BrambleLash, at least on GameCloud, is basically a game that requires no introduction, so often have we covered it across a bunch of events. I’m still going to write one though, since Liam and Sam stand upon the precipice of completing work with the game, even selling pre-release copies at PAX Aus this year. Liam, being the wily, newly discovered scoundrel that he is, wasn’t around when I first approached their booth, so I spoke with Sam. Liam would join us eventually, but would still Sam reveal a terrible truth about Liam’s self-proclaimed abilities at being a BrambleLash champion. I am certainly a fan of betrayal, and there’s no shortage of that inside or out of BrambleLash.
I’m here with Sam this time, not Liam, for BrambleLash – at this point, now, you guys are basically finished the game, right? We’re looking at the final product now?
Sam: Yeah, we’re scheduled to release first quarter of next year, tentatively saying February, we’re going for a simulatenous release on Steam and Xbox One. So, hopefully that’ll go well.
So as the game’s development has worn on, whose done the art, whose done the coding, or have the two of you shared the load a lot?
Sam: We do share both of those disciplines, if you will, I tend to work mostly on the art, these days, because I do full time programming outside of this. It’s good to break up the monotony of doing one thing. So, because I do a lot of the final art, Liam gets to do a lot of the programming side of things. It works out pretty well for us.
So, what have you guys been building this game with the whole time?
Sam: We’re built in Unity, we have a lot of custom editors, shaders, and things like that, which we’ve put together. Some of the tools we use to create this has been Blendr, which is an open source 3D modelling package, ZBrush – because I actually have a license for it – and GIMP because, again, another free, open sourced art package.
When we were talking a bit before, you said that children are the worst for betraying each other, Liam did say something similar during PGF. After my performance just now, where I won purely by murdering everyone instead of the monsters, have I re-secured my spot as the worst player you’ve ever seen?
Sam: You’re… You’re pretty horrible. You’re a pretty nasty human being, frankly.
Excellent, this is good.
Sam: But children are great, actually, they seem to really enjoy the game, thye don’t tend to hold grudges, I find, as much as adults, and they’re really keen to experiment. So, what they’ll do is they’ll play with betrayal for a brief amount of time until they’ve gotten used to exactly how that works, and they’ll narrow it down really quick to when it’s relevant, and when it’s not relevant. They’re pretty clever, it’s always really surprising how quickly kids pick it up, wihtout as many pre-conceptions as other people towards games.
You guys are drawing a pretty big crowd, I kind of had to fight my way to the front here. This is your second PAX now, right? What’s been your experience this time in comparison to the last, and how has it been displaying the game in the Xbox area?
Sam: Yeah, this is our second PAX Australia, we’ve gone to all the games developer events, and things like that pretty regularly, and we made an effort to go to those before we were ready to launch into this. But yeah, this is our second PAX, it’s been enjoyable – the first one was really beneficial for us, but this one’s probably been going smoother after having the experience of the first one we attended. We had a lot less floor space during the last PAX, so we were drawing a big crowd last time, too, but what was tending to happen was people were filling up the aisle way, and ended up having to go away.
This time around, it’s been nice to have a bit more floor space, having a lot more people being able to line up a bit more neatly. The other thing is that we’ve been selling pre-releases of the game at this PAX, so that’s given us a good objective to strive for.
Liam: That part about showing off with the Xbox area is really awesome. It came together very quickly, so we’ve been really busy with getting it all organised, but it’s been really good. There’s lots of people playing over there, like, every time I’ve gone over there to check on it, it’s been very busy, so it’s really good to be back. A lot of people have come and told us that they played it last year, and are very keen on playing it this year – and on getting new pins.
Looking back over the project, what’s been the most challenging aspect?
Sam: [Turning to Liam] What’s been the hardest part of the project?
Don’t look at him, I’m gonna be asking him the same thing in a minute.
Sam: I’ve no idea, I’m stumped on this one.
You’re looking at Liam, so I’m going to go with, “Not murdering Liam?”
Sam: Yeah, probably not murdering– Nooo, working with Liam has been pretty refreshing. We’ve been very iterative in the project, we’ve been cutting out a lot of things that were in the game, and we shifted our scope at one point very early on in the project. To be fair, that was really great because it lead to the experience we’ve created now, but at the same time it meant we pushed out our deadline quite significantly. And of course, we were very aware that changing scope is a very dangerous thing to do with a project, but we felt it was justified. So, that was probably the biggest thing because that meant we had to make some personal sacrifices to accomodate for that, which would make that the most difficult thing that’s happened with this project.
Liam: Managing scope, I think, which is similar to what Sam said before. Just, finishing it, I suppose? Trying to really draw the line where we feel like the final product is, and that’s where we’re at now, so it’s really good to feel like it’s nintey-five percent complete, we’re just putting the finishing touches on – it’s really cool. It’s a good feeling.
You said you’d cut some things out, what are some of the things that didn’t make it into the final version?
Sam: So, the game concept is a little bit obscure for some people to pick up initially, once they do it can feel a bit more intuitive and they tend to pick it up quickly after their first couple of tries, but they’re learning something new. So, we had ideas where we actually had different game modes within adventure mode, for example occupying a certain space, or maintaining a tether, stuff like that.
There were objectives that people didn’t really concentrate on because they were too busy exploring the mechanics of the actual core gameplay, and it felt like it was just content for content’s sake. Most people weren’t paying attention to it, most people just wanted to kill things, kill each other, do the betrayal mechanics, stuff like that. So, we thought we’d just get rid of it, axe it, and see how it played, and it played a lot better. So, we’ve been doing a lot of subtractive design in that sense, just axing things that aren’t indicative of the core gameplay, stuff that feels superfluous, or feels like tacked on content for the sake of more content.
Liam: The game’s actually shorter now than it was before, we cut out – for each season, of which there’s three – two levels. We felt like we just wanted to keep the best levels, and to keep the seasons shorter, but we’ve added in some things that made them more replayable. Like Sam said, we removed some actual objectives, some diffrerent win conditions, now it’s just, “kill all the enemies!” The other win conditions were fun, but nothing’s more fun than just killing the enemies, everyone just wants to attack the things.
And murder each other.
Liam: Yeah, yeah – so we decided to distill the game down to what it’s core appeal was, and it’s better for it, I think.
Sadly, you weren’t here for it earlier Liam, but I did murder everyone and came out on top as a result. Killing other players and stealing their points was a recently added feature, right?
Liam: Yeah, that’s right – the competitive aspect to adventure mode. We put in there to give people a reason to attack each other, people attack each other anyway – they don’t need a reason – but this adds something of a competitive element that allows you to replay adventure mode, and compare yourself to the other player. It goes back to what I was saying before about distilling the game down; versus mode is really fun because it has that cooperative-competitive aspect, we put the competitive aspect in the other cooperative mode to unify the whole experience.
Now, to settle something, Liam has said in the past that he’s better than you at BrambleLash, but that you were improving. Now that the game is close to release – which one of you is better?
Sam: Well, Liam’s a dirty liar, and I’ve always been better at the game than he has.
The truth comes out!
Sam: He’s just more inclined to talk to talk to the media people because he loves the attention, or something, I don’t know what it is. So, that’s why – that’s why these lies are finally coming out into the light.
I see, I see now what’s really been going on this whole time. So, Liam, how do you respond to these allegations that you’re a filthy liar, and that Sam’s actually been the better player this whole time?
Liam: Well, he would say that. He’s got a bit ego, has Sam, I’ll let him say that, for now, if it makes him feel good. Like I’ve always said, you’ve got to keep up team morale, so if he needs to think that, he can think that.
So, with the game just about finished, have you two got your sights set on any future projects?
Sam: We have a lot of concepts that we’d like to explore, we might take a bit of a break – it really depends. We’ve certainly got a lot of ideas that we’d like to explore, but we want to support BrambleLash as much as we can post-release. So, we’ll see how the launch of BrambleLash goes, and whether it justifies jumping to another project a bit early, we’ll just see how it plays out. I’m certainly keen on exploring the mobile space a bit more, I’ve got a fair bit of experience in that, but, again, that’s all future talk – stuff down the line.
Liam: We do have future projects in mind, but nothing specific. At the start of the development process, we make many different prototypes, and most of those end up going in the bin. So, I couldn’t honestly tell you quite whatthe shape of the next game we make will be, we’ve got ideas, but most of them will probably end up on the cutting room floor.
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