Yes, that’s right, it’s finally time for a brand-new interview! And this time we sat down with Impact Gameworks’ Andrew Aversa (founder and lead developer of Impact Gameworks)!

And during our sit down with Andrew, we talked about everything from “Tangledeep”, game development, the upcoming “Tangledeep 2”, “Flowstone Saga“, video game memories, Impact Gameworks plans for the future, and much more!

So. without further ado, please enjoy our interview with Andrew Aversa =)

tangledeep interview andrew aversa

Say hello to Mr. Andrew Aversa! The founder and lead developer of Impact Gameworks.

Robin TGG
First things first. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with us =) With that said, would you be so kind to introduce yourself to our readers?

Andrew A
Hi there! I’m Andrew Aversa, the founder and lead developer of Impact Gameworks. I’m a composer, designer, and programmer, and I have a huge love of the 16-bit era of video games and their music.

tangledeep interview impact gameworks

Impact Gameworks was founded in 2016 by Andrew Aversa to fulfill a lifelong dream of creating games. And their very first commercial game title was the turn-based dungeon crawler “Tangledeep”.

Robin TGG
Perhaps you could give us a brief introduction to how Impact Gameworks came to be? (when, where, why, and how)

Andrew A
Sure! The short version is that I’ve always wanted to make games, for as long as I can remember. As a kid I made up board games, created simple computer games with BASIC, wrote ideas for pen & paper RPGs, and even created some text-based RPGs on IRC. But all of that got set aside for about 13 years while I developed my career as a musician, composer, and sound designer.

Then, in 2016, I felt like I needed something new in my life, something challenging & exciting. I decided to try making a roguelike to learn Unity and C#. But I got a little carried away, and that first project turned into Tangledeep!

tangledeep interview chrono trigger

The history behind how Impact Gameworks came to be, more or less goes back to Andrew Aversa and how he enjoyed, and got inspired & impressed by games such as “Chrono Trigger”, “ZORK,”, “Landing Party,”, and “Castle of the Winds”.

Robin TGG
You don’t happen to remember how everything started for you in terms of getting into video games and game development? (what was it that got you into gaming and game development?)

Andrew A
My first gaming experiences were probably early DOS games on the PC. Educational stuff like the Super Solvers series, plus games like ZORK, Landing Party, and Castle of the Winds. I was exposed to console gaming by visiting friends who had the NES and SNES, and was immediately drawn to RPGs. I distinctly remember being blown away by watching someone play Chrono Trigger.

It took a few years to get gaming consoles of my own; before that, we used to rent an NES or SNES from the video store on weekends if I did all my homework, along with one or two games. Imagine how frustrating it was to rent an RPG one week, only to see your progress erased the next week…

(As for game development, I think I covered that in the answer above).

tangledeep interview tangledeep

Believe it or not, the “Tangledeep” project actually started off as an exercise for the “7 Day Roguelike Challenge”! And thanks to Jim Shepard (a very good friend of Andrew Aversa), a learned the basics of Unity. Thus, “Tangledeep” was born for real!

Robin TGG
And speaking of video games and game development. You’ve made quite a name for yourself with the release of your 16-bit  turn-based dungeon crawler/RPG “Tangledeep”. So, how did that game project come to be? And what was the game development process like for you? (challenges, failures, success, and so on)

Andrew A
Thank you! Tangledeep started specifically as an exercise for the “7 Day Roguelike Challenge”, because (1) I love roguelikes, and (2) it seemed like a good way to practice Unity & C#. My good friend Jim Shepard showed me the basics of Unity and before long, I was up and running.

The game didn’t even have a name for most of 2016, and I worked on it during nights and weekends. But by the end of the year I was feeling more and more confident that it could develop into something awesome, so starting in 2017 I began working on it full-time. I found some amazing collaborators (including Jim, who worked on the Switch port, UI, and lots of writing) and learned a huge amount along the way.

When the game finally launched it really surpassed my expectations, and it has continued to surprise me in its success across platforms, DLC, etc.

Of course, there were plenty of challenges. My inexperience resulted in some pretty bad “technical debt” – poorly organized code that made certain features and updates difficult. Optimizing the game for Switch took the better part of a year as a result.

tangledeep interview the world of tangledeep

“Tangledeep” has come a long way since its release back in 2018 (including game updates, new content, to tons of positive reviews and feedback from players and video game critics alike).

Robin TGG
Did you ever at any point in time think that “Tangledeep” would become as populous, successful, and liked as the game is today? Because “Tangledeep” has received quite a lot of positive reviews and responses since its release back in 2018.

Andrew A
Once we started getting non-placeholder sprites in the game, and started releasing public builds, I started to see that the game had potential. Although, I was very nervous about my chances given all the horror stories about indie devs bombing on Steam.

My friends had more faith than I did, early on. I think by the time the Kickstarter succeeded in 2017 and it launched on Early Access, that was when I finally felt like I had full confidence.

tangledeep interview disgaea

“Disgaea”, “Diablo” and “Chrono Trigger”, are just some of the few games which have inspired and influenced “Tangledeep”.

Robin TGG
Which games would you say have inspired and influenced “Tangledeep” the most during its development process? And have any game developers who you look-up to praised “Tangledeep”?

Andrew A
There are a few inspirations for different reasons. Dungeonmans, another roguelike and one that I composed music for, was a big inspiration for the combat & gameplay. The Diablo games and Disgaea series also influenced various mechanics. The visuals and music take a lot of inspiration from classic SNES RPGs like Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana. So, it’s a real mix.

Various fellow indie devs have praised the game, although it didn’t quite get on the radar of certain teams I really look up to like Yacht Club Games for example.

tangledeep interview the goals and achievements of tangledeep

“Tangledeep” has done really well all over the world since its release. However, it was a big surprise for Impact Gameworks that the game would get a life of its own in Japan.

Robin TGG
What would you say that you are the proudest of in terms of your own goals and achievements with “Tangledeep”? And are you happy with the end result and how everything turned out for “Tangledeep” on release?

Andrew A
When I see people talking about the game on Discord or the Steam forums, writing guides, sharing strategies, and discussing their accomplishments, that makes me really proud.

Also, the reception of the game in Japan. It really took off over there. Even now there are people making “Vtuber” style videos, in Japanese, with Japanese mods… it’s crazy! I could have never imagined that.

So, yes, I’m thrilled with how the game turned out. My only regrets are just because of my coding inexperience early on, but I realize that everyone has to start somewhere…

tangledeep interview legend of shara

“Legend of Shara” is one out of the two currently available DLC expansions for “Tangledeep”.

Robin TGG
Not too long ago you released the “Legend of Shara” and “Dawn of Dragons” for “Tangledeep”. Well, what could you tell us about those DLC’s? What was the development process like? And what has the response been like since both DLC’s got released?

Andrew A
Good question! The truth is that both of those were originally going to be one GIANT expansion. I wanted it to feel like classic Blizzard game expansions, where you truly got a lot of content for your money, as opposed to just a couple of cosmetic items. But in mid-2018 my daughter was born, and my work time got cut in half. So, I made the decision to split things up so I could finish at least one DLC in a reasonable amount of time.

Basically, I thought about all the features, mechanics, and encounters that I wanted to put in the base game but never had time to do. Then I looked at the kind of content expert players were enjoying. Combining both sets of ideas led to what you see in the final products.

All things considered, the DLC sales have been pretty good. Although strictly speaking, they weren’t as profitable as the base game, since at best maybe 25% of players will get DLC, and the DLC is also cheaper than the base game.

If I only cared about money, I probably would have focused on making another game instead of DLC. However, I love Tangledeep, and I wanted to keep delivering for all the people who’ve been playing the game since 2018.

tangledeep interview dawn of dragons

“Legend of Shara” is one out of the two currently available DLC expansions for “Tangledeep”.

Robin TGG
And while on the subject of DLC’s, you don’t happen to have any future plans for a new DLC for “Tangledeep”?

Andrew A
Since the game is over 3 years old now, I don’t have any plans for any more paid DLC. I’ve continued to do smaller patches with some additional content, balance tweaks, bug fixes, and quality-of-life improvements, plus some work on the Switch & Amazon Luna ports. There might be one or two more substantial content patches down the line, though!

tangledeep interview tangledeep for the nintendo switch

Impact Gameworks made a really good decision to bring “Tangledeep” to the Nintendo Switch back in January of 2019. Why? Because “Tangledeep” fits like a glove for the Nintendo Switch, thus the reason why the game has been very well-received on the Switch (positive reviews, sales, and so on).

Robin TGG
I just now noticed that there is also a Nintendo Switch release of “Tangledeep”. So, what was that experience like for you? I mean, developing and releasing your game for the Nintendo Switch? And how was “Tangledeep” received by the Switch players?

Andrew A
Jim Shepard, my friend & mentor I mentioned earlier, took the helm on developing the Switch port. It was an arduous process. Normally, Unity makes it easy, and the code technically worked fine. But there were issues with performance, and the UI / control scheme were not optimized.

Once v1.0 launched, there was also a lot of work to be done in keeping the Switch version updated with PC content and DLC, since technically it’s a different code base entirely.

Still, despite some challenges, it was absolutely worth it. The Switch audience seems to really like the game and I’ve gotten tons of great feedback on it. Sales have been good too!

The most special part of the whole process is just the idea that my game is on a Nintendo console. I’ve been playing Nintendo consoles and handhelds since the Gameboy and NES, so it’s just amazing to me.

tangledeep interview tangledeeps kickstarter campaign

Impact Gameworks hit the jackpot big time when they launched their Kickstarter campaign for “Tangledeep”, because when the campaign ended back in 2017, “Tangledeep” had managed to become over 200% fully funded on Kickstarter thanks to its +1,200 supporters!

Robin TGG
Could you ever in your wildest dreams imagine that “Tangledeep” not only would become fully funded on Kickstarter on record time, but that the game would also become over 200% funded with the help of over 1,100 backers?

Andrew A
I was certainly surprised! I knew it was a possibility only because I had a fanbase from my work as a composer & recording artist, and some of those people were interested. I’m sure their support helped boost the Kickstarter’s early visibility, which in turn helped it to trend, and get shown to even more people.

tangledeep interview tangledeeps soundtrack

The soundtrack for “Tangledeep” is just as beautiful and awesome as the game itself. So tons of props to Zircon (Andrew Aversa) for the topnotch music!

Robin TGG
On a personal level, I have to say that I’m just as impressed by “Tangledeep” as I am of its game soundtrack. So perhaps you could tell us a bit about how theTangledeep’s soundtrack came to be? And what was it that made you pick zircon as the game composer of “Tangledeep” in the end?

Andrew A
Thank you for the kind words. In case it’s not already clear… I’m zircon! I wrote almost the entire soundtrack, and created most of the game’s sounds as well. It comes from a place of true love for the classic soundtracks by composers like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy 4-6, Lufia 2, and Secret of Mana.

I’ve been listening to that music my whole life, and well before Tangledeep, I had created remixes of music from all those games. It felt natural to write my own RPG music in that style.

Here’s a fun fact – besides writing the music, I also created the sound set that you hear throughout the soundtrack. It’s called “Super Audio Cart”, a virtual instrument available through my other company Impact Soundworks. I created that specifically to give people a palette of sounds from classic game consoles. It turns out it works great for sound effects, too.

tangledeep interview tangledep for other formats

In the current year (In this case, 2023), “Tangledeep” is already available for PC (Windows, MAC, and Linux) and the Nintendo Switch. However, only time will tell if the game will end-up on Playstation and Xbox consoles anytime soon.

Robin TGG
Since “Tangledeep” is now available for both PC and the Nintendo Switch, do you have any plans for a release to other consoles and maybe a mobile release?

Andrew A
I would love to do something for PlayStation, if I can just find the time to look into it further. Xbox is a little less interesting to me, but that’s only because I’ve always preferred the PlayStation consoles over Xbox. I’ve owned the first 4 PlayStation consoles, a PSP, and even a Vita. Just waiting on the PS5 now!

As for a mobile release, I’ve considered that, too. At this point I don’t think I have time to do it myself, but I did get a build of the game running on Android in 2019, so I think it’s doable. What I would probably do is hire another company to do the port based on my code.

tangledeep interview tangledeep 2

Yep, it’s true! Because Impact Gameworks is indeed working on “Tangledeep 2” as we speak. As for here and now though, “Tangledeep” players can currently enjoy the recently released 1.53K patch for “Tangledeep”.

Robin TGG
I think it’s safe to say that “Tangledeep” has become quite a success story over time both critically and commercially. So, “Tangledeep 2”, when? *smiles*

Andrew A
Oh, Tangledeep 2 is definitely coming. I’ve put about 700 hours of work into it and there are hundreds of art assets already done. It will be a direct sequel to the first game in terms of story & gameplay, but with an even more detailed visual style, a more sleek and polished UI, and particle FX. Think about how sprite-based PlayStation 1 RPGs looked, and how they used particles, lighting & 3D elements to enhance the appearance.

The general setting is going to be a little more “open world”, rather than being confined to just a single dungeon, and there will be both world and town-building elements besides classic roguelike gameplay. And frogs, lots of frogs.

I think you can expect to have a playable pre-alpha build by the end of this year, but I have no idea when the release will be (even Early Access) since right now our focus is on Flowstone Saga, another game set in the Tangledeep universe but in a different genre.

tangledeep interview flowstone saga

Back in June of 2021, “Flowstone Saga” was successfully funded via Kickstarter thanks to almost 1,300 backers (“Flowstone Saga” is coming to PC via Steam in Q2 2023).

Robin TGG
We have now reached the very end of this interview. So I’m going to wrap everything up by asking you about your plans, hopes, and expectations for the rest of the year? And is there anything else that you would like to say to our readers?

Andrew A
In the near future, you can expect to see a Kickstarter for Flowstone Saga. It’s basically a JRPG-inspired game rather than a roguelike, with much more focus on story and character development. The battle system is also really unique, combining RPG elements with falling block puzzle gameplay (either real-time or turn-based.)

With any luck, that game will enter Early Access by the end of the year!

Otherwise, on a personal level, I’m excited to be writing some original electronic music as zircon again after a long hiatus. And I’m excited for this pandemic to finally come to an end so I can see friends & family I’ve sorely missed.

tgg author avatar robin ek
Robin “V-Act” Ek
Editor in chief
The Gaming Ground
Twitter: @TheGamingGround

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