Are you sick of playing the goody-two-shoes hero archetype in role-playing games (RPGs)? Why not try being a villain with a bit role instead? In Mediocre Monster, you can play as a random encounter monster that RPG heroes fight on a regular basis in order to gain XP and level grind.
Mediocre Monster was developed by homegrown Pinoy talent and is recognized by several international websites such as Kotaku and Digital Trends for its interesting theme. With its unique gameplay, catchy tunes, and self-aware gamer humor, it was no wonder this game is gaining attention in the gaming community.
We talked to its creators, Opal Squad, about their development process, video game influences, and the lowdown about their must-play upcoming indie game.
Mediocre Monster developer Opal Squad is a three-man team: Gino, Jeric, and Rock. These guys have known each other since they were classmates at Philippine Science High School. They were hardcore gamers who grew up with classic games such as Battle City and Ice Climber and decided around two years ago to quit the corporate life and join the video game industry. For them, it was like a childhood dream coming true.
Opal Squad does everything from programming, conceptualizing, and editing. While they do outsource other talents for art, music, and sound effects, Opal does the bulk of the work.
RPG Role Reversal
Ever wonder what life was like for the often-ignored NPC monster that you defeat in your fave RPGs? Didn’t you find it suspicious when these creatures would drop tons of gold, healing items, and that particular weapon that your character needed? (Or you probably didn’t care and just hacked and slashed your way to higher levels.) Turns out, those random encounters are not so random after all and they're not as evil as you think. It was just part of the monster's job at The Bestiary.
Well, that’s how Mediocre Monster explains it anyway:
"Mediocre Monster is a twist on the common RPG format of video games. In it, you play as Gob, a goblin who works as a random monster encounter for the enjoyment of heroes going on their adventure."
Set in a '90s-style RPG world, Mediocre Monster is inspired by Japanese RPGs such as Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, the Breath of Fire series, Suikoden, Harvest Moon, and the relatively obscure Azure Dreams—which also happen to be some of Opal Squad’s favorite video games of all time. The team is also fond of the Metal Gear series.
When you battle in the game, you still follow the usual turn-based RPG rules of taking turns attacking. However, since you’re playing as Gob, your job is to lose in a convincing manner. And by that we mean reacting correctly to status effects cast against you, dropping items, and looking gruff and angry all the time.
There’s no smiling in this job. But hey, on the bright side, Gob earns a regular salary and can even level up to become a more powerful monster (since you start as a noob tutorial monster and change his look thanks to palette swaps). Where else can you find such fourth-wall breaking humor in a classic JRPG-style game? It certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously and gives a refreshing take on the genre.
Ready, Player One
But where did it all start? The Opal Squad shares:
"We've often wondered what it was like to be on the other side of video games. The movie Wreck-it Ralph was also a very significant influence for us. We decided to make a video game first, then brainstormed for ideas, and finally decided on Mediocre Monster. Square Enix has been a huge part of our video gaming lives, and when we learned that they had a feedback program for aspiring indie game developers, we didn't hesitate and knew that we wanted to submit our game there."
In order to develop Mediocre Monster, the team started with conceptualizing the game’s premise and gameplay mechanics. Then, they hired artists and a composer for the aesthetic and sounds. They’re currently programming the game and the testing will follow later on.
It took the team one and half years to work on the artwork, concept, narrative, and all other gaming aspects before it finally went up on Kickstarter. They’ve faced a lot of difficulties in the process such as computers crashing, wiped out memories, hunting for the right artists, and so on.
Struggles and a big hope
While all three members of the Opal Squad have backgrounds in programming, they insist it's not a prerequisite should others want to pursue a career in the video game industry and that it’s a continued learning process.
"We still had to learn a lot of stuff which was specific to game development. Having a background definitely helped, though. It's amazing how much information is readily available on the Internet. Anybody can learn to do almost anything, if they know how to look."
The Opal Squad has also faced some challenges explaining in the local public’s perception about the video game industry.
"One of the biggest challenges, however, is explaining to people what we do. In our culture, people are expected to work corporate jobs. It's still hard to explain to people that 'We make video games for a living.' These are often met with responses such as 'Yun lang?' or 'Talaga, computer games?'"
They hope that through their efforts in developing Mediocre Monster, video game development becomes a more viable career in the Philippines.
What kind of gamer experience was Opal Squad hoping to achieve with Mediocre Monster?
They share, "We want players to have a unique, fresh gaming experience, which is at the same time, a throwback to past games. We want them to laugh, too."
Mediocre Monster will be released in April 2017 for Windows and Mac systems. The Steam Greenlight community recently approved the game, which means it might be available on that platform as well.
Presently, Opal Squad is working on Mediocre Monster part-time but once they get enough funding, hopefully they’ll be able to work on it full-time. (Meaning, we’ll probably get the game a lot sooner.)
Show your support
If you’d like to support their efforts in developing this unique indie game, you can back them up at their Kickstarter page. And to get you motivated to help their geeky cause, here are some of the perks of the game's backers: You can have your own song, your own major character in your likeness, and of course, beta access to the game.
The Kickstarter project funding period will last until March 24, which means you still have over a week to show your support. So hurry up and help this one-of-a-kind game that deserves all sorts of #PinoyPride tags become available for you and your friends.
You can also check out their Facebook page for more updates.