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We Ask Indies: Diego Cathalifaud, creator of roguelikes Amber Halls and Power Grounds!

Diego Cathalifaud is a really interesting gamedev from Santiago, Chile. In this Q&A he talks about roguelikes, game design, favourite devs and yelling!

Nico Saraintaris

April 16, 2014

6 Min Read

Diego Cathalifaud is a really interesting gamedev from Santiago, Chile. He made Amber Halls and Power Grounds, two amazing roguelike games we've been playing a lot. He also reads Borges, so yeah, cool dude. And here he answers our questions!

1. How long have you been making games?

As a kid I used to make board games, which was a lot of fun even though I think I never really played any of them. I started working on my first video game when I was 17. I had been playing "Escape the room" games such as Crimsom Room and I really wanted to make a similar game, but since I didn’t know programming, I just drew pictures of my own room on MS Paint and showed them to my brothers. They would have to tell me where they wanted to go and I would show them the associated image. It was called “Amarillan Room” and, after some years and some learning, it became my first game on the App Store. It's not a very interesting game but I like it for being my first one.

2. Where do you find ideas for your games? Tell us something about your creative process.

I usually start by picking a genre. Lately I've been making roguelikes, but in the past I've also made puzzle platformers, 2-player games, point and click, etc. After I've chosen a genre, I try to come up with an interesting new mechanic that allows me to build puzzles or create situations where the player has to make strategic decisions. I also try to get inspiration from things I like. For instance, my game New Journey was slightly inspired by some of Jorge Luis Borges' short stories and the game "Corrypt" by Michael Brough.

3. Amber Halls is “a very tiny and colorful roguelike”. Where does its idea come from?

After playing some roguelikes, I decided to create my own. I wanted the game to have simple rules but be very challenging. I also wanted it to be a level-based puzzle game. That's how I came up with the Sokoban mechanic. For those who haven't played the game, in Amber Halls you are given "magic blocks" that let you fight against monsters, but you have to push these blocks to the exit of a level to keep them in the next one. It was a very interesting idea, because in every level the player would have to choose between solving a risky puzzle or going to the next level leaving some items behind, which could potentially be fatal.

4. Amber Halls has received really nice feedback both from users and the press. How do you do PR? Which game sites are your favourite ones? Any advice to fellow indie devs?

  I usually send promocodes to blogs a week or so before the release of a game. I have a small mailing list of people and blogs that I think might be interested in my stuff. Also, if I run into a review of a game of mine from a site I had not seen before, I add their e-mail to my list. Finally, I try to answer every question or commentary about my games on forums and twitter. My favorite sites are TouchArcade and PocketGamer.

5. You've made Power Grounds for 7DRL, a game jam in which rogue­likes are cre­ated in just seven days. Do you like game jams? Why? Can you remember any funny or interesting story concerning the development of Power Grounds?

To be honest, the 7DRL of this year was the first game jam I ever joined. It was a great experience because I only had to worry about the game design and programming, and could forget about the "details", like graphics, music and sound effects. The entire week of the 7DRL was very interesting because my other roguelike, Amber Halls, was set to be released right in the middle of the week. Somehow, I managed to make a game and at the same time deal with the press and players in just 7 days. It was pretty crazy.

6. Do you like roguelikes? Which ones do you like the most?

I like roguelikes a lot! I started playing them just a few months ago and, so far, my favorites are "868-hack" by Michael Brough and "Ending" by Aaron Steed. 868-hack is awesome because it offers a very wide range of strategies and in every level the player needs to take a few key decisions. On the other hand, Ending is very challenging and interesting despite (or in addition to) being an extremely simple roguelike.

7. If you have to choose three and only three game developers to follow their work closely, which ones would you choose and why?

First I would choose Michael Brough. His games are always very interesting and unique. I found out about him after playing "Corrypt" and have been following his work ever since. Also, "Kompendium" is one of the most fun 2-player games I've played in a long time. I would also choose Jonathan Blow. I really like his idea of giving something back to the player for the time they spend playing your games. Besides, I really enjoyed his game Braid and I have high expectations for "The Witness". Finally, I would say Lucas Pope. Although I don't know too much about him, “Papers Please” is just incredible.

8. Are you a heavy gamer? What games are you playing now?

I'm not exactly a heavy gamer. I just enjoy making my own games and watching people play them. I do play some games though: a League of Legends match every now and then and, of course, a couple of Amber Halls runs every day.

9. One last random question. If you could speak any language in the world and you had to yell at someone, which one would it be and why?

I never yell, but if I had to, I think I would choose Italian. I've heard Italians are very good at being loud, and it must be for a reason.


*We Ask Indies is an initiative by Beavl, an Argentinian independent game studio putting some teeth into videogames. You can check all the interviews here (caricatures are made by amazing artist Joaquín Aldeguer!).

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