App Trigger got the chance to speak to famed games producer Koji Igarashi about the Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night during E3 2017 last week.
The state of Kickstarter for video game projects is a bit fickle right now. For every Pillars of the Eternity follows even more Mighty No. 9’s and unreleased (or canceled) games like Godus. Despite dwindling dollars headed to these projects, the strength of games in development such as Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night prove there is still a place for the unconventional game development platform.
At E3 2017 last week, I got the opportunity to speak with Koji Igarashi, the game’s famed producer, about the Kickstarter process, the ongoing development of Bloodstained and how he feels about people playing his games through non-conventional means. While wearing an iconic cowboy hat on his head and holding an actual whip in his hand, ArtPlay communications manager Mana provided us with a translation.
App Trigger: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today.
Koji Igarashi: Thank you very much.
AT: You’ve been working in the video game industry for more than a quarter century, yet it’s been just a few years with the Kickstarter process. What has been the biggest new challenge that the Bloodstained team has encountered that may not have appeared before approaching the backer system?
KI: The biggest difference in working with a large company before starting a Kickstarter is that everything was there already. All the employees, all the talented people, a group of people that are there to run the business was already there for me, so I was able to focus on developing a game.
This time, I started out my own company, starting a Kickstarter, and everything has to start from scratch. I had to find people; I had to find developers. It was challenging to find these developers that could work on this game, and just trying to run this business myself; everything was a challenge.
AT: The crowdfunding business has drastically changed in the last few years since Bloodstained has been announced. Do you think there is anything that you would have had to change about the initial pitch to backers if you had to announced the project today, besides potential platforms?
KI: As a Japanese developer, I actually don’t know the difference between what crowdfunding was like back then and what it is now. When we started the Kickstarter project, we asked other groups of people that were very familiar with crowdfunding, very well known for starting up a project. We would still depend on them to inform us about how Kickstarter works.
If I were to start a new project and do something different from before, I would still probably ask that group of people that were very familiar with crowdfunding.
AT: In the most recent edition of Bloodstained, we’ve seen a noticeable improvement in the depth of environmental design within a 2.5D scale. Not only is there a layer in the foreground, but you see several layers of the background moving in parallax. Tells us more about the importance of detailed background environments when making a 2.5D game such as Bloodstained.
KI: What we wanted to do, since it’s 3D, we definitely wanted to add depth. We wanted to rotate the screen as much as we could to take advantage of the 3D aspect. But what we really wanted to do was make a 3D game with a 2D gameplay style.
In order to do that, a lot of 3D side-scrolling games have a very dark foreground and then a very light background. If you think about very old-school 2D games or pixel games, you see a lot of the foreground being very bright and the background being very dark. We wanted to incorporate that in this 3D environment from Bloodstained to actually show those 2D elements from old-school games.
AT: Can Nintendo Switch owners expect a similar level of background detail as the platform shown off in the trailers?
KI: Currently, we’re not in the middle of porting to Nintendo Switch just yet, but we are starting porting to PS Vita. In comparison to that porting process, we feel confident that the environments will look pretty similar, but we can’t say for sure until we really look into the Nintendo Switch specs and see what it’s like building a game for it.
AT: What are the key gameplay differences in Bloodstained that fans of your previous work might not have expected coming into it?
KI: The core concept of Bloodstained is having fans of the previous games feel very comfortable playing with this. While there are elements that are surprising to fans, it’s kind of off to the side. I do know one element that might surprise the fans, but I can’t say it yet because we haven’t announced it yet. (laughs)
The core point is that we want our fans to feel comfortable playing it first without a huge surprise just yet.
AT: How has the decision to release Bloodstained content using a staggered model affected the development of the game’s intended content down the road?
KI: Right now, nothing is very set for Bloodstained yet. We are considering a staggered model for released content. We know the benefits of it; having content released separately, from time to time, also generates hype from having fans think about the game for longer. This is something that we haven’t really set yet, so it’s something we’ll have to discuss later.
AT: With advancements in technology, it’s never been easier to share games content to an audience. YouTube groups such as the Super Best Friends can play the Bloodstained E3 2016 demo last year and share it with more than 100,000 viewers watching at home. How important is it to share in-development versions of Bloodstained to content creators in order to spread the word about the game?
KI: In regards to partnerships with YouTubers and content creators, I actually have no idea about it. I’m always focusing on developing the game; that’s my weak point. We’re partnering with 505 Games (they’re publishing our game), and we want to rely on their power – their marketing experience – to help us with that.
AT: When you envision someone playing the full release of Bloodstained for the very first time, what emotion would you like them to embody the most?
KI: Once they finish the game, in one word: fun. That’s the one word we want from fans when they play it.
AT: Thank you for your time, Igarashi-san.
KI: Thank you very much.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.