Get to know the  developer behind Monster Crown, the dark monster taming game

Get to know the  developer behind Monster Crown, the dark monster taming game
The founder of Studio Aurum lets us in on his vision of the game and why he began the Monster Crown journey.

Rotterdam, The Netherlands - July 30, 2020

The upcoming monster taming game Monster Crown is set to release on Steam Early Access tomorrow. On July 31 you can delve into the world of Crown Island, which is characterized by its dark story. To understand the complex world of Monster Crown, we decided to sit down with the creator behind the monster taming RPG. The developer and founder of Studio Aurum, Jason Walsh, shares his motivation and inspiration behind the game as we discuss what drove him to make a dark monster taming game that sets it apart from any other game in the genre. 

Curious about the origin stories of Kaze and the Wild Masks, HammerHelm or Dog Duty? We've done interviews with the development studios of these games as well. 

Could you tell us a bit about yourself? Where are you from and what are your interests?

Sure, my name is Jason Walsh and I’m a 29-year-old guy from Newfoundland, an island province in Canada!

I grew up playing monster taming games and Zelda to an obsessive degree. Eventually I found a deep interest in the beta elements of these games and started messing with the games using a cheat device called aGameShark. That opened the door to my interest in programming and lead to me going to college and eventually getting a job as a Software Developer. So, you could say that my interest in these games from an early age really set the course for the rest of my life.

As a game developer from Canada, how is the game development scene there? Could you tell us a bit more?

I really don’t know! I’m from a very small place, and we’re located on an island. Our capital city (where I live) has about 115k people, which I know is pretty small compared to the sprawling metropolises many of you are from. 
This province is mostly rural and while I have a close friend, Justin, that also dabbles in game development, I don’t know anyone else in real life that participates. 

How long have you been walking around with the idea of making Monster Crown and when did you start to develop the game?

I would mess with Pokémon sprites, trying to make my own “Poké-Gods” back in the late 90s, and I always dreamed of creating my own Monster Taming game. However, back then I would just daydream about it. I knew I wasn’t an artist and I knew I couldn’t create a roster of monsters that people would enjoy, so it was really just a daydream. It felt similar to when you’re a kid and dreaming of being an astronaut; fun, but nothing too serious.

Then in January 2016, when I was 25, just for fun I decided to take a stab at making a monster sprite in the retro, Gameboy style. I wasn’t trying to make a greatdesign,it was more like I wanted to make something that looked reasonably like a sprite from that era.

When that went ok, I think that was the turning point where I got up the courage to believe in myself and create my own game. From there things really started to spiral and snowballed. Before I knew it, we had people that really believed in us giving their support on Kickstarter. Itsortof felt like a whirlwind of two years!

"When it comes to choices, consequences, and a story that digs deep into human nature, there is no other monster taming game that’s quite like Monster Crown"
What moved you to make a game like Monster Crown? What’s your biggest inspiration behind the game and how come this had such an appeal on you?

What really drove me to create that first sprite was a bit of restlessness. I loved retro monster taming games and I’ve always been a monster collector first. I’d play through different monster taming games, collecting all the monsters available. But even though I loved that, sooner or later you’ll collect them all, and then… it’s a bit sad, because the journey is over.So,I started wondering if there was a way to create a monster taming game with a journey that would never end.

This gave me a flashback to when I was a kid and first played Pokémon Gold. I got so hyped up over Pokémon Breeding and I remember eagerly heading to the daycare to see what myWortortleandCorsolacould produce, to really find out what aWorsolawould look like!

I was a bit disappointed when aCorsolapopped out!Socreating true crossbreeds in my own game seemed like a dream come true in that it would create near endless possibilities and satisfy that craving I had since I was a kid. I think that mechanic appealed to me so much because, like many of you that grew up in the 90’s, I was raised on Bill Nye the science guy. I knew I loved basic biology andGod,did I love dinosaurs. It all sort of came together perfectly with this signature mechanic.

How did you get the idea of the dark story behind Monster Crown?

Monster Crown’s story is very sacred to me and there’s a lot of me in it. It’s actually to the point that I feel like I’m up on stage when I think about people learning the true end events and motivations of these characters. I even think that people will see more of me than I might be comfortable sharing in other ways!

One character that plays a big role in the game is David, who sort of acts as a big brother to the player while you experience the events of the game. He seems to have a bit more foresight and wants to protect you. As the eldest brother to my three younger brothers, I think I always wished I had an older brother, a voice of reason that beat me to the punch by a couple of years to help guide me in life and give me advice when I struggled.

We all go through life and see cruelty sometimes, or people doing bad things to get ahead. Monster Crown’s story explores that as well,in fact, it provides a world in which you have to look after yourself, since not everyone there has your best interests at heart. The game even gives you the opportunity to decide if you want to make good or bad choices, without immediately judging you. Based on each action you take, you’ll have to see where it takes you, just like in real life.

I’m showing all of my inner self with this game, and I’m cautiously curious to see what people make of it. Maybe Monster Crown is my therapy ha-ha!

"No other game has a cross breeding system like Monster Crown, monsters are more unique than in any other game in the genre and they are literally your creation"
What ideas from other games did you take with you for Monster Crown?

I think one thing that will surprise people is that, as you get further into Monster Crown’s story, it starts to feel less and less like a typical monster taming game, and it’s structured a bit more narratively like a Zelda game. However, one thing I want to emphasize is that the player is in no way a chosen or destined one. You’re just a normal farm kid.

I’ve always loved the 2D MMO game Tibia, which is popular in many countries, although not so big inAmerica,I think. That game is brutal and if you die in it, the cost is so high that you even hear of people quitting for months after being killed. You lose levels, loot, and you can literally lose a month’s progress if you’re not careful. I have a lot of fond memories playing it with my brothers growing up. We were always pushing the limits of what we’d risk in order to level up or get better loot and very often, we’d pay dearly for it! I’ve put a lot of work to bring a similar risk and thrill into Monster Crown’s world.

What does Monster Crown have to offer that sets it apart from any other monster taming titles?

No other game has a cross breeding system like Monster Crown, monsters are more unique than in any other game in the genre and they are literally your creation. You name them, you define them. You set them loose into the world and even send them to other players.

In Monster Crown, you also have a completely open, massive world with wild encounters you can see on the map, which was no easy feat in 2D!

I also feel like, when it comes to choices, consequences, and a story that digs deep into human nature, there is no other monster taming game that’s quite like Monster Crown.

"If you like breeding you’ll have your hands full, if you like a huge world you’ll have your hands full, the game is meant to respond to the desired depth of the player"
What are the most significant changes about the game since you initially started this project and why did you decide to make these adjustments?

At the very beginning the game’s story was sort of a parody, and the main character spoke! People liked the core mechanics but didn’t enjoy those parts very much.Sowe changed it pretty early on.

Also, initially the crossbreeds just had slight sprite modifications to represent the different genetic variations, however, soon after the start of development the decision was made to give every single crossbreed a completely unique, detailed sprite. That made a massive difference to the project, and really let our imaginations run wild, and in turn, will help players cultivate their perfect monster.

What is the most rewarding part about developing games?

The most rewarding part for me is when I make something that turns out sowell,I exclaim “wow, it looks like I didn’t even make it!”. That sounds sort of funny but when something looks better than I could do I get a thrill out of it, and a huge sense of accomplishment, regardless of if I made the thing or not!

What do you like the most about Monster Crown?

What I like most is the game is built around answering your call. If you want to tame some monsters, fight through and complete the campaign you can do that, just scraping the surface, but if you ask for more, it’ll ask back “how much do you want?”.

If you like breeding you’ll have your hands full, if you like a huge world you’ll have your hands full, the game is meant to respond to the desired depth of the player, offering more where another game may say “well, that’s all we have!”.

Are there any Easter eggs or fun references to other games/series hidden in the game?

The central desperado province is based on an American desert and has a bit of a cowboy theme. It’s also heavily inspired by the early Pokémon concept art (then Capsule Monsters) and Dragon Ball’s large, dinosaur roaming deserts.

Tonally, the game is influenced byFullmetalAlchemist and there are all sorts of references that fans of Canadian music will enjoy.

If you were to start developing Monster Crown again from the beginning, what would you do differently, knowing what you know now?

Well if I could carry back my current art level we’d have reached this point a lot sooner! But the biggest difference from my approach at the start is while I wanted to make a huge world (it was actually twice as big in initial concepts) I wouldn’t really let myself think of it as a true open world game - I mean, it’s 2D! SOEDESCO helped me realize and embrace that, particularly Lead Producer Juney, in early 2019. I don’t think the game would’ve reached the quality and fun it has without that shift in perception!


If you want to learn more about Monster Crown, you can check out the trailer here. We’ve also recently revealed a brand-new feature in the game:Monster Scouting, on which you can read more here. You can also find us on Discord and ask us anything about the game! We hope to see you tomorrow, July 31 on the Monster Crown Steam page!

This interview has been slightly edited for clarity.

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