Let’s….CATCH MONSTERS!: An Interview with Daniel Mullins

Recently I’ve been given the opportunity to chat with creative game designer Daniel Mullins. I was very excited for this particular interview, because the game itself caught my interest. I couldn’t wait to dive in, and see what other information Daniel could give me for his latest!

We the Nerdy: You’ve stated in your description of the game that it is a mature version of Pokemon, and a Hearthstone like additive. For those of us who haven’t read or seen anything about Catch Monsters, can you explain how Catch Monsters fits into those game types?

Daniel Mullins: For sure! Catch Monsters starts with the basic Pokemon formula: an adventure RPG in which you acquire monsters, raise monsters, and use monsters in battle. I found the battle mechanics in the single-player adventure of Pokemon to be a too simplistic so I implemented my own combat system; this is where the Hearthstone comes in. Imagine all the Pokemon on your team had their moves shuffled into a deck and you drew a couple of them randomly every turn that all of them could use. That is the basis of the Catch Monsters combat system. You can customize your deck outside of battle and acquire new moves by completing quests and levelling up your monsters. I mentioned Hearthstone specifically (and not other CCG’s) because I borrowed a lot of ideas that relate to aesthetics and game feel from Hearthstone.

WTN: What inspired you to create this specific type of game?

DM: As with many games I create, I get very excited about some source material and the way I express my enthusiasm is by making a similar game. Pokemon: Blue Version was the first video game I ever played as a kid and I have been completely enthralled ever since. The more I got into game development, the more ideas started bouncing around my head for a game like Pokemon until I had to start writing them down and, eventually, develop the game. Hearthstone slipped in because I love collectible card games and I love designing them.

WTN: Have you developed any games in the past?

DM: I have developed many! The most notable were two mobile games that I published about a year and a half ago with a friend. We released the first one, a physics puzzler called “Grav,” and learned a thing or two about marketing mobile games. While the game was not a direct financial success it did catch the eye of someone who approached us with a lucrative contract to develop “Agent Maxwell: Master of Math,” an educational math game for grade school students. I also frequently participate in game jams, recently winning the $1000 first place prize in the Public Domain Jam. Lastly, I have worked in a 30-ish person studio although sadly our project was cancelled before it was completed and published.

WTN: What is your ultimate goal with Catch Monsters, or any other games in the future?

DM: My goal for Catch Monsters as a game is to create something that adult Pokemon players can relate to and enjoy. I also want to point out some of the twisted secrets of Pokemon’s world that are hidden beneath the cute graphics and kid-friendly story. Catch Monsters more directly addresses issues such as institutionalized slavery and animal cruelty and I want people to come back to Pokemon after playing Catch Monsters and look at it slightly differently. I hope that Catch Monsters can be a step toward my dream of being a self-sufficient indie developer. Working at a larger studio was a great experience but I crave the freedom that being an independant developer provides me.

WTN: Do you play video games, and what types are your favorite?

DM: I believe that in order to design good video games, playing other video games is a necessity. I love competitive CCG’s like Hearthstone, “rogue-lites” like The Binding of Isaac and FTL, short/simple single player experiences like Journey and Limbo among many others! So I don’t really have a single favourite genre, but I tend to avoid sports and racing games without “Mario” in the title.

WTN: What is the most difficult thing to accomplish with your line of work?

DM: As an independant developer, it is very difficult to gain exposure. Usually you do not have a budget to market the game and must do all the PR yourself. If you are relatively unknown like I am, the game must look visually stunning or unique and have a catchy headline to take off. It can be difficult to pull that off on top of making the game also engaging to play. On top of that, there are a lot of people trying to do exactly what you are doing and fighting for attention can be exhausting.

WTN: What age group will most enjoy Catch Monsters?

DM: I think anyone older than 12 could enjoy Catch Monsters as an adventure RPG. However, many gamers that are older than around 35 were likely too old for Pokemon when it was first released in North America and never took to the series. Due to its more mature themes and the many influences of Pokemon, I think those between 16 and 35 will most enjoy the game.

WTN: What message or advice would you give to any other game creator, or even aspiring game creators out there?

DM: Participate in game jams! For anyone who is not aware: a game jam is a casual competition where entrants are required to complete a small game that adheres to a supplied theme within a given time frame (usually 48 hours or 72 hours). The most popular one is Ludum Dare which runs every 4 months with 2500+ people entering each time. Doing a game jam is important because it forces you to finish a project. The feeling of completing a game is tremendous and the motivation that a competition provides really helps you get there. Once you realize “hey, if I can do that in one weekend, imagine what I could do in a month!” you are off to a good start. Even if you are a veteran game developer, a game jam allows you to experiment with new ideas or try out an aspect of development that you do not usually take part in. On top of all that, they are really fun!

The link to his kickstarter campaign for Catch Monsters can be found here

To check out Daniel’s past work, he has graciously given us the link for his portfolio click here