After our interview with Remnants of Naezith developer Tolga Ay in the past weeks, this time we asked our questions about the issues that need attention in game development and Castle of Alchemists to Mehmet Can Güler and Halil Onur Yazıcıoğlu, the Founding Partners of Team Machiavelli.
Hello, Can you tell us a little about yourself and your past? How did you start developing games?
Mehmet Can Güler: I am continuing my undergraduate and graduate studies in Computer Education and Instructional Technologies, and then my doctorate in the same field. I had a teaching process of 4 years. I continued my experience in the Unity game engine by developing Virtual Reality applications in my teaching and academic circles.
Halil Onur Yazıcıoğlu: I graduated from Naval Architecture Engineering, but I never had the chance to deal with ships. Instead, I worked as a translator and assistant to one of the most prominent sales trainers in the real estate industry. I learned a lot about being an entrepreneur from him; I was a sales trainer and recruiter at the end of my adventure in the real estate industry. If we need to talk about our adventure of making games: Together with Mehmet, we first tried to make a small game, then got degrees in educational games in various competitions.
Before, we were just two friends playing basketball together. While I was developing projects in Unity, my teammate Halil, who has a close interest in art and drawing, asked me if we could do something next to each other, and we are here now :). At this point, we can say that we became a team and created products thanks to our participation in educational game development competitions.
If I’m not mistaken, you are mentoring at Digi Game as the founding partners. How has your career developed so far – what challenges have you faced?
Our game development process started with developing educational games. We participated in the TBV Code Awards educational game development competition for two years. Our first game, “A Chemist’s Adventure Journal,” and our next game, “Alchemists Castle,” came second in Turkey twice.
The derivation of the name and the creation of its base is entirely based on educational structures. In the tower defense game, we were working on how different chemicals, compounds, elements came to life in towers, traps, and various abilities of the character in the game. I can give examples of this, such as when the acid tower and the base tower damage your mirror, it creates base formation on the elementals attacking the castle and the ice armor breaks.
We adopted the model of transferring images to the other side by processing images rather than question and answer. But we felt like we were working in a framework as the training created certain restrictions on the games. In this way, we aimed to take the educational foundation out of the game and turn it into a video game, and we applied to the Next in Game Startup Game Entrepreneurship Competition, which was the first to hit our radar on this path. We started to move on a more solid foundation by establishing our financial and strategic partnership with Digi Game Startup Studio, which we met within the scope of this competition, where we became a semi-finalist. We focused on improving our Castle of Alchemists game in our new process. First of all, we aim to publish on my Steam platform.
After meeting with Digi Game, we provide free training at the OYGEM academy, whose vision is reflected in İZFAŞ partnerships. Meeting people who want to enter the ecosystem in this regard and guiding them excite us. We share our own experiences as much as we can and help them find answers to all their questions. My role in the team was to give mentorship on software and sound-music design as required, while my teammate Halil also mentors on pixel art 2D design and Unity adaptations.
There is a tower defense shooter game you are developing called Castle of Alchemist. Can you tell us a little about that?
Our game is based on alchemy. As the group of masters and apprentices, on which studies on alchemy are carried out and aiming to reach the philosopher’s stone, screw up the work as a result of a wrong operation, rifts are opened from other worlds to this world, and enemy groups are targeting the masters and the castle. “Bellator,” an old master who never come out of the tube, is a product of alchemy and strengthened as a mutant, sets his feet on the ground during attacks as a result of great noise and collapse. When he regains consciousness, he puts on his equipment with the instinct of defending the castle. A former master, Bellator can now wield powerful weapons, craft traps with alchemy support and consciousness, and give orders to apprentices to strengthen and configure towers. In parallel with the game story, waves of enemies are in different parts of the castle.
Before starting the attack, you prepare the traps, position the towers in the allowed places, and when the enemy waves come, you can use different alchemical and defense skills that you can craft and learn before. We can give examples of oil flask, nitro flask, electric turret. As a work of alchemy, you can use the power of physics and chemistry in the game with interactions (like metal spike traps that you set up side by side when the electric turret is triggered, electricity bounces along the road on the pitfalls).
Thanks to Steam Next Fest, I had the chance to try the game, although it is at a very early stage, it is a production that looks really good and is enjoyable to play. What kind of developments and changes are you planning in this regard in the future?
First of all, we are glad that you like our game. Maybe four months ago, we can say that we started to develop our game side by side with Halil. Previously, we were developing in the time left from our professions. At the current point of our game, our priority was playability. Contrary to the game’s scope, the structure that planned to exist was to be conveyed to the player correctly and to provide satisfactory emotions. When we said yes, we are close to this, we said that we are ready for Steam Next Fest, and we can reflect this state of our game to wider audiences.
After that, we would like to expand the audience that loves our game and give them a good product. Our priority is the arrival of the structures we call melee weapons and shoulder weapons, which appear deactivated before the deactivated update in the game. In addition, we plan to offer many craftable and diversifiable defense structures. One of our most essential expansion goals is to increase the number of alchemy-product interaction elements and make the user feel good during their strategic moves. In the simplest sense, the basic building blocks of the game, such as increasing the number of chapters and presenting the story at various points, will be added to the game.
I want to touch on the most special points of the game. Can you tell us a little bit about the thought process behind producing the game’s aesthetic and background story?
The story started as an educational game; we targeted the cornerstones such as compound formations. At this point, Alchemy seemed very interesting to us. Due to the nature of Physics and Chemistry, we wanted to set a framework using products that could be the product of alchemy without escaping into a fantastical structure. In this sense, our priority has been to focus on the ages based on alchemy. We wanted to handle worlds where metal and wooden frames meet in the medieval theme, primarily steampunk, avoiding futuristic designs and images such as dwarf engineering. At this point, we can say that instead of making decisions by watching the enemy waves, unlike traditional tower defense structures, we planned to combine the action with this and present the role-playing elements in a light design.
Do you have any recommendations or ideas for those who want to develop indie games?
In our opinion, this also applies to other sectors, including the game industry. Developers and those who embarked on this path should examine it as much as possible. They should look, see, try to practice, always ask how this was done, how this became so good. Every question will always lead to an answer. In addition, they must be included in ecosystems. They should meet other developers, filter the reflections of their experiences and lights in their own minds and contribute to their development.
For those who are not familiar with the Steam Next Fest process, what kind of path did you follow in this process?
I can say that Steam Next Fest is a high-priority festival for indie game developers to show themselves and their games. It offers the opportunity to meet different developer groups like us with a playable structure at an early stage or near the release of their games. If you wish, you can show your game earlier and present its future to them, or you can present a limited version of the game close to the game release date and get people excited about the upcoming game; this is an excellent opportunity to build a player base.
To experience this festival, of course, you need to be included in the steam platform beforehand. After certain approvals, you promote your game to steam and prepare a store page. In the next period, it may be in your favor to carry out activities to say we are here until you introduce the demo of your game at the festival. From this point on, it’s just a matter of waiting for people to try your game and submit positive and negative reviews. This is an excellent opportunity for you about what should be in the game or what should be removed in the future.
If I’m not mistaken, you developed the game with Unity. Is there any reason behind your choice of Unity?
Our game is a pixel art 2D-based game. At this point, it is the consensus of the developers that, unlike a platform like Unreal Engine, Unity is more suitable for the development of 2D games. Of course, it is also a factor that we live the processes with Unity in addition to this. In this sense, game engines such as Godot or Gamemaker are also in question, but Unity, the platform from which we started and progressed, offers us all the basic building blocks well.
Finally, what will your future steps be on the part of Team Machiavelli?
We want to be Team Machivelli due to team spirit. Castle of Alchemist is our baby; its place will always be special :). However, we want to reflect our art, quality, and nature with other games we plan to develop as a team. We intend to call it output from Team Machiavelli when there is a relevant game bet. With our experience and growth at each stage, we plan to jump the steps and create better products. We can say that our sole aim is to bring an Indie Game of The Year to our country and then to our studio.