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Interview #017: Mark & Lena - Katata Games

The 80's are alive and kicking in the upcoming game, Top Run, from the husband and wife duo known as Katata Games. Who are they though? How did they meet? What is Top Run? All these questions and more will be answered below!

Thank you Mark and Lena for taking the time to speak with me today. Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?

Thank you for having us here! We are a family, best friends, a team. At some point we realized that we need changes, we want to do something challenging, interesting and meaningful to us. Since then - we are a small gamedev studio, developing our first game.

What was the first console/game you remember playing?

Dendy was the first console for both of us. It's was a bootleg Famicom, but a good one - we even had games with cheats like Super Mario Bros. with infinite lives. We can't really recall the very first game, but we remember playing Super Mario Bros., Contra, F-1 Race, Chip 'n Dale (of course, we now have it on Xbox One) and many more. Oh, wait! Mark recalls playing some card game on MS-DOS before that, so that'll be the very first one.

What is your favorite childhood video game memory?

Mark: I remember my cousin allowed me to play Battlefield 1942 on his PC. After some time he came back to check on me and asked how many Nazis I've killed already. I wanted to look cool, so I said a lot. He pressed Tab and saw that I hadn't actually killed anyone. Man, I didn't know you can check score in that game!

Lena: I had to skip school a lot due to my health, so instead of homeschooling I was making myself hot chocolate and playing Sims all day long. It affected my grades, but I was the happiest girl in the world. No regrets.

Let's learn more about you two! When did you first meet?

Back in university, we had one company of friends, and we all used to play cards together. Back then, both of us had noticed the other one cheating, but we didn't say anything and just smiled at each other. That was it.

Was video games always a passion for both of you?

Of course! We always loved playing video games and lied to parents that we did homework to play more. Good thing we're adults now, so we can play as much as we want. But since we started making our own game, there's no time to play at all. Little did we know back then!

Was creating your very own video game something you both wanted to do?

If we were smart enough to think about it earlier, we would've chosen our education accordingly. But here we are, economist and journalist studying programming and art, developing our first game. We couldn't be happier. We love it!

How did Katata Games form?

Legally, it didn't even form yet. But you don't need a piece of paper to develop games. You just need one extremely bored economist with some free time at work, a journalist who had to quit her job due to health issues, and a lot of enthusiasm. 

Top Run, an endless runner set in the 80's is your studios first title. When did the idea for the game first come to you and how long has it been in development?

In the beginning it was a jungle runner, just for the sake of studying Unity. Then we realized we're actually not into jungles that much and we don't want to spend next year drawing and coding them. What we always were in love with was the 80's. So we decided to challenge ourselves with creating something larger and more complex and started from scratch. It happened somewhere in July 2017, and Top Run has been in development ever since.

Being your first title, what challenges have you been learning about along the way that you may not have initially thought of?

The hardest thing is to stop developing the game. Beta testers are giving us a lot of feedback and we want to add a lot to make Top Run feel and play better. Then we play it more and we have these "oh let's add this, it would be amazing" moments, but it really has to stop.

What makes Top Run, in your opinion, different from other endless runners?

It's the top, it's in the name. On a serious note though, Top Run is also a platformer. We were happy to hear from beta testers that for them it feels a lot like a platformer. It's also a shooter. This adds a tactics layer to it as you really need to think on how to spend your bullets. Finally, Top Run is a crafted 80's-inspired universe with awesome synthwave soundtrack and even voice acting! 

According to your blog, you had recently submitted it to a publisher and, unfortunately, received a rejection notice. Despite that, you two are still hard at work and I know many of us want to know where the game is in development?

Despite rejection we've got a lot of valuable feedback, so it was totally worth it. Such experience might be sad but it's also very refreshing. We've implemented stuff they told us and oh boy, did it work. The game is on a whole new level now. Just a bit of polish left.

What platform(s) do you plan to release the game onto?

Android and iOS first, and we are considering  releasing it on Steam; we'll see how it goes. Of course we would love to release it on consoles too, but it's hard and we are not sure that an endless runner is the right type of game for that.

Is there a release date set?

It's hard to admit it, but we've screwed a lot of deadlines already. We just can't stop developing it. At this point we just should do it in 2018. 

Besides your own, what game(s) are your currently playing and looking forward to?

We are really pushing hard to release our game and we are also moving at the same time, so we haven't played anything besides Top Run for four months already. We are desperate to play any games!

Finally, is there anything else you'd like to share with us today?

Never play Monopoly with your family and always backup your projects. Thanks again!

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