An interview with the creators MWRPG

  • XBuster
  • 03/18/2018 09:26 PM

Hello everyone, today we have a special interview with the creators of Monster World RPG; an incredible fan game and passion project based on the Wonder Boy series created by Ryuichi Nishizawa. We have with us the lead developer; Massimo and the co-developer; Fernando. In honor of the 30th anniversary of Wonder Boy, I will be asking 30 questions based on the game's development(which also includes questions unrelated as well).

Without further ado, let's get started shall we?

Main Questions

1)When creating Max, what was the inspiration for his character?

FERNANDO: Massimo created the character. I mostly changed him from a bit of a lovable jerk to a nicer guy, but it wasn’t even on purpose, it just happened while writing the game’s dialogue.

MASSIMO: Right, at first his behaviour was planned to be the “scoundrel” type since I got inspiration from the character Vance of the independent rpg maker game “Three the Hard Way”, but it then developed differently into a “boy-scout” like one.
His appearance was inspired by three different sources:

  • The face set from a stock character of rpgmaker, with the only difference in the position of its ponytail which was moved from the top of the head to the bottom.

  • For the body I used Shion’s sprite;

  • Finally, its coloration mimicked Asha’s (even if in the end it came up a little different).

About it’s background story, it was simply part of the whole adventure and details were added and removed during the years. The main concept for Max was for him to be different from stock rpgmaker heroes: in fact he talks and is not a silent hero and in the end he is not a “chosen” or “destined” one in many ways.

2)What are your favorite Monster World games and why?

FERNANDO: The Dragon’s Trap, Wonder Boy in Monster World and Monster World IV. The open world and challenge of Dragon’s Trap is great, Monster World has a nice Metroidvania feel to it and MWIV has the most developed plot and fantastic graphics.

MASSIMO: I played video games mostly in my childhood more than during my adolescence, so the ones I’m more fond of were the very first one (in which I was able to become really skilled for my age), and then the second one (which instead I was never able to become good at when I was a kid at the time since I never beat the myconid master). I remember my older brother talking a lot to me about “Wonder Boy 2” and how cool it was, about the different colored knights, etc., so I was a little influenced by him…

By the way, I believe the best one is the original version of “The Dragon’s Trap” which I played after the school years when I went into the “emulation thing” and was able to play all the video games I didn’t play during my, at the time, later years.

3)What were some of the greatest challenges while developing the project?

MASSIMO: For me it was playing it again and again to debug it, but I believe the hard part is coding the game which Fernando was in charge of.

FERNANDO: Mostly it was making all the items that grant special skills or abilities work correctly. After that it was bug fixing, as several bugs were very persistent. Biggest annoyance was coding certain special battle skills. The coding is very simple, but whenever an error came up or a change needed to be made, I had to alter the code in each monster group... and there are over 600 monster groups! Easy to fix, but takes a very long time.

4)How long would you say the project took to complete?

FERNANDO: I joined the project in January, 2007. Massimo had completed Chapter 1 before I joined. So it was more than a decade, but I’m not actually sure when Massimo started Monster World RPG as I joined later.

MASSIMO: Yeah, I started alone in 2005 using rpg maker 2000, so I can assume the idea was in my mind since a year before – I remember taking notes for the project on a notebook. So it was 13 years, while I was still at university and I was 23 years old.

5)In the game, there is a girl known as Papillon. Was this an original name or something found through research?

FERNANDO: Originally she was called Purapril, but Massimo felt it was better to change it, as we already have two queens with this as surname. I do not know where he took the name Papillon from. I think there’s a girl with this name in the msx game Knightmare, but I don’t think he took it from there...

MASSIMO: The complete story is that when I originally planned the game and I was choosing characters and naming them, I did some research. In the original series there’s a recurring female character which is named “Purapril”. Since MWRPG regrouped characters from all the 6 original games into a single story, there were too many “Purapril” around (a town, a princess, a queen). So, only after many years of development, I decided to change the name of one of those female characters into “Papillon” which was an alternative naming or spelling of that character I found on some flyers or instruction manual of the Monster’s Lair video game.

6)What was the inspiration behind the backstory of Bio Mecha(a.k.a Bio Meka)?

FERNANDO: Massimo came up with the vast majority of his backstory. I came up with the scientist that finds him, and wrote both his and Biomeka’s dialogue. The idea of Biomeka easily accepting cybernetic implants came from me, which is not that original, as his name implies that already I think.

MASSIMO: When the whole idea of the backstory for MWRPG came to my mind I was influenced by the backstory of the “Monster Rancher” anime characters Genki, Mocchi and Mu: it is a pretty dumb and old anime, but I had some nostalgic memories of it. At the time it gave me some good feelings.

7)What games inspired you while structuring the project and its large world?

MASSIMO: For what concerns myself, I just tried to arrange all the known zones from the original games into the overworld map of Aqua Kingdom!!! In the end, the one who created all the dungeons was Fernando.

FERNANDO: I grew up with SEGA consoles, so I have influences from games such as Phantasy Star, Sonic, Pulseman, Shining Force, Golden Axe, and Monster World of course. But besides the original MW series I wasn’t really thinking on any other game while programming so I can’t say for sure. Monster World itself was the main inspiration for me, as obvious as it sounds.

8)Eusha was originally supposed to be the male option character in Monster World 4. In this game, he and Asha help you throughout the Rapadagna portion of the game. Is it possible that Eusha might be a love interest for Asha?

Eusha: the scrapped MW4 male equivalent to Asha.

MASSIMO: I believe the game states clearly if he is or not.

FERNANDO: Actually yes, it is mentioned very quickly near the final parts of the game, he and Asha like each other since childhood.

9)In this game, it seems all time was tossed aside; which was a very bold choice. What made the team decide to do this?

FERNANDO: Mainly we were focused on making the game as best as we could, even if it would take longer than imagined. We decided not to rush anything, not only for being a freeware game made in our free time, but also to ensure quality. Rushing it might just make us ignore bugs, bad dialogue, etc. Beyond that, a good amount of time was taken on converting it from Rpg Maker 2000 to Rpg Maker 2003 as it is a more advanced program and I was sure the battle system would fit better with the Monster World series 2D platformer feel.

10)Late in the game, there was a reference to a cancelled game known as Aquario of the Clockwork. Were there any plans to travel to the world during development?

FERNANDO: The idea didn’t cross my mind, I don’t know about Massimo though.

MASSIMO: How to explain this… In the final area of the game there’s a blocked path with a sign with a cryptic message for the players which can be translated into “NO MWRPG 2”. That means Max and his friends adventure ends there and that there won’t be a sequel. In a certain sense, even the adventure of the character from “Aquario of the Clockwork” ends there: consider the path followed by those characters to be a single way path.

So no, there were not any plans to travel to their world during the development as there was no plan to visit other Monster World countries from which some characters came from.

11)Spread throughout the game are references to several sega franchises. Were these games part of your inspirations?

MASSIMO: Except Ninja-Kid I didn’t get much inspiration from other SEGA games but the one more involved in this kind of stuff was Fernando.
The video game which inspired me the most in many ways was “Breath of Fire III” – I believe the only rpg I really played. In a certain way even “Brave Fencer Musashi” and the first “Paper Mario” inspired me a little.

FERNANDO: I grew up with Sega consoles (although I played Nes and Snes with friends), so I have many inspirations, but other than maybe a bit of Phantasy Star or Shining Force I can’t pinpoint anything specific. I put these references mostly out of being a fan (mainly of the classic SEGA).

12)When did the game begin development and what was the drive that made the team want to create such an ambitious project?

FERNANDO: I started in 2007, while Massimo started earlier than that. To me it was just love for the Wonder Boy franchise, a big part of my childhood (especially The Dragon’s Trap). I’m glad the series was brought back with The Dragon’s Trap remake and the Monster Boy and The Cursed Kingdom game in development now.

MASSIMO: As a solo project it begin in 2004/2005, then it became a duo project in 2007 as Fernando explained. For the reasons behind such an ambitious project I can say: I never imagined it would require 13 years of development!

13)During development, were there times you wanted to cancel or pass on the game to someone else?

FERNANDO: I never felt like it, believe it or not. By the time Chapter 2 was done the game got too “personal” for me to hand to someone else unless really necessary. When I got really bored, such as fixing the battle skills (mentioned above) I would stop programming for a while to clear my head.

MASSIMO: Except when I got in touch with Fernando I never wanted to pass the game to someone else, only to complete it fully.
There was only a single time I got pissed off badly during debugging and wanted to quit, but I regained my “senses” quickly.

14)This is the first Monster World game where nearly every character has a wealth of dialogue. What were some inspirations for the character development of ones like Priscilla and Shabo?

FERNANDO: For the heroes I followed Massimo’s instructions as he envisioned them. Shabo, the greedy but good guy. Priscilla, the bubbly and cute fairy, and so on. For most npcs I guess I got inspiration from games and animation in general.

MASSIMO: That’s right, when we started working together I gave Fernando many different documents to read which described different aspects of the game, one of which was the behavior of the hero team characters according to how it started to develop during the early alpha demo. Having the little fairy to be kind hearted, the death god a greedy scoundrel, the baby dragon actually a baby, were obvious choices. If the role of the greedy one wasn’t already taken by Shabo it would have been given to Hotta (since he is skilled in finding secrets and gold), so instead he became the glutton of the group. The other NPCs characterizations then came up according to the situation in which they were introduced.

15)Who is your favorite Monster World protagonist and why?

FERNANDO: From the classic series? That would be Asha, both for her design (I really like classic arabic imagery) and for her cute, captivating demeanor. Of course, she’s pretty much the only protagonist in the series who is not a blank slate, so that helps. From Monster World RPG I like Max actually, a bit lazy and aloof, but brave and wants to do the right thing.

16)What was the toughest part about programming the game?

FERNANDO: Probably the special items that grant perks like: the sword that doubles money, equipment that breaks after some use, boots that raise speed on certain fields, etc. The way the program checks which characters are using or not specific items can turn to a huge mess with any small mistake in the coding. The last bug I corrected involved an item that gives a special skill to whoever equips it. Due to a minor mistake of mine, one of the characters would never get the skill even if equipped with it.

MASSIMO: Fernando surely put a lot of effort in the coding of the game. After the development of the alpha demo in 2005 I decided to pass the project to another person since I didn’t want to program anymore!!! In the end I didn’t pass the project but only shared it with Fernando and it revealed to be the right choice.

17)The game has a surprising amount of content. Which parts of the game were the most fun to create?

MASSIMO: Sprites. It all began when I woke up one morning and decided to draw Wonder Boy in Monster Land shop owners using the sprites from the other games.So I can say the creation of original characters like the Skullo Bat, Igor, the mole people, etc, was fun too (telling the truth, Igor was a creation of Fernando, but it coincided perfectly with an idea of mine for a character which was the person who introduced sunglasses to Monster World society).

FERNANDO: Well, Wonder Boy in Monster World and Monster World IV being my favorite games in the series I really enjoyed making the chapters based on them; its dialogues, sidequests, creation of maps and its graphics, everything. I also enjoyed writing the dialogue between the main heroes, and an annoying (but cool) character named Skullo Bat. Biomeka was nice too, it was fun making something a bit darker.

18)How much research did it take to finally get an idea of what to do with the game?

FERNANDO: Massimo would send me the next events to happen in the story, then we discussed a bit about possible changes while I programmed them. He had the overall plot planned before I joined the project. I wrote the dialogue from Chapter 2 onward, altering anything that didn’t fit the story.

MASSIMO: Yeah, I gave him instructions after playing each demo he sent to me. Sometimes it was only instructions about debugging, sometimes it was some new ideas, other times old scrapped ideas which became at the point possible to create, etc. At the beginning all my “research” to create the game started by ripping all the sprites from characters and monsters from all the games of the original series. In fact I believed that to create an expanded Monster World environment, I had to start from monsters - don’t you agree?

19)What do you love most about the Monster World series?

FERNANDO: Besides great gameplay and music, its worlds are very creative. I’ve always liked stories that mix fantasy and sci-fi, something present in most of the MW series. Monster World IV has no sci-fi but is just crazier. How many other games let you control a cute Arabian girl, who in her quest fights monsters ranging from werewolves and mummies, to giant chickens dressed as head bangers and ancient aliens?

MASSIMO: Even if most of the games are completely different one from another and seem to be made by different people, the whole series gives you an idea of continuity by reprising here and there elements from other games when you less expect them, some more obvious, while other more cryptic.
What I like more and made me like the series as a child were its graphics, especially from the characters and monsters which were very good at the time for me.

20)In 2018, there will be a release of a brand new Monster World game known as Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom. What are your impressions on the project?

MASSIMO: I watched the animated and singed trailer a thousand times when it came out 2 years ago. What do you think my impression for this project is? ;)

FERNANDO: It looks great so far! It looks like a true Sega and Westone sequel to the series, if it were released on a more powerful console, with its hand drawn graphics and new gameplay ideas. I have high hopes for it, and surely I will replay it many times, even after completing it 100%

21)Do you plan on developing any future titles?

FERNANDO: For now we just plan on adding things such as small improvements or simple extra content. If we do, it won’t be anything near as big as Monster World RPG.

MASSIMO: As for myself I believe not. I will devote myself into making the game more famous around the internet and to add and share content which originated from the game. So, in a certain sense I will continue to develop stuff in the future, but related only to MWRPG.

22)The custom art in the game is well made. What were some challenges on designing the face sets and sprites?

FERNANDO: The vast majority of character and monster sprites were made or edited by Massimo. I mostly made the facesets, and the background sprites I ripped and/or edited from other games. The Fiery Tower dungeon graphics were a bit harder, since it was based on sketches from a discarded dungeon for Monster World IV, so we had to guess and create things for it. Designing the face sets wasn’t too hard, I based the characters faces on the same manga style found in the Japanese covers and manuals. Max face set is basically the face of the hero from Monster World (Shion) with different hair. The biggest challenge was this being my first time making pixel art out of scanned drawings, since I didn’t have a drawing tablet back then. We had some trouble coming up with Rapadagna Oracle’s face though.

MASSIMO: As I already said, all began with me drawing sprites of the characters. At the beginning they were rip-offs and mock-ups while in the end I was able to draw them from scratch.

23)The reception of the game has been fairly positive. Would you like to share your thoughts or feedback on the matter?

MASSIMO: I’m the one in charge of advertising and “public relations” and I try to reply to every fan who contacted us. I have already regrouped all the critics, debug, requests, etc. and along with Fernando we are working in the announced version 1.1 which will incorporate many of the fan requests.

FERNANDO: I’m glad that many people are liking the game, it shows our hard work paid off! We’ve made some small changes recently following some constructive criticism we got. I also hope even people who are not that into the game can see that we put a lot of time and effort on it, on the large amount of dialogue, sidequests, monsters and detail to graphics. And for our older fans: sorry for the long wait!

24)If demanded by many, would you consider adding DLC to the game based on future Monster World games/fan projects?

FERNANDO: If not too large on scope, maybe. It’s a bit soon to say anything however.

MASSIMO: Is it even possible to talk about DLC for a game like this? In any case we are already planning (and working on) the new version of the game which will contain also extra contents and features. Nothing exceptional, but in any case something more for you people to enjoy.

25)What were some considerations when designing the game’s difficulty level?

FERNANDO: My main idea regarding difficulty was on avoiding grinding, I wanted to make sure players wouldn’t need to keep long in dungeons just walking around to increase levels through random encounters. Too much grinding is what I dislike the most in jrpgs (looking at you Breath of Fire II). Other than that I tried to limit game breaking equipment or skills, both for the heroes and enemies.

MASSIMO: Exactly. I believe as well that too much grinding kills the amusement. Other than that, we left the regulation of the difficulty as the last thing to do. In fact one of the last debugs concerned only the battles. We fixed the battle system by adding more accurate descriptions to the different skills, by creating a good elemental interaction scheme, etc. In the end, who played the game confirmed to us that the difficulty is not impossible (someone even complained it was too easy!!!).

26)The game features some wonderfully crafted and mind boggling puzzles. What were your inspirations for creating them?

FERNANDO: Thanks! Many puzzles were taken straight from the classic series of course, others were just changing the old ideas a bit. The majority of puzzles I came up with myself, they just came to me naturally while programming each dungeon. I would simply think what kind of puzzle such dungeon would have. If I got stuck trying to create a puzzle, I would play random games for inspiration. Some puzzles at the Pirate Ship are inspired by point and click adventure games for example

27)What words can you give to other developers who are developing games?

FERNANDO: First of all, make a game you would like to be playing yourself. People with similar tastes will then enjoy it as well. The moment you’re more worried in following what others like instead of what you like, the development becomes a chore, and if we’re talking about a freeware game, trying to please them instead of you will just kill your project faster. I’m not saying you should follow an absolute “I’m making it so I know best” mentality, but you need to weigh criticism appropriately. Once feedback starts, be sure to separate the criticism into what makes logical sense and what doesn’t. People telling you that something in your game is too hard/easy, takes too long, is not intuitive or is a plot hole is good criticism to be considered for example.

MASSIMO: If you are serious into the game development thing, then do it as a real job and make a profitable business of it.
Instead, if you intend to do it as a hobby, do not get into a project too big.

28)Any final thoughts?

FERNANDO: I would like to thank all the fans, including you XBuster for the positive feedback and kind words! We had a lot of fun making this fangame and it makes me glad that we can entertain all of you with it. Feel free to get in touch with ideas or criticism, and keep an eye out for the 1.1 version. And remember: winners don’t do drugs!

MASSIMO: Thanks for your appreciation and love towards our project. Now go out and play!

Bonus/Unrelated Questions

29)What are your favorite Monster World songs?

FERNANDO: Hard to pick favorites, but:

  • The last dungeon (Dragon’s Trap)

  • Under the Ocean,Pyramid,Last Dungeon (WB in Monster World)

  • Arabesque,Long distance,Main theme,Malevolent deity (Monster World IV)

MASSIMO: Telling the truth, I believe the songs of the series weren’t that special. I’m not saying they are bad, but I believe the score of the games wasn’t the one you find yourself whistling sometimes. In fact in my original alpha released in 2005 I did not even used musics for this reason and not because I was in a rush to release the demo or something like that. Moreover, if you watch the promotional videos for the game I made, I had almost used a song I liked from a Dragon Ball video game (which I never even played!). The songs were good for the game, but nothing more to me. If there’s one I have to say I liked, it was the ending theme for Wonder Boy in Monster Land.

30)Were there any plans to take the one-sided relationship between the Pirate girl and Max any further?

FERNANDO: If Massimo thought of it, he didn’t mention to me. I never thought of taking it any further, I actually like her just flirting and Max being oblivious to it. By the way, her design is originally a creation of BG87 at Deviantart, be sure to check his art!

MASSIMO: Telling the truth we will give players a reply (more a glimpse actually) to this question in version 1.1. of the game.
In any case remember MWRPG is about adventure and not romance!

Major thanks to you both to be able to join me with this! Words cannot describe how grateful I am to have seen this game come to fruition at long last. It has been an honor Max Team, and best of luck as you push forward the future.

A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.
-Yoko Ono