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We had a chat with the developers of an airy folklore action/adventure title Mulaka. This Unity 5-game created by a small team Lienzo from Mexico reminds us of Miyazaki‘s Princess Monomoke and Never Alone. If you want to know more about games’ ability to depict unique cultures – read on.
Where are you guys from?
We’re a small game development studio that was founded in 2012. We are currently incubated in a beautiful technology park at the Chihuahua campus of the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, Mexico’s largest and most prestigious private university. We are, as of right now, a team of 14 people, ranging from programmers, artists, musicians, and managers. We’ve developed a few mobile titles before, which you can get a look here. Mulaka is our first big project aimed at those passionate hardcore gamers.
What is the general situation with game development in Mexico? What kind of games are your colleagues developing?
There is great talent and lots of amazing ideas among Mexican game development studios. Games like Trigger Runners, are slowly garnering attention from gamers around the world. However, game developers in Mexico face greater challenges in terms of the lack of support given the poor technological development compared to more developed countries and a rejection by a culture that hasn’t embraced videogames as a popular medium for expression. In spite of this, there is a growing popularity of console gaming, mainly on Playstation 4 and Xbox One platforms, among the young crowd. Unfortunately, there is also a huge problem of piracy.
Let’s talk about your new project, Mulaka. It’s an adventure game based on some old legend? Could you tell us a little bit more about it?
Mulaka is a 3D action-adventure game with a few RPG elements. It is based on the Raramuri, or Tarahumara, tribe that inhabits a vast region called Sierra Tarahumara in northwestern Mexico. Mulaka is also the name of the protagonist and the game follows his story. The basic premise of the game is that Mulaka is a Sukuruame (the equivalent of a shaman in the Tarahumara culture) in the making. He is trying to gain the trust of the Sierra Tarahumara demi-gods so they can intercede for humanity and protect the land against the Sun, Moon, and twilight gods. The game aims to portray the colors, myths and legends of the Raramuri tribe through the recreation of their land and mythical creatures. Development began on October of 2014, we’re still on early stages of development because of the lack of resources but we’re working hard to show you more of the game in action in the following days.
You’ve mentioned that you are using Unity 5. What were your main reasons for choosing this product? Could you give us reasons for choosing this engine?
We choose Unity 5 for the following reasons:
- Great Learning Curve
When we worked on Odisea Semilla for a smaller game some time ago, we had to choose a 3D game engine, and we chose Unity 4 because it came so natural, we felt comfortable with it right on! Unity 5, of course, maintains this great eased learning curve, so new team members at Lienzo spend less time learning and more time producing.
- Visually Rich
Unity 5 has so many visual enhancements at a really affordable complexity level. The Standard Shader is simple and beautiful. Global Illumination is just there ready to use. With Unity 5, making our game look beautiful will be a seamless enjoyable task.
This is another area where Unity 5 excels. Unity 5 at all its power is free to use for developers under a $100,000 USD revenue in the last fiscal year. This is key for us, since we are an emerging independent developer and money is still on the way. The only kind of drawback is the forced Unity splash screen, but Unity deserves a spot in our game anyways for being so awesome.
- Lucky Perfect Timing
Unity 5 was launched right before our Kickstarter campaign. This was great to us because we had already contemplated buying some Unity 4 licenses for the project. Since Unity 5 indie version now includes all the engine features, we were able to reduce the Kickstarter goal significantly.
- Good Company
People around Unity are great. The Asset Store is marvelous. A lot of pre-cooked solutions are there, ready to use and speed up your project. Also, the Forum and Unity Answers are of huge help.
- Unity is not for Programmers (only)
Learning the basics of the Unity interface is easy, and thanks to that not only programmers can use Unity, but also artists and level designers, all in synergy developing the same game.
- Less Porting Costs
Unity has great multiplatform support, so we know we can save a lot of porting costs just by using Unity. And version 5 added even more platforms!
What are the most important development tools for you right now? Do you buy some tech from the Unity Asset Store?
We do plan to buy some goodies on the Asset Store. I mean, why wouldn’t we?! Some packages are totally worth the money. We’re absolutely using Final IK because it’s so simple to use and it adds so much quality to the game. We are also using the beloved RAIN to power enemies AI. Another great asset we have been looking into is Force Field.
The art style of the game seems vaguely familiar of the Miyazaki film Princess Monomoke. What were the main inspirations behind the art?
It’s funny that you mention Mononoke, since one of our followers on Twitter told us a few weeks ago that our game reminded him a lot about that. It’s a good comparison, honestly. The art team aimed towards a toon style, similar to what The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker did, in order to get a colorful and charming style. Then, our impressively talented artists experimented with that style and wanted to achieve an art direction that maintained this attractiveness while still catching the interest of a wider demographic and allowing for some deep and mysterious material.
You’ve got a very detailed Kickstarter campaign. Did you prepare all the materials yourself or did you use any external agency to do the job? What were the main difficulties for organizing this campaign?
We organized everything for our campaign ourselves, beginning with plenty of time before its launch to ensure its quality. We got in contact with some Tarahumara communities and associations for some of the rewards, but everything else was prepared by ourselves and we got the help from a good friend for the trailer. You can take a look at his work right here. The biggest challenge was, and still is, getting the coverage needed for this project to be successful.
What are your main sources of funding? Will you be able to make the game without the money from Kickstarter?
Currently, all our funding is being done through Kickstarter. If the campaign fails, we would have to resort to other mediums, such as non-profit organizations and such. We do have their support right now and will help us in our campaign. However, it would be very difficult to get the amount needed without Kickstarter and most likely Mulaka would have to be done under a smaller scope. That’s why we are aggressively advertising our Kickstarter campaign, we want to make this a reality.
You’ve got a very nice breakdown of all the financial expenditures. What are the most expensive things to do in games like this?
Most of the budget of a long project like this goes to the salaries, even though we planned everything with low salaries for everyone, just enough to cover living expenses, in order to make the goal more feasible. Everyone in the team needs to cover those expenses and we’re currently working for free, so most of us do a part-time job for that. We all want to fully dedicate ourselves to Mulaka, so a crowdfunding campaign is the best way to cover that while motivating us through commitment to give back the best that we can do.
What are your plans as to the release of Mulaka? What platforms are you aiming at, what kind of distribution platforms do you want to use? Steam?
We’re aiming for a PC release via Steam on Summer 2016, giving all of our backers who donate $10 or more a copy of the game with Early Access included. If the funds allow us to, we would love to port the game to current generation consoles.
You can support Mulaka on Kickstarter.