Saturday, 21 February 2015

Featured Game - Barbara-ian

Recently, one of our Top 5 Greenlight Games was Barbara-ian, a dungeon crawler at a breakneck speed, where your character only has one hit point.  I was lucky enough to play a beta version of the game, as well as speaking to the creators, Sam Chester and Kristian Andrews.

Beta Impressions
I’m a big fan of dungeon crawlers with my most recent explorations in to them being the Torchlight series.  There is something satisfyingly simple about such games, particularly if you’ve come home after a long day at work and don’t fancy dealing with a complicated RPG or strategy game. 

Barbara-ian takes dungeon crawling to the simplest level possible and I mean this in a good way.  Upon firing up the beta, I ended up playing for 30 minutes non-stop without realising how much time had passed.  It was the perfect remedy to what had been a busy day, with a particular satisfaction to hitting things and blowing stuff up!

All hell breaking loose
The premise is pretty simple – Barbara-ian (who is a woman incidentally) gets dropped in to a randomised dungeon armed with just a simple weapon.  After that, it is a case of running around, hitting things and avoiding getting hit.  Both your character and all enemies have one hit point so a game can be over very quickly!   However you get thrown right back in to the action straight away and before you know, you’re saying to yourself “just one more game and I’ll stop”.  That one more game ends up being hours and hours if you aren’t careful!

Overall I’m really impressed and I’m sure the final version will be even better.  If you get the chance, check the game out on their Greenlight Page and vote yes for it.  There is also the chance to sign-up for beta on their Website.


Q. Tell us about Barbara-ian
Barbara-ian is a super fast paced twin-stick dungeon crawler focused on pure action. It's all about the smashing - enemies, doors, torch sconces that look at you funny etc. The hero herself, Barbara-ian, isn't the kind to put up with hours wasted hacking at enemies - she's got stuff to smash after all - so it's 1-hit kills all round!

Q. What inspired you to make the game?
Sam - The first prototype for the combat system which would eventually lead to Barbara-ian was inspired by old samurai movies - principally Shogun Assassin. I loved the immediacy of the combat in those films, it was one vs many with no duelling at all, just one well placed hit.
I was interested in exploring that kind of combat without trying to simulate sword play (which I feel is a dead-end), making it more about the spacing and timing of attacks, and pushing for improvisation on the part of the player, rather than the sort of tight planning that Hotline Miami (rightly) focused on.

That door isn't going to last long

Kristian - A while ago I made a few doodle films for Comedy central featuring a D&D character called Barbaraian ( and for some reason she stuck with me.

The low-poly aesthetic followed on from my last short film 'Let's Play Nomad X' which was inspired by the 3D Amiga games of my youth, like Frontier Elite II. When I finished that film I wanted to further explore what can be achieved with graphical limitations and I knew should try and make a game rather than go on making films about games. When I eventually played Sam's melee prototype I was so riveted I shot off an email with a 3D model of Babs to see if he'd like to work together.

Odds have been better on staying alive...

Q. How long has it been in development?
Development started in earnest in July 2014, so around 8 months, part time as both of us work other jobs, though as mentioned there was work done on a prototype about a year prior to that, before it had any of its current style or character.

Deeper down...

Q. Have there been any particular highs or lows during development?
It's been surprisingly smooth! There was a low a couple of months in, when the procedural generation system had to be rewritten from scratch because the first iteration wasn't up to the task.

Luckily we were able to build on the mistakes from the previous one, so although it took some time out from other features, the game benefitted immeasurably from it.
A particular high came just last week, after we implemented a bunch of new sounds & particle effects, which together had a huge impact on how exciting the game was to play. Sound had taken a back-seat before that as we don’t have a dedicated sound designer, so spending time getting it right was a big plus.

Also we mustn't forget that wonderful moment at the end of a long coffee fuelled dev week when we made the magic wand chuff out blue explosions!

Q. Do you have any advice for other Indie studios?
Keep it small, and keep it in scope! It's definitely not unique advice (we're working off the same), but it's always worth hearing again. If you're not being paid to do it & there's no guarantee of getting paid at the end of it, it helps if it didn't take 2 years of your life to do.
I'd also say that for people in a similar situation to us, where you don't have a particularly unique concept, make sure you market it in an interesting way. We opted to sing our own trailer music & filmed ourselves failing miserably at it! There's nothing worse than obscurity, so make sure there's something worth talking about

Q. What are your plans for the future?
With enough support for Barbara-ian we'll continue to develop new features for a little while at least. There are many, many cut features that we always planned for but became increasingly impossible to do in a reasonable time, so working some of those in (hopefully as free updates) would be wonderful.

Otherwise, we're already planning for a new, drastically different game. We're the kind of people that love exploring new avenues for ourselves and our ideas, so I wouldn't expect a Barbara-ian 2 any time soon...

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