At PAX Aus 2019, we were fortunate enough to be able to speak with Sam from Blowfish Studios about two of their upcoming games – Kung Fu Kickball and Obey Me.
Alex: Hello everyone, my name’s Alex, I’m joined by Sam from Blowfish Studios. How are you today?
Sam: Great! Day two, really alive and energetic for it.
A: A lot of people around, can be overwhelming sometimes.
S: Little bit, little bit, especially when you go out the night before, but it’s all good.
A: [laughs] Booth’s been popular, though.
S: Booth’s been very popular, riding that convention high, so, ready for day two and day three.
A: Fantastic. So, I’ve got two games to have a chat to you about, first one being Kung Fu Kickball. What can you tell us about that one?
S: Yeah, so Kung Fu Kickball is an action-sports-fighting game that, you know, the world just needs. You kick, punch, or headbutt the ball into your opponent’s goal for a point, and whoever has the most points at the end is the winner.
A: Amazing. Is there a time limit? Is there a certain amount of goals you need to kick?
S: So at the moment, in the current demo build, we’ve only got a time limit of three minutes per round, that’s for 1v1 and 2v2. In the final game build, we will be looking at custom game modifiers, so you know, you can set your time limit, you can set your goal limit, whatever – play how you want.
A: So a good amount of customisable stuff?
S: Yeah, we really identify as the type of game that needs that, especially as a party game, every party game needs that crazy stuff.
A: Yeah. We actually had a bit of time to play around with it ourselves. We found it very easy to pick up but very difficult to master.
S: That was the developer’s exact sales pitch to us. He wanted something that’s easy to pick up, and difficult to master.
S: So, literally verbatim.
A: [Laughs] That’s fantastic. And as well, I noticed that the characters actually move quite quickly. Do they all move at the same speed?
S: No, so at the moment, in the PAX demo, there’s three characters, we’re looking at four or five for the actual game, with additional characters thereafter, and each character has different abilities. The ninja character is a lot faster, can jump higher; the monk can, you know, kick and he’s more of an allrounder, so he’s pretty balanced; the old guy can really knock you back further as well.
A: That’s awesome. And you have different maps that come into play as well.
S: Yeah, so at the moment there’re game maps, and each one has environmental hazards within it, and it’s really a game about angles. So you’ve gotta kick the right angle, and hopefully it goes up, otherwise it’ll rebound and you’ll score no goal.
A: I remember you said before as well that the bell is hollow.
S: Yes, the bell is hollow, so you can definitely kick the ball up into it, and not score a point because it didn’t touch the top.
A: And that happened to me… I was very, very upset.
S: Yes, we play this literally every day in the office, and when it happens we’re all very visibly upset.
A: [Laughs] Keeps it interesting, though.
S: It does, it does. And you take for granted, ‘Oh, I’ve got that goal’, but you can make miraculous comebacks
A: And what happens during sudden death?
S: During sudden death, so, as you mentioned, we kind of got to that, and if it keeps going on and on, the bell just starts expanding, it’s got like an AOE effect, and so the goals get bigger and bigger, so it gets easier of end the game, which is incredibly stressful.
A: [Laughs] I can imagine. We didn’t really get up to that bit.
S: No, so unfortunately, you played against myself and Vanessa, and we’re not the best players by–
A: I did win, yes.
S: Yes, yeah, I was kinda hoping we’d get to show it off, but you know, you guys took the victory.
A: It was so much fun, really really enjoyed that one. And you said there are additional characters and additional content coming later?
S: Yes! At the moment, we’re looking at having about four to five characters in the final game build, and we’re looking at doing a similar approach to Smash Bros, so we’ll have new character packs with a level-themed character and, you know, additional music and art and stuff like that.
A: That’s really cool. And when it comes to Switch, will there any Switch features that you’re looking to implement, such as HD Rumble?
S: We’re certainly looking at it, but not gonna guarantee it yet. We really want to get networking down pat first of all. That’s our number one priority, making sure it’s a smooth experience for everyone. We’re certainly looking at the ability of cross-play on all the other platforms, just to really kind of get the community base there.
A: That’s fantastic. So will there be a single player campaign?
S: There is, so you can actually play against AI. This was news to me until the developer pushed the latest build, and seeing all that stuff there is really fun because you do need that kind of training to be able to get a bit better.
A: And then you can train when your friends aren’t there and just get better than them.
S: Or you can take the game home and train to beat all your co-workers, like someone here does.
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A: That works too [laughs]. And so, in terms of the game’s development, how has that gone? Have there been any challenges or hiccups that have come up along the way?
S: At the moment, no. So, the developer is based in New York, and he’s a one-man team. He’s super responsive to any feedback you give him. We’ve been taking this to a few shows, and we generally get ideas from the public of what they want to see, so stuff like different sized balls to really affect levels and break it up. We mentioned that to him and he thought that was a great idea, so at least he’s open to it, he wants to see the long-term success of the game, and, I mean, we do too.
A: Of course. We noticed when we watched the initial trailers that the characters weren’t actually fleshed out, they were just basically colours, so now they’ve got unique designs to them.
S: Yeah, exactly right. And that’s how it was pitched to us originally. We said, ‘Look, the game’s fun, but let’s make this world feel alive.’
A: Yeah, of course.
S: Not just generic red or blue or whatever. Really make it fun and exciting. We’ve got some sick intro videos to make it feel real.
A: Awesome! And, this might not be a question you get all the time because when I first watched the early build of the gameplay, I thought, ‘Is there a colour-blind mode?’
S: Not yet, but it is something that we do think of, and there’s some great colour-blind apps out there that really help visualise the game and what it’s actually going to look like. It’s something that we’ll have to address because obviously red and blue are very common in terms of colour-blindness, so it’s something we’re certainly looking at.
A: And when can we expect to play Kung Fu Kickball on Switch?
S: At the moment, we’re targeting Q1 release next year, as I kind of said, we’re getting networking down pat, and that could take up to four to five months. Could take the next year. Ideally we don’t want that to happen.
A: No, absolutely not. And is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
S: Pick it up when it comes out, it’s a lot of fun. Just take a chance and get some mates around to play it, honestly.
A: And is there a Twitter that they can follow or a Facebook…?
A: That’s really cool. Now let’s head on over to Obey Me. Can you tell us a bit about that one?
S: Obey Me is a top-down isometric 3D brawler. It’s similar in vein to your Bayonetta, your Devil May Cry, very gothic, sick combos and character skill-tree, and you get style rating points for how you do in combat, so the better you do, the more abilities you unlock, and the more currency you gain. It’s similar in the sense that you can platinum each level by getting the highest ranking on it, so it’s designed for that replayability.
A: Awesome. And you get a pet dog as well?
S: You do get a pet dog! There is a co-op mode to go along with the pet dog as well, so that’s what we’re looking at adding in, unfortunately for Switch, with the limited amount of buttons on each Joy-Con, it’s going to end up being that you’ll need two sets of Joy-Cons or a Pro Controller.
A: Gotcha. So what does Monty bring to the gameplay?
S: Monty starts out as, you know, a generic dog. He’s a hell-hound, so he can spit fireballs and shoot, bite and whatnot, but as you start taking out more and more bosses, he can take on alternate forms. There’s a very fungus-y ecological poison version of Monty, and then that changes up how many attacks he can do, AOE and other enemy attacks that damage over time, or it can swap between forms at a whim.
A: That’s really cool! And we saw as well that there’s a graphic novel coming out for it?
S: Yes, so we actually did a limited release comic series, it’ll build up to Obey Me coming out, and we’ve got six issues out now already, so that’s for sale on the Dynamite Comics website and on our website. But yeah, it’s actually at LA Comic-con right now, same time over in LA and showing it off there as well.
A: Awesome. That’s really cool. And does the comic book story follow in tandem with the gameplay?
S: It’s sort of like a prequel, so it’s building up the story and fleshing out these characters a bit so you can understand who they are, why they’re unique and their place within this world.
A: So you’d recommend reading the comic before going into the game?
S: I’d definitely recommend reading it but it’s certainly not required. You’re not going to have assumed knowledge going into it, but it really makes the world feel real and you get a sense of these characters.
A: Fantastic! So how does co-op work? Is one person controlling Monty and the other person controlling the main character?
S: Yeah, so one person’s controlling Monty, and the other’s controlling Vanessa, the main character. From there, it’s a shared screen, so you’re not doing any split-screen, you’re not fighting over screen real estate, and again, you’ll be able to do it in all game modes, but obviously if you’re playing it in tabletop–
A: It’s a bit difficult.
S: It’s a bit difficult, yeah. We recommend TV mode for that.
A: So does the camera follow Vanessa?
S: Yes, so Vanessa is the main character, the camera’s gonna follow her. We haven’t played around too much with messing with that system yet, but I’m sure our QA team’s gonna break that plenty of times and have the camera following Monty before too long.
A: Of course. And there’s also fusion mode that fuses them together, can you tell us more about that?
S: Yes, so as you get further into the game, Vanessa and Monty can fuse together and it’s very strategic, so you can regenerate health or deal almost double damage. The boss fights are very larger-than-life, and they can wipe off large chunks of HP very quickly, so choosing when you want to use that mode is important.
A: And it’s a limited mode as well, you can only use it for a certain amount of time.
A: So how does that work with co-op?
S: That’s a good question.
S: That’s a really good question. I’ll address that next year.
A: Fair enough [laughs], It’s all good! So what engine is Obey Me made in?
S: It’s made in Unity, so it’s very easy to use; we’re primarily developers as well, we’ve got a great team that knows everything about it, and we’re just working with the developer as the publisher, fleshing out some of the design choices and trying to optimise it to the best we can to cater to Switch.
A: And, I did have this question down initially but: Can you tell us about Vanessa’s backstory, or would you recommend reading that in the comic book?
S: I would definitely say read the comic, but some basic backstory for her: She’s basically a demon-soul huntress. She’s been in the employ of a higher demon, and she’s one of the only people who can do this fusion, so she’s got a secret power no one quite understands yet.
A: Oh, neat! So is there any Switch-exclusive features, like HD Rumble or such on the port?
S: Again, next year we’ll be looking at HD Rumble for — I feel like I’m giving the same answer as before–
A: [Laughs] No, that’s all good.
S: We’re trying to nut out co-op mode and make sure it plays fine, I mean, you do get two controls with the Switch, it just doesn’t look like it’s gonna work with single Joy-Con gameplay, so getting something that feels right, and you know, isn’t preventing other players from missing out on that is gonna be key.
A: Absolutely. And were there any challenges in development for this one?
S: Ah, yeah. Funny, the team’s been great to deal with, obviously they have a clear vision of what they want, and they’re great sound designers as well. Understanding Soundmax Systems which is using FMOD which we’re not primarily as skilled with. Understanding that and just trying to get a sense of, you know, ‘Hey, it does it this way instead of that way’, and figuring that out is always fun.
A: And when can we expect to play this one on Switch?
S: We’re looking at Q1 next year, so same timeframe. We’ve got a range of games coming out then, anywhere between January to March
A: Awesome! And is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers, and where we can find Obey Me?
A: Awesome, thank you so much for that, Sam, really appreciate you taking the time out to chat with us.
S: Awesome, thank you.
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- Belinda Cubitt