Game Dev Hotseat: Art Castle and “Trouble With Robots”

by Britz Capili | April 23, 2015 | , , , , ,

Art Castle and "Trouble With Robots"

Nombear introduces Art Castle, Ltd

Indie dev Art Castle on mobile game Trouble With Robots, the highs and lows of being an indie developer, and keeping motivated.

Developer: Art Castle LTD
Platform: Mobile
Game: Trouble with Robots
Genre: Card-game with real-time battle elements

What is the biggest challenge you encountered while making Trouble With Robots? How did you overcome it?
Ed Mandy, Lead Developer: I’m going to have to say that the art work was the main challenge. We decided that the game needed to look a bit more modern and exciting for today’s mobile gamers. The decision to redo all of the graphics was a big step, and it proved to be a very large undertaking. It was probably more effort than anyone anticipated.

Trouble With Robots

Before and After

There are so many graphics in the game that players probably don’t even appreciate it all until they play through all the levels, and that’s a good thing. It means that there are plenty of surprises to keep the game exciting throughout.

To accomplish this graphical upgrade, we brought in 2 artists. As you can see, they did an amazing job. The new art makes the game really pop, so we really believe that this challenge was well worth achieving!

Tell us about Art Castle. What’s the history behind your studio; when did you decide to establish an indie game dev studio?

EM: Art Castle was originally conceived as a studio to make several small games. Early on, there was a partnership with, and that relationship helped drive some of the early game concepts.

When Trouble With Robots got far enough along, we realized that it was much more than a small game, so many resources were moved from other projects to help complete and polish TWR.

One of the other “small” games, 3Domino, was released on iOS prior to the release of Trouble With Robots. The other games are still in the works.

Let’s talk about Trouble With Robots. Where did you get the idea for that? What kind of audience did you have in mind when you came up with it?

Geoffrey White (currently software engineer at Semmle) was the creative force that conceived Trouble With Robots, so we can have him answer that in his words:

“Where did I get the idea of the robots from? I think I was brainstorming and it just seemed like a fun idea, as I’d get to put two things I love – fantasy and sci-fi – in the same game.

The mechanics were inspired by Plants vs Zombies and Magic: The Gathering, and also one of a number of game prototypes I developed early in 2011. The prototype was called ‘Live Cards’ and it had the core idea of using CCG elements in real-time battles, using cards to summon an army and support them with spells. It contained only a handful of cards though and it lacked fully developed deckbuilding, levels, and any kind of polish. It didn’t even have a sense of humour! All of that stuff came later.

I probably should have mentioned Castle Crashers by now. I loved that game. That’s why I chose a side-on perspective and it guided many other graphical decisions.

The intended audience I suppose was CCG players but this was before Hearthstone existed, when nobody really knew how to do a digital CCG that wasn’t Magic Online. To be honest, I didn’t really have a clue who the audience was at that point.”

We see that the main enemy seems to be robots taking over a forest kingdom. Some people might see this as a political statement about the destruction of natural resources. Did you ever plan for the game to come out that way?

GW: Its origin wasn’t actually an environmental story at all, though there are certainly elements sympathetic to that view. At the time I started writing I was thinking about when we (the western world) interact with less wealthy countries, how we tend to assume that what’s right for us will be right for them. Of course when the dictator is overthrown they will want democracy just the same as ours. They will want global capitalism. An economy driven by consumption and debt… why wouldn’t they, it’s working great for us! I wanted to explore what it might be like to be on the receiving end of a cultural decimation like that.

What do you like the most about being an indie game dev? What do you like the least about it?

EM: I would say that the freedom and excitement are the benefits here. It’s definitely exciting to know that people are downloading and playing your game. It’s even better to know that they like it enough to pay real money for it!

It’s also great to be able to direct our own games and somewhat even day-to-day lives. For example, I personally live in the USA while most of Art Castle is based in Hong Kong. Geoffrey, who answered some questions earlier, lives in the UK. We need to collaborate, so there must be structure, but also as a remote part of a team, I must be in charge of my piece in an autonomous way. This can be seen as both a positive and a negative, but I choose to look on it as an emancipating experience.

The least desirable piece is, it’s really easy to get lost in the sea of mobile games and development companies.

How do you motivate yourself to keep developing games in an industry with such intense competition?

EM: Again, it’s a tough reality. For me, I think the main thing has been the player reviews on iTunes and Google Play. Basically all of the people that actually play the game seem to love it. On Google Play there tends to be some more random “reviews” that don’t seem to actually have anything to do with the game, but the ones that do are usually glowing endorsements. On iOS it’s almost 100% positive. The gamers love it. It’s just difficult to reach more gamers.

What do you guys do to relax after a harsh day of game development?

EM: At the moment Geoffrey is hooked on Hearthstone and Rogue Legacy. Since moving to the north of England, he has also taken up fell running, which helps to keep him healthy and happy!

I haven’t been playing much lately, but I do enjoy the new Scrolls game by Mojang. For a long time I was playing the Pokemon Trading Card Game (in real life tabletop form), but I have not kept up much with that for the last year or so. Lately, I have been skiing on weekends (almost every Saturday). I have also been playing pick-up ice hockey midday on some Tuesdays which helps break up sitting in front of the computer screen all day.

After a harsh day of game development, I usually hang out with my wife and daughters. Sometimes, isn’t that more relaxing?

To find out more about Trouble With Robots, visit their site at

Trouble with Robots:
On Google Play
On iTunes

Britz Capili

Britz is your average (often bewildered) casual gamer, leaning towards puzzle games. She's a fangirl for anything cute and squishy. She also collects stickers. She also loves sticking said stickers on her laptop, which one might have to dig for under all said stickers.

All my posts are of my opinion, and does not reflect the opinion of my company.

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