Today’s interview revolves around a successful Kickstarter campaign from the first half of 2017. It’s inspired by folklore from Spanish religions, which take a dark turn into fantasy. With lots of gore and an extensive attention to detail, lets get into our chat with Mauricio.
Blasphemous is by no means your first game, or even your first experience developing a game in conjunction with the community. Did you work on any games prior to your time at The Game Kitchen? If so, were they also community funded, or were they funded by a publisher? Which do you prefer and why?
The Last Door was our first successful indie title. Before that, we did a ton of contract work for other companies, like serious games and some advergaming.
In terms of working with publishers, we’ve been lucky to enjoy the freedom of being independent while making games, both The Last Door and now Blasphemous. We add our publisher at a later stage to help us bring the game to a broader audience, not to influence our development.
Being a community manager, how does your job differ when working with a community funded game opposed to a traditionally published game?
Unfortunately, I’m relatively new to community management. In The Last Door, I was the main programmer! I really can’t tell you the differences between community funded and traditional games, but I can tell you that my approach for social management and community building is being transparent. I’m gathering as much feedback as possible so the development can benefit from the collective intelligence of the fan base.
The art direction is extraordinary. How long did the concept stage last for this, and about how long does it take for artists to create each animation?
We worked for about 7 months investigating what the game could be in terms of artistic expression, and then we created the necessary materials to communicate our intentions to our potential backers.
These carefully and 100% handmade, pixel by pixel animations take A LOT of time to make! The fastest work I’ve seen has been a rate of 3 per week, but sometimes a single animation has taken up to 3 weeks!
The choice for extreme violence was something I saw a lot of talk about during the Kickstarter campaign. What determined the game being made this way? Have there been any animations that were decidedly too brutal and had to be scaled back?
So far, we haven’t had to censor ourselves that much. It is true that we have discarded some of the game’s gore, but most of the time it’s because it wasn’t working in terms of fluidity of gameplay. It actually takes time to repeatedly stab an enemy, and that change of pace might not be welcome by the players. We’re still prototyping to aim for the sweet spot there.
The animations are really interesting to me, because they don’t seem to follow a normal framerate. While it looks like it’s running on 4s at times, other parts look like they’re on 1s or 2s. What’s being used for the creation of the art, and the game itself? Is the game engine proprietary?
Our artists create the original frames and their pace on Photoshop using the ‘timeline’ tool. But when the animations are imported into Unity, we use a dedicated sprite animation tool to fine-tune the duration of each frame, improving the pace and weight of the movement. So in the end, we have an irregular, constantly varying FPS speed on most animations.
I’m certain Blasphemous will be likened to the Souls games, as that’s become the norm for any game that is difficult and fantasy based. What games have inspired the creation of this? While it can be likened to certain games, it very much looks like its own thing. Would you consider it a metroidvania?
Honestly, apart from the dark theme and the narrative strategy, we’re not that much like Dark Souls. We’re looking at modern metroidvanias, platformers, and hack and slash games, but we’re putting a lot of effort in creating something unique and satisfying in terms of gameplay.
We’re still heavily prototyping game mechanics at the moment. While we focused on ‘aesthetics’ for the first playable demo – the one we gave to our backers when the campaign finished – we’re currently fully focused on gameplay. We hope to arrive at something interesting soon, but the truth is we haven’t really gotten there just yet.
The game is expected for a 2019 launch – how many hours a day does the team put into it each day to stay on schedule?
Back in the day when we were starting in the game industry, we had the typical, undesirable approach of working too many hours. After a while, we became workaholics and stopped being productive: the number of hours we put in at the computer wasn’t matching the results we were getting out of it.
It took a great effort, and a lot of research on software development processes, but our current approach is radically different. We have implemented a working methodology that allows us only a reasonable amount of hours in front of the computer, around 6 a day, but at the same time forces us to make the best of those hours by means of productivity. In the end, we put more work together each day than ever before, all while remaining fresh and coming up with more creative solutions to our issues. We are able to enjoy the development process a lot more this way.
What makes Blasphemous unique from anything else on the market?
In terms of gameplay, perhaps we could tell you that we are heavily focused at the moment on finding the game’s identity; we want to find some new and interesting mechanics using what other games already do well as a base.
Additionally, I can tell you that Blasphemous features some of the best handmade pixel art out there, including smooth animations and colossal bosses!
And finally, it is one of few games fully inspired by Spanish religious folklore and its creepy historical and artistic heritage. And it’s probably the only one that is turning it into a dark-fantasy bloodbath. 😉
The different gear you equip will change the way you can fight. How many different combat styles are going to be available for players?
So far, you can equip Relics, Prayers, and Rosary Beads, and the resulting combination will change your character’s stats, and consequently your combat strategy. This aspect of the game is under heavy development in a second prototype we’re focused on, and we won’t stop until we are happy with the possibilities.
What will be the punishment for death in this? Will there be a permadeath option, or is the game going to be considered too difficult for that?
We are not considering permadeath. Death will respawn enemies and make you lose some deal of progress. We’re still looking to find a balance there.
What kind of experience are you hoping for people to get out of this? Is there anything you hope they take away from it?
We are hoping to deliver a game that is both compelling and intense, which gives a good reason to explore the world of Blasphemous deeper than one would in most games. Then through exploration, we want to deliver an interesting story, rich with lore.
What are your top 3 games of all time, and your top 3 from the last 5 years?
My three all-time favourites are Doom, X-COM (the original from 1994) and Portal. And for the more recent ones, I’d say Hellblade and The Witness, and of course the whole Souls saga!
What would your advice be for someone that has never made a game before, but wants to start?
First, focus on learning how to make games; leave the whole making money idea out of it for later. I always recommend starting small: begin by creating simple clones of arcade classics, like Pong or Arkanoid. Keep a practical approach and finish everything you start, and start building a portfolio out of it.
If you could only choose one band/musician to listen to for the rest of your life, who would you choose?
It would have to be a band that played a lot of different styles, because one gets bored of listening to the same thing over and over again.
Do you have a favorite rodent?
Rats, of course.
Anything else we haven’t touched on you’d like the readers to know?
I just want to reiterate our gratitude to you for your time and attention, and of course to all of our awesome backers that are making all of this possible.
Of course, we’d like to thank Mauricio for his time in sending his answers to our questions, as the team is hard at work (especially with those animations). If you feel so inclined to follow along with their work, you can visit the official site, the dev’s Twitter, and the game’s Facebook. For more on Blasphemous, make sure to check back as we’ll be sure to continue covering it as news emerges.