INDIE GAME DEVELOPER SOLVES MAJOR CAT MYSTERY

“I’ve always been a gamer and I’ve always analysed the games I play, trying to break them down into core mechanics.”

CATS SLEEP 50-70% OF THEIR LIVES. WHERE DO THEY GO WHEN THEY SLEEP? TODAY, YOU’LL FIND OUT!

Foundat.io/n was recently fortunate enough to chat with Ste from Bare Knuckle Dev, who is behind the indie game Super Mega Space Blaster, which was just released on Steam in June 2019. Ste is also working on an upcoming action based RPG game called The Flawless: Art’s Tale. Before we jump into the interview let’s watch the trailer for Super Mega Space Blaster below.

First of all, thanks for joining us today to talk about your work at Bare Knuckle Dev. Let’s jump in and have you introduce the most recent game you released on Steam entitled Super Mega Space Blaster. Tell us a little bit more about the development of this game. How long did the process take? What game engine did you build the game on? How long did the development process take? What did the average day of development look like for you?

After working on The Flawless: Art’s Tale, our much bigger console title, I decided I needed a break. I set myself a challenge, ‘create a full Steam game in 4 weeks’. The development took pretty much all of the four weeks with some long coffee fuelled nights. I basically created a working build of the game, tested it with a group of friends then added some more features and tested again. I kept doing this until Super Mega Space Blaster Special had a load of features and I ran out of time. I integrated Steam from the beginning of the process so once the game was built it only took a further couple of weeks to make all the Steam store stuff and release the game. I used Unity as the engine and C# as the scripting language. I tried to use tools that I was familiar with so that I could finish the game on time. I also used Trello to help keep my tasks organised.

How did you learn how to make video games? Did you ever take a game development course, or are you self taught?

I learnt to program from an early age, I used to make simple games with my brothers in Basic on our Amstrad CPC-464 and PCW. I continued to teach myself various forms of programming from HTML/PHP/JavaScript web dev stuff, to making small Flash games with ActionScript. It wasn’t until I picked up a copy of Unity a few years back that I learnt C#. I taught myself by watching tutorials and making loads of little games. Most of which were terrible but helped me advance as a game developer. I’ve always been a gamer and I’ve always analysed the games I play, trying to break them down into core mechanics. I think this has really helped with the success of Super Mega Space Blaster Special. As the reviewers are noticing I attempted to merge retro shmup mechanics with more modern mechanics of unlockables, upgrades, and a steep difficulty curve to keep the player coming back for ‘just one more try’.

You have a wide range of skills as a developer, but are there any parts of the game making process that you outsource?

The only outsourcing we did on Super Mega Space Blaster Special was the translation. I did everything else myself on this game. There are two of us working on our bigger game The Flawless: Art’s Tale and so far, we have no plans to outsource anything except voice acting (if we decide to do it) and any translation.

Now that Super Mega Space Blaster is completed and released, you’re already working on another title called The Flawless: Art’s Tale. It looks like a really beautiful game. I saw some of your top down map designs, and I was really blown away by the style. It’s a completely different look to Super Mega Space Blaster. Not only are you working in a different game genre, but you’re also working with a very distinct style. Tell us a little bit more about what inspired the development for The Flawless, and tell us how the day to day development process for The Flawless is different from Super Mega Space blaster. Now that you’re working on your second title, how are you working differently? What lessons did you learn while developing Super Mega Space Blaster that you’re applying to the development of new games?

The Flawless was inspired by Tony’s (the other half of Bare Knuckle Development) love for cats. It was five or six years ago now when we were working as teachers in Thailand and indie dev’ing in the evenings that she read out the fact that cats sleep for 50-70% of their lives. She posed the question “where do cats go to when they sleep?” and The Flawless was born. We went on to develop the world of Typha, a surreal and brutal world where cats go to when they sleep in the human world. A small number of cats can take their human’s to Typha, and once there, the humans are known as Flawless (fur and clawless). The main character, Art, in The Flawless: Art’s Tale is based on a few kids we taught in Thailand. These kids loved superheroes and cats and would often create stories of the surreal places they ventured in their imaginations.

In terms of the differences in the development process between The Flawless and Super Mega Space Blaster Special there are many. SMSBSp was created as a four week challenge specifically for Steam (although more platforms may be coming). This meant I could use a semi-agile style where I built a working game then tested, then added features based on feedback and the cycle began again. The Flawless was always intended to be released simultaneously on PS4, Switch and Steam. We built a working prototype and tested it with quite a few people to find out what mechanics worked and what didn’t. The game went through a number of stages. Art was originally going to fight living foes via ‘active-time-battles’ like the Final Fantasy series and fight mechanical enemies by shooting them with his gun. Feedback from the prototype made us change this, now Art carries a sword which is more effective against living foes and has a droid sidekick called FT whose guns are better suited to destroying mechanical baddies.

Another major difference between these games will be how they are released. Super Mega Space Blaster was released on Steam (Win/Lin/Mac) while The Flawless: Art’s Tale is planned to be released on PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Steam. Can you tell us more about the primary development differences when developing for different platforms? Can you help guide other indie game makers who have ambitions to get their games on PS4 or Nintendo Switch? How is the development process different?

When developing games in Unity it’s very easy to develop for a number of platforms simultaneously. In regard to helping others get their games on consoles all the information is out there on the web, just make sure you’ve got a solid idea and get people to proofread your proposals and game design documents.

Being an indie game maker is no easy task, and it would be an impossible task to do alone. Tell us more about the indie game developers or indie game dev studios who have inspired you over the years and have helped teach you valuable lessons that you’ve been able to apply to your own games.

I’m inspired by loads of indie games and studios. Following the development of games like Death Trash by Stephan Hövelbrinks and Knight of Exile by DonXuglo Games really inspire me to keep going. I love surreal indie games like Fran Bow by Killmonday Games which is quite dark and Draco’s Misfortune by Bloodline Games which is hilarious. I’m inspired by the whole indie dev community and I’m proud to be part of it, there’s always a new project to be excited about.

Where you would like to see Bare Knuckle Dev in 5 years? So far, you’re coming out of the gates, with a small, but quickly growing portfolio of titles. You only launched Super Mega Space Blaster in June 2019 and you already have another game slated for release. Tell us a little bit more about your growth plans and ambitions for Bare Knuckle Dev over the years.

Super Mega Space Blaster Special is part of the BKD Minis series, a series we intend to grow by creating more feature-packed fun small games for low prices. I’m not sure if we’ll have time to release any more minis before The Flawless: Art’s Tale launches but we intend to after its launch. In a month’s time after all the post release work has finished on SMSBSp I hope to devote most of my development time to The Flawless and making a game that we can be truly proud of that offers players an amazing experience. Our biggest hope is that we get The Flawless out next year and it is well received. After that I’ll probably need a break and make another mini. Beyond this it’s hard to know but if all goes well in five years’ time, we should have a fleet of fun minis and a couple of big multi-platform titles that give players original and fun experiences.

Now that you’ve completed Super Mega Space Blaster Special, how are you getting word out about your game? Are you keeping game marketing in-house or are you outsourcing the promoting aspects of your game? What are some of the marketing strategies you’re using to promote Super Mega Space Blaster Special that are helping you build your audience and gain awareness?

Well as with most tiny indie game studios we do all our marketing in-house. Our general strategy is to post interesting content on our social media profiles, send out press releases, contact reviewers/influencers, and chat about our game in relevant groups/forums. We expect Super Mega Space Blaster Special to take a while to get noticed for the feature-packed fun experience it is because we are pretty much unknown. It’s already got a few good reviews and we are really proud of the game.

On behalf of our audience, I just want to say a big thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge and experience with us today. To our blog readers, if you’re like to get a copy of Super Mega Space Blaster, you can do so over on Steam here

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