Today here at 3Bit, we are incredibly excited to share the news that Katja’s Abyss: Tactics is available to buy now on Itch.IO! Katja’s Abyss: Tactics is an all-new single-player, turn-based strategy game that which feature Minesweeper elements. Here at 3Bit, we have had great fun playing Katja’s Abyss Tactics in its early forms, but now with the final build here, we can finally enjoy the game in all its glory! As a special launch article for Katja’s Abyss: Tactics, we have been lucky enough to interview with the games creator Kiefer Nemeth, and you can check out our interview in the video above. Alternatively, you can check out an abridged version of the interview below, where we talk about Katja’s Abyss: Tactics, The challenges of being an indie developer and more.
Kiefer, thank you for taking part in this interview. We here at 3Bit are absolutely loving your newly released title Katja’s Abyss: Tactics. Would you mind introducing yourself and your incredible game to the readers?
I’m a Queer game developer living in California trying to make a living by making games. Katja’s Abyss: Tactics is my first commercial game; I’d say it’s the first game I’ve ever really finished. It’s a turn-based tactical game made in the OHRRPGCE where you basically create and control units on a Minesweeper map. You use those units to dig through the cave, collecting energy and fending off monsters that show up in the walls.
As an indie Developer finding inspiration for every aspect of a game can be very difficult. Where did you draw your inspiration from, whilst creating Katja’s Abyss: Tactics?
Inspiration is actually a big part of why this project was successful for me at all. Katja’s Abyss developed from a tech demo I created last year called Minesweeper Tactics. At its core, it’s still the same main gameplay loop all this time later. In fact, the notes app on my phone has a note from before anything had even been programmed that pretty accurately describes the final game. The fact that the idea was so easy to visualize in my head helped a lot with the inevitable writer’s block you get while developing a game. I feel I should also mention StarCraft, which definitely influenced me in some of the level designs and Mech vs. Insectoid Monster theme.
We aren’t alone searching the Montmane Mountain. Could you tell us a bit about the characters we will meet in Katja’s Abyss Tactics?
Katja! When you play the campaign mode, you meet your supervisor, Katja. She’s a head researcher at the Echo Mining Corp, where you’ve just been promoted to Captain. You can talk to Katja between missions, and she’ll share a little bit with you about her interests: the history of Montmane and the monsters inside of it. On the whole, she’s pretty secretive about specifics, though. To a suspicious degree, even. She’s generally pretty mean.
We love the art design for Katja’s Abyss: Tactics. I’d love to hear a bit more about your choices around that?
The game engine has some pretty hard graphical limitations that influenced the game’s appearance. The color palette is 8-bit, so 256 individual colors across the whole game (excluding transparency, which is true color, if you care about technicality). The original art assets for the game were drawn by me, and well… let’s just say there’s a reason I hired other artists to make the final assets. My art direction really boiled down to “make these existing assets, but better.” I already knew the artists from a game dev community we’re in together, so I knew their art would make Katja’s Abyss shine.
Is there any tips you can give to those who haven’t played a game like Katja’s Abyss: Tactics before to help them ace that first level?
The biggest thing people struggle with is the minesweeping mechanic. It’s all process of elimination: look at the number on a tile and compare it to the number of unmined tiles around it. If those numbers are equal, you can be sure that none of those unmined tiles are safe and you’ll explode if you dig there. Once you’re certain of a tile being unsafe, use it as a reference point. Process of elimination; compare the number on each tile to the number of unmined tiles around it not marked unsafe. If all else fails, just try to survive through mission 1. Defusers may help. Beyond that, you can build a Barrier unit and modify it into a Radar, which can scan a tile every turn and tell you whether it’s safe or unsafe.
As an indie developer creating this game is sure to have had its challenges, but what would you say is the biggest one you faced?
That’s a hard question, and probably because the biggest challenges tend to be the least tangible. I’ve spent days where I opened up my task sheet and stared at it for hours, unable to find a task to work on. It’s kinda like trying to jump into the middle of a heated conversation between two other people and not finding a window to do so. That kind of hesitation is smothering. Balancing the game has probably been the most daunting task in that sense. I just never know where to start; the game works, but is it fun? How do I even measure that? I have such a biased perspective on the game, of course. People kept telling me it was way too hard after I’d bumped up the difficulty because I found it too easy. Even now, right before release, I’m incredibly anxious about the game’s balance and how fun it is.
With your game now out in the wild on Itch.IO, is there any advice you would like to give to those about to take their first steps into Indie Development?
I have two sort of conflicting pieces of advice: finish things and allow yourself to fail. Believe me, there are plenty of failed projects paving the road behind me. I was just skimming through old “games” of mine today (the oldest being from when I was 14. It sucked, and I love it). The fact is, the ones that are more complete are the ones that matter. Once my portfolio started becoming a modest list of small but (more or less) complete games, my imposter syndrome finally started to subside enough to let me get stuff done. Finish things, because when you feel inadequate, you can point to that finished thing and say “Look! I did this! This is Proof that I can do things!” So make tiny games, ones you can actually finish. Make bad games. A bad, finished game is 100% better than a good, non-existent game.
Finally, as a bit of fun, what game will you be jumping on to unwind now Katja’s Abyss is released?
Oh, Story of Seasons, for sure. I recently got Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town for the Switch and it’s been my happy place. I have an alpaca named Tim and he’s an absolute stud. Oh, and going to the doctor is free, so that’s a big anxiety reliever.
Katja’s Abyss Tactics is available now for £7.90 on Itch.IO and is also available in a special edition for £11.49. The special edition of Katja’s Abyss: Tactics includes an uncompressed soundtrack, concept art and wallpapers, all of which will be available to you digitally. You can also support Katja's Abyss: Tactics through following the game here on Twitter and sharing the hype for this awesome Indie game. Be sure to let us know what you think of Katja’s Abyss: Tactics by joining our Discord and sharing your gaming highlights from this challenging yet addicting game.
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