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The Joystiq Indie Pitch: BOH

Justin McElroy

Being a giant, beloved video game site has its downsides. For example, we sometimes neglect to give independent developers our coverage love (or loverage, if you will) as we get caught up in AAA, AAAA or the rare quintuple-A titles. To remedy that, we're giving indies the chance to create their own loverage and sell you, the fans, on their studios and products. This week we talk with Simone Bevilacqua, creator of BOH, about his game and why he'll always love his Amiga.

How did you or your company get started?

I run no company: I'm just an old-fashioned bedroom coder. When it comes to games, I've been a bedroom coder for my whole life.

The machine that had to chew my first inexpert lines of code was a C64, which I stuck to for years both because I loved it and because I lived in small town where I was totally isolated; ignorant of how the world of computers was growing -- just think that when my first C64 died, instead of getting another one (as I did), I could have passed to the Amiga 500, but I didn't consider that possibility because I didn't even know that the Amiga existed! Several years had to pass before my second C64 was replaced by another machine, which I instantaneously fell in love with: an Amiga 1200.

That machine got tortured by my crazy coding sessions more than the C64 ever did, especially during my university days (after the high school, studying Computer Science was a natural choice, although it turned out that those studies didn't really interest me). In 2004 the Amiga 1200 was finally given some breath, as I jumped to AmigaOS 4, which ran (and runs) on machines that are basically ordinary PCs. That system is exactly the one I'm writing this on.

Why did you want to make games?

Creativity. Seeing a C64 in action when I was six years old not only impressed me with the beauty of those coloured objects moving across the screen, but also -- even if I wasn't aware of this back then -- revealed to me the existence of a powerful means of expression. In fact, two years later, when I got my own C64, I immediately felt the desire of creating something with it (of course, since I'm no genius, it took a while before I got something meaningful done).

What's your game called, and what's it about?

My game is called BOH. It's an Italian interjection that means "I don't know" -- so, it's just cool to answer the same question when asked from a fellow Italian! The (rather long) story goes like this ...

In 2007 I started working on an idea that had been lingering my mind for a few years. The idea was exactly the 2D, tile-based, 360-degree-rotating, dynamically-illuminated, field of vision-relative graphical engine which is now at the core of the game. At the beginning, however, I didn't really know how that basic concept would develop and, after all, the engine itself was hard to define with a reasonably short name, so the folder I created for the first files was named "BOH" (and you can see why).

Indeed, I intended to choose a proper name when the project would get a more definite shape, but it certainly wasn't a priority. When, at some point, I felt it was about time, the game -- the project had developed into a game by then -- already featured the themes (sets of data that redefine each and every audiovisual aspect -- I didn't call them "skins" because such term refers to just the graphics, whereas themes also affect music and sound effects), which made the game's identity mutable: that gave "BOH" one more meaning which, together with the fact that I liked the funny side mentioned earlier and the fact that "BOH" lends itself to be seen as an acronym people -- if they so wish -- can have fun interpreting (a few actually tried), convinced me to stick to such weird name.

"When I got my own C64, I immediately felt the desire to create something with it." -- Simone Bevilacqua

As for what the game is about: it is mostly an exploration/puzzle game. At first it might be exchanged for a top-down shooter, but that's absolutely wrong! The dumbest thing one can do when playing BOH is focusing on extermination of enemies: that will lead nowhere, because enemies are infinite (as is your ammo, of course) and because the longer one stays in one place, the more enemies arrive! Instead, what the player must focus on is exploring the mazes missions take place in to find power-ups, keys and devices necessary to proceed, etc. That all happens while passing, in a deeply claustrophobic atmosphere, the skill challenges posed by traps, obstacles and, of course, the haunting presence of enemies. In a nutshell, the game is about involving the player through a nerve-wracking, multifaceted and highly rewarding experience (in retro flavour!).

Do you feel like you're making the game you always wanted to play?

Absolutely, even if, as in BOH's case, sometimes the initial spark is different.

How long did it take you to create?

The original release and the following 14 free updates took me about three years in all. Even if I do know the precise day the project started, I can't tell exactly because I've also worked on the side aspects like the documentation (which includes a developer's manual for who wants to create his/her own missions and themes), the website, the physical package, the commercialisation, etc., not to mention that, in the meanwhile, I've also created an arcade game called KOG and a platformer for the C64 called QUOD INIT EXIT (both are freeware).

What one thing would you tell someone to convince them to get your game?

The obvious answer would be its uniqueness, but uniqueness alone isn't sufficient: a game should deliver fun through challenge and involvement. And BOH does that.

What's next?

BOH aside, on the last day of 2010 I started working on an arcade game called "Huenison" (you can find the devlog here and a 2-part preview video on YouTube here and here), although lately development stopped because I fell in a spiral of nostalgia as I reworked a few old projects (the last of which let me feel again the pleasure of hitting directly the hardware of classic Amigas using only assembly). I do intend to resume the development, but one never knows what life will bring, so I'm making no promises ...

Want to check out BOH for yourself? You can find the official site right here.

If you'd like to have your own shot at converting our readers into fans, email justin aat joystiq dawt com, subject line "The Joystiq Indie Pitch." Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.

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