While there was a surprising amount of diversity at this year’s Perth Games Festival, one theme common with many of the games was the idea of bringing people together. Local multiplayer is big in the indie scene, and predominantly so as it’s no longer valued by big publishers like it used to be. Bellus Mortem (Latin for “Cute Death”) was one such local multiplayer title from upstart developers Kai Ashford and Kit Matthews, who are also the founders of Rhabdophobic Wizards. One big thing Bellus Mortem had going for it was mascot appeal, and, as a result, we noticed quite a lot of people dropping by to try it out, with children in particular captivated by the idea of becoming the ultimate Cat Wizard. I too tried my hand at a few rounds, and was super keen to catch up with Kai after the festival to learn more about it!
As a Perth-based developer, could you tell us how you got involved with the industry and about your studio, Rhabdophobic Wizards?
I got into the industry in a really standard way. One day while working for a computer repair shop, I decided that it would be cool to work on video games. In turn, I enrolled at Murdoch University and spent my whole time finding a group of people I would want to work with. Since then, I’ve hopped between a few business ventures and ended up starting up RW Games with Kit as an attempt to make sustainable revenue for a games company.
A common question that comes up is micro transactions, and, surprisingly, how your game is not going to include any. You easily could have gone this route, why didn’t you?
Bellus Mortem is an explosive multiplayer, king of the hill, battle arena with cat wizards. In other words, we have combined ideas from Super Smash Bros. and Magicka to form a unique style of game.
Mascots can be very powerful, and children seemed to gravitate towards your booth. Can you tell us where the idea for ‘Cat Wizards’ came from?
I wish we had an epic story, but our character artist, Rebecca Ambrose, was sketching simple character ideas with limited animations. At first, Bec drew something very similar to the character from Journey, and as a bit of a joke, she turned the design it into a cat. Before long, it was our first character in the world of Bellus Mortem.
I can clearly see elements of Super Smash Bros. in the design. Are there any other games that have been influential during the development process?
Three major games have influenced the design of Bellus Mortem:
1) Super Smash Bros. for its party fun element.
2) Magicka, for the use of positioning two spells to create a stronger effect.
3) Warcraft 3 mod, Warlock. This is where the start of the idea came from. Our game is most similar to this game.
It can be difficult to find longevity with local multiplayer titles. What do you feel makes your game stand apart from other well-known titles in the genre?
We are working on two things currently: ‘game feel’ and ‘jump-in appeal.’
Our game, at all points, needs to feel at its best. When you play Bellus Mortem, we want you to come out thinking and feeling like you were a wizard for that time. Don’t get me wrong, we still have a lot more work to do on this. But, overall, Bellus Mortem currently has a really good feel to it. The game can be played by anyone over the age of six, and it is easy to play from the moment they pick up the controller.
6. Bellus Mortem literally translates to ‘Cute Death’ in Latin. Could you tell us more about the combat, as well as the large variety of spells that will be available?
The combat is twitch-based, meaning players will need to react at a fast pace to be able to dodge an attack or hit another player. However, the combat can be a bit tricky if you want to be a “pro”. We have designed it in such away that different spells, when timed well enough, can keep your opponent out side the arena for the whole battle.
Some combos are:
Fire ball / Ice Ball
The Fire Ball can be used to knock your opponent into the “Danger Area” which deals light damage. The Ice ball can then be used tofreeze the opponent, locking them in the Danger Area to take massive damage.
Orbit / Wall
Orbit attaches itself to any object in the game, doing extra damage to the next enemy it touches. By summoning a wall, it is easy for you to position them where you want. Players can’t get close that wall.
Meteorite / Poison Cloud
This is all about map control. Meteorite, if it hits, sends you flying and deals a lot of damage. However, it also burns any player that walks over the flames. Combine that with poison cloud which deals damage for each second you are in the zone. You can pretty much control a good chuck of the map.
Portal / anything
Portal is an amazing tricky spell. It creates two portals and anything that goes through, comes out the other side. By using Portal, you can hit anyone on the map.
In the demo, we saw a grassy arena where you had to stay in the light while trying to take down opponents. Are there other modes currently in the pipeline?
Currently, we are prototyping different types of arena, and, eventually, we want to add a co-op mode into the game.
Could you tell us about the art style that you’ve used, and what sort of locations we should expect to see in the final release of the game?
The art style is inspired by many sources, particularly games and animations. There is a deliberate whimsical fairytale style which has broad appeal.
We try to avoid a typical ‘3D’ or ‘videogamey’ look where possible. Important game elements are very saturated and contrasting, with softened environmental or ‘secondary’ effects.
Some ideas we’ve had for future environments include deserts, lakes and volcanic platforms. The specifics are to be determined!
9. Game development has its share of difficulties, and being in Perth doesn’t often help. What has been your greatest challenge working on the game so far?
Trying to stay motivated when you’re boot strapping the game. Its hard to build something that may never reach the audience you would like it to reach and its even harder when you have no income. This has been the hardest challenge.
How did it feel showing your game to the general public for the first time, and what were your impressions of the Perth Games Festival as a whole?
Ah, this was not our first time actually. We took our game to Supernova and a few other small indie events. But overall I think PGF is an amazing step to the best suited community in Perth. Each year, I’m always amazed at how much bigger its getting. I think one day it may rival the likes of OZ Comic Con or PaxAus.
Can we expect to see your game at local playtesting events such as Playup Perth next year? Also, what release timeframe and platforms are you aiming toward?
Yes, you will see our game around. We’re hoping to release mid-next-year. Target platforms are PC, Xbox and PlayStation.
We understand that Bellus Mortem is currently on Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight. Could you tell us about that, and how our readers can support your project?
Yes, we are! We are trying to raise enough money so we can convert our game from local-multiplayer to online-multiplayer. Similar to Super Smash Bros. If you would like to support us you can goto www.rwgames.net/support for Kickstarter and www.rwgames.net/vote for Greenlight!