Update: Black Dragon Studios has taken You’re Doomed off Kickstarter. They did not feel that the game was in the right state to be crowd-funded just yet. They still plan on finishing and releasing the game but we’ll have to see where it goes from here.
Another Monday, another edition of Behind the Mask. This week, I got the opportunity to speak with Chris from Black Dragon Studios located in Wales. Their new title in development is You’re Doomed, a vibrant, relentless frantic top-down shooter for 1-4 players, concentrating on insta-action and drop in/out play. I had the opportunity to play through the free pre-alpha last week and I’m very interested to see where this game goes from there! Oh, and they’re launching their Kickstarter TOMORROW. But before you head there, why not learn about the team behind it all? As a reminder:
This is me.
This is Chris.
This is the weirdest fucking commercial on preventing forest fires you will ever see.
Alright Chris, welcome to PartyChat! Excited to talk to you today. So we start every interview the same way: how did you get into playing video games?
Hey man thanks for having me! So I actually started on the Amstrad CPC 464 (Spectrum era) around 1989/90. Flash Gordon was prob the first game I remember playing but my first serious console was the Sega Master System with Alex Kidd. Those memories are so nostalgic.
Haha I’m sure they are. God, games back then were so bad until the SNES/Genesis generation. So around what year did you decide to make the jump into game development? Was it planned post high school? Did you do something else for a while?
Not right off the bat. I’m 35, so I’ve worked in dozens of other places/sectors, from hospitality to research before jumping into game development. This was something I never would have considered until we (my team) thought about it a year ago and thought why not! We would talk all the time about ways to improve or change a game, and that brought us to start developing.
Ok gotcha. So how big is Black Dragon Studios? How did you all meet? Online?
We are a team of 3. We met over the last few years locally through our love of games. There’s myself, who handles sound and marketing, Julian who is our programmer, artist, and a few other things, and Jon who handles concept art, modelling and design.
Ok gotcha. So let’s continue down that path: you’ve all decided to start up a studio. How were those early months? Did you already know what you would make for your first game? How did you decide?
So Jon and Jules had the idea for You’re Doomed years ago. We all knew it had potential, so we refined the characters, backstory and the mechanics of the game to what it is now!
But that’s not your first game right? You’ve got the VR title, The Copper Canyon Shootout?
The early months were difficult for sure. Funding is nigh on impossible to secure, so we had to fund ourselves and learn not just about making games, but also running a business which itself occupies a lot of time. On top of this, we had to take on all our own marketing and promotion. Sure, Copper Canyon was a smaller VR project that took just 3 months. It was more just to learn about the whole development process and how to work with different systems as well as the end process – getting it out onto platforms like Steam, etc.
I feel like making a VR game is a very ambitious first outing, so kudos to you and your team for setting the bar high right out the gate! What were your big takeaways from those early months? What did you learn that you would tell other indie game development startups?
Do your research on other games. Really, really think hard on what it is that is making your game stand out. Don’t let anything deviate you from your course. Stick to the concept and think hard about what you want to achieve. Lastly, marketing marketing MARKETING! Haha it can’t be overstated how absolutely vital a good marketing plan is.
Good good stuff. I agree entirely as someone who looks at a lot of different indie games everyday. You’ve got to find ways to make your game stand out. Whether it’s the art direction, the gameplay mechanics, the storyline, etc.
Ok so let’s get to You’re Doomed. What was the initial idea and how did it mold itself into the alpha that I played today?
Ah you’ve played it! What did you think? The idea was basically to blend Sci-Fi, super fast action, and simple but rewarding gameplay into something that payed tribute to all our favorite classic shooters – Robotron X, Gauntlet, Enter The Gungeon etc. We also had a goal to give people a great party game to play too.
I thought it was good for a game in it’s early stages! I have some feedback I’ll send to your team privately, but overall great job! Did you use a completely new engine for it vs Copper Canyon? How do you decide what engine to use? How was the art style decided upon?
We have used Unreal Engine 4 for everything. It’s so powerful and intuitive that it is hard to use anything else. The cartoon look of both games was influenced by the fact you can make a great project faster. Stylized characters and environments are easier to produce and modify, animate, etc.
Makes perfect sense. What are the future plans for You’re Doomed pending your Kickstarter?
Finish the game haha! We have a lot of asset stuff to do – weapons, enemies, environment textures etc. And then we enter the play-testing and bug hunting phase. The Kickstarter will make a big difference in securing the next few months of development.
So if the Kickstarter hits the goal by your desired date, when should we expect to see You’re Doomed on Steam?
It will take until March at least regardless of funding. If we don’t meet our goal, we will have to look into getting jobs whilst working on the game, but we are dedicated to making sure it’s released sometime early next year!
Well I really hope everything works out for you and the team at Black Dragon! That’s all I have for you today! You ready to end with some rapid-fire questions?
Let’s do it!
Alright, favorite game of all time?
Oooooh what a hidden gem. Favorite game this year?
This year? Gris. No wait, King’s Quest. This is hard haha.
Ok never heard of Gris, I’ll have to check it out. I know of King’s Quest though. Not really my style but I know the new release was well received.
Gris is a beautiful hand-made platformer. Fair. [King’s Quest] has great puzzles though.
Most underrated game of all time?
Machinarium. It deserves immortality.
Again, a title I’ve never heard of. Man you indie devs…you play games with the weirdest fucking names haha
Hahahaha hey when they’re good they’re good!
Haha most overrated game of all time?
Modern Warfare. Just…don’t get me started…
Don’t make me come all the way across the Atlantic to fight you. What do you mean?!? You mean CoD 4 or the whole Modern Warfare series?
Everything after CoD 4. That was good.
Ok well you can just fuck ALL the way off haha. Modern Warfare 2 was 20 times better than CoD 4!
Did you play old school FPS games?
Yea of course! I recently went back and played some Halo 1, which um, made me very angry…
I mean thins like CS:1.6, Quake, Unreal Tournament…The way CoD series has manipulated gamers is just wrong.
Unreal Tournament is my JAM and it needs to come back. Quake 2 was good too. We’ll just have to agree to disagree because I could argue with you about this for hours haha.
Yea haha let’s not do that. Gotta get back to work on You’re Doomed soon!
Alright, give me a game you refuse to play for whatever reason?
Some older PS1 games that have aged so badly they are uncontrollable, like Small Soldiers.
Give me one fact about Black Dragon that no one knows about?
We are obsessed with Super Meat Boy and Enter The Gungeon. Also, we have a really bad running gag of gluing each others’ mouse to the desk. Never gets old haha.
Enter the Gungeon is a great game. Quick piece of advice: be careful. There are like 20 other indie companies trying to make similar games to Gungeon and they will probably never be bought or funded. Use it as inspiration; don’t copy anything directly haha. Which you guys haven’t, but I’ve seen almost direct knockoffs with new characters and the same art style.
Yeah it’s easy to get too influenced.
Microsoft, Nintendo, or Sony?
Hmm I don’t really rate the console manufacturers. For me, Microsoft. I love their peripherals haha.
…no comment. Alright, last one. Do you think Fortnite is a good game?
Personally, it’s a fantastic business model. But as a game – no.
I 1000% agree. Epic is the best gaming studio in the world right now but they are working on a horrible fucking game.
It makes them money – a lot of it. Gaming is unfortunately also a business.
Which is why Call of Duty has sucked for like 5 years straight, but they don’t give a fuck because it’s still gonna be the most bought game at the end of every year. Thanks for your time man, and good luck with the Kickstarter! I’ll be following along closely!
Thank you man! Talk to you soon I’m sure!
Lastly, they have a free Pre-Alpha available for You’re Doomed for those looking to try it out. I will recommend that you play it on a PC with dedicated 3D graphics processor as the game tends to have blur and frame dropping with lower powered PCs. But it’s a pre-alpha guys; it’s just meant to give you a taste of what you can expect when they finalize the game. Even with the frame dropping I had (because I don’t own a gaming PC), I still can see the potential these guys have. Give it a shot!