Protodroid DeLTA interview with Adam Kareem: “how can I make Sonic feel great to control in 3D?”

by on July 28, 2023

I’ve been a huge fan of the Mega Man series for as long as I can remember, but the blue bomber was never really able to make the jump from 2D to 3D particularly successfully. Well back in May of this year developer Adam Kareem showed the world how much a 3D Mega Man style game could delight those of us who love action platforming with Protodroid DeLTA, and once I started playing I couldn’t put it down.

There’s so much to love about Protodroid DeLTA, from the tight platforming controls to the gorgeous Solarpunk visuals, and I was more than happy to give it a 9/10 in my review. Now a few months after release Adam has managed to find some time for an exclusive interview with us, in which he talks about the process of being published under the Humble Games label, being selected to receive funding from the Black Game Developer Fund, and of course about his favourite Mega Man games.

A screenshot of Protodroid DeLTA

Lyle: Protodroid DeLTA received funding from Humble’s Black Game Developer Fund. What was the process of applying for that like, and how did it feel when you found out you were accepted?

Adam: The process for applying was pretty straightforward! It’s been a few years, so some of the details are hazy, but I remember simply filling out a form which took maybe 10 minutes and sharing a link to a playable build. Things are probably much more involved now since I applied as part of the first wave.

Oh lemme tell you when I received the news of being accepted I was OVER THE MOON. So excited that I tried to convince myself “I’m going to complete the whole game with these funds!” In hindsight, I now know just how overzealous that was as the final shipped game ended up costing at least 6x that amount! But yes I was quite overjoyed and even more motivated to push the game further.


Protodroid DeLTA was also the first game that received that funding that Humble actually went and published. How did you find out that Humble were interested, and what has it been like working with the publisher?

Great question – I always had an idea that Humble was at least somewhat interested because one of their leads for discovering projects, John Gavin Polson, contacted me months before the Kickstarter even went live. He played my “Megaman X and Zero” fan game which served as the prototype / proof-of-concept build for Protodroid DeLTA and gave some great feedback on it. From there, once the Kickstarter was over, a few months passed, and I applied for the BGDF. That was a natural lead into the publishing talks because one of the requirements was for me to eventually produce a high-quality vertical slice of the game for Humble to evaluate. I submit the playable alpha, a few months go by, and the trail picks up hot again as Humble reaches out saying, “Let’s talk publishing…”

As a publishing partner, they’ve been really great. I’d definitely recommend other indies strongly consider working with Humble. The staff are all really positive and encouraging. And throughout my journey have been a strong support for me. As with any relationship there’s some areas that I wished could’ve gone differently, but overall, it’s been a very good experience.

A screenshot of Protodroid DeLTA

Protodroid DeLTA is a game that proudly wears its Mega Man influence on its sleeve. What is it about those classic games that made you want to adapt them into a 3D action platformer?

I love this question. For me, I’ve always been intrigued by the prospect of taking classic gameplay experiences from the past and modernizing them. In a similar vein, it’s what inspired another early fan project in 2018 called “Sonic Explorers” where I set out to solve “how can I make Sonic feel great to control in 3D?”

So with Protodroid, I just loved the gameplay of Mega Man X so much and was curious what it would take for the awesome 2D gameplay to translate well into 3D. I mean, there’s over 30 Mega Man games in 2D, compared to just 3 in 3D. So the prospect of solving that design problem was such a fun challenge to tackle.

Are there any Mega Man references in Protodroid DeLTA that you’re particularly happy you squeezed in there?

For starters, I’m very happy with the Tribute Armors. There is a set of cosmetic skins with designs heavily inspired by the most beloved characters from the X series: X, Zero, Vile, Sigma, Light Armor X, and even the newcomer Axl. My favorite from the bunch is inspired by the woefully underused design for X in Command Mission.

But my favourite reference is Dr. Noor Shelton, the scientist who created DeLTA, because it incorporates so much of who I am with my love for Mega Man. There are levels to it! So bear with me for a moment. Her last name “Shelton” comes from my Aunt Paula who used to teach STEM & robotics to high schoolers – just as Dr. Shelton has a passion for robotics. Then, her first name “Noor” comes from my Muslim background as it’s a common Arabic name. But here’s the kicker – “Noor” in Arabic means “Light”. So putting it all together, both Mega Man and DeLTA were created by a “Dr. Light!” Ah, I just love that reference.

A screenshot of Protodroid DeLTA

Other than Mega Man, are there any other video games that inspired Protodroid DeLTA?

The game is almost exclusively inspired by Mega Man X on the SNES. But I took some critical design cues from more modern games to help nail that 2D to 3D transition. Namely: Mario 3D World / 3D Land, Ratchet & Clank (PS4), Crash Bandicoot 4, and Kirby & the Forgotten Land.

From the Mario titles, Crash, and Kirby they presented exceptional 3D platforming focused level design. The other major benefit of these games is their very minor dependence on the player to control the camera, a notoriously difficult challenge with games like this. Especially so for Protodroid, where players are asked to fight enemies WHILE platforming. To have players manage jumping while aiming at enemies AND controlling the camera would’ve broken the game’s design entirely.

And from Ratchet & Clank I gleaned mainly solutions for how to install the game’s environment art along with the 3D platforming-focused level design. That along with its core “run & gun” gameplay as proof that something like Mega Man could definitely work in 3D. Because in reality the R&C gameplay carries so many strong similarities with a Mega Man game.

For me the most impressive aspect of Protodroid DeLTA is how well DeLTA controls. Was it a challenge to get that precision movement feeling just right?

It definitely was a challenge! So much so that the first 3-4 months of the game’s development were solely focused on getting DeLTA’s movement to feel just right. Fortunately, Unreal Engine comes with a great character movement component which meant I didn’t need to start from square one. But finding out how to modify the settings of that component, adding in custom code, and trying to match the 1:1 movement and feel found in Mega Man X proved to be quite tough. But it was definitely one of the most satisfying parts of the development overall, so it’s always really satisfying to hear comments like yours that the controls feel great because it means that the CORE thing I set out to do was a success!

A screenshot of Protodroid DeLTA

The vibrant aesthetic of Protodroid DeLTA really blew me away. What made you decide on the colourful “solarpunk” style?

I’m so glad to hear that! You can thank two things: the overuse of sad apocalyptic future settings in games and…Pinterest! It’s just far too common in games that they take place “in a world where humanity is all but extinct…” and things are just sad and dire. I asked myself “that can’t be the only vision we can have of the future, right?” So I dug into Pinterest looking for concept art of futuristic settings and stumbled upon an amazing “Solarpunk” piece by artist Steven Wong as part of solarpunk-themed art competition Atomhawk and IMMEDIATELY fell in love. It was just so refreshing, hopeful, and vibrant. That’s when I settled on solarpunk as the setting for the game. From there I went on a solarpunk search-spree and found more Atomhawk submissions, the amazing Chobani Yogurt solarpunk ad, and whatever else I could find to flesh out each of the game’s stages.

As a fellow Mega Man diehard, I have to ask what your favourite games in the Mega Man series are?

I love the X series above all the others. So from there my faves are: X1, X2, X4, X3, in that order haha. From the classic series, I’m such a modernist, so my current favourite is actually Mega Man 11. The gameplay, boss design, double gear setup, art direction & animation all came together to make a really fun game.

Then of course there’s the Legends games for which we SORELY need a Legends 3. Get my mans Volnutt off the moon, amirite?

However.. I have a confession to make… although I’m a huge fan, I’ve only ever beaten three games in the Mega Man series: Mega Man 11, Legends 2, and X!. But besides that I’m just smitten by the core gameplay.

A screenshot of Protodroid DeLTA

2023 has been a wild year for video games already. What games have you been playing in your free time?

Not too many because up until June, free time for me was a social construct! 2023 for me was all Protodroid. From finishing the game’s content, to localization, to the console ports & getting through cert, to quick-releasing post-launch patches, it was a blitz. But now that I’ve cleared it, I’m just trying out all kinds of things: Sonic Frontiers (enjoyed it), Elden Ring (hate it), Sekiro (love it), Pokemon Violet, Pokken Tournament DX, and Divine Knockout (love it!) to name a few. The combo of Games Pass, EGS freebies, and my local library of all places makes it easy to try all kinds of stuff.

What’s next for you in game development? Are you working on exciting new secret projects, or is there more planned for Protodroid DeLTA post launch?

For now, just taking a break. It’s been pretty grueling working a full-time job not in games while making Protodroid on the side. In practical terms, that meant 6-day workweeks at 10-14 hrs/day for the past 3.5 years. So just stepping away from game dev for a bit to rest and possibly recharge. As a creator & game designer, your mind is always thinking about the next thing.

Also I take issue with this question! If I told you about a new secret project, it wouldn’t be much of a secret then anymore, now would it? Nice try Lyle, nice try!