We recently had the wonderful opportunity of talking to independent video game developer Michael Aschenbrenner, from RCMADIAX. We asked Michael numerous questions about his newest upcoming physics-based title — which involves carefully dropping your “blok” to the bottom of the screen while avoiding surrounding bloks — called Blok Drop U.
Michael explains a bit about himself, his inspiration behind the title, and how he was able to use Scirra’s Construct 2 game engine to develop the game. He also discusses his relationship with Nintendo during the development cycle. Michael tells us that he has four more games on the way, which definitely piques our interest. One game of those games even involves a Titanium Cheese-collecting SUPER ROBO MOUSE!
Here’s what Michael shared with us.
Nintendo News: Hello, Michael! First of all, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. Lately, we’ve been doing our best to dedicate more time to the close-knit talent that’s brought to Nintendo’s eShop services. And, as fans may have guessed, none of this would be possible without the hard work and dedication of independent video game developers like yourself. So, thank you for all that you do for the Nintendo fans out there.
Let’s talk about you for a moment. Can you please tell us who you are and give us a brief history about yourself as a video game developer?
Michael Aschenbrenner: Sure! My name is Michael Aschenbrenner, 28, born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. I started developing games as a hobby in 2012. The first experience I had was with an iOS game called Card Match FREE. Since I didn’t have any experience with programming languages outside of HTML, I had to hire a programmer for the project. I felt the market for games on iOS was too crowded and almost impossible to break through and quickly abandoned developing games for smart phone devices.
NN: We’ve been following the development of your newest title Blok Drop U as closely as possible. Can you tell a little more about this game and what it’s all about?
MA: BLOK DROP U is a challenging physics-based puzzle game. The concept is simple: help guide the red blok down to rest safely on any platform, while removing and destroying the gray bloks. There are several mechanics along the way such as blades and bounce bloks that could aid or hinder your ability to complete the stages.
NN: You know, there’s nothing quite like this available on the eShop. That’s a great thing, too! Clever inventiveness and uniqueness is definitely something fans can appreciate. What’s the inspiration behind Blok Drop U?
MA: Early last year (2013) I began to do more research on the surge in HTML5-developed games, and came across a demo for real-time physics. The demo allows the player to remove objects and in turn the objects above would fall. Right after viewing this demo I couldn’t help but think back on the days of myself building LEGO skyscrapers and then enjoying watching the blocks fall to the ground as I destroy it.
NN: There’s always a significant amount of development that goes into creating a piece of game software. Who is the developer behind Blok Drop U and how many team members are involved?
MA: There is only one member of my “team,” and that is me. I handle all the design, promotion, and in the case of BLOK DROP U, the art as well.
NN: We first reported on Blok Drop U last December when a new teaser trailer was released for the title. How long has the game been in development, and what technology is being used to design the game?
MA: I started seriously working on the title back in September 2013 when I got accepted into the Wii U developer’s program. There was a short period of time where I was bouncing between 6 ideas and trying to pick out the right one for my first project. Ultimately I went with BLOK DROP U and I believe it was the right starting point for my development. Since I have very little experience programming, I decided to use the Construct 2 game engine by Scirra. This tool is great for anyone who has ever had an idea for a game but doesn’t have the time or patience to spend years learning how to program. In addition to Construct 2, I also use Adobe Illustrator to craft the graphics for the game. I am not an artist by any means, so the basic shapes of BLOK DROP U were a perfect place to start.
NN: Local and multiplayer support and controller options are important details that fans like to know about. I’d love to have an online match with a friend to see who can drop their blok to the bottom of the screen the quickest. Will Blok Drop U feature any type of multiplayer support? Also, which controllers will be supported?
MA: During testing of the idea, I had a version of the game running with both Wii Remote and Wii U GamePad controls. After further testing, I found it best to just use the GamePad as there are some levels that require rapid fire controls and the Wii Remote didn’t seem like an intuitive way to play. There are currently no plans to add a multiplayer option to the game, but as my skills strengthen, this could be something a follow-up game would include.
NN: Let’s talk Miiverse for a moment. As you know, each Wii U title has its own respective online community. Aside from players exchanging messages and other in-game experiences, will Blok Drop U offer any challenges, such as “timed challenges,” for example?
MA: In my opinion, Miiverse is one of the standout features of the Wii U. However, I don’t have any plans to support “timed” challenges in this title, but I am looking into how I can incorporate Miiverse into the game for a future update.
NN: What will the price be when the game launches? And, how many levels can fans expect to see?
MA: At launch, the title will have 30 stages to play, divided into 3 “themes” for $1.99.
NN: Is additional content, such as DLC, a possibility for the future? If so, how will that be distributed to current owners of the game? And, how much can fans expect to pay for that?
MA: Yes, from the start I have planned to patch the title over the course of the year to add in additional stages. The current plan is to add 20 stages in Q2/Q3, and an additional 30 stages in Q4. This will bring the total number of levels to 80 in the game with NO increase in asking price. Also, all updates are to be distributed FREE of charge.
NN: Blok Drop U is scheduled to be released on the North American Wii U eShop. Can other regions such as Europe and Japan expect to see Blok Drop U… “drop” into their eShop any time soon?
MA: Currently undergoing the necessary steps to publish in Europe at the moment, however I can’t confirm what countries will see release at this point. I am evaluating the ratings board requirements and cost and will take it one step at a time to ensure a quality experience.
NN: Speaking of a scheduled release, when will fans be able to purchase and download the title?
MA: As of this writing, the title was submitted to Nintendo of America and is currently pending final testing. Once I get a thumbs up from the guys and gals there I can discuss a possible release date.
NN: Lastly, if you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you what your current relationship is like with Nintendo. Have they made the development process easier? Have they made any special accommodations that have aided or streamlined your development process?
MA: Nintendo has been a joy to work with and everyone goes above and beyond to make sure you are successful. The process has been pretty smooth so far, even considering I have no prior experience in console development.
NN: Are you currently working on any other projects at the moment?
MA: Of course! I want to make sure to take advantage of this opportunity I have been given and plan on releasing 4 projects annually on average for Wii U. My next project is SUPER ROBO MOUSE, a puzzle platformer in which you control a robot mouse and must lead him to the goal at the end of the maze. Throughout the game you must collect special “Titanium Cheese” game pieces to unlock goals, and will encounter many enemies along the way. I should have more details to share on this title in February.
NN: Lastly, as a developer, is there a message that you want to send Nintendo fans?
MA: Nintendo has given us a system that is extremely unique in every way. Wii U may not be the most popular, nor most powerful console, but I assure you that Wii U provides a game experience like no other. Also, don’t forget to support your indie developers, myself included, as they are the game designers of the future.
That’s all the questions I have for now. Thank you very much for the opportunity today, Michael. I look forward to chatting with you again soon. I’m intrigued about this new Super Robo Mouse thingy who loves to snack on cheese.