Krome Studios recently celebrated the release of their newest downloadable title Blade Kitten last week. Krome Studios’ Creative Director and creator of Blade Kitten Steve Stamatiadis took some time to talk to us about the challenges his team faced pitching the game to Atari, moving from a comic book concept to an actual game and tackling the competitive market of downloadable games.
Gamesauce: You’ve explained in a couple of interviews that your studio had created a comic book to sell a game idea. How did you come up with this kind of a pitch and how did publishers react to it?
Steve Stamatiadis: Well, it basically comes from the fact that I started out wanting to draw comics but I went into games as a career instead. Comics are a great medium to tell stories on your own so I’ve always kept one foot in the water, so to speak. When I decided to try and put together the project I naturally migrated to creating the comic as a way of working out the game world. Handing publishers a comic is a great way of giving them information in a way that has more flavor than a Word document or a PowerPoint. It always makes an impression when you hand them a comic, they’re like a kid in a candy store.
Gamesauce: Based on your own experience with getting Blade Kitten on XBLA, what could you recommend to other developers trying to sell their game ideas?
Steve Stamatiadis: At the end of the day it wasn’t a comic that landed us a publishing deal, it was an almost-complete game. That’s a hard place to start at, but publishers generally get more excited when they can see something on screen and play it for themselves instead of just reading about how awesome the game is going to be in a PowerPoint.
Actually using a comic to pitch the game is more common in the film industry – the idea is that the comic is almost like a full-color finished story board with the entire dialog already written. With a comic you can see the exact tone and feel of the characters and story so everyone is on the same page (pun intended).
Gamesauce: The game has been in development for a while. How big is your development team for this title and what is the team’s composition?
Steve Stamatiadis: The core team was about 15 but it grew as large as 40 at some points. There were a few points where almost the entire cinematics team was finishing the gorgeous cutscenes for Blade Kitten. That number also includes QA and engine development.
Gamesauce: What did you spend most of your time on during production and what were the biggest challenges for you to make this game?
Steve Stamatiadis: The biggest technical challenge was getting our 3D systems to play nicely with the 2D gameplay, especially the physics system. It took a lot more work than we initially anticipated. The original scope featured 3D exploration areas which led to the 2D “dungeon” levels. Luckily, we realized early on that the 2D levels were going to be much more fun than the 3D exploration so we decided to focus on that. We would probably have written a nice 2D physics system instead if we knew what the final game was going to be like.
Gamesauce: Judging by the available footage and screenshots of Blade Kitten, you’ve put a lot of time into polishing both the graphics and game mechanics. How did you manage to do so with your team?
Steve Stamatiadis: We spent a good amount of time setting the style of the game visually. The aim from the start was to match the comics as best we could so we had a lot of target art to aim at. That really helped crystallize the visuals early on, and once we had that in place that bit wasn’t too hard. For gameplay, we just used the old-fashioned method of a lot of iteration. We’d get features in quickly and then play the game to tweak them until they felt right. It does take a bit of time, but it’s the only way to really polish the gameplay.
Gamesauce: The digital space is growing, but also becoming more competitive on the platforms you’re releasing Blade Kitten on. How are you going to manage to get the game the attention it deserves?
Steve Stamatiadis: I hope we define ourselves by putting out a game that doesn’t look just like every other game out there. By delivering a game that’s solid and fun to play and, most importantly, jam-packed with personality. These are the elements of a great game that stand out to me. While we may be new to the space, Krome and Atari are both bringing considerable amounts of experience developing and publishing to the table. After all, the distribution may be digital but our audience is still people who play games.
Gamesauce: What kind of advice would you give fellow game developers that are interested in venturing into the digital space with smaller, high-quality and polished downloadable games?
Steve Stamatiadis: Most importantly, be wary of the scope of your game. It’s easy to make a game bigger than it needs to be, but it can be disastrous on a smaller budget and timeframe. On the plus side, it may be the best opportunity to make the kind of game you want to play. So do your research and go for it.
Blade Kitten, developed by Krome Studios, was released on September 22, 2010.
Vlad Micu is managing editor of Gamesauce.org. He previously has been a freelance game industry professional for over five years and traveled around the world while running his company VGVisionary. Starting VGVisionary during college, Vlad was able to work independently as a pr & marketing consultant, event manager, industry journalist, speaker and game developer. He just returned from Bangkok, Thailand, where he pursued his dream of making video games as the game producer at arkavis, an up and coming casual game studio.