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Interview #027: Denis Sinner (Moi Rai Games)

Monster training meets the metroidvania universe! No, this isn't wishful thinking, but the concept behind Monster Sanctuary, the debut title from Moi Rai Games. Currently still on Kickstarter at the time of this interview, it far exceed its goals with still days to go! And before you get too far in the interview, you bet there's a Switch digital coming and talks of a potential physical in the future. Now go learn more about the founder, Denis Sinner, and make sure to back this amazing game!

Back Monster Sanctuary on Kickstarter here.

Thank you for speaking with us today. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hey! I’m Denis Sinner – the developer of Monster Sanctuary. I started developing games in 2001 as a hobby when I still went to school and have been working as a game programmer since 2010. I'm a fan of (J)RPGs, RTS and Trading Card Games.

Growing up, what was your first console and game you remember playing?

My first contact with video games was when I played at stores on consoles that where running there for promotional purposes. My first own console was a second hand Sega Master System with Alex Kidd. We had the 16-bit era already actually and I also got a new SNES a year later or so.

What is your fondest childhood video game memory?

When I got Secret of Mana for the SNES. I was saving money for quite some time and meanwhile I was drawing maps of the game (by that I mean copying 1:1) from Nintendo magazines into my exercise books and couldn't wait to finally be able to play it.

Prior to forming Moi Rai Games, you've been no stranger to the video game industry. Could you touch upon your previous experience as a developer?

I started my career actually working as a programmer on someone else's indie game called chick chick BOOM around 2010. I moved on to work as a programmer on some Might and Magic games and most recently on the Tropico franchise. Meanwhile I was developing Monster Sanctuary in my free time.

It's been nearly three years, but that's how long you and your brother, Anton, have been working on Monster Sanctuary. A mix between monster taming and metroidvania-like mechanics, Monster Sanctuary is shaping up to be a big adventure!For those who are learning about the game for the first time, what would you like them to know?

Monster Sanctuary started out as a free time project without great ambitions. I was mainly inspired by Stardew Valley to work on a game where I do everything myself: Pixel Art, Programming, Design and Music in contrast to my actual job, where I'm just a programmer, a cog in a big machinery. When I started posting content of the game online, the unique genre mix received a lot of positive feedback and I thought that I might be onto something. Anton joined helping me with story and text for the game.

Monster Sanctuary is debuting as a Kickstarter campaign with only a few days left as of this interview. Having already shattered your initial goal and nearing the last of the stretch goals, it's safe to say you've found an audience! So first off, congrats on what will end up being a highly successful campaign. Secondly, how have you felt through this entire process and even leading up to it?

I was very excited and nervous at the same time leading up to it this whole year. I released an initial demo a half year ago and the positive feedback and the sheer amount of people playing it gave me confidence. I actually quit my job to form my own corporate to run the Kickstarter in September. I was a bit stressed since I promised to everyone that the campaign would launch in September, but the bureaucratic part of creating a corporation took way longer then expected. But the campaign had an overwhelmingly good start. We reached the goal in 12 hours and smashed five stretch goals by now. I feel really happy that I will be able to work full time on the game in the future!

One very interesting aspect of the game is the "shifting" mechanic, whereas a monster can be light or dark shifted and have a different visual appearance and stats. How did you come up with the idea?

The game is quite inspired by old 16-bit era RPGs. One thing that was often done back then was re-coloring the same enemies. Those often represented stronger versions of the enemy. The shifting system is like a reference to that. Also, we wanted to have some monsters feel a bit more rare then others. It also has the purpose of making early game monsters still being somewhat viable in the late game by boosting their stats more then the ones of late game monsters.

With a bestiary that will encompass nearly 80 monsters + 160 light and dark variations, was it challenging to think of all the variations?

Oh we have a lot of ideas. We don't have all monsters exactly planned out yet, since the actual amount depends on how far we get with the stretch goals. Also, we will include a couple of fan creations to the game through our Kickstarter. All backers above 50€ will be able to suggest designs for Monsters and then there will be a voting process on which five monsters will make it into the game.

Will there be an evolution system for the monsters that you collect on your journey?

I got asked a lot if I planned to have an evolution system in the game. Being limited on how many monster I can create on my own, I wanted to rather have more unique monsters then having evolutions. Shifting was a compromise to creating something similar gameplay wise that didn't require completely new assets for the monsters.

With an estimated October 2020 release date, what will be taking place once Kickstarter concludes?

Currently, the Kickstarter is occupying my whole time, but I can't wait to be developing the game again. We plan to have a beta for our backers in early 2019 - it will include new areas, new monsters and some new features. Later in 2019 we plan to launch into Early Access on steam, adding even more areas + monsters, the shifting system and the tier4 skills in the skill trees.

As a site dedicated to the Nintendo Switch, we were very happy to see you pass that Switch digital stretch goal. The next question has to be whether we will see a physical release? Are there plans? Discussions with publishers taking place?

Yes, we are actually in the talks with a known publisher, but we can't promise yet if and in what regions there might be a physical release(s). But the chance is very real!

Despite spending all your free time on Monster Sanctuary, what game(s) are you currently playing and looking forward to?

Prior to the Kickstarter campaign, I played a lot of CrossCode, an excellent ARPG done by friends of mine from Radical Fish Games. I'm looking to make some time to finally play Zelda Breath of the Wild and Octopath Traveler!

Is there anything else you'd like to share today?

Thanks for all the support I got in the past on my way with Monster Sanctuary and any potential new supporter out there!

Back Monster Sanctuary on Kickstarter here.

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