We speak to Jeff of Asentrix Studios about his Breakout Meets Zelda game Break of the Dungeon as well as his history of game jams.
When we started the IG@FG feature, I fired out a request on Twitter asking any indie developers making anything cool to get in touch. Jeff from Asentrix Studios replied “I might fit that bill” and after a short investigation, I could tell that he is making some cool stuff and has a whole back catalogue of it too.
Super Secret Kitties, Force Defender, Silver Rule, Lukaten Match Rush, Death Road to McGamkedonald’s, Ascentrix Studios have been involved in the creation of a lot of titles I’d never heard of but upon playing them, showed a lot of promise and often, an intelligent combination of genres. The latest project, Break of the Dungeon (previously Break Dungeon) combines Breakout and old-school Zelda into one pretty exciting prospect.
Asentrix Studios has also been involved in more than 15 Game Jams over the past few years, more than anyone else I’d ever met. I wanted to know more, intrigued by Jeff and his games and if you are too, you can learn more by scrolling down;
Can you talk me through your path into and through the wonderful world of game development?
It started as a combination of my love for storytelling and video games. Video game brings me so much peace that I can match every traumatic experience I’ve had to a game that has gotten me through it. I’ve loved telling stories since I was in grade school. What keeps me going, however, is the lack of black representation in the industry. As a black game developer, I feel alone and I strongly desire to fix that. I also want to make games with epic stories like Chrono Trigger and Trails in the Sky that feature a predominantly black cast.
You’re currently working on a game called Break Dungeon, a smart combination of Breakout and old school Zelda. What inspired you to make it?
I was going through Fornclake’s awesome Zelda Godot tutorials and wanted to use the knowledge to make a new game. I was brainstorming for about a week when I picked up this breakout game for the NES and realized that it might mash up well with Zelda. I’ve actually renamed it Break of the Dungeon now to draw attention to the Zelda influence. I decided that this would be a good start to my commercial releases. I’ve already released a couple of alpha builds and I’ve been getting some good comments on it.
You’re also working on something called Akaten Adventures which is currently a bit of a mystery. Could you share a little information on what that is?
One of my primary goals is to tell a large scale story that features a black cast and Akaten Adventures will be my first attempt at that. There aren’t too many details I can share now, but my projects Lukaten Match Rush and Silver Rule are related to it. I’ve been working on this for about eleven years and words cannot describe how much excitement I have to share it with everyone. As I get closer to finishing Break of the Dungeon I will be talking more about Akaten Adventures.
Almost all of your games feature really excellent pixel art. Do you favour this art style over others?
Very much so. With all this 4K ultra retina eye candy out there people forget that games of the pixelated kind can still hold up. There are games on the Super Nintendo that still look beautiful today. I’m not saying everything has to be pixels, but it shouldn’t be dismissed as much as it is. I honestly wish we had more games that look like King of Fighters XIII. Maybe they should have done the Secret of Mana remake like that instead of losing most of its charm in the HD.
Over the past 5 years you’ve been involved in more than 15 game jams. What attracts you to joining and competing in them?
It was the best way to get some development going while I was working at my old job. I would bounce from jam to jam, looking for any challenge to create something. I have lost tons of sleep in the process, but it was great. I would do it again! After a while, I felt my skills had hit a wall so I’ve been doing fewer jams and been working hard at releasing a commercial project.
You’re open about your love of music. How much does that inform your game development and vice versa?
I think music is very important in setting the scene and providing the mood to any part of a game. Some games I’ve picked up only because I heard a song and wanted to know what happens during that track. I’d like to do some ambitious things with the music in my games such as having a hip-hop/trap sound to an RPG. Seriously a trap battle track would be food for my soul. I want the music in my game to be as important as any other aspect. Hopefully, it will be good enough that I could get one of my games soundtracks pressed on vinyl.
Last question – If you could offer one piece of advice to people looking to get into games development, what would it be?
Take care of yourself above all else. Your highest priority should be yourself. Honestly, this is just a very important everyday life advice. If you happen to be reading this regardless of whether you want to be a developer or not, remember that taking care and loving yourself is the best thing you can do for yourself now and for the future. Don’t let anything or anyone in your life dictate how you see yourself. You would think this is as easy as breathing, but for some of us, it is not as easy and that is ok. Life is a learning process.