We got the chance to talk to Javier Giménez, founder of Digital Sun Games, to talk about their roguelite adventure game Moonlighter, which will be heading to Nintendo Switch on November 5. We discussed Moonlighter‘s inspirations, development challenges, and future updates.
JG: The concept came from wondering what would playing as the shopkeeper of a classic JRPG be, and from referencing games we loved like The Binding of Isaac, Harvest Moon or Legend of Zelda. Also, we were a services company for a long time, developing games for other people, while dreaming of creating our own games so, the story of a shopkeeper that dreams of being a hero resonated with us… When developing the concept we always tried to make it so the two cores of the game (dungeons and town/shopkeeping) were very integrated with each other. The ideas was that in the dungeons the player would be thinking about the shop and, when in the shop, the player would be thinking about the dungeons. I believe that’s one of the things that really works with Moonlighter and keeps the player engaged.
IndieHangover: So Moonlighter takes some inspiration from The Legend of Zelda series, are there any other specific games which helped inspire it that people may not realize?
JG: Well, a lot I guess. One of the games that really inspired us and that people usually don’t bring up is Rogue Legacy, a game we love and that was a big inspiration for the main roguelite cycle. Also games like Golden Sun for example. There is a game with a very similar loop, called Recettear, and many have asked us if that was an inspiration for the game. The truth is that we didn’t know about it when we started the development but, once we found out we certainly played it and we really liked it so it was certainly an influence for us too.
JG: Golden Sun was an influence mostly for the animation and art style, but also a little of the spirit of the setting is there in our opinion.
JG: Well, we wanted a mix of traditional pixel art and more modern tendencies. Probably somewhere between Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap and Hyper Light Drifter. We ended up adding a lot of things we love like some Studio Ghibli world building here and there, or traditional animation (for example in the boss intros). We wanted to create a beautiful game and we worked very hard on it so we are very happy that people seem to like it.
JG: The soundtrack is the work of David Fenn a composer we really admired from his work on Titan Souls, we wanted that feeling of adventure mixed with fairy tale. There is a diversity of styles in moonlighter depending on the dungeon and the moment of the game, from the laid back feeling of Rynoka to the harder, more synthetic music of the last dungeons. We loved David’s work it adds a lot to the game.
IndieHangover: Originally, it seemed as if Moonlighter would come to all platforms the same day, but the Nintendo Switch version won’t be available until November, has it been difficult to make the transition to Nintendo Switch, and what other things did you find were the most challenging during development?
JG: Well, a lot of things have been challenging, since this is our first original game. Certainly the port to Nintendo Switch has been challenging, also because at the same time we have to work on post-release stuff like bug solving and working on a lot of updates and new content for the game. In the end, it’s a lot of work for a small team. One thing that we learned from Moonlighter is that we need more preproduction in our games. Moonlighter started almost like a side “free time” project and slowly evolved getting bigger and more serious so maybe we didn’t pay enough attention to lay out good foundations in terms of design, technology, art preproduction. That has generated problems during the production that required extra effort from us. I hope we’ll get better at that in our following games!
IndieHangover: Recently, an upcoming series of updates to the game were announced including increased stock, new bosses, new game plus, and perhaps most interestingly, companions. Can you tell us about how companions work and what inspired you to add them into the game?
JG: One direct inspiration for companions is certainly The Binding of Isaac, we feel that it worked great inside the world of Moonlighter. I can’t speak a lot about how they work right now (we need to wait for the update ) but, in essence, as you progress you get access to new companions, with different abilities, that can help you in the dungeons, and it’s up to the player to choose which one works best in different situations.
JG: Well, yes! The success of Moonlighter is going to allows us to keep doing what we love, develop games. We actually want to be a multigame studio, so our goal is to work on a couple (2-3) games in parallel, not gigantic, but mid-sized, high-quality (if we can) games. Some of the new projects are maturing fast and I hope you can hear about new stuff from us in 2019.
JG: It’s hard to give just one piece of advice so… maybe a couple of ideas. 1 – Be very good at your craft, whatever it is, don’t settle for mediocre. 2 – Don’t try to make your first game a success, do small things, fail and learn in the process. 3 – Think about the business side of things, the market is much more mature than 3-4 years ago and it’s not easy to put your game in front of players, who are also more demanding from indie games. 4 – Do what you love, and everything is easier.
Moonlighter is available digitally on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam, GOG, and Humble. It will also be available on Nintendo Switch on November 5 both physically and digitally, with a physical release on PlayStation 4 the same day. A signature edition with some exclusive physical goodies is also available to pre-order. To learn more about our initial impressions, you can check out our spotlight.
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!