A staple I do in all interviews in order to start things off is to ask that you elaborate a bit about your game(s) that people might not know?
The Team: City of Brass is first-person dungeon crawler, where you’re tasked with reaching the center of the city alive. And that’s not easy, because the city is filled with traps and ghoulish, cursed enemies. But you have a lot of ways of manipulating the world to your advantage, most important being the Whip. The whip is a multipurpose tool which can grab, trip, disarm, stun or shatter as well as swing. In your other hand you carry a scimitar.
Combining the whip and the scimitar is the core of the combat gameplay, but on top of that you can use your movement to knock enemies over or into traps, you can spend loot or wishes on Genies, strike exploding vessels to poison or set enemies on fire – we’ve created a world with plenty of opportunities for moment-to-moment interaction.
How did Early Access influence development and the eventual release?
The Team: Early Access was extremely useful to us for getting feedback on some very fundamental systems early on. The most prominent example was the creation of the Blessings & Burdens system – based on player feedback, we created a handful of options at the very start of the game that you can turn on or off to make the game easier or harder, to tailor the challenge to your preferences.
With the game being available on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC, is a City of Brass Nintendo Switch port something you’d like to explore in the future?
The Team: Our preference is to be on every platform we can be! So yes, while we don’t have anything to announce at this stage, we’d certainly like to get City of Brass on to the Switch if we can. But as a team of only 6 full-time developers, it’s a matter of juggling updates and fixes vs looking at a new platform.
The game is Xbox One X enhanced and looks great, what was the development like for the premium console?
The Team: We launched our last game – Submerged – on the Xbox One, so we already had a great deal of experience with the platform. We are fortunate in that we use the Unreal 4 Engine, which gave us quick access to a lot of the enhancements on the Xbox One X. With that as a basis, it was really all down to Andrew James (one of the co-founders of Uppercut) putting in the time to optimise the game and make sure it all worked with HDR.
What were some of the inspirations for the game in terms of setting and design?
The Team: On the design side, the clearest influences are Spelunky and the original BioShock. But we’ve also taken a lot of inspiration from rogue-likes and rogue-lites such Nuclear Throne, Ziggurat, & Heavy Bullets.
For the setting, it actually came to us after we’d already started prototyping the gameplay. We knew we wanted a city to pack with interaction, and that it would be procedurally generated. Then I happened to pick up one of my kid's books about the Arabian Nights, and the story that stood out to me the most was the cautionary tale of the City of Brass - a city cursed by its own greed and hubris. It was a perfect fit.
I loved how refreshing the procedural generation was, what was the process behind keeping each playthrough distinct?
The Team: We wanted every playthrough to be different enough that players don’t get bored, but you also want to provide players with a set of rules for the way the world works, so that they can learn those rules and eventually use that knowledge to help them get further.
So the primary thing we set out to do was figure out what our rules were going to be – where should traps appear, to make them seem believable but also be fun to encounter? How large should any one level be in order to provide a big enough area for the player to explore without them getting bored? How frequently should we change the setting – and how frequently will the player see something new? These are all things that go into the procedural generation melting pot.
The whip was a lot of fun, where did the idea come from to use that particular tool within the game?
The Team: When we decided we were going to make a first-person game, it was obvious that we’d need something unique to stand out in that crowded space. So we talked about new new ways of interacting with the world that we could really make our own, and help define the game for players. We went back and forth a bit before settling on the whip – it’s inspired by Indiana Jones, Half Life 2’s gravity gun and BioShock’s one-two-punch dynamic.
Once we decided to do the whip, we worked hard to make it the player's "swiss army knife" - the tool for everything from manipulating enemies and the world, as well as aiding in their mobility.
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