Being a longtime Zelda fan, I was extremely excited when I discovered Hazelnut Bastille, a new title in the works from Aloft Studio, that takes its inspiration from several classics including my all time favorite game; The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
Wanting to know more about the development company, their new game, and an upcoming Kickstarter campaign recently announced, I decided to ask one of the developers, Dennis Varvaro, a few questions.
Here’s what he had to say.
Tell us about yourself & your company, Aloft Studio.
I am Dennis Varvaro, and I handle Design, Art, Gameplay Sequencing, Writing, Community, and Business at Aloft Studio.
Aloft Studio is a small group of professionals in their 30’s founded in 2013, working on several projects for public release, most notably Hazelnut Bastille and Sticks & Starships. We believe in a heavily design-centric approach, which places user experience and meaningful mechanics at the center of our creative process.
We are also Joined by Shannon Mason, our talented composer for Hazelnut, and guest composer, Hiroki Kikuta, who is best known for his work on the Secret of Mana Soundtrack!
Tell us about your upcoming game, Hazelnut Bastille and the inspiration behind it.
Hazelnut Bastille is a top-down, Zelda-like ARPG, which draws inspiration from the Legend of Zelda (NES), Startropics 1 and 2, A Link to the Past, The Secret of Mana, Super Metroid, Chrono Trigger, and many others.
While it is firmly grounded in a 16bit style in terms of design, presentation, and art style, it also takes quite a big nod from the sorts of experiences that were available in the 8bit era.
One of my very first games as a kid was the Legend of Zelda. I got it when I was only five years old and everything about it is burned into my memory. While I enjoyed the later entries in the series, nothing quite compared to the way that first game was constructed. The frantic clock-work patterns of the heavily populated dungeon rooms, the simple yet heavily tactical combat, the unapologetically cryptic way the world and its secrets were arranged. . . it was always the quintessential experience which I think Nintendo and Miyamoto felt was too harsh and unforgiving for their later audiences.
Among our many goals in the project, distilling that sense of mystery and being unafraid to demand a lot of the player in that way are high on the list.
We are also striving to tell a story about social and general human issues which is relevant to modern audiences, and engages them on a sincere emotional level, rather than just being set-dressing.
How long has the game been in development?
Hazelnut Bastille has been in development for about 2 years, since April of 2016. We first put up a primitive public prototype in June of 2016, and have been offering new builds ever since, getting community feedback on the core design systems, as we worked on content that is (mostly) unseen up to now.
Your company is in process of planning a Kickstarter campaign. Can you tell us what the time-frame for that will be?
It will run from October the 23rd, on through the 29th of November, which are dates we had to be super careful about planning, to give Halloween, the American Thanksgiving holiday, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, the end of the month (bill time), and December (Christmas time) a wide berth. This run is sort of the result of carefully sculpting out a time sensitive to all of those concerns at once.
What will be the main goals of your campaign?
- Meeting the baseline costs we have calculated for our development cycle, which includes business, taxes, accounting costs, data storage, the music budget for Shannon and Kikuta-San, sound development, software licensing, meeting the requirements for various QA systems in different regions, and some money to help us pay bills and make it through the brutal hours we have to work to get things finished.
- Reaching enough money to localize the game into Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, and Italian
- Adding a bit more content to the base game
- Having enough resources to develop the Switch build in tandem with the PC builds
- Further localizations to Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, and Russian
- Further expansions of the base game in the form of Mini-games
- Further (yet to be revealed) Console expansions
Can you share with us some of the exciting rewards you’ll be offering backers?
- Special Thanks (and maybe something a bit more special?)
- Digital copies
- Original Soundtrack
- Sheet Music for selected tracks
- Beta Testing Access
- Alpha testing Access (this reward also grants access to a small club with extensive design influence on the final product)
- A physical copy of the game shipped to you, for the platform of your choice (platform choice will be determined by which goals are met during the campaign)
- Design a story item
- Design an enemy
- Become an NPC (non-playable character)
Are you still planning to release Hazelnut Bastille mid-year next year?
It is looking more like mid 2020 at this point.
Do you have any idea about price point yet?
Not set in stone, but 20 USD looks like it could be the launch price. We are offering game copies at the 15 USD pledge level in the campaign.
The game will be releasing for the PC & Nintendo Switch?
Yes, we are actively developing for Windows, Mac, and Linux at the present time.
We’ve committed to developing for the Nintendo Switch platform as well, but we don’t yet have our dev-kits for that platform.
One of the goals of the campaign is to secure a bit of extra money so that we can handle the costs and time demands of development for the Switch in particular, since I think it is where the majority of our interest base lies.
Is there anything else you’d like for our readers to know about your company, game, or the upcoming Kickstarter campaign?
I guess one point that it is important to make, is that in any Kickstarter campaign, it is important to reach the first 30% of the goal in a short time, preferably the first 3-4 days, since it sets up the necessary chain of events that usually leads to a successful completion.
If anyone is interested in backing us, they should keep in mind that those first few days are the most critical time.
I’ll also make a point about the general design philosophy, since it takes many of our users by surprise. We are trying to create an experience that challenges and engages players in every meaningful dimension we can manage. We feel that the most satisfying experience to be had is to provide the player with the mental tools and knowledge required to solve their problems, but then to also ask them to earn their way through, by way of observation, study, patience, and fluid skill.
There is probably not much to compare in gaming with the feeling that you overcame steep odds, by virtue of your own ability and perseverance, and we plan to rob no one of that joy. We’d like to provide the community not merely with a way to whittle the hours, but something that trades diligence for meaning.
Thanks so much for your time.
Thanks for hosting us, and helping spread the word about our development and Kickstarter.
The Hazelnut Bastille Kickstarter campaign will go live on October 23rd. You can connect to it, here.
See a teaser trailer for the game on the developer’s YT channel. If you’d like to give the game a try, sign up for the Aloft Studio newsletter to gain access to a 2-3 hour demo (& receive the latest updates).
You can read more about the game & the Aloft Studio team on the developer’s website.