INTERVIEW: BAREKNUCKLE DEVELOPMENT

Manchester’s Bareknuckle Development are an up-and-coming game development studio, recently launching the fantastically playable and retro-styled Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo! A classic shoot ’em up, the aim is to fight for survival as you blast your way through action-packed levels. Easy to pick up but difficult to master. And addictive like you wouldn’t believe! Like Harry Hill once said of heroin – very more-ish…

STE WILSON, BAREKNUCKLE DEVELOPMENT

The game was first available on Steam but with the hard work of this ambitious independent studio the game has now been released on PS4, XBox One and the Nintendo Switch. We spoke to Ste Wilson (director, programmer, artist and developer of this small team) to learn all about the process of creating a video game and what the future holds for Bareknuckle Development. Ste is also a musician under the name of Electric Fan Death. He has written and recorded a number of albums and is now bringing his music to the world of indie games!

SUPER MEGA SPACE BLASTER SPECIAL TURBO

So, what exactly is Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo…?

STE WILSON: SMSBST is a modern take on the retro arcade shoot ’em up (shmup). It is fast-paced, with bullet hell elements, loads of unlockables, and leaderboards to climb. The ‘Turbo’ edition gives you more ships, more game modes, more challenges, and more space blasting fun than ever before.

Bareknuckle Development launched the game on Steam in June 2018 but more recently made it available across all consoles, starting with the Nintendo Switch in January 2020. What was the process there?

SW: Yes, it all happened after we sent it to Nintendo. First, you have to apply to be accepted as a Nintendo verified studio but then I was able to send them the version of the game as it was up on Steam. They played it and liked it but suggested the game needed expanding. There were no requests to make it exclusive for the Nintendo which was good for us, but they wanted to introduce some new and exclusive features. It made it a bit more complicated than first anticipated.

CONVERSION

From a political perspective or the technical side of it?

SW: No, technically it was difficult. They all have their own API (Application Programming Interface). So they all have their own leaderboards, etc. which means you have to re-code for each individual platform. And each have certain console-specific requirements, for example with the Switch you need to be able to change controllers at any one time. With the XBox One version you need to be able to change profiles. The saving system is different on each so I had to rebuild the whole logic of it, 4 times over. It made it from a month project to a month adding the new stuff, then 5 months in total across all platforms.

But it’s a nice achievement now to be able to see the game up on all platforms?

SW: Yes it’s amazing, despite the hard work. And all around the world now except the Asian market, mostly due to my lack of Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages! But the game has been translated into 10 languages in total so far.

PROMOTION

It would be so cool to actually put this game into the arcades…

SW: Yes it would be, and another way to test it. We send it out for reviews and the feedback has been good but the real challenge is to get it out there and get it noticed. It probably needs significant investment in the promotion that at the moment we just don’t have. But we’re immensely proud of the game, and there’s plenty more to come!

Well we’re definitely recommending it to our readers: get it now!

Blast your way to survival!

THE FLAWLESS: ART’S TALE

Good news! Bareknuckle Development are already working on their next release. Get ready for a truly epic adventure through a strange and brutal world of cats. The Flawless: Art’s Tale is a side-scrolling RPG adventure game about a young boy called Art lost in a surreal and brutal world of cats. Take control of the young hero and his flying droid sidekick as you try to rescue his best friend (and pet cat) Mr Dirty Paws and bring colour back to the feline world.

You are currently developing a new RPG called The Flawless: Art’s Tale. Another game with retro vibes, but is that intentional given the interest in retrogaming or a limitation as an indie developer?

SW: A bit of both. I’m limited with a small team but there is that interest in retrogaming. But we want that high level of quality in our indie games before we’re happy to release it. It’ll be 2 years of work to achieve it but worth it.

Do you think we’ll see this trend in retrogaming continue and influence future developments on all scales?

SW: I think it goes in cycles, to be honest. Like with the name of Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo, it’s a name of the age. But at the minute it’s a very saturated market for indie games, especially on Steam. There over 30,000 games to choose from so it’s very difficult to stand out. As a developer you’ve got to think about what will work and what people want, rather than just what you want to do.

So how do you go about achieving these high levels of quality?

SW: Testing. And in terms of our reputation, in our reviews.

MUSIC

And what can we expect in the future? With more success and a growing team would you be looking to take a step back?

SW: Hopefully we’d hire a solid programmer and graphic artist but I wouldn’t want to take a step back. I would probably go back to the music. I miss the music! I’d like to get back into it, beyond playing the piano. For SMSBST it was all synth, Depeche Mode-inspired but with The Flawless I’d love to take it further. Like Persona 5, my wish would be to introduce some cool guitar music, but it’s got to work within the game. A game requires the soundtrack to be multi-layered to be able to fade in a sad bit, an exciting bit depending on the stage in the game, it’s a complicated process!

You used to be in a band, right?

SW: Yes back when I lived in Korea. We were on the edge of a big break, with airplay on BBC Radio 2 and of the music we released we sold about 15,000 copies. But things didn’t work out. I still work under the name but soundtracking video games now.

VIRTUAL EXPERIENCE

It’s a good way to continue making music and a platform for releasing new music these days…

SW: Yes well, I have an idea for The Flawless to be an immersive, interactive world, with a bar where you’ll be able to go and see a band play live music. The idea would be to have a whole host of different bands playing each night. It’s something we hope will appeal to people but I worry it’s something we’d struggle to make happen with music licensing etc.

Well we here at The Journalix would definitely support such a thing! We’ll mention it to the bands we speak to in the future, I think that would be really cool to immortalise yourself in a video game. I’m sure it would appeal to some bands. I love this idea!

SW: Yes well, we’ve also done that with some of the cats you’ll meet throughout the story. A personal touch, makes it all a bit more real.

Haha yes brilliant – watch this space for what will no doubt be an incredible, immense indie game!

Would you like your band to appear in video game? Contact us at thejournalix@gmail.com and let’s make this happen!


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