If you could step inside one of your favorite games of an arcade, how do you think you would react? Would you know the game so well, that you could outlast, outcompete, and out win anything that came in your way? Or would it be a completely different world where what you thought you knew became the opposite and throwing you off your game? it is quite interesting when thinking about what the possibilities could be like. So when I heard that developer, Castello Inc. was bringing us a game where we get to plunge into retro vibes and shoot our way through an evocative low-poly 80’s Sci-Fi setting, I had to know more. So I reached out and Edo, Bolo, Orio, and Valerio were happy to talk about their newest game, ARK-ADE as well as talking about Virtual Reality.
Interview with Artist and Level Designer, Coder, Audio Designer, & Marketer of Castello Inc, Edo, Bolo, Orio, and Valerio
Welcome to THE VR DIMENSION. Would you please introduce yourself and what you do at Castello Inc.?
“We are Edo, Bolo, Orio and I, Valerio and we are CASTELLO INC. CASTELLO INC. is the special blend of four motley friends sharing a passion and the same vision on the future of gaming. Although having no real experience in the industry whatsoever, chatting and chilling at the real Castello (the company is named after the nickname Orio and I gave to the house where we actually live) we decided to start this project. Given Edo’s past in the fashion industry, he is our artist and level designer. Bolo, our coder, is the dedicated workaholic every company needs to get things done. Orio is the one who will allow you to shoot at the rhythm of a breathtaking original soundtrack, the real “artist” of the group, the audio designer. And last but not least, here I am, Valerio. I am the glue of this ditzy squad, I take care of ARK-ADE final look and of the marketing.”
For those who may not be aware, what have been some of your biggest game influences and some of the projects you have been a part of?
“Speaking of video games, this is our very first project. We all four are greedy players, video gaming flows in our veins since we remember, even if with different passions when talking about titles. While brainstorming about our game, arose a common experience: playing with cabinet machine games was our most warm-hearted memory. With it, the connection with Metal Slug and all the 80-s culture pillars came quite easy. On the VR side, Robo Recall and Pistol-Whip are the titles that made us love VR shooters. Here comes ARK-ADE.“
What was the one VR moment that really hit you and made you want to work with VR?
“I have the moment still vivid before my eyes: the first time I ripped off the head of a robot in Robo Recall. Just love at first sight. Ladies and gentlemen Welcome to the future!”
Your first game is called ARK-ADE. What can you tell us about the game?
“ARK-ADE is a fast-paced VR first-person shooter, structured in levels. As with our good old games, each level is divided in stages, reached which you will not be able to step back anymore and the goal is to make it until the last stage of every level. To let the player plunge into the retro vibes, we designed ARK-ADE winking to the 80’s Pop Culture pillars: Blade Runner, Predator, Stargate are just some among the many you will enjoy while shooting the enemies standing in your path.”
There are some TRON vibes here. Did the movie or the old arcade game have some influence here?
“As said before, Tron and many other childhood references such as Star Wars and Terminator were of the main inspiration for the atmosphere of the game. Also, less known movies, like The 13th Floor, The Bishop of Battle chapter of Nightmares and Avalon helped a great deal for the main storyline. For the level design and gameplay, arcade games like Space Invader, Metal Slug, and Golden Axe played a major role. In a nutshell, you can breathe the 80’s again!
So you really get to shoot to the beat of an original soundtrack?
“When one thinks of the 80’s arcade games, the soundtrack is a crucial factor to really plunge the player deeply into the spirit of the game; the soundtrack is the key to bring you back body and soul to that moment. We decided that it was too important not to be exactly as we wanted, thus here comes Orio and his skills. We honestly believe that he did a great job because part of the fun of playing ARK-ADE is surely the groove that accompanies the player throughout the shooting.”
What can you tell us about the Morphing weapon?
“Well, we wanted one single gun, one companion in addition to ARK that will guide the player from the beginning to the end of the game, and we wanted it to be iconic. To develop our idea it took more than a couple of months of hard work, we had to study a lot and learn from our mistakes, but in the end, we are really satisfied with the outcome. Not many games have a gun able to turn into a shotgun, a machine gun, or a revolver, even fewer VR Games, but ARK-ADE has it.”
Without giving too much away, who is ADE and what secrets do they have?
“What we can say about ADE is very little as we would like the player to lurk into his history throughout the game. But we can say that ADE is the acronym for “Advanced Digital Entity”, the evil A.I. whose final plan is the extermination of the human race. He is the entity in charge of the army of various enemies you will cross your path with, trying to prevent you and your companion ARK, “Ades Reset Key”, from saving the world. The players craving for more details will be happy to know that a DEMO will be available at the STEAM Fest on June 16th-22nd.”
Were the graphics always going to be the low-poly from the 80’s setting or did the game have a different look from the beginning?
“We are just four friends with a passion, we have no previous experience in video gaming and we had to learn our lesson the hard way, which of course is satisfying, but takes a lot of time. To be honest, having a low-poly setting was more a necessity rather than a free choice as it was easier to make the assets we needed. We also bought some other assets, it would have been too costly and time-consuming in our position to do otherwise. We discovered, however, that having a low-poly setting helps a great deal while porting the game to standalone headsets, revealing itself to be actually a resource for these hardware-bound devices.”
Will there be any leaderboards in the game and will the soundtrack be able to be downloaded to listen to separately?
“Yes, since we would like to give our players the same feeling they had while playing with a Cabinet Machine, we will include a Worldwide Leaderboard where the users can challenge themselves and all the other players reaching the highest score. As for the soundtrack, we plan to sell it and make it downloadable separately.”
Sound is an important part of the immersion, was there anything that really surprised you with working with the sound that you were not expecting?
“Also this side of making a video game was completely a new experience, very satisfying though. If we have to choose one, Orio would say that the most challenging part was to blend the feeling of the “mono” sound system typical of the old game devices and the surrounding sound that VR allows. He didn’t expect that finding the best balance between these two aspects would have been so tricky.”
What has been the most challenging when working with VR and where do you see VR in 5-10 years?
“For sure it was to build a game that sticks to 90+ fps at any given point. It was even more challenging maintaining the same performance on standalone devices like Oculus Quest 2, but we did it! About the future of VR, we all see that it is just at the beginning of its race. Bolo sees the future of VR regarding both the size of the devices and their spread as wide and broad as mobile phones circulation: basically, everyone will have it. Edo and Orio point out that Art, in general, is already under a digitizing process that will change the whole experience of the audience and VR will be the device of the future to get full and immersive access to artistic performances. I probably have watched too many Sci-Fi movies, but I believe that thanks to the great and jet-speed upgrades on this technology lots of people will spend more and more time with their headsets on, in this new “augmented and virtual life”. Still, I am not sure if it will be a good thing or not.”
Are there any plans for ARK-ADE to come to other platforms such as the Oculus Store and PlayStation VR in the future?
“On Oculus Store for sure, and we have plans to release ARK-ADE on Playstation VR too.”
Do we have an official release date?
“Yes, we have a release month: October 2021.”
With the content for VR continuing to grow, what would you say to someone as to why they should experience ARK-ADE?
“We will answer this question with another question: “Have you ever dreamt of being inside an old Arcade?” We have made a game that we are the first to love playing with. It is challenging, it is fast-paced, it is easy to learn, but hard to master. We think it has all the good vibes you would expect entering the world you have dreamt of as a kid in the 80’s/90’s”
I really want to thank Edo, Bolo, Orio, and Valerio for taking time out of their day and for giving us a closer look at ARK-ADE as well as talking about Virtual Reality.
ARK-ADE is coming to Steam in October of 2021 with plans to come to Oculus and hopefully PlayStation VR.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.