Ireland has a tremendous pool of talent and resources available to those who wish to succeed and while headlines in papers might harbour nothing but words of doom and gloom, this initiative aims to restore your faith in what we can achieve as individuals, what we can achieve collectively and we can achieve through perseverance. Welcome to The Gaming Liberty’s “We Are” initiative…
Our “We Are” initiative kicks off with Irish indie dev BatCat games. Hot off the release of their first title, we had the chance to sit down with the team to get the low-down on the production of “P-3″, what it’s like to work in the Irish gaming scene and just what, if you’re interested, the team at BatCat Games think you might need if you wanted to join the industry.
The Gaming Liberty: Can you tell us a little about BatCat games?
BatCat Games: Sure. BatCat Games is made up of three ridiculously talented, smart, and hard working people who…what’s that? You wanted the truth? Oh, well if I have to! We are Andrea Magnorsky (ridiculously talented, smart and hard working programmer), Sean McDermott (exploder of eyes), and Andrew O’Connor (other programmer turned boring business person). We only started promoting ourselves as BatCat Games near the end of December last year, just before we published our first game, P-3 on the Xbox LIVE Indie Games marketplace. We’re based in Dublin.
TGL: Did you find it difficult to establish a studio in Ireland? What do you think are the pros and cons about setting up a games development studio in Ireland?
BC G: We’ll let you know when we’re actually established! We only really started making a noise in January just gone, when we published our first game, so I guess we’re not very well known yet, but we’re getting there. I think the obvious pro’s of setting up in Ireland nowadays are the very low corporation tax (look at me, using business talk like one of those business folk!), the awesomely supportive community that’s springing up here, and the fact that games development in this country is on the verge of being recognised for the first time as an industry that can promote economic growth. There’s also a really cool buzz around tech startups these days, with events being held every month, and loads of funding around. We just need to convince someone to give us some of it. :]
TGL: Your first title “P-3″ released on the Xbox Live Indie Games Marketplace January 4th of this year. Could you tell us a little about it, and how did it feel to finally release it?
BC G: P-3 is a twin-stick arena shooter set inside a petri-dish. You play a nano-ship pilot, and your job is to protect an entity growing at the center of the dish from bateria that will try and kill it. It has a twist on most shooters in this genre in that you’re not just looking out for yourself, but also for this other defenseless (for the most part) entity. In a way, releasing it was strangely anti-climatic. This was something we’d sunk pretty much all of our free time into for a solid year, and the last few weeks of it were a struggle, and then suddenly it was done, and we were a little bit like “Great. Now what?”. At the same time, the sense of relief was enormous. There’s always a thought in the back of your head that you’ll just never finish the thing, so finally pressing the publish button was a load off. And of course there was a little bit of pride :] Having a game out there that people are actually buying makes you instantly so much more interesting to so many more people. Not that we weren’t interesting before of course :]
TGL: “P-3″ offers a fairly extensive story for an arcade title. Do you feel an engaging story is important for indie/arcade titles?
BC G: For games in this genre, no, we don’t think a story is particularly important. It probably helps a little by giving the player a sense of what to expect, but it should mostly get out of the way once you get into the game. Where the story is more important is with the press release and just talking to people. A little bit of back story can go a long way to piquing someone’s interest. Having said that, our next two planned games are arcade titles too, but in their case, the success or failure of the game will hinge a lot on how well we can tell a story. We’re going for strongly narrative-driven, sculpted gameplay experiences, because that’s something we feel is missing in a lot of games these days.
TGL: There’s obviously a wealth of tools and programs available to aspiring developers these days – some of which are freely available online. Can you run us through a typical development day, and what programs, technology and methods you used during the development of “P-3″?
BC G: Cool. I love these questions. Prepare for some inner nerd! XNA is our development framework of choice. It gives us a nice balance between development productivity and low-level access to the hardware. We write all of our own engine code, because honestly, myself and Andrea are both programming nuts, and that’s the most satisfying part of writing games code :] We’re both Windows devs, so Visual Studio with Resharper is our IDE. Sean’s forte is making 3D graphics, for which he uses 3DS Max. All of the sprites in P-3 were pre-rendered 3D, which gave it a nice 3D look with none of the programming cost. He’s also an After Effects expert, and uses Photoshop just about every day.
TGL: Do you have any advice for those that want to be part of the gaming industry?
BC G: From my perspective as a developer, the two most important things you can do is to a) hone your programming skills, and b) release a game. You can really increase your own skills by writing loads of code and by looking at code others have written. There is a huge amount of free code out there - some of it from AAA games studios. Go out and download the Quake 3 and Doom 3 source code for example and get stuck in. There’s an enormous amount to be learned from these code bases, and even though they’re getting older, lots of techniques in there are completely relevant today. The second point, release a game, is even more important. Making games has never been easier, and while that doesn’t mean that it’s exactly easy, you only have yourself to blame (unless you have no hands of course. That’s probably not your fault) if you don’t put together something resembling a game and put it out there. There are some completely free distribution channels on the PC for selling over, IndieCity, Desura, or IndieVania to name a few. You could even try and get on Steam. Why are you even still reading this? Stop listening to me (also good advice) and go and make something.
TGL: Can you tell us about what’s next for BatCat games?
BC G: Oh, big things:) First there’s breakfast, and then right after that, we’ll be porting P-3 to the desktop so that we can push it over some of the channels mentioned above. The Xbox LIVE Indie Games marketplace isn’t available in Ireland (thanks Microsoft!) and it’s a pain in the curtain rings not being able to show the game to people here, except through videos. It’s got a good conversion rate on the Xbox, so we’re hoping for the same on the PC. We’ve also started working on our second title, a samurai based side-scrolling beat ‘em up, but much more interesting than I just made it sound :] That should be coming to all platforms (ALL of them! probably) around about July this year.
You can reach BatCat Games through the following links: