Gameluster’s J.J. Evangelista had an opportunity to speak with David Pittman about Minor Key games, Eldritch, and their upcoming game, Neon Struct.
J.J. Evangelista: Hello, my name’s J.J. Evangelista, and I represent Gameluster.com. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview! Can I please have your name, and what you do at Minor Key Games? How did Minor Key Games come together?
David Pittan: Hi J.J.! I’m David Pittman, a co-founder and developer at Minor Key Games, which I formed with my twin brother Kyle in 2013. We each had around 7 years of experience in the games industry prior to that, working on titles like BioShock 2 and the Borderlands series.
“Minor Key Games” is a reference to the dark sound of minor key music (vs. major key). We chose the name to reflect the music that inspired us in our childhoods, and the feelings we want our games to evoke.
J.J. Evangelista: How did you get into the industry, and what made you decide to get into this medium? What inspires you and your team to create?
David Pittan: Kyle and I grew up playing video games like many people our age; but from a young age, we also had an interest in learning how games were made. We taught ourselves to program in BASIC from sample code in science magazines, and that hobby grew into a career goal.
Our inspirations are diverse, but we both value and appreciate games which empower the player to be creative and to explore. I like to play big budget games as well as indie games, but there often seems to be an inverse relationship between a game’s budget and its willingness to let the player go off the beaten path (literally or metaphorically).
J.J. Evangelista: What was the inspiration behind Eldritch? What made you decide to use books as the means of crossing into other worlds?
David Pittman: The initial spark of an idea was to make a game with the systemic complexity of a BioShock or a Deus Ex, but with the unique moments and unpredictable challenges of a roguelike. I did not originally envision it as a Lovecraftian game, but chose that setting while searching for a theme that would provide an interesting set of worlds, weapons, monsters, and magic. The basic premise was of a character trapped in an unimaginably large library, venturing deeper and deeper into magical books to retrieve powers from the creatures contained within and ultimately unlock a path out of the library. The final version of the library paled in comparison to my vision, but it was a good place to start.
J.J. Evangelista: I love Eldritch’s visual style! What made you decide to go with this look? Were there any other visual ideas you played around with during the concept stage? The enemy designs in Eldritch are crazy and unique. How did you come up with their looks, attack patterns, and all the freaky noises they make?
David Pittman: Each world was loosely inspired by a Lovecraft story, although I took a lot of artistic license in the adaptation. The sandy second world and its reptilian enemies were based on “The Nameless City”, for example, but the most memorable feature of that world was its Weeping Angel-esque statues.
The art and sound direction in Eldritch were chosen to be quick and easy to develop. As a solo developer—responsible for all the programming, design, art, and audio—and working with a very limited budget, I needed to find a style that would look good enough without taking too much time or pushing beyond my limited art capabilities. The blocky, lo-fi art owes a lot to Minecraft, and I’m glad to be making games in a time when many gamers are willing to accept simplistic graphics for complex games. Unfortunately, the style also primed people’s expectations of Eldritch as a “Minecraft clone”, when in fact, Minecraft had virtually no influence on its game design.
The audio was the epitome of DIY bedroom game development. The enemy sounds are mostly me making silly noises into a microphone, and the music was a sound collage of strange and dissonant noises I recorded on an electric guitar.
J.J. Evangelista: Eldritch can get pretty scary, especially when you have no idea what’s making those noises! It almost took on a survival horror aspect at times, at least for me. Was this intentional?
David Pittman: I definitely wanted the game to be creepy and atmospheric, even more than how it turned out. It was only as a side effect of the simplistic art direction that it wasn’t more clearly a scary/horror game, but I’m happy that some of that intention shone through anyway.
J.J. Evangelista: Do you plan to create anymore DLC? Will we be seeing Eldritch on any other platforms? What future plans do you have for Eldritch?
David Pittman: There is a seeecret update coming on August 20th, but it’s a seeecret. (Note: If you publish this after August 20, then it’s already available on Steam! Trading cards! Achievements! Leaderboards!) I don’t have any other plans for Eldritch, as I’m now working full time on my next game Neon Struct—but it was a fun game to make and I always love coming back to it, so I’m not going to rule it out.
For the time being, we are only developing for PC (Windows, Mac, and Linux). As players, we like both PC and console games; but as developers, we love the freedom and independence of publishing on PC.
J.J. Evangelista: Can you give a brief overview of the process you use to create your video games? Do you have any advice for anyone trying to break into the game industry, or create their own game?
David Pittman: My games are programmed in C++ (including the engine, which I developed), and I mostly use free and open source tools like GIMP, Blender, and Audacity to create art and audio assets. But that’s just what I’m familiar with, it’s not necessarily a recommendation for how anyone else should do it. There’s a wealth of tools available to create all kinds of games these days. My best advice for anyone who wants to make games is: start small, finish things, and be open to feedback.
J.J. Evangelista: You have a new game in development, called Neon Struct. Are there any details you can share with us about it? Also, what can we expect to see from Minor Key Games in the future?
David Pittman: Our next release is Kyle’s Super Win the Game, coming October 1 to Steam, on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Kyle has taken a playable demo to Texas game events like RTX and QuakeCon this summer, and the feedback from those has been overwhelmingly positive.
My next project is Neon Struct, a political thriller stealth game about a spy on the run from her own agency. I’ve been openly documenting its development and am still targeting an early 2015 release date.
J.J. Evangelista: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. I look forward to seeing more work from Minor Key Games in the future! Thank you very much.