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We opened the gates of hell to interview the mastermind behind Death Crown

On November 12th we will be able to become the Death itself in Death Crown, a surprising and frenetic RTS (Real Time Strategy) in which battles are decided in a matter of minutes. Create resources and troops, build strongholds and defensive towers, and crush your enemies at breakneck speed after choosing from three campaigns that offer more than 90 different scenarios.Become Death, the King of humans or the leader of demons and you can lead your troops to victory on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One.

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The instigator of this unholy wonder, with a 1bit Pixel Art aesthetic inspired by medieval engravings, is Artem Kudriashov, better known as CO5MONAUT. Together with his partner Stas Pisarev (programming, design) and the musician LIGH TH ING they have created the most original and exciting turn-based strategy game we have seen in years. So we crossed Hades to ask CO5MOUNAUT how the development of Death Crown came about and what were the main challenges they faced.

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How long have you been developing video games?

My journey to game development started around 2014, when I was sophomore. I had seen a post about Construct 2, and the idea of making games without programming caught my eye. I participated in various Game Jams and made small prototypes for myself. This continued until in 2016 he got a job as a game designer at a local company. We were making Match3 for mobiles. Then I worked quite a bit in Prague, but it didn’t work out and I came back. Since the beginning of 2019, I’ve been working on Death Crown full time.

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When did the development of Death Crown start?

Technically, work on Death Crown began in April 2016. I drew the first character and posted it on Twitter. The spearman collected as many as 6 likes, that I considered a great success. Then I drew buildings and other characters.

Death Crown was originally conceived as a card battler for mobiles with turn-based battles like in Civilization 5 and the MTG lands system. But after a while I got the idea to do something for gamepads with local multiplayer. So began the search for new ideas.

For a long time, I had been working on the game in the evenings after my job by myself. But at the beginning of 2019, I had a choice: to look for a new job or to devote myself completely to Death Crown. I involved to work on Death Crown my old friend Stas. Before that, Stas worked as a Unity programmer. Since then, we have been working on a full time game together.

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Why did you choose the 1bit aesthetic to create the game?

It just sort of happened. I just started learning to draw and animate and wanted to make something very simple. I set a limit for myself of 32×32 canvas size and only one color and started experimenting. At first there were characters with a small set of animations, then I started drawing buildings. People liked it and later I found out that this style was called 1bit.

I liked this style because it gives me a challenge. It’s very interesting to express something big with such small means. You can trace how my style has improved (or degenerated?) with every new DLC. I was learning new techniques and eventually dithering and all of that appeared in the game.

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One of the most surprising aspects of Death Crown is its frantic mechanics. Why did you decide to move away from the usual slow pace of the RTS genre?

Well, for me, RTS have always been very fast games, where I barely had time to press the buttons. Firstly, I wanted to use everything I drew for game. That limited the genre’s choice to strategies.

Secondly, because I wanted to make a game with a local multiplayer, it was immediately decided that the action would take place on the one screen. No split-screen or anything like that.

Third, I really did not want to make a turn-based game. And I wanted to give people an interesting party-game. And it finally tilted the scale towards the strategy in real time.

Yeah, it’s probably harder to notice now, but originally it was. After I started working with Stas, we decided to add a simple single campaign to the game. Single player dominated more and more over PVP, and in the end we decided to focus on the campaign.

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How is the indie development scene in Russia?

Honestly, there’s not much I can say about it. In Russia there are conferences for developers, exhibitions for players and so on. There are communities, there are professionals with experience. Higher education for game developers is actively developing now. But the big problem is that in Russia there are almost no AAA games.

In this country the studios dominate engaged in mobile games or free-to-play. So the person who wants to make games in Russia, there are only two ways: to make a dreary mobile free-to-play grinding games or make indie games. At the same time, Russian indie developers can not survive only on the domestic market. That’s the strange situation Russian indie developers are in.

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The music of Death Crown is really striking. What was it like working with LIGH TN ING?

We met Kostya at DevGAMM 2019 in Moscow. He came up to us and offered to make music for us. At that time, several composers had already written to us. But Kostya burned with enthusiasm and it was difficult for us to refuse him.

We have never regretted our decision. Kostya did a great job! He immediately felt the game and found a peculiar approach to it. He has great taste and didn’t hesitate to offer his ideas and add his own unique vision. During his work, I have never interfered in the process of making music.

I’m very grateful to Kostya, because he made music in Death Crown a full part of the style and recognizable atmosphere of the game.

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What advice can you give Death Crown players, especially RTS newcomers?

Demolish your buildings when they have little durability left! Seriously, it’ll really help you. 😀

What is your favourite faction within the game?

I serve the Queen of Death!