As many of you know, we at GameCloud are a proudly Western Australian outfit, so it should come as no surprise that we were especially stoked when we heard that the new Battlestar Galactica game was being developed right here in Perth by none other than Black Lab Games. Some of you may remember our interview with Paul from Black Lab Games three years ago when his previous game, Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy, was first released. We are now very proud to present another exclusive interview with Paul as he shares some of his thoughts on Battlestar Galactica Deadlock after its recent release.
Congratulations on the recent release of your new game, Battlestar Galactica Deadlock. The initial reviews have been very positive, and it’s great to see a locally developed game get so much international attention. How are you feeling?
Thanks! We are very happy with the generally positive response the game has received and are really excited to see it on player’s hands. We’ve had some big influencers say good things about it, which is pretty amazing…and very motivating!
Complex strategy games are Black Lab’s specialty. Can you share some insight on the creative and game design process involved in incorporating those strategic elements within the Battlestar Galactica canon?
When we knew we’d be doing a BSG game, I wrote up a set of core guiding principles for the project. These are the pillars that are used as a reference whenever a decision has to be made. This was done before the story was written, before the gameplay was designed. One of these pillars was that we had to make an authentic Battlestar experience. This in turn means that whenever we were designing a system in the game, we’d look at the options and ask ourselves “which is the most authentic to the BSG universe”.
Could you please explain how Black Lab obtained the rights to make a Battlestar Galactica game (obviously a huge IP)? Was there a bidding process involved?
This is a case where working with an established publisher is really helpful. Our previous game, Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy was published by UK-based strategy specialist publisher Slitherine. After Star Hammer launched, we were talking with them about ideas for new projects, and they asked if there were any IPs I’d particularly like to work with. I mentioned some names and didn’t think much more about it. They went and made enquiries, and did most of the work securing the license. I think a lot of small, independent developers see publishers as unnecessary or worse, but I think a good working relationship with the right publisher can produce some great things. Battlestar Galactica Deadlock would not exist without us or Slitherine.
How large is the team at Black Lab at the moment? I imagine that this project required you to engage lots of new resources. Did your publisher, Slitherine, assist in procuring some of these new resources?
Right now we are a team of 5, though we’ve had a number of additional contributors along the way, such as Ash Gibson Greig, who wrote the extraordinary soundtrack. Most of the core team is the same as for Star Hammer. We only added one new programmer, Amos, for BSG. I prefer to work with local Perth-based developers, so we can all be in the same room and talk face-to-face if required. As such we tend to use our own networks to find new developers to work with.
The main area Slitherine helped with in respect to people was the voiceover talent. The VOs were sourced and recorded in Los Angeles, as we worked with an LA-based sound engineer that Slitherine has a long term relationship with.
Perth isn’t really the first place that comes to mind when thinking of AAA game developers. What made you decide to start and run a successful game development studio here in Perth?
Perth is a good place to be. We have a great lifestyle and environment here. There is no reason not to be based here, and whilst the isolation and small scale of the local industry does present some challenges, the world is constantly getting smaller thanks to technology, so working with international partners isn’t the problem it might have been in the past. There is no shortage of smart talented people here. All we need is the ambition and self-believe to make great things, which is something I think we have at Black Lab. It’s not so much as case of choosing to start a studio in Perth, as it is being already here and having the resolve to overcome the challenges and make it work. That said, Black Lab Games is still a work in progress, and things could go up or down from here!
Game development is a notoriously difficult profession so good on you for sticking it out. What are some words of wisdom that you would impart to an aspiring game developer?
Just make stuff, constantly. Study the craft, whatever discipline you work in. Develop a habit of learning, because there is always room for growth and improvement. It’s a fast changing industry, so there is always a need to update and refresh your skills. If you are a programmer, read everything you can about games programming and set yourself challenges to expand your skillset and knowledge. If you are an artist, learn new tools and techniques by constantly making art.
What is next in the pipeline for Black Lab Games?
We are still working on BSG. We are releasing on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 later in the year, so we still need to complete those versions, and we have a lot of new additions to make to the game on PC in the coming months. As it typical for most games these, the release is just the beginning.
Battlestar Galactica Deadlock is now available to purchase on Steam. For further updates on Deadlock or any other future projects, you can follow Black Lab Games on Twitter, Facebook or by visiting their official website.