Irish Dev Week: Bitsmith Interview
Irish Developer Week
Interviewee Basil Lim
Studio Bismith Studio
Since your first interview with Bone-Idle, there were three people on the team. Have there been any big changes between then and now?
Yes, we’ve since expanded to five members now, adding a level designer/game designer, Paul Conway, and a lead programmer, Robby Becker!
What was the general feeling after the first release, “Kú”?
I think there was an almost cathartic sense of relief. We’d been working on it for so long and the project had become so unwieldy – mainly due to our inexperience and multiple revisions of the game. We were eager to move on and use our hard-earned knowledge on a new title.
“Kú: Shroud of the Morrigan” has had some fantastic reviews by the likes of Edge magazine and PocketGamer – receiving iOS game of the month from Edge. It’s also the No.1 paid game app in Ireland. Inspired by Celtic stories of old, how did the idea to fuse it with Steampunk arise?
This was one of Owen’s ideas, in that Irish folklore has always had a huge tradition of oral storytelling, where each storyteller might have their own flair or embellishment to the story. The idea for Kú was to see it as a story narrated by someone in the far future. We thought that steampunk would fuse better with the Celtic aesthetic than cyberpunk for a futuristic look, plus we all love steampunk 😀
I downloaded “Kú” for my own personal play, and I was impressed -especially the option to play “as Gaeilge”. Have you any plans to do a game similar to “Kú”?
Thank you! We really love to hear that people enjoyed the game, despite it being our first effort. We would actually quite like to revisit Kú, with a different approach, perhaps 3D, and with what we learned. There were design decisions made in Kú that made it very difficult to program and create mechanics for, which we now know could be circumvented with other methods. We love the world we created, and there is a huge amount of backstory that we wrote, and the next parts of the original Cú Chullain story are super exciting.
There’s obviously a great deal of passion involved in wanting to create games – when did your “Eureka!” moment come about, when did you realise you wanted to design games?
Personally I’d always been playing around with games – one of the first games I remember “modding” was called Liero. It was a Finnish real-time version of Worms, with 2 players, and there were tools you could download to create new weapons and adjust damage values and spritesheets. Even earlier on I’d made “physical” games for my little brother with obstacle courses made of balls of blu-tack and using gravity. I never thought I would be able to create computer games – it seemed like this amazingly complicated thing (which it is), not something a mere mortal could comprehend. It was at DIT while I was doing a graphics design course that I first got an insight into games and how they were made, and it became something tangible that I could possibly reach.
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?
Absolutely. Especially in a small indie studio you need to have multiple roles, as the amount of work to be done is just huge. One of the best skillsets you need to have is organisation and communication. These are essential to running a studio, especially when some people have to work part-time and are therefore not always in the office. We use a multitude of tools like Slack, Asana and Google Drive to coordinate ourselves. Other times weird things like having a physics degree comes in handy, like when working out the physics of FranknJohn’s head (FranknJohn is our current game).
Your latest release, FranknJohn, was recently a part of a Kickstarter campaign, and, from playing the demo, is hilariously fun – especially with the use of different attributed skullcaps. How much has the development changed the original idea, to get to the end result?
The original idea was actually more of a 2 person puzzler – head and body would be separate and would have to work together to move ahead. However we realised that this would be difficult to randomise – you don’t want to solve the same puzzle multiple times. Then we got the idea of attaching the head and body, and putting physics on it, and that was really fun, swinging it about. It’s pretty much been a roguelike-like physics smashemup ever since!
FranknJohn will soon be available on Steam. While Kú started out on iOS and Android, it is now also available on Steam. Is FranknJohn exclusively for PC, Mac and Linux?
FranknJohn will also be on PS4 and Xbox One, through their indie programs. On iOS and Android, we feel the controls and lack of processing power would be an issue, so we are not focusing on them for now. This can, of course change depending on demand, but at the moment we feel the game is best played on our target platforms.
It’s fantastic to be able to play and support home grown games like Kú and FranknJohn – where can we find you hanging out on the interwebs most often?
You can always reach us on our Facebook page, or Twitter as @bitSmithGames. I often hang about on Reddit in the gamedev and game-related subreddits, under the handle firewatersun. We love hearing from you guys, so hit us up there! Here’s our personal Twitter handles too:
Finally, with FranknJohn almost ready to be released, what kinds of plans have you in the pipeline, and when can we expect to hear more about them?
Well, FranknJohn will be worked on for a few months, and then we will probably go into a preproduction phase to decide what our next game will be. There was a massively ambitious open-world survival game we were actually starting to work on before FranknJohn, and that might be revisited, or we might go a totally different direction. We honestly don’t know yet :)?
Bonus Question for each member – all time favourite game?
Ralph: Zelda (all of em)
Basil: Deus Ex. ooh or FTL. no Deus Ex. FTL.
Robby: System Shock 2
Paul: Zelda: Link to the Past
Owen: Zelda: Link to the Past
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