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The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Battle Group


Indie developers are the starving artists of the video-game world, often brilliant and innovative, but also misunderstood, underfunded and more prone to writing free-form poetry on their LiveJournals. We at Joystiq believe no one deserves to starve, and many indie developers are entitled to a fridge full of tasty, fulfilling media coverage, right here. This week, Alistair Doulin of Bane Games talks tactical missions, platform-specific gameplay and the Australian development scene with Battle Group.

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

Battle Group is a tactical/action modern Navy game for iOS, Android, PC and Mac. Players command multiple warships drawn from the navies of the world and lead them into seaborne combat viewed from a top-down perspective. Simple tap and click mechanics make the game easy to jump into and a range of weapon types, new ship unlocks and a special ability system earned through experience points add depth to the experience.

A pirate corporation has formed, attacking the trade routes of the world and the player must fight off this threat using the combined might of the Allied Nations.

There are Navy veterans on the Bane Games team -- how did that happen, and how does it impact your development process?

As I mentioned earlier, the game itself grew out of the experiences of our two Navy veteran team members. They had deployments in real-world war zones and thought it would translate well into a gaming experience. Of course they didn't exactly see Iowa Class Battleships blow waves of jet fighters out of the sky every day, so you can expect to see some exaggerated, but nevertheless fun, gameplay in Battle Group.

What's the coolest aspect of Battle Group?

The pure satisfaction of unleashing devastating destruction through an intuitive control system. We wanted anyone to be able to pick the game up and start wreaking havoc instantly, no matter what device they were playing on, or their experience level. We also wanted to add more tactical depth as the player progresses through the campaign and so we spent a long time refining the controls for secondary weapons.

We also thought the main protagonist's personality is humorously reflected in the player's ability to destroy so much. As the story develops we learn that he loves his job maybe a bit too much....

Anything you'd do differently?

The biggest change we would have made is adding multiplayer in earlier. We're working on it now as part of an update to the game and it's an absolute blast to play with friends. We simply ran out of time to ship with it in version one but had we known how much fun it is we would have pushed its priority up and made sure we released with it.

Do you want to develop for other platforms eventually?

We targeted all of the major platforms we could develop for with minimal cost. We would love to see the game on future platforms like PS Vita and even the Wii, as the simple gameplay is perfect for these devices. One of our overriding goals, however, is to match the game with the input methods of the chosen platform.

With Battle Group, we designed for both touch/mouse input methods from the ground up and would only port to a controller-based platform if it were as intuitive and fun as this. We believe using methods such as Virtual D-pads or otherwise not taking full advantage of each platform's input system has been the bane of some of the newer devices, such as touchscreen smart phones.

Is Australia in the middle of an indie revolution, and is Bane Games a part of that?

Absolutely! With many companies closing down and releasing some very talented professionals onto a market where digital distribution allows cheap and easy international penetration, there is a perfect storm for a rampant indie revolution. The fact we live halfway around the world from some of the larger gaming communities is no longer an issue for us with the communication and distribution options available.

Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?

We've all worked for larger established companies in the past that included some pretty big internationally recognised studios. However, we all had a yearning to have full creative control on the games we worked on. Additionally this has been a practical decision as over the past few years nearly all of the major game companies within Australia have shut down.

Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?

We are very active in the larger indie movement and are always sharing our experiences and helping out other indie teams in Brisbane. So many of our friends have found themselves without a job in the past couple of years and we've been strong in recommending they try their hand at independent development.

What inspired you to make Battle Group?
We took these two inspirations and created the type of game we thought would fill a gap in a market dominated by birds and zombies.

The game itself has two sources of inspiration. The first was to recreate the fun gameplay of classic arcade games such as Missile Command and 1942. We also wanted to add something to this strong base and bring it into the current generation. We achieved this through an unlock system that provides players a real choice in the way they progress through the missions and through a professionally presented story arc that tied the individual components together.

The second inspiration came from the real-world military careers of our team members and their motivation to relay some of their experiences via a fun game. Two of our team served together in the Royal Australian Navy and our audio engineer is currently serving in the Australia Army Reserves. While gameplay took precedence over realism, we were still able to inject elements into the game that give it added authenticity.

We took these two inspirations and created the type of game we thought would fill a gap in a market dominated by birds and zombies.

Sell your game in one sentence:

Construct your fleet, arm your weapons and launch into explosive tactical/action modern naval warfare as you engage sea-, air- and land-based opponents in seaborne battle to determine the fate of the free world.

What's next?

We're currently working on updates to Battle Group that involve new missions, ships, enemies and multiplayer support; some of which originated with community suggestions. Additionally, we're considering new game ideas and we're going to begin developing our next project in the coming months. We have a bunch of prototypes we've been showing to friends to decide which game we should invest the next few months of our lives in.

Battle Group is available now for Android, iOS and PC download!

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

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