Interview #004: Christopher Chancey - ManaVoid Entertainment
Hold on tight! Have I got an interview for you! If you've been longing for a highly innovative, incredibly creative, and just downright fun game, then let's learn more about ManaVoid Entertainment. This studio recently completed a successful #Kickstarter campaign for their upcoming title, Steamboat Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan. Let's learn more, shall we?
Thank you for the interview! Before we dive into your latest project, Steamboat Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Christopher Chancey, CEO of ManaVoid Entertainment Inc., an independent video game company based in Montreal, Canada. The company was founded coming straight out of my post-grad degree in video game design at the University of Montreal and we've been thriving ever since!
What was the first console/game you remember playing?
I have vague memories of me playing Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System when I was like 3 years old. Now that I own a video game studio, my parents keep reminding me of those days and how it's all because they kept getting me the latest consoles back then :-D.
What is your fondest video game memory?
My fondest video game memory is of playing a game called Out of this World (a.k.a. "Another World") on the SNES with my father. It took us months to finish and we actually called the developers back in the early '90s to figure out how to move forward in the game - there was no internet back then! I've also tattooed some of my favorite game moments on my left arm, so far I've got: Cloud placing Aerith's body in the water (Final Fantasy VII), Tyrael's stand versus Imperius (Diablo 3) and Link vs Dark Link (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time).
Manavoid, a Montreal-based indie developer studio, was formed in 2014. Can you share some history as to how the studio was formed and who the team consists of?
Coming out of the University of Montreal in 2014, the indie scene was prosperous and the AAA studios weren't really hiring and had kind of a bad reputation for creatives. So, me and some friends figured we'd try and launch a Kickstarter campaign for an idea we had during University, a game called Epic Manager. We budgeted a very lean year of development and haven't looked back since!
Epic Manager was Manavoid's first title and also met success on Kickstarter. How was it to see such a strong positive reaction from gamers?
It was incredibly cool. As a creator you have ideas and to shape them and put them out there into the world is something very personal and scary. When people started pledging on Kickstarter and reacting positively to the game, it was complete validation for what we were trying to do and really motivated us to do our best. It was super useful to have a community with whom we could interact during development as well. We are extremely proud of what we managed to create with Epic Manager, considering the limited budget we had. :D
Moving to Steamboat Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan, this is one title that I personally backed! As you've described it as a mix between Wind Waker and Pokemon, it feels so fresh and innovative. However, for those that may still be unaware of this upcoming game, could you briefly describe the story and game play?
A dark storm hits a fisherman and his son Billy out on their steamboat and they get sucked into a strange whirlpool. Coming out of it, Billy is alone except for a bunch of strange creatures running around. More importantly the world has been rid of its color!
Steamboat Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan is a single player colorless/colorful adventure-RPG set in a classic Disney-like universe in which you must defeat and capture strange monsters while sailing the dark seas, in order to rebuild and bring back color to the world you once knew!
It's no secret that the art style is a combination of disney-esque, anime, and old school cartoons. What made you want to go this route?
Our art director Anthony has been drawing in a Disney art style for years. It's something he does incredibly well, so when we saw how well received games like Bendy and the Ink Machine, Cuphead and Hollow Knight were, it was a no-brainer. We do want to differentiate ourselves from the classic style though, so we infuse our characters with Japanese anime and use modern visual effects. We are also experimenting with some 3D elements in the level design right now and will see if it makes it into the game! ;)
Can you provide an update as to where you are in the progress of the game?
We are still fairly early in development. Most of our core mechanics have been prototyped and we are iterating on them to make sure they are as fun as possible. We've nailed down our production pipeline for creatures, animations and our game design document is pretty solid. We've also got a new programmer and animator joining the team next month, so things are looking good and moving quick!
A physical edition! As a Switch collector, I absolutely love that your title is getting the physical treatment as I'm sure many are. Could you walk us through the process of bringing a game to cartridge?
It's no secret that our project plays on gamer nostalgia being inspired by an old cartoon art style and great games like The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Super Mario RPG and Pokémon. We wanted to enhance this with an old-school physical limited edition that would have unique box art and that people would be proud to have on their shelves! This is our company's first foray into physical editions, so we made sure to surround ourselves with people and companies who specialize in that sort of thing. Let's just say a bunch of publishers are roaming around the game right now, so we will have all the help we need. ;)
Are we still looking at a November 2019 estimated release date?
Like it says on our Kickstarter page, we are working hard towards a November 2019 release date, with the alpha and beta coming a few months before.
When you're not working on Steamboat Billy, what game(s) are you currently playing and looking forward to?
Next on the list is Octopath Traveler, although I've been playing Hearthstone competitively a lot lately. Come see me at Dreamhack Montreal if any of you are out there!
Is there anything else you'd like to share today?
The team and I just want to thank all of our Kickstarter backers and fans, you all are the reason why we make games and we are always humbled by your support.
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