Indie Developer Showcase: HIDEJI_CO

Indie Developer Showcase: HIDEJI_CO

James from HIDEJI_CO is an indie developer working on his first game, Soul Healer. A three player co-op RPG in the vain of classic and fan favourite Secret Of Mana. James has been kind enough to take some time out of development to speak to ABG and answer some questions about Soul Healer and give us a little insight into what it takes to make your first game.
Please check out the trailer for Soul Healer below:
So lets get straight into the interview.
So James, tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a game developer?
“Sure! I love being outside, traveling, and seeing new places and meeting new people. Because of my curious nature, I’ve always loved games, especially games where exploring is the main focus. I got hooked early on with Mario and Zelda, and I’ve known I wanted to make games since I was six or seven, probably. I’m twenty-nine now. My dad loves games, too, so I had plenty to play when I was younger – I think I played every system under the sun at least once growing up. My dad messed around making games for the C64 in assembly language when he was a kid, so when I told him I wanted to make games, he was happy to teach me. I started programming when I was I think nine or ten, learning BASIC with Interplay’s old Learn to Program Basic software, with my dad standing over my shoulder helping me and/or yelling at me for not understanding things nested loops as an elementary schooler, hahah. It was a lot of fun. I got pretty good at it for a kid, and made a few little things, including the beginning of an adventure game for my little brother. All you could do was walk through a few MS-Paint rooms and open a box, but I was pretty proud of it! I programmed once in awhile every few years after that, but never really made much. A few years ago I decided it was about time to actually make the game I’ve been wanting to make for half my life, and that’s what I’m doing now!”
What were your favourite games growing up?
“My favorite games growing up were mostly adventure games. Zelda, Secret of Mana, the Soul Blazer games, Chrono Trigger, Super Metroid, and others like that took up most of my “favorites” slots. I also loved Mario, Donkey Kong Country, Contra, and a bunch of others. My tastes haven’t changed much since then!”
What was your first console?
“I grew up playing everything, since my dad was a gamer, so I’m not sure what the first console I played was. Maybe an Atari or one of the old gaming computers or something, or maybe an NES. The first console I had that was mine was probably an NES or a SNES. The first one I remember receiving was a SNES, though, and that’s where most of my favorite games are.”
What is your favourite game of all time?
“I couldn’t pick one, honestly. Almost all of the games I already mentioned are contenders for the top spots, depending on my mood. They’re all so good. The only recent games I can think of that really amazed me are Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild, especially Zelda. Breath of the Wild was probably the first game since Ocarina of Time that *really* floored me. I -may- have teared up a little at how happy I was to finally find a game that made me feel like a kid again. The game is a masterpiece in my eyes, and it’s the first game in years that really surprised me. Really incredible game, and the one modern game that could sit at “best game ever made” for me. I know some readers are going to flip out at that, but it’s true.”
What made you want to be a game developer?
“The great games I played growing up. If I remember correctly, the first time I thought “I want to do this” was while I was playing Link to the Past. The music, art, and huge world to explore were perfect to me. I still think it’s one of the best games ever made.”
So you are currently working on your first game, Soul Healer. How would you describe it?
“Soul Healer is a co-op action RPG, in the same vein as Secret of Mana, but with more puzzles and a focus on tighter combat. Maybe a better example would be “a multiplayer Zelda where you can level up like an RPG,” because of that. The game follows a young girl with magical gifts, the titular Soul Healer, and a few friends she meets along the way. Because of her gifts, she’s one of the few people who can communicate with and pacify (through force, sometimes) spirits and monsters. She’s basically a wandering priestess who travels around solving supernatural problems. In one arc, you might be investigating the cause of the spread of an impossibly hot desert, where it hasn’t rained in years, and the only inhabitants are the reanimated bones of the area’s former inhabitants. In the next arc you might be trying to figure out why all of the kids in a remote town are coming down with an illness no doctor can treat. In the next you’ll travel to a dark forest where a dense poisonous fog has warped all the animals there into grotesque monsters to find the source of the miasma. All of these vignettes will have different tones and atmospheres, but they’ll all be tied together by a larger globe-spanning adventure. The game I’m working on is going to be sombre and pensive at parts, but it’ll be light-hearted and joyous in others. I think players will have a fun and memorable time going through the story.”

What has been your biggest challenged during Soul Healers development?
“There’ve been no major challenges so far. Making a game is just the same as stacking grains of sand into a pile until you have a mountain. I just work every day to add a little more to the pile. It’s an insane amount of work, but in the end, it all comes down to just putting one foot in front of the other until you’re finished. It’d be nice if I had more time to work, I guess!”
What makes Soul Healer different?
“This is the tough part: Soul Healer doesn’t really have any special gimmicks or catches that I can use to sell people on the game while riding the elevator with them. Besides the cooperative multiplayer, it’s a pretty straightforward RPG. What’s going to set it apart are a million little things – I’m working hard to make players laugh and smile with small surprises and super-polished gameplay. My main thought every time I work on something new for Soul Healer is “this part is great – gamers will love it. Now, what do I add so that people who don’t care about games at all will love it too?” My thinking is that satisfying RPG fans with an RPG is easy – all you have to do is look at what’s worked for the last twenty years and copy it. Whenever I add things that I know will make even non-gamers smile with their cleverness or novelty, I know I’m making something special that people who enjoy games will *really* love.
I’m working hard to make sure even the most basic things feel great too, though. I added breakable pots to the game a few months ago – I spent over five hours tweaking the sound, art, and physics for those pots to make sure that people would have fun breaking them, even without the little prizes hidden inside. Every part of the game gets the same amount of care. I think gamers will be able to tell the difference while playing – tons of work goes into everything to make sure that everything just *feels* right. Fishing is an RPG staple, and Soul Healer follows that tradition by letting players cast their hook into any body of water they come across. What makes Soul Healer different from most games is that I think players are going to enjoy the game’s fishing minigame more than they would most actual full-fledged fishing titles. I’m working hard to make Soul Healer’s defining feature something better than any back of the box blurb – a crazy amount of polish in service of making something extremely fun and memorable to play in general. I won’t release the game until it’s as good as it can possibly be!”
What was your biggest influence in the development of Soul Healer?
“The games I’ve already mentioned were a huge influence. The Ghibli movie Princess Mononoke got me interested in drawing when I was a kid, and Japanese animation and art in general are a big influence to me.”
What are you most proud of so far in the games development process?
“The general quality of the game. When I can sit down and test my game for the thousandth time and still think “yeah, this is fun,” it’s a great feeling. Seeing my hard work slowly build into a polished game is incredibly satisfying.”
Whats next in Soul Healers journey?
“Just more and more work! I’m working on a trailer for the game so I can show it off on Kickstarter. Hopefully people like what they see, so I’ll be able to quit my day job for awhile and bring the game to everyone faster. I’m also working on the game’s website right now!”
Do you have a release window yet?
“I’m aiming for Fall or Winter of next year. Most of the game’s engine is done, and I have a ton of tilesets for the game finished. Things to finish are unique events for each area, bosses, music, etc. There’s still a ways to go, but if the Kickstarter campaign goes well, I don’t think I’ll have any trouble releasing next year. Most of the major work is already finished.”
What platforms will we be able to play it on?
“I’m aiming for every major platform: The Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and PC. I’d also like to do Macs and Linux if I can.”
And now a couple of fun ones…
Would you prefer leg sized fingers or finger sized legs

“That’s horrifying. Both sound terrible, but I guess I’d have to go with finger sized legs. I’d just have them replaced with robot legs as soon as possible. Leg sized fingers would basically mean having no fingers at all, which would make game development very difficult. I have a game to finish, so that’s no good, hahah!”

Would you rather fight 1 horse sized duck or 50 duck sized horses?

“I’d feel bad doing it, but I’d have to take out the fifty duck sized horses. A horse sized duck could probably take an arm off with one snap of its ridiculous bill, which would again, make game development very difficult.”

We personally at ABG think that Soul Healer looks gorgeous and really look forward to bringing you a full preview in the near future. If you want to find out more about Soul Healer and HIDEJI_CO go and check out the official Twitter account and stay be first to see any updates during the games development.

Here at Any Button Gaming we want to bring you the best in indie gaming and show you some of the upcoming gems you may otherwise miss. For more on HIDEJI_CO and Soul Healer stay tuned to ABG.

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