Tri-Coastal Games exclusive interview with Daryl Wilson

by MaddOx

We love chatting to Indie developers and we’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak with Daryl Wilson of Tri-Coastal Games. So if you want to know more about the studio and their newly released game Dystoria then carry on reading.

To kick things off, tell us a little bit about who you are. What are your interests and hobbies?

My name is Daryl Wilson and I’m one of the 2 guys at Tri-Coastal Games. My dev-partner is Craig Grierson, who’s currently away supporting his family through a bit of a medical crisis, so I’ll have to answer some stuff for him.

As far as interests and hobbies go, I’m an artist by nature and I really enjoy experiencing as many types of art as possible. Currently, I’m in the recording studio working on a release version of the Dystoria soundtrack, which we will have done soon. I’m also in a theatre production playing Sebastion in The Little Mermaid, so that’s perhaps a little unusual for a game developer.

Now tell us a little about Tri-Coastal Games. How was it created and what made you settle on your studio name?

When I first met Craig he was the owner of one of the last surviving video rental stores in Canada called the Video Hut. I used to go in and chat with him a bit and he told me he was a 3D modeller and that it was his dream to make video games. I was working in a recording studio as a producer, so I told him I’d always wanted to make music for games.

We struck it off as friends and eventually we actually hammered out some ideas, got started in Unity and decided to make a go of it.  We formed a company in 2015 and settled on the name Tri-Coastal Games since Canada is the only country in the world with three coastlines.

Introductions out of the way, let’s move onto Tri-Coastal Games’ new release Dystoria. What kind of game is it?

Dystoria is an axis shifting space shooter with a bit of a retro arcade vibe. It often gets pegged as a 6DOF shooter like Descent, but Dystoria is different in the fact that your ship skims right along the surface and stays oriented to whatever is “below” you, a bit like parts of Super Mario Galaxy.

This makes for some brain-bending navigation which is complemented by simple puzzles that utilise switches, doors, transporters and moving platforms. There’s also a healthy amount of bad guys to destroy and weapons to upgrade to keep things moving so it’s definitely a shooter as well.

And what was it that inspired you to make this game?

One of the things we decided early on was that we were not interested in making cookie cutter games, or asset flips. We wanted to do something original, even if it was a bit niche. It was actually my buddy, Jay Martens, who pitched the initial concept to me. We made a quick prototype just to see if the axis shifting was fun and it really blew our minds how even a simple level became complex once you added the local gravity/axis shifting mechanic.  

What have you done to make it stand out from the competition?

People notice the axis shifting right away. I’d have to say the other standout is the neon styling and synth wave music. It’s retro without being retro, you know what I mean?

Another thing that we did was to spend a really long time refining the movement of the ship and the camera to provide really tight controls on the ship, but still, keep the camera nice and smooth. We get a lot of comments about that, so I’m glad we spent the time.

Were there any major issues that cropped up during Dystoria’s development?

Nothing too crazy. I will say this though, designing levels for a six-axis environment is really challenging. Dystoria’s levels are mostly made out of cubes, and each of those have multiple surfaces that you can traverse, so even a simple shape has a lot of surface area.

You have to consider every possible angle the player can go – inside, outside and around. Sometimes we would make a level that we thought was great, but then we’d get some YouTubers to play it… Let’s just say there were some real face-palm moments, haha. In the end, I think we found a good balance of openness vs linearity in the levels.

And following on from that, were there any parts of the development of this game that you were particularly proud of?

Well, Dystoria is our first complete game. It’s a huge achievement in itself to just finish an original project and get it on Steam. Honestly, before I started this game, the most programming I’d ever done was setting my VCR to record cartoons so I could watch them after school as a kid (yes, I’m THAT old). Having a finished game out there and watching people play it is such a great feeling.

Don’t worry Daryl, I remember those days too so you aren’t that old haha Anyway keeping on the development theme, what game engine and other software did Tri-Coastal Games use to create Dystoria? Would you change to something else for future projects?

The game engine we chose was Unity. At the time we chose it because the community was so helpful and there were so many resources to help with learning. It’s come a long way even since we started Dystoria, so I think we will stick with it, although I plan to give UE4 a test drive before I settle on what to use for our next game. Other programs we use are Maya for modeling, Substance Designer/Painter, Propellerhead Reason for music and soundfx, and of course Photoshop etc.

Whilst mentioning future projects, do you have anything in the pipeline or would they be the kind of secrets where if you told me, you’d have to kill me?

We definitely do have some ideas on paper that we are currently assessing for scope and viability. I could tell you about them without having to kill you, but I think we’ll keep the cards close for now.

And the final game-related question; if you had to come up with one reason for our readers to go and play Dystoria, what would you tell them?

Simple. You haven’t played a game like this before. I promise. We hear that all the time from YouTubers and Twitch streamers. I mean, we could totally have made another open-world-survival-zombie game and people would play it, but being original is important to us, even if that makes this a niche game. Just try it.

Just a couple more general questions to tie things up; firstly for people looking but are maybe too scared to venture into game development and start up a studio like Tri-Coastal Games, what advice can you offer?

Don’t do it for the money! Do it because you love the process of making games.  Learn everything you can, and talk to everyone you can find online or IRL who is even remotely interested. Cheer each other on and help wherever you can, because as indies, we are not each other’s competition, we are one great big team. /soapbox

VR is yet to really take off, although there are some big names backing it with the likes of Sony investing heavily into their VR Headset. What are your views on VR? Do you think it will be the big success some are hoping it to be? Or is it more a disaster waiting to unfold?

I think VR is amazing for what it is. However in its current state, it’s expensive and limited and unlikely to replace the traditional screen games for quite a while. When we have wireless, inexpensive super light headsets and the ability to run it on a cheap laptop, then I think it will be a major game changer. Until then it’s just a really cool novelty.

And finally, a random question to finish on; do you have a favourite number sequence? Mine has to be the Fibonacci sequence.

I’m not a numbers guy at all, but this sequence comes to mind: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42.

There you have it, our conversation with Daryl from Tri-Coastal Games has concluded and his numbers at the end may or may not be the winning ones for this week’s lottery draw. If you enjoyed the interview and want to know more, then as usual you’ll find all the details to follow them and their work below:

Tri-Coastal Games Bio:

Tri-Coastal Games – A Canadian Game Development Company based in Three Hills Alberta, consisting of Daryl Wilson and Craig Grierson. We love sci-fi, retro, arcade and adventure games.

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