Developer Interview: Redd – The Lost Temple

Zombies.  Avatars.  Punishment platformers.  Twin stick shooters.  Dating simulations.  Wikipedia for Xbox.  I’m sick of these kind of games.  I want something different.  So, like superheroes to the rescue come a trio of guys from Blazing Forge Games.  Their entry in the Summer Indie Uprising is Redd: The Lost TempleAfter ignoring my natural instinct to run away from any Texan, I decided to instead sit down with Nathan Smith and Josh Addison of Houston to discuss the development of this awesome looking top-down adventure game.

Kairi Vice: Upon viewing your trailer, my first thoughts were “Zombies Ate My Neighbors” followed by “Zelda dungeons.”  Maybe even a little Bomberman too.  Was that the vibe you were going for with Redd: The Lost Temple?

Nathan Smith: I feel our game is a cross between Zelda and Metal Gear Solid in a weird Indiana Jones style environment where magical items are the norm. It didn’t start out this way but that is what has evolved as we expanded Redd into an adventure game. We really wanted to get away from your typical hack and slash game and make it more about survival and being more diligent with your “attacks” a la MGS. Even though we were influenced by Zelda we definitely didn’t want to make a Zelda clone because what would be the point? We aren’t going to make a Zelda game better than Zelda! I could just go play the originals. As we expand the series further we have some really cool plans for Redd’s dynamite and several unique magical items as well as some awesome bosses so stay tuned!

Kairi Vice: Creating an enticing adventure is a huge undertaking.  How challenging has the production of Redd been for you?

Nathan Smith: Very difficult, we’ve redesigned this game several times over the course of production. The biggest problem from a design standpoint is to make a game like this fun you need tons of features, a huge world to explore, and a solid enough story to convince players to keep playing. I can’t count how many times we had to step back and say “this game is missing _______, we need more ________.” The initial scope of the project was nowhere near what it turned out to be. The other problem we constantly faced was the limitations of 2D art. There is a lot we wanted to do as a 3D game (especially the size of enemies, bosses, and quality of animations) and about ¾ of the way through we almost decided to start over in 3D but decided against it.

Kairi Vice: I have to say, after countless platformers, puzzlers, and  twin-stick shooters this is exactly the kind of game I’ve really been itching for on the indie marketplace.  Do you feel Redd‘s chances for success hedge on player burnout of those over-saturated genres?

Nathan Smith: It’s great to hear that! We’re hoping this as well but I honestly can’t gage the indie market. There are some very unique aspects to Redd but it is still more traditional compared to what is usually out there on XBLIG. I do think Redd is better suited for a competition like the Indie Uprising where the objective is luring the XBLA crowd over to the indie side instead of trying to get noticed by a niche audience where quirky or odd games rule the day.

Kairi Vice: Redd started as a strategy game for Windows Phone 7 but the XBLIG build looks like an entirely different beast.  Was this always planned or was Redd originally going to play more like its wireless namesake?

Nathan Smith:  Our problem from day one at BFG has been we take a game idea and then expand it to the point that we can’t realistically start it with our current team size. Every project always ballooned into this massive multi-year thing from the design end and we had to shelve several projects for later. So we did a couple of smaller games as side projects like BlurBall and Redd: Mobile but when we decided to do a port of Redd to the Xbox it grew just like everything else. Our original intent was to make a XBLIG version of Redd using the same art and gameplay of the mobile version and adding a few features including multiplayer Bomberman style versus modes. In its current form the only thing that is the same are the Redd sprite sheets. That’s it! It is a completely different game in every way and much, MUCH bigger.

Kairi Vice: What is the most significant difference between building a game for phones vs. for the Xbox?

Nathan Smith: I’ll let Josh answer the technical side of things but for me personally making a console game just feels more exciting. It’s probably because I didn’t grow up playing games on a phone instead I held a controller with a TV in front of me. From an art standpoint the biggest difference for us was the smaller file sizes required for the phone.

Josh Addison:  I would have to say hardware limitations. Besides a better CPU, GPU, and more memory on the Xbox, the use of a game controller had the largest factor in changing what we could do with Redd: The Lost Temple. Also, at the time we made Redd: Mobile we were not allowed to use custom shaders on WP7 which killed most of our ideas for the game.

Kairi Vice: A common problem with this type of game is having the difficulty curve suddenly become a straight vertical line pointing upwards with the words “FUCK OFF!!” on it.  Metaphorically of course.  What can you do to prevent this with Redd?

Nathan Smith: More play-testers! I’ve played this game so many times that it feels very easy to me. Then someone new sits down and they die 3 times in a room we could play blindfolded. Now, we want the game to be a challenge but in a, “Oh, I can get this!” kind of a way. The problem which you alluded to is transitioning between early game play and a very difficult last quarter of the game which we are still tweaking. I believe that when people finish Redd: The Lost Temple they will be very satisfied with the type of challenge we created.

Josh Addison: A lot of indie game developers start off by choosing an educated guess of difficulty and then slowly tighten the difficulty until it feels hard to them. This happens over several months. What the developer does not realize is that they have been constantly getting better at their own game. It is almost like the developer becomes a machine gear to playing their game. What we try to do to fix this is get playtesters who know nothing about our game and have them play it as we watch and take notes. We take those notes and make modifications to our game and repeat.

Kairi Vice: It seems almost criminal that a game with this much effort will be listed side-by-side with stuff like Why Did I Buy This? or anything else by Silver Dollar Games and other developers with half an ass and the brains to match.  Do you think the XBLIG platform needs better quality control?

Nathan Smith: The obvious answer is yes, there needs to be some sort of quality control. Unfortunately I don’t see how that would be possible with the current set up from Microsoft. I think our best hope is to build quality control organically outside of the marketplace using events like the Indie Uprising that gives us more exposure, essentially creating a middle ground between Indie and Arcade.

Kairi Vice: What other games are you most interested in playing during the Uprising?

Nathan Smith: On an objective overview of the games there are several that look very good but they just aren’t my thing (I personally love strategy games like Civilization). However, I can see myself playing Take Arms the most out of all these titles.

Josh Addison: I enjoyed playing Take Arms, Tec 3001, and Doom & Destiny. I would like to try out Cell: Emergence to see what it is like.

Kairi Vice: Are there any games you think missed out on the top 25 cut that should have made it?

Nathan Smith: There were a few games that would have made it if they weren’t re-releases. I think once the Uprising becomes more established the stronger developers can plan their production schedules around specific times and problems like this will be less common.

Kairi Vice: What has been the biggest challenge developing with the XNA platform?

Josh Addison: I guess dealing with the Garbage Collector and its random collects, but that really doesn’t have a lot to do with XNA but more with C#. I personally feel that the XNA framework does a good job of giving me what I need but still leaving plenty of room for customization.

Kairi Vice: If you could change one thing about the XBLIG platform, what would it be?

Nathan Smith: We’ve already touched on this earlier and it would have to be quality control! Once people expect to see good games the barrier to buy is much lower. I’m less likely to buy something from a store that has a bad reputation even if it’s a lot cheaper. Once you have some sort of expectation of the quality available you get a completely different type of buyer looking at your games. The same person that won’t spend a dollar now to buy an indie game is spending $60 on another game because he is comfortable with the source of the game. I would love to see small teams actually make a living in the Indie market one day.

About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

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