INTERVIEW: Studio Mechka

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Today we had the opportunity to talk to the Bulgarian studio Mechka, whose team is currently developing a game which immediately grasped our attention – Marko: Beyond Brave. Their project is currently presented on Kickstarter, and represents a lovely marriage of the classic metroidvania gameplay and charming artstyle of 90s cartoons, set in the world of Balkan folk tales and legends. If you are keen on learning more about the exciting adventures of Marko, stay tuned!

Play!Zine: Greetings! Let’s introduce our audience to Marko: Beyond Brave. Tell us a little bit about the game.

Studio Mechka: Marko: Beyond Brave is an epic hand-drawn Metroidvania. Playing as Marko, you’ll explore the mysterious kingdom of Zagora, wander its lush forests, crumbling castles, battle corrupted creatures, and escape intricate traps, all to find yourself in the middle of an ancient conflict as old as the world itself.

Play!Zine: Tell us a bit about your team. How many developers are working on Marko: Beyond Brave at the moment?

Studio Mechka: We started the studio in 2016-2017 and it currently consists of 6 as follows:

Boyan ‘Bobby’ Vasilev, Director and Owner – A programmer and game designer. Bobby is a project manager with almost a decade of experience in various industries including web design, video games, and advertising.

Boyan ‘Bosilek’ Yordanov, Art Director– An artist and methodical planner. With experience in both digital and traditional art, he is the art director of our merry bunch. He gets up at 5 and starts putting the world of Zagora together.

Eli Genova – She is our principal character artist, responsible for bringing to life Marko himself.

Iavor Pachovski – The haunting soundtrack of Marko is created by our tireless composer. An industry veteran with more than 10 years of experience, making music for movies, games, and TV.

Elena ‘El’ Katsarova – A talented digital artist, El is responsible for our UI, character designs, and all of the cool little bits and bobs you encounter in the game.

Lenny Piperova – Responsible for some of the cutest bad guys you will ever see, Lenny is a master of sarcasm.

Play!Zine: What inspired you to create this game? What is the idea behind its visual and gameplay concepts?

Studio Mechka: I (Bobby) have liked metroidvania games for a long time, starting from the old classics like Castlevania and Metroid, to modern ones like Hollow Knight and Ori and the Blind Forest. The idea of the visual concept came from our childhood nostalgia and love for 90s Disney cartoons. The gameplay was like this: we asked ourselves what if we make a modern Mario set in a fantasy Balkan setting?

Marko himself is inspired by a legendary medieval ruler of the same name. As it often happens, the myth is much more impressive than the man himself, but it is a myth nonetheless. A hero of epic proportions, there are thousands of tales of his superhuman strength, prowess in battle, and delivering the helpless from foes of all kinds. His exploits are folk stories known from the Aegean to the Danube and from the Adriatic to the Black sea. His foes of course are no less legendary than the man himself.

Zagora, while a fictional land, is a blend of regions that can really be found anywhere in southeast Europe. Small villages, hidden away in a mountain valley are frequent and beautiful sights. Ruins of times past are as mysterious as they are ancient and time has rarely been kind to them. The name itself means, ‘a place beyond the mountains’ in old Slavic. Za(d): beyond and Gora: mountain.

Play!Zine: Tell us a little bit about the gameplay mechanics.

Studio Mechka: As with any game of the metroidvania genre, the concept is that you grow stronger over time, but by growing stronger you unlock new abilities, which in turn allow you to reach new parts of the map, previously unreachable. Each of the abilities is unique and some change how you play and progress through the levels dramatically.

Play!Zine: Are we only going to play as Marko, or will there be multiple playable characters?

Studio Mechka: The game was always going to be focused on Marko himself, but we do have plans for a female lead that you can play as instead.

Play!Zine: The Kickstarter campaign kicked off recently. How’s it going? What’s your goal?

Studio Mechka: The goal is just over 15k Euros. We are really happy to announce that we’ve actually reached our goal, with 12 days to go! We also reached a “Project We Love” badge from Kickstarter and they featured our project on the front page.

Play!Zine: Is there a planned release date for Marko: Beyond Brave?

Studio Mechka: The planned release is Q2 2022. Depending on funding, we might extend that to Q4 2022 so you guys can get more playtime, more bosses and so on.

Play!Zine: Are you planning to release a demo or a beta version of the game ahead of its release?

Studio Mechka: We have a beta version planned for some of our kickstarter backs and early followers.

Play!Zine: What platforms will Marko: Beyond Brave be available on?

Studio Mechka: Marko will be available on PC/Mac/Linux and all major platforms (Playstation 4/5 and Xbox). The release will not be simultaneous of course, and the game will be released for PC first.

Play!Zine: Do you have any other projects that you had worked on in the past? What are your plans for future projects?

Studio Mechka: Each of us has a couple of projects under our name in different industries including gaming, but this is a first for us as a team. We have another project coming up that will be announced in a couple of months, but it’s something very different and very rugged. You can follow us on our social media to find out more.

Play!Zine: Are you planning any additional content after the release?

Studio Mechka: We have plans for 3 expansions after release, all themed on specific Slavic legends.

Play!Zine: Thank you for an amazing interview! We wish you the best of luck in the continuation of your Kickstarter campaign and further development of Marko: Beyond Brave!

If you wish to support the development of Marko: Beyond Brave, visit the official Kickstarter page.

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