StarQuail Games recently released Tiny Barbarian DX after a successful Kickstarter campaign. After checking out the game I wanted to send some questions to StarQuail Games about the game and all manner of awesomery. I was put in contact with Michael Stearns the lead designer of Tiny Barbarian DX.

jdodson: I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with me. Tiny Barbarian DX was successfully Kickstarted and Chapter 1 was recently delivered to backers and the general public. How are you sitting right now after the dust has settled and people have had a chance to play it and weigh in on the game?

Michael Stearns: I’m finally starting to settle down! Getting ready for the release was pretty intense, and then having a lot of things that I ended up changing shortly after, like adding game saves and fixing the control pad support, even though the feedback was generally positive I felt like we had to get all that fixed up right away. I ended up really stressed out actually and had a very hard time concentrating on anything, but I’m back into episode 2 now and feeling pretty good!

jdodson: Recently there has been some people talking about Let’s Plays and advertising. YouTube is allowing certain companies like Nintendo to assume all advertising revenue made from these videos. Other developers, such as Mojang and Robot Loves Kitty are allowing blanket permission for Let’s Play creators to monetize their videos. I am interesting in what your thoughts are about this and other companies approaches to these videos?

Michael Stearns: Oh boy, you really put a nice burning sack of poop right at the top for me to step in like that huh? For me, I’m happy to allow people to show Tiny Barbarian DX in this way. Let’s Plays originated with older games, and I think the best ones are based on old games, and that really is a unique point of discovery for games like that. Since TinyB is that exact same kind of game (except it isn’t old), it makes perfect sense to me for people to discover it in that same way. And it’s a good game to narrate over, I think an LPer has a lot to react to in a game like that. If a little bit of ad revenue encourages people to LP TinyB, then they can have it. I haven’t done “blanket permission” for it but I appreciate being asked and I’ve said yes to everyone who’s asked so far.

As for Nintendo, well, I think people outside the LP community would probably be more surprised to hear that people are earning ad revenue by recording themselves playing games while talking than they would be to hear that Nintendo decided to step in in the way that they have, or they might be surprised that it was allowed in the first place. I think I understand Nintendo’s motives for stepping in and above all else I think they have every right to do it, regardless of how people feel about it or what they want, and I think it’s great that people can still do LPs for Nintendo games.

jdodson: Horde Mode is a really unique aspect of Tiny Barbarian DX that I really enjoy. Still trying to beat my current best time. What prompted you to add Horde Mode to the game and if there was anything that inspired its creation?

Michael Stearns: Horde Mode was actually one of the first things I put into the game. It was the main testing area for setting up the player’s moves, but it was also something that I wanted to put in. There are a lot of movies and TV shows that have done things like having a cool action sequence prior to the “title” of the show appearing, if it appears at all. I had just seen Redline, which started out with this elaborate race sequence, and then right when you’re totally pumped the title appears and the plot of the movie starts, and you already know you’re in for a good time. It also leads into the first episode’s starting scene really well!

jdodson: To add on to the last question, I am curious what your current Horde Mode best time is? What's the longest time you have heard of someone in the community getting?

Michael Stearns: Rather than telling you my exact time (I don’t know it, I keep deleting all my scores and times for testing purposes), I will tell you instead that I have made it all the way to the end, that is, there’s a point where I don’t think it’s possible to survive any longer. I’ve only made it a couple times so I am curious how long after that point a person could last, just getting there is quite difficult. I actually haven’t had anyone report their horde mode scores to me, but one guy has already beaten my best speed run through the game.

jdodson: The XBox One and Playstation 4 have been recently unveiled and I am wondering how you look at the differences in both consoles as an developer and gamer? If you were likely to bring Tiny Barbarian to a console, which would it be and can we expect console, Mac or Linux port in the future?

Michael Stearns: A mac version is definitely in the future, that was our Kickstarter stretch goal. Linux and Ouya are also places I’d like to put it. I may have missed some news on them, but I haven’t heard enough about either the Xbox One or PS4 to really know how likely we are to be able to put it on either console. We’ll be keeping an eye out for it, though!

jdodson: The new “Man of Steel” film seems to have received some mixed reviews while going on to net a metric shit-load of money from the box office. What were your thoughts after seeing this most recent incarnation of Superman and if you recommend it to others?

Michael Stearns: Heh, I have not seen it yet! I really don’t see many movies in theater. I did see the new Star Trek sequel though, and I thought that was really good, but I also agree with pretty much all the negative things that have been said about it, too. I like the new movies but I hope they can come up with a different recipe for conflict! I’m also surprised to find myself looking forward to the Michael Bay Ninja Turtles movie. I don’t know if it will be any good but I’m already surprised by how many elements are being carried over from the old cartoon that I grew up with. I’m not really interested in these nostalgia-exploiting movies, but since TMNT has continued to develop since the 80s and elements like April O’Neil being a reporter have not been seen since, it’s interesting that those are coming back. My fingers are crossed for Bebop and Rocksteady!

jdodson: I am wondering if you could outline the tech behind Tiny Barbarian DX? With that, is there anything you might do differently with the game engine code or something you might want to experiment with in the future?

Michael Stearns: The engine currently is the same one we used for Astroman on Xbox Indie, so it has some particular 360-centric quirks that don’t really make sense to keep. In our previous games, Daniel has done all the programming, but this time I learned how to do the game logic and just started building on top of what was already there. If we’d known how far it would go, Daniel would have reworked it to be a little easier to develop with. I’m primarily interested in game mechanics so there isn’t any particular “tech” that I’m interested in, but one feature I would like to work in at some point is full-screen scaling, like the old Neo Geo fighting games, I always thought that was really cool and having control over how much of the area a player can see can really change the way the a scene feels.

jdodson: Tiny Barbarian DX is a very tightly polished side scrolling adventure hack n slash. Are there any new game mechanics we can look for in the later chapters? An alternate attack or weapon perhaps?

Michael Stearns: The main difference you’ll be seeing in the future is that there will be different things to ride on in every episode, so there will always be something new going on to break things up and keep it interesting. I have some surprises planned for later, but I don’t want to spoil them. :)

jdodson: There are many geeks eagerly anticipating a new Goonies film. Would this interest you and I am wondering what your thoughts are about the Rocky Road candy bar?

Michael Stearns: I have to admit I didn’t see the Goonies when I was a kid, so that one isn’t especially relevant to me the way it would be to others. I liked it a lot, but the idea of a new one.. I wouldn’t say a new Goonies or something like it would be unappealing, but it pushes the whole “remake of childhood favorite” thing pretty far. Is this actually happening? I suppose a remake would be ok, in a sense of introducing new audiences, but I know I’d rather have kids see the original.

I have extremely little will power when it comes to candy bars so a Rocky Road candy bar is pretty much the most horrible thing you could give to me. I’m trying to be healthy!

jdodson: After Tiny Barbarian DX chapter 3 ships, what's next for StarQuail games?

Michael Stearns: Actually there’s going to be four episodes, but after that.. I haven’t decided yet. :)

jdodson: One thing I noticed with Tiny Barbarian DX is that it provides a constantly changing set of challenges that keep the game very fresh and interesting. How did you approach the games design to accomplish this?

Michael Stearns: Heh, that’s just the kind of game I really like! I’ve always been really inspired by 16-bit games that always changed things up pretty frequently. The best ones, imo, were all like that, every level or world seemed to introduce something new, so that’s what I wanted to do as well. I have to admit I’m not the best planner, I often added stuff that I wasn’t initially planning on while in mid-development, like I didn’t know there would be a Shinobi 3-style elevator at the end of the dungeon, but I had just done all those moving platforms and thought “I bet I could do that elevator!” and so I did. Basically I’m always thinking about what would make the game interesting and would be fun to include. It’s an expensive way to develop a game but it’s a lot of fun. :)

jdodson: What was the last game you played that really stuck with you?

Michael Stearns: I think the last game that really, really resonated with me was Super Mario 3D Land on 3DS. I think they really nailed the 3D platforming in that one, they managed to have all the benefits of a 3D game but still be as easy to play and move around in as a 2D game. It has great pacing in the levels, and once a friend picked it up and we started challenging each other’s best times via streetpass I really, really got into it and was playing the stages over and over. I’m really excited for the sequel on WiiU.

jdodson: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, is there anything you want to say before we wrap things up?

Michael Stearns: Just a thank you to everyone who reads this! Also, my favorite candy bar is that one from Reese’s that’s just their peanut butter cup shaped into a bar.