabian Nights stories themselves; they can be pretty detailed about what world was like.
What did you use to build City of Brass?
City of Brass is made in Unreal Engine 4. We’ve been using Unreal for the majority of our professional careers.
What is one early memory of the game that made you go “Wow”?
Probably the first time we got stunning and tripping into the game – being able to whip different body parts of enemies and get different effects was super satisfying, and showed that we were going to be able to get a lot of variation out of a pretty simple system.
What where some of the challenges you encountered during the creation of City Of Brass?
One of the biggest challenges that we knew we were biting off from the start was that we wanted to generate the levels at run time, but we also wanted the world to not LOOK generated – to try and imbue each area with a sense of place. So under the hood, each level is on a fixed grid, but we’ve done a lot of work to cover that up, make it believable and easily navigable.
What inspires you daily to keep moving forward in spite of the difficulties you face in game development?
My mortgage? I kid, I kid. I’d actually say the team I work with – they’re a great group of people, and I enjoy coming in to the office each day because of them.
After getting game experience, can challenge seekers increase the game’s difficulty?
Absolutely! The flipside of the Divine Blessings are the Divine Burdens – these are essentially curses that players can toggle on at the start of a game to make their lives much, much harder. For example, you can reduce the number of helpful Genies, increase the speed of every enemy, or even make them constantly respawn. And the Burdens stack, so you can turn all eight of them on for the ultimate hell-run.
How would you rate the standard difficulty of the game without any modification?
I’d call it tough but fair – a key component of this type of game is having to learn how the world works, and a lot of that learning comes from being or hurt or killed by the things you find. But once you start building up that knowledge and getting into the rhythm of the way the game plays, you should be sprinting, slashing and whipping with the best of them.
City of Brass was released on Steam in September, do you expect to release it on any other platforms as well?
Absolutely, our plan is to simultaneously release City of Brass on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Has do you feel it’s been received so far?
It’s been very positive! We’ve gotten a heap of useful feedback out of the Early Access release, and people are really enjoying the updates that we’ve been putting out.
Prior to the release, what methods did you use to evaluate progress at different stages of development?
We set up regular feature milestones, usually 4-6 weeks long, and at the end of each one of those we would assess how much we had (or hadn’t) gotten done, and how the game was feeling. And of course, releasing into Early Access was a super-valuable tool for gaining feedback and making course corrections.
What, if any, major alteration did City of Brass go through between conception and release? Are there any changes you were unhappy with or would like to do now?
Actually, and fairly unusually, it’s stayed pretty much the same throughout. We set out with clear goals, and stuck to them!
How long have you been developing games?
Personally, I’ve been doing this since 1997, and Uppercut Games is now in its sixth year of operation.
Did you go to school for what you’re doing and/or how did you learn to do what you do?
Not really, no. I studied Illustration at University, and that does come in handy (I do all of the interface art), but most of my knowledge about game design came from my time at Irrational Games.
Do you have any advice for other indie developers?
Iterate! Build the simplest version of your game that you can, and then iterate on it as rapidly as possible. Because often that’s how you discover what is actually fun in what you’re building.
Do you currently have any other games in the works that we should keep an eye out for?
Nothing right now, nope – with only 6 people on the team, we find it hard to have a lot of plates spinning at once.
Is there anything we missed that you’d like to bring up?