Exclusive Interview: Coffee Powered Machine Talks Okhlos, A Rogue-lite Riot Simulator

Okhlos Gameplay

One of the biggest delights as a gamer is being able to play weird and wonderful titles that make you think “Well, this is different” and “Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?” With Okhlos being a rogue-lite riot simulator wrapped in a mythological theme, it certainly manages to inspire both of those questions.

Philosophers of Ancient Greece are sick and tired of gods interrupting their thought-provoking seminars, so they construct a mob to battle it out against Olympus. On August 18, Okhlos‘ organised chaos will be unleashed, letting you beat up mythical creatures and tear down buildings, all with a large dose of Ancient humour.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Coffee Powered Machine, the developers behind Okhlos. You can find the conversation with programmer Sebastian Gioseffi and artist Roque Rey below, as they were kind enough to discuss the development process, their dev blog, and a joint love for mythology.

WGTC: The making of Okhlos has spanned over a number of years now and the release date is finally drawing near. Are you happy with the game’s development journey?

Sebastian Gioseffi, Coffee Powered Machine: It’s true, it has spanned over several years now. We’ve learned a lot during this time. From sheer technical things and mastering our skills, to insights about the game’s world, and valuable life lessons. We’ve also made quite a lot of friends: fellow developers, game lovers, and people from all walks of life who crossed paths with us, both here in our own country and abroad. And we’ve traveled the world, well, not us that much, but the game. From BIG Festival in Brazil to EGX in London and Bit Summit in Kyoto. So yes, I think I can say I am happy with this journey.

Roque Rey, Coffee Powered Machine: For me, probably the best part of the development is how much we enjoyed doing it. This project was born from an anarchic feeling of “doing whatever we want to do” and it shows, so we really enjoyed working on Okhlos – these days not so much though, because we are so near the end of development and things are pretty crazy. I’ve been working on games for quite some time now, and I never had such a good time developing a game like I had with Okhlos.

What inspired you to create a riot simulator rogue-lite with a mythology theme? It’s a pretty unique concept.

SG: Why aren’t there more riot simulator rogue-lites with a mythology theme?! Why somebody hasn’t done this before baffles me. It’s a great combination. Parmenides has been begging to gather some folks and tear down buildings for centuries.

RR: At first, there was no evident connection. We came up with the idea of the mob, and we had to choose a setting. We are huge history nerds, and we love Greek mythology as well. So being guided by our motto “do whatever we want” we arbitrarily chose the setting. The more we developed the game, the more we realized that there was an interesting subtext. We found out that we could play with the concept of a philosopher as an intellectual pusher (pretty platonic stuff) and that the whole idea of ruling the mob (ochlocracy) resonated well with the overthrowing the gods part, in a sense. It doesn’t matter if they are gods or any other kind of hegemonic rulers, the interesting part is that people are going against that.

Okhlos boss entrance

Controlling the mob and Philosopher separately took a bit of time to master, but was really satisfying once I had a strategy down. Were there any challenges in explaining this mechanic to new players?

SG: I think that the mechanic is easy to present but, as you say, the real challenge comes with trying to master it. I think this particular mechanic was always very clear to us, since its inception. We always knew what we wanted to achieve, so explaining it came quite naturally. The challenge came with trying to teach players to master it. There, our best tool, I guess, were the philosopher-seeking enemies.

Introducing these kind of enemies, that go straight for the leader and ignore everyone else, and introducing them early in the game, was one of the best ways we came across to teach players how to control the mob and leader separately. When you face these enemies you either have to learn to move your philosopher, or die horribly. You can’t stay still while the mob goes about destroying things, so it was just what we needed.