Q & A - The Skyshine Edition
September 28, 2015
|Talking with the sadistic folk behind Skyshine's Bedlam.|
Maybe you missed it because you've been too busy nestling among Nintendo's family friendly releases or you've already surrendered to the new wave of "press X to win" games showing up in increasing numbers on modern platforms, but Skyshine's BEDLAM was released recently. I really liked it, and recently had the chance to ask some questions bout the game's direction, the consumer backlash it suffered on launch and the subtle difference between mutant brutes with corrosive spit and zealot cyborg snipers sporting anti-matter launchers.
Q: How often do you curse Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam for getting dibs on the name before you could? I assume it’s their fault anyway and not the PAL-only PSX release of 1996 that I suspect I’m the only person in the world to own that forced you to prefix your company name before the game’s title?
We love having Skyshine in front of our game's names and it’s something we plan on doing going forward. We own the trademark to the name Bedlam in the world of games, but we don’t see any reason to harass a small developer over it. The two companies have talked and there is no ill-will about it. We wanted to do the Skyshine thing so it made it all very friendly and we haven’t heard any confusion about it.
Q: Bedlam went through Kickstarter; just how different is it to try and pitch your game to the players rather than to a publisher?
It’s better I think, gamers are more altruistic they just care about things being fun, whereas publishers are all about money. I’d much rather spend my time worrying about fun than money… so Kickstarter FTW!
Q: No one I’ve ever spoken to about starting a Kickstarter venture has ever called it dull. How did it work out for you?
It was crazy yeah for sure, 31 updates in 30 days and every one of them chock full of content, just a few guys making it all up as we go… best intentions and all but nobody can make thousands of people happy. You just do your best and hope it’s enough. I haven’t had a day off in 9 months. Drinking is now pretty much the only thing that makes me happy… and playing BEDLAM.
Q: A lot of (your) Bedlam’s pre-release buzz centred on the 2000AD-esque graphical style. How early was that cemented in? How did you come to settle on the Wasteland aesthetic?
I think it was cemented in when I was 12… my first comics were all Strontium Dog, Judge Dredd, Robo Hunter, Alien Legion… these were the most fantastic stories ever told in my book. There’s a whole generation of gamer types who don’t even know that exists...that’s a crime. In future updates we really want to drive that up and add a ton of elites, more challenge modes. It’s a world inspired by all the greatest characters I ever loved… who all come from the 80’s.
Q: Were they any feature you had hoped to include that didn’t quite make it in?
We really wanted dozer to dozer combat, but we only had 167k to make the game so that was a feature we had to cut. You go buy this game and we can start talking about making some serious stuff!
Q: Bedlam’s built on The Banner Saga’s engine and is going to draw comparison to titles like FTL. How much influence did these and other games have over development?
We made some choices because of the engine, but we chose the engine because we knew it could do everything we needed. The FTL influence is most obvious in the world design. We took on a lot of challenges with the combat, the FTL elements really affected the world and how the story unfolds. Our event system is also inspired by Oregon Trail.
Q: The game had a rather polarising launch. Some have seemed to invest more readily in the high challenge factor and chess-like combat that has burnt many others. That must have been hard to take.
The whole point of doing an Indy game is to buck the system. There are tropes in tactical games that have been a given for over 20 years…deployment, turn order… these are the things we dismissed and it really upset some folks. We threw these out because it was MORE fun for us to not know. We’ve played all those games for the past 20 years and we understand that people want to feel powerful and smart…but that goes against our core principal that games should challenge you. I get dumped on a battlefield and I have to use all my wits to survive…and it’s almost a given that some of my troops are NOT coming back. This is what makes some people’s heads explode about our game, they want to WIN every scenario. We’ve made that very hard…sometimes Bob needs to die so that your bad-ass can go on. This is not a game where we give achievements for beating the tutorial…This is a genuine challenge like a Rubix Cube. You can either solve it or you can’t…if you can’t then well…you’re not as committed as the guy who can. There is a joy that comes from overcoming those challenges.
Q: There’s a patch out there now to address some of these complaints. How do you answer some of your critics while retaining those who have appreciated the way Bedlam is already set out?
The answer is in 1.5 update, which I love…because it’s actually HARDER than the original game that people complained was too hard. The difference is that we made the ramp easier so you will win the first few battles for sure, but you’re going to get your ass handed to you by an Elite. The trick is to get some veteran crew to take down an Elite and take down more Elites. So this is more brick by brick design. We think it works better. In all honesty though we were all crazy tired when we launched the game. 3 guys 9 months- no rest…just crazy. We got a few things a bit off with the launch but 1.5 is the most fun you can have on Steam right now….or your money back…if you play for less than two hours.
Q: Bedlam’s work is ongoing, but is there a second project in the works?
No, we are solely focused on supporting our community who is backing us up. If you want to really support an actual small team who will work their butts off for your benefit come by and check out what we have to offer. If you get on our forums you will get an answer the same day…if you hate us for something we did, tell us we want to hear your ideas. Bedlam is the People’s Game. We won’t compromise the difficulty but we absolutely want it to evolve and continue to be fun.
Thanks for your time. Before I bail. I have to ask - who is everyone’s favourite epic. I legitimately sulk if I’m not able to recruit Chunderok early. I think it’s the acid belch death animation…
My personal favorite is Sister-Matic…she’s a badass, but Chunderock is definitely going into the sexy calendar for 2016.