Oscar Gonzales’ mother wanted him to become a doctor. Now known online as BOON, Oscar defied that request to become the developer of dungeon-crawler Wally and the FANTASTIC PREDATORS.
In our interview, Oscar revealed his biggest goal as a game developer, a recipe for well-made roguelites, and how research for his new project accidentally led him to a new hobby.
How did your adventure with game development start?
In middle school, I used this software called Lunar Magic. I used it to hack and make my own Super Mario World Levels.
I would do things like make levels without the jump mechanic and saw how this changed the whole design of the game. It became a puzzle game, and I became enamored with the idea of adding a limitation to create a challenge to overcome.
What games have you worked on?
Wally and the FANTASTIC PREDATORS was my first commercial game.
Currently I'm working on Cyber Cards, a deck building card game set in Little Tokyo. Originally it was named Purple Desert. I made it for the GameMaker's Amaze Me Game Jam where it won third place. I won some license keys which I then used to port Wally to different consoles. I’ve taken the original game jam idea and expanded it to a full game.
How would you describe Wally and the FANTASTIC PREDATORS to someone who’s never played it before?
It's Nuclear Throne but worse.
You should try out Nuclear Throne, it's a really good game! (Also Enter the Gungeon, I hear you can get a gun that shoots guns.)
Alright, so real talk: Wally and the FANTASTIC PREDATORS is a top-down bullet roguelite that's also weird as heck. It's quietly confident, it makes jokes, but they're not in-your-face. It doesn't take itself too seriously but it's not scared of being unflinchingly honest.
I'd like to describe this game as the weird kid in your middle school who Naruto-runs in between classes. He's weird as hell but he also hugs and loves his mom in the open, while other kids tease him.
He doesn't really mind or care what they think, and if that kid sees you're having a rough day, he’ll sit by your side to make sure you cheer up.
That's what Wally is - a friend who’s by your side. He's funny, but he's not trying to be - he just is. You're attracted to this quiet confidence and feel at ease, because it makes you feel warm and safe.
What makes Wally and the FANTASTIC PREDATORS stand out from other games of its type?
On a surface level, Wally looks like any other roguelike on the market. I don't think there’s a single thing that would make it stand out on its own, but there are just enough small, endearing moments - like hugging the Backpack Guy. I added it in because I knew it would make my friend smile.There’s another running gag in the game, ‘The Box That Never Got Picked’, which started out as a joke for my friend Juju Adams.
It's small details like these that make the full game better than the sum of its parts.
What inspired Wally and the FANTASTIC PREDATORS?
Undertale for sure - that's where the inspiration for the True Ending came from. Wally doesn't look like Undertale, but it has soul, which gives it a lasting impression. I do my best to do it in my own way.
I wanted to leave a part of me in the game world that would touch people in a way they didn't know was possible. Putting the good and bad parts of myself in the game is probably what helped me come out of my shell.
Nuclear Throne as well! I'm a fan of Jan Willem Nijman's work. I loved being able to recreate the feel of his game and give it my own spin.
What’s your main goal as a game developer?
I'm a big Nintendo fan, and one of my goals is to nail their high attention to detail when it comes to making games.
That way, I can present my work to Shigero Miyamoto and have him give me a thumbs up.
What is the most important thing to keep in mind while creating a roguelite?
Iterate fast. Make a version of it, show it to people. Get feedback. ‘Oh no, it sucks!’ - that's ok, iterate and try again.
Don't get too hung up on an idea and then never show it to anyone else.
Why did you choose to work with GameMaker?
To be honest, it was simply the first engine I started working with. I’ve been thinking about moving to Godot or Unity, but right now I enjoy GameMaker's license that lets me keep all of my game's profits, which I can’t do with Unity.
If I have a problem with GameMaker I can ask the team for help directly. This actually happened - we found bugs in the Xbox build of Wally and they were able to fix it very fast.
Is there anything that frustrates you about GameMaker?
I know how to use the engine pretty effectively, and how to push it. At the same time, I do feel like I am reaching the limit to what I can do with GameMaker. Even though Cyber Cards doesn't look like a GameMaker game, there are things about it I'd like to do, but can’t because I'm limited engine-wise.
The lack of modding support is a problem. I'm making a deck builder roguelike, and one of the biggest strengths in using Unity is adding modding support to let anyone else make adjustments to the base code.
This is a strength that Slay the Spire has that I’ll never have. I've seriously considered switching engines just for this. The mod support for GameMaker is pretty minimal, it's just ‘change the sprites’. Being able to let users change code is a big part of growing communities.
For a full run-down of GameMaker's mod support, check out our article with our new mod partner. mod.io!'
GMLive should be a natural part of the pipeline. It's such a good tool to work with, I cannot believe it's not part of the main toolset. My biggest strength when using GameMaker in game jams is how quickly I can iterate on a project. GMLive/Scribble and other third party tools improve and fix some of GM's biggest problems.
What are your plans for the future?
Finish a sick game, which millions of people find addictive, and lower the global productivity in the world by 1%.
After that I think I'll keep going to the gym, play Magic the Gathering with my friends and enjoy my time.
What do you do when you’re not busy developing your games?
When I started making Cyber Cards two years ago, I began researching card games. One of them was Magic the Gathering, now I have around 30 commander decks. I love decks that let me confuse my opponents and mess with them in ways they didn't realise was possible.
I'm a big extrovert, and my favorite games are the ones where I’m hanging around with my friends.
I also love spending time with my dog Wally. He has no idea his likeness was used in a game. I've had him since 2011, and he's the greatest dog that's ever lived.
Besides that, the gym, curing some delicious salmon, eating it all before it goes bad, sending random memes to my friends… yeah, that's pretty much me in a nutshell.
How many times did you hug the Backpack Guy?
Little do you know, Backpack Guy is a wanted criminal in four states of the USA. He's been criminally charged with being a BIG NERD!
As such he is not allowed within 40 feet of me or schools. He's a wanted man. I remember the first time he hugged my fourth wife - she instantly left me. I could not compete with such cuteness.
I was left wife-less, and even though his hugs might be warm, loving and genuine, I see past the charade and see him for what he truly is: a wife stealer.
So to answer your question, zero. That's probably why my heart is so cold and lifeless.