If you haven’t heard of A Hat in Time from international development team Gears for Breakfast then you haven’t been paying attention to crowdfunding for very long, and you’re missing out. Described as a “3D collect-a-thong platfomer, A Hat in Time conjures memories of Mario 64, Banjo Kazooie, Wind Waker, and other late 90’s early 2000’s platformers that so many gamers were raised on. We recently had a chance to take the recently released Alpha of A Hat in Time for a spin, which you can read all about here, and talk to the team about the game and its development. Gears for Breakfasts’ William T. Nicholls, the teams resident art director, joins us below for a little Q&A covering the history of the game, its music, and various gameplay elements.
Cliqist : What was the overall inspiration for making A Hat in Time and what were the early phases of planning like?
William T. Nicholls : Originally “A Hat in Time” was aiming more towards a fighting “Hack-&-Slash” game but Jonas Kærlev, the game’s Director, discovered that the jumping aspect of the game was more entertaining and therefore he developed the initial concept into a “Platformer” and from there it evolved into a “Collect-a-Thon.”
We took inspiration from classic games like Mario 64, Banjo Kazooie / Tooie, Donkey Kong 64 and The Legend of Zelda and reached a point where we were happy with the direction of the game. Eventually we were ready to share our concept with the public and that led to the Kickstarter campaign back in May 2013.
Thanks to the support of our fans we raised $296,360 and things carried on from there for another 8 months where we recently released the Alpha build to our Kickstarter backers and anyone who wants to support us now.
So far we’ve received lots of positive reviews and this has helped us find out we are heading in the right direction. So a big thanks to everyone who has supported us these past few weeks!
Cliqist : What are the most difficult things about trying to capture the feeling of a classic platformer?
William T. Nicholls : I suppose the hardest thing for us is to create a unique experience while still retaining the theme of a collect-a-thon genre. We want to leave our own impact and I feel we’ve found that balance. Some players have described our game as a mix of Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie so that tells us we’ve found our own unique identity.
Another issue is allowing players the freedom to do what they want. We made Mafia City quite open and a lot of players would go off on their own path and explore which is why we added the Moustache Girl chase sequence to guide players around the city and to introduce her. However we left it open so players can skip it if they choose to do so by simply jumping to the left of where they start. This kind of freedom is something we try and implement in our level design and it’s hard work making sure it’s balanced and doesn’t confuse players.
So in Mafia City you can either chase Moustache Girl, learn a bit about her, learn your abilities and get your umbrella OR you can just jump straight to your umbrella and the scenes that follow this are done in such a way as to keep players in the loop of the story. Moustache girl befriends you regardless and the player won’t be confused if they accidently skipped the chase sequence.
Cliqist : How long has A Hat in Time been in the works?
William T. Nicholls : The project initially started in January 2013 with just Jonas tinkering away in UDK (Unreal Development Kit) and he continually developed it over time. New team members joined and the company grew thanks to the exposure we received on Kickstarter. So overall, 14 months!
William T. Nicholls : Chris Niosi has been helping us with voice acting, and he said Jon was interested in giving it a shot. We gave it a go as we’re fan of Jon’s, and it turned out quite well!
Cliqist : What made you decide to add the tense, almost survival-horror Queen Vanessa level?
William T. Nicholls : We wanted to create a different contrast to follow on from the bright and happy Mafia Town and so we created Queen Vanessa and the idea of a hiding mechanic to really reflect this darker tone.
Initially the queen used to turn you into stone as soon as she saw you but I explained to Jonas that it wasn’t very scary and it was difficult to understand what happened to the player so I suggested “she should grab” instead and the concept became what it is now.
I also feel that Nintendo were always good at scaring us when we were children and it’s something we just had to do it in our game! A lot of people didn’t expect the game to turn dark so quickly and this pleased us to hear!
William T. Nicholls : Well you may have seen the “Witch Hat” shown off in our screenshots! Otherwise I think it’s more fun to wait and see! However, we are sending Hat Kid to the moon in Chapter 3 and I don’t think there’s oxygen up there…
As for badges, we have a huge list that we’re planning to implement and the idea is to allow players to choose their own combinations. For example, you may want a badge that makes you faster but you may also want more defense so an electric badge or perhaps a poison badge will help.
You may also want to jump higher or stick to walls for longer, there are badges for all kinds of play styles!
William T. Nicholls : Very pleasant! We are still working with him to compose more tracks for the game and our main composer, Pascal Michael Stiefel, is working hard alongside him to help guide the overall style we are aiming for.
Cliqist : The Subcon Forest seems like it will have an integral role in the game, can you tell me anything about what it is or what we may find there?
William T. Nicholls : The forest is the game’s second chapter, and after working on the lively and uplifting Mafia Town, we wanted to try something completely opposite.
It’s quite the dark place, not a place for children… and that’s exactly why we’re sending Hat Kid into the middle of it! The manor that Queen Vanessa is located in is also in this forest, which should paint a grim picture of what is going on in the forest.
William T. Nicholls : She’s just a fun, sassy girl looking to cause trouble for the Mafia of Cooks and she thinks you’re a good friend for her party van! Or does she…?
The answers are actually in the alpha although some facts are harder to find and we think it’s more fun that way if people put the pieces together. For example, Mafia Town wasn’t always called by that name and this is mentioned in an empty, old cave.
Thanks to William for taking the time to answer our questions!
You can learn more about A Hat in Time by checking out our upcoming preview of the game, or heading over to the games’ official website. If you’re interested in taking the Alpha for a spin you can do so by pre-ordering here.