BrambleLash is a game of quick reflexes, slimy shadow things, smiling and murderous plants, and sudden yet inevitable betrayal. Even during the sections when you’re meant to be co-operating with other players, the option to needlessly murder them is still available. Long time readers of the site might realise that this is the kind of game that I shouldn’t be allowed to play with other people. Without Nick around to correct them, however, Liam Hunt, Sam Zeid, a hapless bystander who knew not what they were getting into were happy to oblige me. After giving the guys a day or two to mentally recover, I asked them a few questions about the game, its development, and what it’s like being a Perth developer.
I’m really sorry, I just… I don’t know what’s wrong with me?
What can you tell us about BrambleLash?
BrambleLash is a spritely multiplayer co-op with tactical team and swap action, where you have to connect, co-operate or betray to win. Ultimately it’s a game about the connection between players, both physically in game via a thorny tether, and mentally (or verbally!) outside of the game.
Enchanted plants destroying slimy shadow creatures is a neat idea, what was the inspiration behind the game?
We really wanted to create a co-operative game where players actually HAVE to work together equally to succeed. We’re big fans of local multiplayer, but have played many games where co-operation can sometimes break down into one player doing most of the work. In terms of the enchanted plant theme and art style, the idea was the result of a long string of brainstorming and conceptualizing. We really wanted to have inclusive visuals that fit the playful nature of the game, and that deviated from the usual abstract or space themes that we’d seen in a lot of top-down perspective arcadey games. A lot of inspiration was drawn from a wide variety of art depicting “fairy garden” or “twilight garden” settings.
What were your biggest challenges while designing and developing BrambleLash?
Getting the music and the sound effects to fit the theme that we wanted was definitely a challenge. Neither of us are particularly musically inclined people, so pulling the notes out of our head and trying to express them in words was interesting. Thankfully we had our amazingly talented composers, Damian Dolin and Leanne Puttick, to translate our half baked ideas into exactly what we were looking for. It took a lot of discussion and prototyping, but they produced a really fantastic result!
What makes BrambleLash stand out from other games like it?
The way in which players tether together and use that link as their main form of attack and defense is something that I’ve never seen used in a game before. BrambleLash stands out as it demands co-operation from players, while providing a fluid team swapping system that allows teams to be formed and broken by betrayal.
“Thankfully we had our amazingly talented composers, Damian Dolin and Leanne Puttick, to translate our half baked ideas into exactly what we were looking for.”
Co-op, especially local co-op, is a major part of this game, was including that important to you from the start or did it just sort of happen over time?
As I mentioned before, co-operation is at the core of the BrambleLash experience. Most of our design decisions have been structured around making sure that players are rewarded for working together, and ensuring that everyone feels like they are contributing as equally as possible. The idea of turning this on its head and allowing for betrayal and team-swapping came later when we added 4 player support.
There’s been something of a resurgance in local co-op games of late, do you think that it’s back to stay?
I think so. Many of us strayed away from local multiplayer because online play was this new and revolutionary experience. Nowadays online gaming is commonplace; kids are growing up with it always there. Because of this, more and more we find people rediscovering some of the almost intangible social experiences that only local multiplayer can provide. Online gaming is amazing and convenient, but as long as people retain a desire to socialize and interact in a physical space, local multiplayer will have a place.
How did ByteSprite get started? Do you guys work full time on the game, or is it something you do on the side?
ByteSprite was started by Sam Zeid and myself (Liam Hunt) late last year. We studied at uni together and have worked together on a number of game jams, and kind of always intended to team up professionally when the time was right. We work full time as ByteSprite but split our time between BrambleLash development, and working on contracts for education, training and health games, as well as apps and simulation.
What’s it like developing as a Perth studio?
As you can imagine, working from Perth can be difficult in terms of reaching out to a large, mostly American, European and Asian audience. What some people might not know though is we have a really awesome local community that has been a fantastic support over the last year for us. Organizations such as FTI and Let’s Make Games, as well as the people behind them, really make the most of the limited resources and small population that we have here. BrambleLash has also been partially funded by FTI’s OOMPF Games grant programme, which is awesome.
“… more and more we find people rediscovering some of the almost intangible social experiences that only local multiplayer can provide.”
What was your experience at the Perth Games Festival like this year?
The Perth Games Festival was a really awesome experience for us! Everything was so well organized and operated smoothly, while we had a very good response to BrambleLash. There was hardly a time when there were not 4 people playing, and most of the time we had more people watching and asking us questions. It was fantastic to see so many people interested in local games development, and we’ll be back next year for sure!
How can the community support this project and others like it?
One of the hardest things about being an independent game developer in such a remote city is getting exposure further afield. The best thing that community members who are interested can do is to talk about what’s going on here to as many people as they can! Make sure to spread the word online, and if you see something that you like, share it in all the usual social places. We make our games to see other people enjoying them; the best motivation for us to do better is to see people enthusiastic about the things we create.
Who’s better at the game, Liam or Sam?
Without a doubt I’m better. I don’t think Sam has ever done better than me actually. Sam sucks at games, especially Street Fighter and Pokemon. The fact that I’m answering these questions definitely has nothing to do with my response…
Why do you want to make games?
It’s hard to pin down an exact quotable reason, as games are such a huge part of our lives, personally, socially and professionally. For me personally, one of the things I love about games development is seeing people play and enjoy my creations. Seeing people smiling and laughing because of something I’ve made is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. That said though, It’s not just an end justifies the means scenario. If the creative, collaborative and technical processes of games development weren’t intrinsically fun to us, then we wouldn’t be here!
Here are some places where you can show your support for BrambleLash: