Irish Dev Week: Batcat Games Interview.

Irish Dev week

Interviewee Andrew O’Connor

Studio Batcat

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First of all, congratulations – P-3 Biotic has recently been Green Lit on Steam! What were your first thoughts when you read that e-mail?

Maybe now we can afford to eat! 🙂 It was just sort of cool knowing that enough people were happy to vote yes for the game, even after all this time. 

Seeing as you’re new to the Bone-Idle Community, can you tell us more about BatCat studio and how it started out?

BatCat started when I quit my job in January 2012. I had been working on P-3 in my spare time since about November 2010, and it was released on the XBLIG Xbox market in January 2012, and around that time there was lots of stuff happening in the Irish game dev scene. I’d started attending the GameDevelopers.ie shindigs again, and they were even more popular than I remembered them from back in the day, and there was lots of talk of funding and what not, so it seemed like a really good time to go all in and start a company 🙂 So we applied to Enterprise Ireland for the Competitive Start Fund, hoping to get selected off the back of having a released game, and that worked out. We got the funding, officially created the company in May 2012, and got ready to launch the PC version of P-3. 

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BatCat Studios’ first game, P-3 Biotic, is a game on a molecular level – it is virtual biological warfare. How did the idea to build such a game come about?

It really just sort of grew into that. I’d been playing around with various ideas for games, one of which was like a weird circular Breakout where your paddle rotated around the inside of a circle, with all the bricks arranged in concentric circles in the center. That was sort of fun, but I’ve always been a fan of simple shooters, like Geometry Wars, or Space Wars (how old am I!?!), and I felt like that would be something I could better get my teeth into. So the circle turned into a ship arena, and the bricks in the center turned into the nucleus. The idea to set the game inside a petri dish was really just a random idea I’d had when thinking about what sort of setting would afford an interesting visual style.

P-3 Biotic is already available to purchase in several places, such as IndieCity, Desura, Itch (as well as being part of several Humble Bundles) and it’s been very well received. What was the general feeling around the studio when it was first released?

When I first released the game on XBLIG, I remember it feeling slightly anti-climactic. You put this huge amount of work into something, and it all sort of comes down to pressing this one ‘Publish’ button, and then suddenly you’re finished, and you sort of don’t know what to do with yourself. Which is completely untrue, because you’ve got to really push the marketing side of things at that point, replying to press requesting keys etc, but that’s how it feels. The days after that though were pretty exciting though. 

When we released the PC version in July that year, it was a slightly different feeling. The “studio” was just myself and Andrea at that time, working from home, but the PC version is way more polished, and feels like a proper, professional effort, so there we were a bit more proud about pushing that one out:)

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A second game in the works, previously known as Honourbound on your site, has now been changed to Onikira: Demon Killer, and this has been explained on your site – I would like a T-shirt with that logo, by the way – however, it’s now being released under “Digital Furnace Games”. Why the change of venue?

Thanks, what size t-shirt are you? 🙂 Digital Furnace Games is what’s known as a Special Purpose Vehicle company. That’s a business term I learned! We created it for the purposes of investment in Onikira, and it will cease to be at some point in the future after Onikira is released. Simple (and boring) as that:)

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Onikira: Demon Killer is set in ancient feudal Japan, where the player controls a samurai battling to stop forces of the underworld from breaking through to the world of the living. A far cry from the futuristic twin stick shooter P-3 Biotic! Where did the inspiration for Onikira come from?

From years of watching old Chanbara-style samurai films and watching way too many animes. Also from a desire to experience a bigger budget production, and from a love of other fighting games. If you put all that in the idea mashing machine, Onikira pops out every time! I reckon I’ve got another few shooters in me though 🙂 They are so much easier to create than a game like Onikira, and I think I’d like to try another one afterwards as a way of relaxing 🙂 

Using an open source engine for Onikira has removed some luxuries that Unity and Unreal Engines offered, such as the Asset Store in Unity, some physics scripts, and several different aspects, but using open source engines also have plenty of their own advantages. Tell us about some of the advantages Duality has over the likes of Unity in creating a game?

Yeah, Unity is getting more and more difficult to ignore. The asset store is pretty great, the community is huge, and the feature list just keeps getting better. For me personally though, making a game is as much about having fun with the tech as it is about designing fun mechanics. I’ve always come at game development from the perspective of a programmer, so that’s definitely an aspect of choosing Duality. Being open source, we can get in there and tinker with things, or fix bugs when they come up (or get in touch with Adam, Duality’s creator and ask him to fix bugs, which he does, like, immediately. Hi Adam :)). We can also have a bigger impact on the direction of that engine by contributing code back, and that just feels nice. 

Beyond that, both myself and Andrea are hardcore nerdy programmers, and Duality just fit better with the workflows we’ve grown accustomed to than Unity or Unreal (at the time. That may have changed a little now).  

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There’s obviously a great deal of passion involved in wanting to create games – when did your “Eureka!” moment come about, when did you realize you wanted to design games?

I’ve known since I was about 13 that I wanted to program games. I thought myself to program from a scary book called Turbo C Programming for the PC, and it had this little sample in the back that would draw a spinning coin in sexy monochrome green, and that seemed really cool to me at the time 🙂 Honestly, I’d be as happy to have someone else actually design the games. I’ll just do the programming thanks 🙂 

You all have your specific job titles for a game, like programming, art, music, character design, etc., but do other skill sets you’ve acquired give you any advantages in your current roles?

I guess in an AAA studio, you definitely have those strictly defined roles, but it’s not exactly that simple for a tiny indie company like ours. Everybody has to generally have extra skills beyond what their main job is. To answer the question though, there’s probably some aspects of project management that we’ve picked up that have helped, like running an agile project, but honestly, a lot of what we’re doing is completely new to us, and that’s an interesting challenge. 

It’s fantastic to be able to play and support home grown games like P-3 Biotic (and Onikira in the future!) Where can we find you hanging out on the interwebs most often?

Thanks! We’re on the twitters and the Facebooks at @OnikiraGame and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Honourbound/220348641454694 (still trying to get that changed to Onikira), and there’s a project blog on the TigSource forums here http://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=40018.0. I’m sure I’m going to update it any day now!:) Also, we’re going to be launching on Steam Early Access early in November, so you’ll definitely be able to find us there.

Bonus Question for each member – all-time favourite game?

Andrew – Homeworld 

Andrea – Prince of Persia (the dos version) and Skyrim

Tom Moore – Majora’s Mask, Portal, Another World, Lode Runner (on the nes), maybe Castlevania IV and Final Fight

Tom Mathews – FFIX

Dan – Champions of Norrath: Return to Arms

Ronan – Brothers A tale of Two Sons

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