Old School Gamer Magazine chats with “Canvas Hockey” creator Brandon Holt, who discusses his game and what inspired it as well as an eventual Switch release.

About Canvas Hockey:

Canvas Hockey is a top-down, arcade-style party game based on the sport of Ice Hockey. You can team up with friends in local multiplayer for 1v1 or 2v2 battles, or set up custom Tournaments for up to 12 players.

You can also start a single player Career, where you start at the bottom (Bronze league) and work your way up to the top (CHL elite). Manage your roster by trading your partner and goalie, or if your team is losing, trade yourself! Keep track of all of your stats and team history in this endless Career mode, as the A.I. progressively get faster and more skilled as you move up the leagues.

Old School Gamer Magazine: How was this game born?

Brandon Holt: I first got the inspiration for the game at a hockey practice late at night when I was looking up at the rafters and imagining watching the game from a birds-eye-view. I thought it would be really neat to have a completely top down hockey game that would fill the whole screen. 

Old School Gamer Magazine: What is your role in the game?

Holt: This was a solo project, but I certainly got help from a number of people. As a few examples, my Fiancé, Alison, helped me brainstorm a number of important concepts in the game, and even served as the model for the female avatar in the game. The goalie on my club hockey team also posed as the model for the goalie avatar in the game. I also got a lot of feedback and help from beta testers, family, and friends, who all played the game before release.

Old School Gamer Magazine: How did you get involved in the industry?

Holt: I am currently a bioengineering student at Georgia Tech, working on my PhD. For my research I do a lot of programming for simulations and experimental analysis. Since one of my biggest hobbies is playing video games, I got really curious how they were made, and found that a lot of my programming experience was easily translatable to game development. 

Old School Gamer Magazine: What has development been like?

Holt: Development has been a blast. While there have been a lot of learning experiences along the way, I genuinely poured my heart into the project. I still work full time on my PhD so I had to use my video game playing time and late nights and early mornings to work on game development.

Old School Gamer Magazine: What makes this game special?

Holt: To me, the special thing about the game is the callback to old-school arcade sports format, while putting a modern touch on the art style and game mechanics. Most hockey games these days go for realism and simulation, whereas with this game I wanted to make a more abstract version of hockey. One that uses the tried and true Nintendo formula of “easy to learn, but difficult to master”, so that it can be accessible to anyone of all skill levels, but also have a high skill ceiling for competitive play. 

Old School Gamer Magazine: Any hope for a Switch release?

Holt: Yes, absolutely. When I decided I wanted to make this a project I wanted to share with other people, the original intent was to put it on Switch. All along, I’ve been testing with joy-cons and pro controllers. Currently, I’m in discussions with a few publishers, some of whom are pushing for a switch release, so fingers crossed there. But if you ask me, this game belongs on the Switch.

Old School Gamer Magazine: What games influenced this one the most?

Holt: Most obviously, pretty much every arcade hockey game I’ve played. Those would be Backyard Hockey on the GBA, Super Blood Hockey on the Switch (highly recommend), and even the phone game Ice Rage. However, there are a few other mechanics that were inspired by other games, such as the tackling mechanics in Super Mario Strikers on the GameCube and 2v2 strategy elements from Rocket League.

Old School Gamer Magazine: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?

Holt: Nothing too wild to be honest, the whole process was pretty tame. 

Old School Gamer Magazine: What were the major lessons learned?

Holt: Major lessons learned mostly have to do with marketing. As I mentioned, I didn’t start this project with the intention of selling it. That being said, I didn’t build the story for the game with a specific audience in mind, I just sort of made an abstraction of the hockey game I would want to play. But I’ve learned a lot about both practical and more nebulous things you can do to help a game sell better. 

Old School Gamer Magazine: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?

Holt: 100%, without a doubt. That really is at the core of Canvas Hockey. I wanted to preserve the fundamental arcade hockey gameplay mechanics in a modern shell. I’m hoping that’s what I’ve achieved. 

Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?

Holt: My favorite memory as a game is beating Super Mario Bros. 3 for the first time, on the GBA. Funny enough, that game is so timeless, that my 10 year old self couldn’t even tell that it was actually released on a console from the 80’s. It was the first game I struggled to advance through a video game, and I still remember spending weeks on this one castle in world 8 that felt like a maze. But the feeling of beating the game and seeing the end credits where Mario travels through all the worlds was my first emotional reaction to a video game.

Old School Gamer Magazine: How do you want this game to ultimately be remembered?

Holt: I want this game to be remembered as a unique abstraction of what makes arcade sports, and more generally, hockey, fun. It may be rough around the edges, but I hope it will be remembered as a fun game to play, especially with friends and family.

Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s next?

Holt: Next up is getting the game on Switch and adding online multiplayer. I want to grow the audience as much as possible and listen to everyone’s feedback to constantly improve the game.

Patrick Hickey Jr. Patrick Hickey Jr. (147 Posts)

Patrick Hickey, Jr., is the founder and editor-in-chief of ReviewFix.com and a lecturer of English and journalism at Kingsborough Community College, in Brooklyn, New York. Over the past decade, his video game coverage has been featured in national ad campaigns by top publishers the likes of Nintendo, Deep Silver, Disney and EA Sports. His upcoming book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews With Cult and Classic Game Developers," from McFarland and Company, has already earned praise from Forbes, Huffington Post, The New York Daily News and MSG Networks. He is also a former editor at NBC and National Video Games Writer at the late-Examiner.com