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Cave Story creator on wanting to quit, working with publishers

2:00 PM on 05.29.2014 // Jonathan Holmes

On the road from Cave Story to Kero Blaster

[Kero Blaster art by Paul Veer]

Cave Story is one of the most influential games to see release in the past ten years. It showed the world that one person can make a videogame that is as good if not better than works from major studios, and without asking for a dime. That's a tough act to follow for the game's creator, especially seeing how long Cave Story was in development. Daisuke "Pixel" Amaya had put years of work into the game before it was released. There was even a completely different version of Cave Story, now known as the Cave Story Beta, that had to be almost entirely reworked before it became the classic that it is today. 

A similar thing happened with Kero Blaster, Pixel's latest game. It was originally called Gero Blaster, and had a completely different story, premise, level design, music, enemy design, items, and just about everything else. After months of production, Pixel had doubts about what Gero Blaster had become, so he scrapped nearly every aspect of it, despite being very close to wrapping development. Instead, he took "cat and frog" premise of Gero Blaster in a whole new direction for a whole new game called Kero Blaster (and its semi-prequel Pink Hour), which was released on Playism and iTunes earlier this month.  

In this first entry in a two-part mini-interview, we asked Pixel about what it took to remake Cave Story and Gero/Kero Blaster, and if he'd ever want to work with Sony or Nintendo. His answers may surprise you. 

The Cave Story Beta was a very different game, and it was pretty far along before you started over and created the game we know as Cave Story today. Something similar happened with Gero Blaster's transformation into Kero Blaster. Most of us aren't even capable of creating a videogame, let alone recreating one. What is it that motivates you to create an entire game, scrap it, and recreate it? How does it aid in your creative process?

Just like you said, creating a game is a lot of work!

Actually, after I completed Cave Story, I thought 'I should stop making games' and 'This should be my last one' and then I created music production software called Pxtone Collage. I felt pretty satisfied making software when it came to programming, but being away from gaming, I didn't feel satisfied when it came to ideas like 'I'd really like to create my own world' or 'I want to make some story, maps, or music.'

So in the end, I'm still making games. It's difficult to remain motivated. I've had many days where I couldn't get motivated and I've ended up wasting a whole day. But this time, when I finally decided to remake the game (Gero Blaster), I wasn't working alone, so for that half a year, I was able to make a significant amount of progress.

Mr. Ms. Kawanaka, who I met at a business incubator in Kyoto, was skilled with level design and production, so I was able to leave the level design and production in Kero Blaster up to him her. [Edit: The original translation we received referred to Kawanaka-san with male pronouns. Nayan Ramachandran of Playism, Kero Blaster's publisher on PC, just informed us that this was likely in error as Kawanaka-san is a woman.] When I worked alone, I would waste a day on a bug that I couldn't figure out that by the evening, I would feel depressed about the current condition of the game. But by giving a part of the game to another person, I was able to focus on smaller parts while the stages in the game were steadily being created. This way, I didn't really have to worry about losing motivation.

You have now worked with Playism and Nicalis, two wonderful, smaller-scale publishers. If a company like Nintendo or Sony came to you with an unlimited budget to make Cave Story 2, would you take the deal or would you rather continue to work on a smaller scale? Or both?

It's a bit daunting to have to make things for money.

It's impossible for me.

If I can continue to make a living the way I am now, then I'm pretty satisfied with that.


Check back tomorrow for part two!

Jonathan Holmes, Bad Joke Uncle
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