Whilst once again scouting for more indie gaming prospects on crowdfunding and social media platforms, I came across a turn-based RPG with an already exceedingly elaborate development cycle behind it. Monster Tribe, once named Monster Tower following several changes on the project, is a turn-based RPG reminiscent of Satoshi Tajiri’s Pokemon series, but with very different gameplay elements to it. The turn-based combat system is something very unique compared to those found in classic games in the genre, such as the Final Fantasy games, Grandia, and Chrono Trigger, and takes place in a world inspired by other classic gaming sagas, such as The Legend of Zelda. Developed by Boundless games based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, the game has been in development for some time, and has been chronicled extensively ever since development started. Desperate to know more about this game, I contacted the lead developer; programmer, vlogger, and freelance artist Reece Geofroy. I asked him a series of questions regarding the development of the game, the long and arduous development process, and the upcoming Kickstarter project, as well as how his past developmental experiences and feedback from others have helped shape the project into what it is today, and what it will eventually become. Here’s what Reece Geofroy had to say about Monster Tribe:
What were the influences behind your game?
As a kid, I grew up on Nintendo games, so I have been heavily influenced to create products that invent something new. Take a genre and turn it on its head in any small way possible! Zelda and Pokemon were specific games that inspired this project, but I feel we are influenced by everything that happens over the course of our lives. Everyone will be exposed to slightly different experiences and perceive things a little bit differently. I also loved the atmosphere of Hyper Light Drifter, and I loved the gameplay mechanics of Slay the Spire. Small ideas from each of these games can be found in Monster Tribe, but we are doing our best to create a unique experience for players to get immersed in.
What has the developmental process been like?
Monster Tribe has definitely been the biggest, most complex project I have worked on as an indie developer, so the ride has definitely had a lot of ups and downs. I started a series on YouTube for the game and people fell in love with the game’s initial idea. It sparked new ideas and so a lot of revision was necessary to get the project to where it is now. The art style of the game changed more times than I can count on 1 hand and the project’s scope has adapted a number of times to stay up to date with my lifestyle and the team’s vision. We are very set in what we plan to create now though, so development has been busy and a little hectic, but manageable and overall a successful experience!
How close are we to seeing the finished product?
We are expecting to finish Monster Tribe for Q4 2021, but the scope could slightly change depending on how well our Kickstarter Campaign does, so Q1 2021 – Q1 2022 would be the expected release!
What has been the most exciting aspect of developing Monster Tribe?
Growing an audience on YouTube and becoming a full-time entrepreneur/freelance artist! I have always envisioned myself working on something I am passionate about and owning my own company, so even though technically the game itself hasn’t paid me for my hard work yet, I have grown an incredibly supportive community and have upgraded my skills as a project manager, game programmer, and pixel artist immensely over the course of the project to be able to play like a professional and make money off of what I love to do—make videos for fans, create art, and design video games!
What has been the most challenging aspect of developing Monster Tribe?
Working with feature creep and over-scoping the project. As creators we often find ourselves designing with endless possibilities of ideas. It’s easy to create a concept and expand it, but the challenge comes with actually creating the finished product and not losing purpose halfway through. Working in a team can also be difficult to include everyone’s ideas and make everyone feel heard, but at the same time, the project needs to have limits and has to be kept grounded for it to be feasible and made into a finished product.
How well has Monster Tribe been received so far?
Between the fans on YouTube and Twitter, the sites that have covered our game, the interviews I have been invited onto, and the continual growth of the community, I would say the game has been received well with small constructive feedback helping shape the game into what it is today.
What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?
Steam/PC is our top priority with a keen eye on the Nintendo Switch. This ultimately just comes down to how much the project gets funded for us to port the game and if Nintendo will accept our project onto their platform. We have high hopes for the console release, but we can’t be certain until further on in development.
Will the Kickstarter campaign have any stretch goals? If so, what can you tell us about them?
Our goal is to raise CAD$15,000 for our game, but we have stretch goals going into the six-figure values. We will have small stretch goals to keep the raised amount exciting with big goals every $25,000! A few stretch goals you can expect would be in raising the total number of monsters, items, and fusions you will find in the game, hand-made HD wallpaper art cutscenes, an expansion to the overall island map size with new areas to explore, and quite a lot more to be held back until the Kickstarter’s launch!
Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that have since been scrapped or reworked?
MANY! To name a few; changing the art style a handful of times to different styles of pixel art and sprite stacking methods, reworking the battlefield design on 3 separate occasions, scrapping the idea of a rogue-like gameplay loop as it didn’t fit the real purpose of the goal of what the game is trying to achieve, and more as the devlog series has developed over the last 9 months.
How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of the project been?
Player/viewer feedback has been very important to us. We want to make a game for gamers…not game makers. The people who watch the development unfold have been giving me feedback and suggestions since the initial idea concept and I have kept strong with replying to all of their comments, researching new ideas from suggestions, and even getting inspired by viewer’s fan art monsters to open up my mind a little more creatively.
Have there been any aspiring developers who have watched your coding instruction videos that have reached out to you for advice?
I get a lot of starting developers asking me for help through my live streams, discord server, and direct messages. At the end of the day, I love what I do for a living, so inspiring others to start a similar journey and give them my honest advice is something that gives me purpose and makes me feel like I am contributing to something bigger than just myself and my company. Helping others is something I have always wanted to achieve, so I do my best to get back to people and give them my honest feedback in the best way I can.
You mention in one of your YouTube videos that making music proved to be an obstacle for yourself. Who is composing the music for Monster Tribe and how has it been coming along?
I brought on a composer “Lennart” who has been doing a fantastic job of bringing our ideas to life through sound and music. I initially wanted to create the music and sound design myself, but as the project idea expanded in my mind, I knew it was necessary to get someone with a more fine-tuned skill set on the project. Lennart was keen on following the Monster Tribe development devlogs and so when he reached out to me with his previous experience and tracks I knew this would be a long-term addition that would be absolutely necessary. His skills have grown a lot since the beginning of the project and he consistently proves himself to be beyond what I thought was a possibility for our game. Every new track is a rush of dopamine for my creative vision.
I’ve noticed myself over the last few months that there seems to have been somewhat of an influx of developers originating from Canada. Have there been any other indie Canadian developers who have reached out to you with advice, or you’ve reached out to yourself for advice?
I have quite a few development friends from YouTube, some of which are from Canada. I personally don’t know why an influx would occur, but I have gotten useful connections to people in my province from these friends. Making new connections is a large part of my job, so meeting people that are in your location is quite interesting and can definitely open up more opportunities!
If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?
Personally, I would still choose to work for my own company, making my own games, as I feel very lucky to be able to take on all of the different jobs that being a developer entails, but if I had to work with a company I would love to develop or publish a game under Devolver Digital or Chucklefish! I love their games and believe in the work they do.
What have been the most important lessons learned from prior developmental experiences?
Think small in concept, think big in execution! What makes an indie developer profitable is thinking small in scale, but making the best, most polished version of that idea imaginable. As indie developers, time is our largest restriction to what we can create and how profitable we can be in our careers. We don’t have the time to create a game with endless endings or a photo-realistic art style. We need to work with the limitations we are given and create something that will blow people away through the purity of how well thought out the initial idea and concept are and how far it can be exploited. That is how successful indie developers are created.
Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?
Create today, stress tomorrow. Becoming a developer—or any kind of entrepreneur really—is something that takes a large amount of time, learning from past mistakes, and doing better with every attempt. You can soak up as much knowledge from books, videos, and games as you possibly can, but actually creating is something that can only be experienced in one way. Actually creating something. Don’t let the stress of failure or what comes next define you or prolong your start. Learn from every failure you face, there is never a wrong time to start something new.
For the developers that have already started but are striving for real success, first define to YOURSELF what success really is. Once you understand that success is subjective you can begin to understand that making a finished game means you are a game developer. Take on the small wins, as they will fuel you to push past the tough times when you don’t receive the praise or funding you one day want to achieve. Set realistic expectations, but get ruthless with the work you put in and the results you work towards.
Where on the Internet can people find you?
People can find me on my YouTube Channel, Twitter, or Join My Discord Server to find out more information about me and my company Boundless Games. I am currently working on reworking my company’s website, so for now Discord is the best way to connect with me and the game directly!
Do you have anything else to add?
If you are lost in what you want to achieve in life, just remember that you are not bound to what you think you are capable of. Years went by where I only dreamt of making games and starting a company. I convinced myself I was “just another kid” and that only “special people” were capable of achieving amazing results. It took me a long time to get me to where I am today, but I made my dream a reality, even as “just another kid”. You can control your destiny as hard as it might seem, so don’t blame how you grew up or being unlucky that life didn’t fall into your hands naturally, the most successful people will choose to be successful even when it doesn’t seem possible.
I’d lastly like to thank Reece for providing such a wonderful and extensive insight into what kind of game players can come to expect from Monster Tribe, and how so many variants have affected the course of development. The Kickstarter will be launching later this month, so if you’re interested in seeing this game come to life, then make sure to back it once the campaign launches. Be sure to also check out Reece’s social media feeds and YouTube channel for the latest news on the course of the game’s development In the meantime, I hope you guys had fun learning more about this promising title as I did to bring this game to your attention and reading what Reece had to say for myself.
Scouse Gamer 88