Old School Gamer Magazine chats with game developer Izma, who discusses his new Game Boy survival horror game from Spacebot Interactive, Deadeus.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How was this game born?
Izma: The game came directly out of a game jam a few colleagues and I set up back at my previous studio.
I had been trying to make a Gameboy game in Game Maker Studio at the time and whilst it was going alright there were no strict limitations on what you could make meaning that I honestly don’t think that attempt could have run on an original Game Boy.
When GB Studio came out we jumped on it immediately with our jam and we knew that anything we made would HAVE to run on a Game Boy so that was pretty cool. Although I missed the jam deadline with Deadeus I had gotten so far and received such a positive response that I took an additional month to finish it up!
Old School Gamer Magazine: What is your role in the game?
Izma: Basically everything! I wrote, designed, programmed and did the art. All except the sound which was handled by an old bandmate and very close friend of mine, Stuart Busby.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What has development been like?
Izma: It was half fun and half hell haha!
The game came together very quickly once the ball started rolling. Around that time I was house-sitting for one of my bosses and there wasn’t a lot to do other than sit and plan the game out and I found that very enjoyable.
Art is my day job so doing all of the creative work on Deadeus was an absolute pleasure too to the point where I miss certain aspects of it now! But in terms of creative design it all snapped together very quickly and easily.
The difficult part was the player choice. I created flow charts to work out if the player had done certain tasks or spoke to certain characters because it very quickly became a nightmare to keep track of it all. With 35+ characters, most of which change over the 3 days and can be dependent on player interaction it was very tough to keep on top of it.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What makes this game special?
Izma: I would like to think its disturbing nature and nonlinearity probably make it stand out a little. When doing research on the games that officially came out on the platform there were basically no horror games, horror ‘themed’ games for sure but I couldn’t find any that were meant to unsettle a player and I wanted to try and create that.
With the nonlinearity, I wanted to make it so that the player felt like they could go any which way and something different would happen. I’m not sure how well that worked out but after watching videos/ streams of it and seeing people immediately jump back in to see another ending I can’t help but feel I got some way there.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What games influenced this one the most?
Izma: I get this question a lot and there are some that are obvious and some that aren’t. The really on the nose ones are the original Pokemon games and Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening but I almost feel like that’s the nature of the beast with top-down Game Boy games. Narratively another obvious one is Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Although I didn’t intend for it to be as close as it was it was definitely hard to stray from its path with the subject material.
As for the less obvious influences there is Tower of Heaven, Katana: Zero and Lisa the Painful, to name a few. Each of these games contrast their main gameplay with quieter contemplative moments and I tried to achieve that feel in Deadeus.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Izma: It’s not the most wild thing I suppose but after I put the game out publicly I caught a few people in my studio playing it on their own without me prompting them to and that felt very validating.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What were the major lessons learned?
Izma: Don’t make a game with such a wide array of variables haha!
But for real, plan everything out as best you can and test the thing to its absolute nth degree and get others to check it and be brutally honest.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer in terms of survival horror games?
Izma: I’ve told this story in the past but I think it still counts for this. I remember when my Dad brought home Resident Evil on the Sega Saturn. I was so young at that point that I didn’t even understand that there could be a game without stages/levels and I remember repeatedly asking my Dad what level of Resident Evil he was on haha.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Resident Evil or Silent Hill? Why?
Izma: Taking both as the PS1 Originals: I love both so so much. Silent Hill is incredible and in my opinion totally holds up in terms of visuals and horror BUT Resident Evil 1 is my all time favourite game so it has to take it for me personally. I love how cheesy it all is but I also love how condensed it is. Resident Evil 1 is this little puzzle box that opens up slowly over time, its design is a big influence on a lot of my work.
Taking both as their franchises: To me, Silent Hill has been dead for a long time. 1 through 4 are amazing and I love them all but most of everything since has just been disappointing and I want them to leave it alone. P.T. Could have been amazing and it seemed to be taking a departure from the same ‘cursed town’ ‘repressed memory’ ‘oops im the bad guy’ tropes that are now done to death. All that being said RE’s franchise has had its ups and downs for sure but I’m excited at all the recent games trajectory for sure.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Clock Tower or Alone in the Dark? Why?
Izma: I have actually never finished anything from either franchise! Although I do have Clocktower 1’s SNES translation, ClockTower 1+2 on PS1 and Alone in the Dark 4 on my never ending list to play.
I played a bit of Alone in the Dark 4 on a PS1 demo disk years ago and really loved the atmosphere in it.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How have your previous experiences in the industry helped this game?
Izma: I’m starting to feel like everything feeds into everything else haha. My roles are predominantly artistic in industry but I have alot of friends who are writers/ programmers/ musicians etc and it was super helpful to have friends with that experience if I ran into any sticking points.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How do you want this game to ultimately be remembered?
Izma: I’d love it to be remembered as proof that anyone can make a game! GB Studio is free and crazy easy to use. I wholeheartedly recommend anyone jumping in and giving it a go and if that’s how Deadeus is remembered it would mean the world to me.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s next?
Izma: I feel like this is the eternal question haha. I want to get back into 3D development now and I had made decent progress on a HorrorPuzzler inspired by Kurushi that I desperately need to return to and finish. After that, I would love to make more Gameboy games potentially down the line! I actually have alot of prototypes basically ready to build on top of, I have a tactics game I’m desperate to make, an MR/AR/VR Beat em up and more.
Finally I would really like to do a DeadeusDX type game where I rebuild it from the ground up in 3D. I’m thinking about it all the time now.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Anything else you’d like to add?
Izma: Thank you for your time and interest in my game and work! It really does mean alot to me. If I could say one thing to anyone I would say, if you’ve ever wanted to make a game or had a great idea and you just weren’t sure if you should or not I would say jump in and work it out.
For a long time I ummed and ahhed struggling to work it out but there are a fair few free engines now and unlimited help on youtube and discord. Getting into games is without a doubt the best thing I have ever done and if I can encourage anyone else to take the jump then that would make me so happy.
If you would like to see any more of my work you can find my website here: https://www.izmaillustration.com/