Interview: Nate Schmold, Creator of Cosmochoria and Other Weird Things

cosmochoriaBefore reading the interview below, know that I am deeply inspired by people like Nate. Pouring their heart and soul into a medium and sharing it with others is something to admire, and we should all strive to be a little more like Nate each and every day of our lives. Enjoy!

How would you describe your game for those who have never heard of it? —> What are the main goals of the game? —> What mechanics are in place to help achieve those goals?

Cosmochoria is a cartoon illustrated game about a little naked spaceman who finds himself in space with a laser gun, a jetpack and a single seed. You can plant that seed on a barren planet which then allows it to sprout into a plant that matures and provides you with additional seeds to plant and continue the process. During the cosmic gardening, the cosmonaut will be attacked by waves of alien scum bent on preventing you from reseeding the galaxy. That’s the basis in a nutshell but, there are many mysteries, stories, and secrets to be uncovered in your exploration of the galaxy. 🙂

Where did you find the inspiration to make this game?

I don’t even know where to begin! I grew up playing games on NES and SNES primarily, with games like Plok, Earthworm Jim, Yoshi’s Island, etc. I always loved illustrated 2D style, and it was a dream to one day make a game along those lines. Another long-time game I played for many years was Soldat for PC, a very indie game that I simply loved the mechanics of — jetpacking around and avoiding bullets, while returning fire with attacks of your own. Late last year, I was experimenting with game dev, as I always tended to do on a hobby basis, with the hopes that one day I could develop something ‘serious’. Initially, I was simply trying to mimic the Soldat controls with right click for jetpack, left click for shooting your weapon, and WASD keys to control the player. When I had that down and feeling smooth, I thought it would be cool to have a mechanic similar to the old Yoshi’s Island boss fight where you run around on a planet while the camera spins around you — I began toying with the mechanic and started to fall in love with just controlling the player on the planet… One thing led to another and through a series of very fun experiments and ideas dredged up from games I always wanted to make but never had the drive, courage, or skill — Cosmochoria was born. 🙂

A huge inspiration for both the seed planting mechanic and the whole ‘no hand holding’ gameplay was the indie game Starseed Pilgrim. That game blew my mind open last year, and I’ve wanted to create something that would give that feeling of curiosity and wonder ever since.

I wanted to create something that would give that feeling of curiosity and wonder…

If it wasn’t for paying a very close eye on indie game development since seeing IndieGame: The Movie, and paying attention to indiedb.com and indiegames.com, I probably wouldn’t have even considered taking Cosmochoria to the next level. But when I began to show people the game and got such a positive response, it helped me get the confidence to really flesh it out into something special and try and take it to a more open stage, which ended up being Greenlight and Kickstarter.

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So, you want to make the world a little be more weird with your game. What are you implementing to accomplish that goal other than a naked man with no pee-pee?

Essentially, I just want to create experiences that stray, even just slightly, from the norm. With Cosmochoria, things like the camera mechanic, the fact that you’re planting seeds as a primary game mechanic, the naked cosmonaut, etc. help achieve that. From a gameplay standpoint, I wanted to create something that put an equal emphasis on a calm, meditative experience in addition to the frantic laser-gun battles with oncoming aliens. It was very important to me to ensure that the experience of simply floating in space was sort of a quiet, calming experience, as it lends itself to the ability of creating an almost care-free exploration of the galaxy. As the game progresses, even space becomes more hectic, but I definitely want people to feel like there are these serene moments of calm in amidst what can be a frantic arcade game. Almost like Pac Man when you’re sitting next to a powerpill waiting for the ghosts to slowly make their way to you… or in tetris when you finish cleaning up a big mess and you’re back to an almost empty board… there’s just something deeply satisfying with that brief moment of calm, especially knowing that it can be destroyed in a moments notice.

As far as making the world weirder… I guess all I can do is try to be authentic with what I’m creating. While I think a lot of my ideas originate from seeds planted by other incredible, creative geniuses (either subconsciously or consciously), I think I simply have an appreciation for things that just feel ‘different’. I use the word weird simply as a euphemism for ‘original’ I guess, and Indie games have probably been the biggest example of a medium that has pushed boundaries or stepped outside of the norm most consistently for me. All I want to do is contribute to the world with that core value in mind at all times.

There’s just something deeply satisfying with that brief moment of calm, especially knowing that it can be destroyed in a moment’s notice.

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What other weird things have you graced the big, blue earth with?

I am an illustrator and designer by trade, and a lot of my personal work is quite strange… Weird mutant cartoons devouring each other and giving birth to human appendages, etc. I am also a musician and have been producing and performing electronic and hip hop music since 1996. (Under the moniker “Mantrakid”) I’ve released quite a few albums of original music and I think you could accurately describe it as weird. Almost like if Beck and Radiohead had a Baby with a Bjork costume and dressed it in a distorted Battletoads pause beat. I released my music under my own label “Neferiu Records” which I ran for thirteen years, putting a focus not only on my productions in that time, but of incredible musicians worldwide. A total of 71 albums were released in the time I ran Neferiu Records, and each one brought a little weird to the table. 🙂 mantrakid.bandcamp.com and www.neferiu.com 🙂  

There’s talk of the game coming to the Wii U (which I love as a console choice). Why did you choose the Wii U over the other systems? —> What features are you including that will make the game special on the Wii U? Maybe some awesome tablet-y features?

The number one reason a Wii U port was so ‘doable’ for me was because the engine I’m using to create the game actually supports Wii U as a build option. So, a lot of the initial busy work to get a code base working on Wii U is already dealt with and it allows me to focus my efforts primarily on optimization, control schemes, and any other specific Wii U features. I grew up loving Nintendo — never had a Sega and it was a long time before I converted to Sony thanks to the PS3. I can give solid reasons to why SNES is the greatest system of all time, but I’ll leave that for another time. Personally I try not to have too much to say about the controversy surrounding Nintendo and the Wii U — no matter what the life of the system is, I think Cosmochoria is a great fit for a Nintendo system in general, and one that would be a lot of fun to play with the specific controls of the Wii U. As far as what those specific controls might be, I cant really delve too deeply until I get the dev kit and can begin experimenting with the possibilities, but I have many great ideas and I’ll be working my hardest to bring them to life!

The Wii U plays games I think, so speaking of games, what is your favorite game(s)?

Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past (SNES) for the progression, storyline, surprises, artwork, and music.

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Secret of Mana (SNES) for the story, scope, emotional feeling brought by the art, music, and environment.

Super Metroid (SNES) for the music, atmosphere, emotions, mystery, feeling of building power, etc.

Super Mario World (SNES) for achieving platform perfection. The music, art, everything gels in a way I cant describe. It’s perfect.

Fez (Multi-Platform) for the music, depth, and mystery (though it’s a bit exhausting, I still love that it’s all there — knowing so much thought was put into it makes me have a LOT of respect for Phil Fish).

So many good games, but I would go on for days. Ill leave it at that. 🙂

Obviously it feels great to know that your project was successfully backed and then some on Kickstarter, but how does it REALLY feel?

So deeply overwhelming. Imagine the best birthday you ever had where you got presents from people you didn’t even personally know, and everyone was so awesome and supportive and telling you how great you looked and asking if they can get you anything and how your week has been and really listening. By the end of the party, you want to be best friends with every single one of those people, and it’s just this overwhelming feeling of love and appreciation and a deep down satisfaction that something you’re doing has resonated with someone. I guess I’m not talking about the birthday party anymore… but to have a kid tell me that he is inspired to make games because he played Cosmochoria is pretty much the dopest thing ever. I don’t want to sound cliche, but I’ve always dreamed of that kind of thing happening.

I’ve made music for most of my adult life and people got into it but I feel like with this game, people are connecting to something I crafted on a deeper level. They’re actually experiencing things that I intended for them to experience, and I think the fact that the response has been so positive is just so utterly and deeply satisfying, like it really boosts my confidence that I have the potential to do something cool in this world… that feeling is unreal. I’ve never had so much hope for the future or so much confidence in my abilities and potential. I honestly just can’t wait to deliver. I just can’t wait to try and create something that really blows people’s minds.

I think the fact that the response has been so positive is just so utterly and deeply satisfying, like it really boosts my confidence that I have the potential to do something cool in this world…

Are there other game ideas swirling in your head? After Cosmochoria has its run for a while, are you wanting to make more games?

Always. This is what I want to do forever and ever and ever. Whether its working on updates for Cosmochoria, or starting up some crazy new idea in my backlog of ideas. So many games will be made. I just cant wait to dig into the next — whatever it might be (no spoilers)… I really get off on the high of that passionate dizzy feeling you get when you really believe in something and just want to see it come alive. I’ve made music and drawn/painted/etc., for such a huge part of my life, but nothing comes close with the feeling I get of creating interlocking systems and making them look cool with art and making sound effects for it and tying it together with music (mine or otherwise). It’s like the culmination of my passions all combined to a single medium. Love it so much.

<—END—>

Sounds like a pretty passionate guy, right? Check out the video below to see a trailer for the game.

 

Author: Darkrast

Co-Founder of Dpad Press.

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