At the PlayStation Experience last weekend, I got to chat with Adolfo Aguirre, the Marketing and PR Manager of Mexico based game development studio Lienzo, about their upcoming indie action adventure game, Mulaka, which also had a playable demo for the event.
I have been fascinated by Mulaka ever since I first learned about it a few months ago, and was overjoyed to finally get the chance to play a level from it. This particular demo featured the fourth level of the game, The Lake of Arareko, since at that point players are able to experience most if not all of the different gameplay elements including exploration, combat, animal transformations, and potion crafting, without spoiling the rest of game. I even managed to find a bug with the in game volume when I was lowering it so I could hear better, which the team had never found previously, and made sure to take note of. Despite the volume bug, the demo was just as high quality as I expected it to be and although I wish I had more time to play it, it increased my anticipation for the game’s release even further.
Adolfo Aguirre: “Mulaka is inspired by the stories and the legends of an indigenous group of people called the Tarahumara. They live in Northern Mexico, and what we are doing is we are taking some of their coolest legends, stories, and myths, and we a making an actual game based off of that. Also it’s important for us to be clear on the fact that this a project where these people are involved as well. We got as much involvement from them as we could. We got some narration in their language by them in the game, we got their blessing, we got some of their stories in here, so this is a project made for them and with their collaboration. It’s coming in early 2018 for the PlayStation 4 as well as other platforms like the Switch, Xbox One, and PC, all coming at the same time. It was very important for us to let everyone play the game at the same time.”
IndieHangover: Why was this particular graphical style chosen for the game?
AA: “We went for a 3D low poly visual style because of many reasons but mainly we wanted an art style that blended in with the art of these people (the Tarahumara). So they have a lot of rocky paintings they do some art themselves and their art is very simplistic and polygonal, so we wanted to choose a visual style for the game that matched with that. That and also a lot of the areas for this game is based on big, vast, and real life locations, we wanted to really portray that in the game as well and a 3D low poly visual style allows us to do that very well, considering the fact that we are only eight people and the art department is mainly just three guys. And also we are big fans of the retro, we believe a low poly visual style to kind of be like a callback to the classic platformer era from the PS1 days.”
IH: Which games helped inspire Mulaka?
AA: “Think of something like Banjo Kazooie mixed with the Legend of Zelda and Darksiders. There are many levels and each is a big open world ala Banjo Kazooie style but the combat and the gameplay is more akin to something like Zelda or Darksiders.”
IH: The game will feature unlimited stamina running due to the Tarahumara people being known for their long distance running abilities, how will this be different from other games which feature no stamina running and are there some clever ways it has been incorporated?
AA:”It’s mostly movement because as i said a lot of these areas are very big, vast, and open so the movement from the running just allows players to get from place to place without going into frustration. You can just run and get across a big and vast location. But also running is a mechanic that you can use in combat, because a lot of combat arenas are in places and enemies can move very fast, so by running you can evade a lot of their attacks and get into better positioning while engaging in combat.”
IH: In games we often see Greek, Norse, or Egyptian mythology, so it’s refreshing to see a game based on a culture and mythology that’s not as well known. It has been said that Tarahumaran mythology is not well illustrated, so how did the team get around that?
AA:” It was a challenge because these people, all their greatness aside, are also known for being a bit shy. We really had to get in touch with them, gain their trust, talk with them and get some of their legends. It is true that many and most of their myths and stories are just preserved through oral tradition only, there are no real illustrations or visual depictions of a lot of this stuff. So really we had to use our imagination for a lot of it. A lot of the elements of the culture are represent visually for the very first time in history in this game. Basically, we had a text or oral description of something and our concept artists just had the task of getting that on a visual representation way. It was a challenge, definitely, very challenging but we manage to pull it off. It’s also a big responsibility for us because we’re the very first ones to. As an example, we know that the Tarahumara people mention that they were afraid of and they were at war with a group a people, a tribe that they called the Seeló , and they were described this tribe of big Mantis men, but there’s no kind of picture or drawing of them, so what we basically did is we created mantis that looks humanoid in the game you will face in many of your battles. Another example is the big rock enemy called the Ganoko , that can get as big as the size of a mountain, and there’s not a real image or real picture of them, we just know the description and we created it (the visual depiction).”
IH: Compared to other games, the animal transformations featured in Mulaka seem quick and seamless. Are the transformations only available during certain situations or can they be used at any time?
AA:”They’re actually available all the time, however, you will be learning this information as you progress through the game. When you first begin in the adventure of Mulaka, you don’t have any of them, but you will move forward and you will be meeting some of the demigods of the lore, and as you meet demigods and gain their trust, you will be learning how to transform into those demigods.
In this demo we have the bird transformation which is the royal woodpecker that you activate by double jumping and we have the bear transformation that you activate by holding down the strong attack button, but they are only available all the time if you’re magic meter allows you to do that. For the bear you must have a full magic meter, for the bird you can do it any time but as you use it you’ll magic with drain over time. More transformations will be available in the full game as you progress, these transformations are called the divine transformations and come from the lore.”
IH: Hand to hand combat is a prominent feature when fighting against enemies, particularly humanoid ones. It was said that the Seeló people use their blades in a karate style, how does that differ from how the main player character fights?
AA: “For the main character your weapon is a spear, so the spear is a two handed weapon while these mantis enemies attack with both arms . As soon as they can trigger a motion, they trigger quick and fast attacks that can do a lot of damage if you’re not careful. The main character’s weapon is admittedly a bit of a slower thing, and you can also use some magic attacks like the bomb potion and other potions you’ll learn to make in the game.”
IH: After Mulaka releases next year, are there any plans to make another game based on a lesser known mythology and culture, or something completely different?
AA: “That’s a very good question because that answer will be different depending on who you ask from our team. It really depends on what the audience asks for. When we release this game it will depend on if people want more of this or not, I can tell you that there are some ideas already being discussed in the studio. There’s some cool stuff we are looking for in expanding this universe of Mulaka, but it really depends on a lot of different things and mostly player demand, what do people want from us really. We’ll be announcing more of that further down the line.”
Mulaka will be released in early 2018 for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Lienzo also has an ongoing Behind Mulaka video series on their YouTube channel on the development of the game that’s worth watching if you want to know more about this unique game.
You can check out our older Indie Dev Interviews to learn more about the stories behind a whole host of other indie games, as well as the motivations of the people that make them. Comment, like and subscribe to our YouTube channel if you find them interesting and want more!