This little Q&A session for Blade Symphony is brought to you by the fine folks at Puny Human. If you don't know who Puny Human are, well, here's the first question!1. OK, who are Puny Human? Tell our readers a little about yourselves and what you've done in the past.Michael Sanders:
Puny Human is an independent group of video game developers, happily clicking away on mice with the intent of making some really fantastic and original games. I say "group" because calling us a company would give the idea that we're shelled up in a building somewhere, but in reality we're pretty decentralized. In the past, we've created the very popular Half-Life 2 Source modification Dystopia
, which is sometimes referred to as the "first full modification for Half-Life 2." We prefer to think of it as the first fast-paced cyberpunk game.2. So, Blade Symphony. Tell us a little about the game and what players might expect?Michael Chang:
It’s a Source engine multiplayer fighting game inspired by Jedi Knight II and chanbara films, featuring fast-paced, skill-based fighting in noir city districts, peaceful monasteries and other exotic locations. Also, it’s going to be awesome!3. As an indie studio, what was the biggest hurdle you had to leap over to get where you are now with Blade Symphony?MS:
Timezones. On a daily basis we blame the sun and a man named Charles Dowd for making communication between developers difficult. We have to find efficient ways to cram in important information about production deadlines, programming techniques and artistic changes, and attempt to not overwhelm developers every time they wake up with their morning cup of coffee. Once we became better at this, we were able to quickly wrap things up with Dystopia and start on new and interesting games we wanted to play.MC:
Motivation is the biggest factor. Our roots come from modding, and have been doing this as a hobby now for several years. In most businesses there is a clear incentive to stay: money! How else do you crack the whip on people? We really needed to learn what motivated each other, and find ways to keep talent. It takes a very special kind of person to have a full day job and still come home to do game dev.4. How many hours a day do you put in on average to develop the game?MS:
Across the team, everyone varies. Typically programmers and artists can put in anywhere from 2-8 hours, depending on their work or school schedules. I myself am a trouble maker, and have recently been getting away with about an hour a day on average. That's gotta stop.5. Tell us a little about the game engine you're using – what makes Source interesting for the player and does it do something pretty cool you'd like our readers to know about?MS:
At this point, Source is our bread and butter, it's what we've started with and we're real good at being able to manipulate it. It's always provided a fun character driven feel, by not focusing on vehicle movement or super large levels, we can really do anything with player characters we need to – and a smooth, quick and fun experience with the player's fighter in Blade Symphony is a big focal point for us. Many people really don't think much of Source anymore, which is a pity, because with enough work you can really reap some great benefit from all it has to offer. 6. What is one of your favourite characters in the game, and why?MC:
Phalanx – he has these really cool curved-up-toe shoes. Not only is his attire formal, it looks athletic and high tech. I'm a bit biased though, since he's the first and only character I've personally designed for the game. 7. From what we've seen of the game, it's got roots in Jedi Knight II for the combat system design. Can you elaborate on that combat system a little?MC:
JKII allowed the player eight directional attacks which aim the blade differently depending on how you strafe and move – that’s the sort of fine sword control we wanted to give players. In addition to that, being able to change your combat stance mid-combat was a design that's inspired by JKII. As far as the combat system itself goes, we feel we’ve got something that is both complex and elegantly simple.
Right now, there are three attack directions and three block directions (left, right, centre) which match, and each has a colour assigned to it (purple, white, green); blocking with a direction that doesn’t match the attack’s means you take a little bit of damage, while matching the attack direction exactly means your enemy is very briefly stunned (enough for you to counter-attack).
Each character also has three stances which offer different benefits and drawbacks – for example, a balanced stance that has a lot of reach but is almost entirely thrusts and so requires fine aim – which they can switch on the fly.
Keep in mind that this will probably change during development!8. We've seen some of the screenshots of your arenas and we're very impressed with the level design/aesthetics. Can you go into some detail on that, what is your design process...how do you get the ideas for what might make a great fighting arena?Tim Grant:
We've been lucky in regards to environmental art with Blade Symphony in that we have almost a free run to make anything we can imagine. We focus on areas we think would be cool to fight in for the player - we source that from movies, art, pop culture, even other games; if it’s cool, we'll look at it, if after that it fits with the Blade Symphony world then we move on with it.
As far as work-flow goes, we do a block-out of the location and play-test it for gameplay with almost zero art. After that if all goes well for the player we start cooking on art, throwing together concept and reference images, brainstorming between the artists and canvassing for ideas across the entire team. With that list we whittle it down to what we think will work and make an asset list. After that it’s just a matter of making the assets themselves - our environmental/character art team use a bunch of software packages including Max, Maya, modo, ZBrush and Mudbox for the 3D/sculpting stuff.9. Another key element of a game is the music, do you have any plans for a kickin' soundtrack or are you going to let the swords speak louder than the music ever could?MC:
The mind-blowingly awesome Tom Stoffel
is composing the soundtrack to Blade Symphony. Tom’s stuff is really top notch, and he’s been giving his all on Blade Symphony – he has produced some really distinctive and kick-ass music for us. You can hear a sample of it here!10. Lastly: this is the big chance for you to sing the praises of your game to our readers, give them something pretty awesome that you think they might like to know about the game?MC:
Whether you played our original beta or this is the first you've heard of us, just wait we're going to blow your mind. I think that's all we need to add! Oh, and we want to give a huge, huge thanks to everyone who pledged to us over Kickstarter - it's thanks to you we raised over $19,000!