To say I was excited about PAXAUS 2022 is an understatement. After my first attendance in 2019, I was eager to get back amongst it, especially after two years of uncertainty caused by the worldwide event that shall not be named. This year, I had a bit more of a hands-on approach, and I was given the opportunity to interview Ivan and Tanya, the husband and wife team from Good Morning Games, and developers of the upcoming Knight Crawlers title. Armed with a little bit of background information, the first thing I asked was how it all came about.
Starting back in 2018, Ivan started developing Knight Crawlers as a way to teach himself how to program while working in Community Management, Communications, and PR with a number of different developers, simply because it was something he was interested in, and his inspiration was that of a physics-based mosh pit, following up by stating that he didn’t know why that was his first idea. Ivan described Knight Crawlers as a roguelike infinite dungeon crawling RPG that gives players the chance to spawn enemies as they see fit – what started as a debugging method ended up becoming a feature, with players being able to potentially summon as many enemies as they want by pressing a single key. As players gain experience and progress through their level, they are presented with beautifully detailed skill cards, able to pick what best suits the way they want to play.
What was more impressive is that Ivan was able to put together an exclusive multiplayer mode in the five days leading up to PAX, and his efforts were clearly paying off as people were lining up to give it a crack. This particular mode placed players in separate areas and enemies dropping into a swirling melee. The players would then have a time limit to fight off the waves of enemies and build up as much experience as possible, choosing what cards they wanted the whole way through. Once the timer had run out, the center wall would fall and players would be left to duke it out to determine who the better Crawler was. Of course, this is only one particular mode, and when asked, Ivan proudly announced he had several other ideas for the multiplayer modes with support for up to four players.
It was then that Ivan announced that the game has been a little delayed, but with good reason. He’s wanting to get the base game as close to perfect as possible before releasing the full version, and he plans on continuing to support Knight Crawlers with additional content as more and more ideas come to mind, future-proofing this little gem of a title. Furthermore, once he’s got Knight Crawlers in a position where he wants it, he intends to port it across to every console, so it won’t just be PC players who will get to enjoy this one.
During the lead-up to PAX, we were presented with a brief bio of the Good Morning Games team, and I was surprised to see that Tanya’s career history was significantly different from what I had expected. With a background in law, I just had to ask her how Ivan had managed “rope her in” to work on a video game. At this stage, Tanya was making her way back to the convention hall from lunch, so Ivan explained how when they first got together about 5 years ago, he told her that before they continued, there were two things she’d need to know; “I’m gonna be tattooed from neck to toe, and sometimes I’m gonna be playing games for 18 hours a day, and if you don’t like either of those things, then there is no point continuing.” Fortunately, she agreed and said that she could put up with that.
Slowly but surely, Ivan exposed Tanya to more and more games, and Ivan fondly remembers the first game that played together, Diablo 3, and after a few games of couch co-op, Tanya fell in love with it too, always playing as the Demon Hunter. Ivan had a huge smile on his face when he told me that when the Demon Hunter screams something, Tanya will scream it back, and that’s when Ivan realised that she was truly captivated. He even joked that Tanya would tell him to wait while she changed the character’s boots, just because the heels didn’t match the outfit.
After watching Ivan spend the last 4 years working on Knight Crawlers alone, all while working a full-time job, she could see that he was having some difficulties and offered to try and help out, and it was now that Tanya had made her way back and Ivan introduced us, so I posed the same question to her.
Tanya mentioned that before they got together, she didn’t really play games, and it wasn’t until they got together that she started, and once again, Tanya brought up Diablo 3. As Tanya watched Ivan learn the development process, she got more and more interested, spending more time talking about it together and bouncing ideas off each other. To get her a little more involved, Ivan started asking her for help with contracts and the legal side of things and making sure that they were able to use various assets, until finally, Tanya was on board with project management by making sure Ivan wasn’t playing too much Rocket League, all while still working full time.
At the start of 2022, Ivan left his full-time job to focus on Knight Crawlers, and with Tanya being able to work from home full-time, they’ve been able to focus a lot more on getting the title up and running, with Ivan even commenting that he would never have been able to do it without Tanya’s support – a very heart-warming statement, and you could see that they adored each other.
As the crowds of people kept lining up to give the multiplayer demo a try, I asked if they had anything else bouncing around in their heads that they wanted to get out, or if they were currently working on another title, because in my eyes, the demo that was running almost seemed like it could be attached to the Steam Demo and called a game. Ivan disagreed, claiming he could see all of the invisible bugs that no one else could, but then, he also has access to the back end of things that we couldn’t see. He also brought up the Mosh Pit simulator again, announcing that he is definitely going to do that once Knight Crawlers was done, before asking Tanya to help a player out who was experiencing one of the aforementioned bugs – one that meant that if played died when the timer hit zero, they wouldn’t respawn. Ivan felt terrible for the experience, so I had to remind him that it was put together in just 5 days, but he countered that he was up until 2 am the night before trying to resolve it, and promised he’d get it fixed.
Coming back to the interview, Ivan admitted that right now, there wasn’t much he was able to do when it came to other games as Knight Crawlers was taking up 18 hours of his day, which was completely understandable given he’s the only developer working on it. Once he’s able to work on his Mosh Pit Simulator, he plans on working with some bands local to him to try and help push their music out there and give himself a way to work with local artists, and with how much I enjoyed the demo so far, I’m looking forward to that one too.
We then went on to discuss the difficulty of the game, and I mentioned that I struggled with the keyboard controls, but noted that the people playing at PAX were having a much easier time while playing using a controller. While it is more designed for a controller, the keyboard controls will take some getting used to and you’ll really have to put some time into the game in the beginning. Ivan tried to defend my honour by suggesting that the game is too brutal during the early stages, drawing some inspiration from Dark Souls in that respect, but he mentions that having Tanya assisting with the development means that he can get feedback from someone who doesn’t come from a gaming background – If it’s far too difficult for her, then he needs to tone it down a bit. She helps him judge if the game is unfairly punishing, or if the difficulty is just right.
The biggest thing Ivan and Tanya are looking forward to is being able to sit down and play their game together, and I’d like to once again thank them for their time at PAX. It was wonderful meeting them both, and I wholeheartedly appreciate the opportunity to speak with them about Knight Crawlers. At the time of writing this, the single-player demo is currently available for play on Steam, and I have to say, I do encourage you to give it a try. I’m sure the queue of people waiting to play it at PAX would agree.