An Exclusive Interview with Mario Castañeda, Lead Artist for The Bridge
Earlier this month, we were lucky enough to review The Bridge, a unique puzzle-platformer from indie developers Mario Castañeda and Ty Taylor. The game primarily stood out because of its insanely interesting M.C. Escher-esque art style, but that was backed by a solid complement of level design and puzzle variety. We recently spoke with Mario, who was the lead artist on the project, and asked him a few questions about the game’s development.
Read our full interview below:
Gameverse: How did this project come about between you and Ty?
Ty approached me in the Fall of 2010 at CWRU (Case Western Reserve University – ed.) while I was working on a prototype for an experimental game. He had heard of some of my previous work and thought I’d be a good fit for what was then a 4 person team. The three other devs left before the end of that year.
Gameverse: What was the inspiration for your art style?
I can’t quite say from what my personal art style is derived. I began drawing at around the age of 3 and painting at 7. I also started playing video games around the age of 5, and I’d often draw level stages (Megaman style) for cartoon characters I had come up with. As for The Bridge, it’s no secret that the inspiration for the style is from M.C. Escher. Both Ty and I are huge fans of his work, and when he described the gameplay as having Escher qualities, it was the perfect opportunity for me to delve into M.C. Escher’s work and emulate his style to match the game design.
Gameverse: How intricately involved were you in terms of the level design? Did Ty ask for art assets or did you base the art for each level on the individual puzzles?
The process for creating levels usually began with Ty sending me an outline of the collision layers for the character. It was up to me to render all the visual quality of it – including the theme of the level with regards to the world, and typically hiding some direct source of M.C. Escher inspiration in the art. There are a couple levels and design mechanics that began as collaborative works, where we’d shoot mockups back and forth to each other.
Gameverse: Considering you and Ty were working in different parts of the country, was it difficult to complete certain parts of the game?
Not particularly. Occasionally, it’d be difficult to get a point across about some aspect of the game, but nothing a couple emails couldn’t clarify. Since Ty handled design and programming, he could code and design within the limitations he knew the game had. This allowed me to be able to play the skeleton of the level extensively before beginning work on it, so I’d have a good understanding of how to create art that could be really detailed without confusing the player’s path to the goal.
Gameverse: What was the most difficult part of the process for you and Ty? Additionally, how long did it take to finish The Bridge from start to completion?
The most difficult part of the process was probably polishing the game to its most pleasing state. Over the course of the game’s nearly 3 year development cycle, The Bridge had visited several expos and fairs where early builds could be shown off and blind tested. We’d come back from those demos with gobs of notes for things we needed to change. Sometimes it was a change on Ty’s part regarding game mechanic feel, sometimes it was a change on my part regarding aesthetic confusion. For example, over the course of development, the key the player can pick up in the game has nearly tripled in size and gotten a sort of aura around it to make it more noticeable.
Gameverse: Did either of you ever consider doing the entire game in color?
(Laughs) That was always tossed around as a joke for a super secret unlockable bonus, but we knew we wanted to use color in such a way that it would emphasize certain aspects of the game and story. Our use of color, or lack thereof, is deliberate.
Gameverse: How were you able to get a direct release on Steam and what was that process like?
We first hit the indie scene back at IndieCade 2011 and had the opportunity to talk to Steam reps then, before Steam Greenlight had been launched. They really liked what we had to show, despite the game being only one-fourth the size back then, and so we kept in constant touch with them as the game neared completion. The process was kind of unique.
Gameverse: Do you and Ty plan to work together on another project? What is the next thing that you want to do?
We do plan on working on another project. There’ve been a couple ideas tossed around and we’ve toyed with some concepts, but nothing’s set in stone. Whether it will be entirely 2D or 3D, another puzzle game or something entirely different, I can’t say. I can guarantee it won’t be in black in white though!