Let’s start out by getting a little background on Bane Games. Under what circumstances did your studio form, and can you tell us about some of the games its members worked on before joining?
Our beginnings were like a phoenix rising from the ashes of the mainstream videogame industry in Australia. Our team members have previously worked on AAA, multimillion dollar PC and console titles with Pandemic, Auran, EA and others. Most of us were unhappy with the way projects (and companies) had been run and wanted the opportunity to start something we believe in and have creative control over. From this, we formed Bane Games and began working on iOS titles in 2010.
Now that Bane’s been around for a while, how is the indie life treating you compared to your previous employment? Have you been able to strike out as full-time developers with Bane, or do you work outside the studio as well?
Indie life is treating us really well at this stage. The creative freedom it allows is the biggest plus, and this is the real reason we all took pay cuts to form our own studio rather than seek work back in mainstream companies. We are passionate about the games we make, and we have grand plans for creating bigger and better games as we continue to grow.
When we started, we all had other jobs outside of Bane. However, with each game we’ve released, we’ve been able to reduce this outside work. We’re looking forward to the day we have our first big hit and are able to get an office and all start working full-time together.
Once you finished Flick Buddies, were you absolutely sure you were going to tackle Battle Group next, or did it win out over a number of competing ideas for the next Bane project?
After Flick Buddies, we began prototyping new game ideas to decide what we should work on next. During this prototyping period, we were approached by Baskin-Robbins in Australia to make a small iOS game for them, Scoop Groups. We made an addictively fun, free little game which was released on the Australian App Store only.
During the development of Scoop Groups, we continued to prototype our game ideas and one of them stood out above the rest: Battle Group. We were all passionate about the idea and it had the greatest chance of success, so much so that we secured some investment from a friend to help fund the game.
It appears you’ve adopted an impressive multiplatform strategy for Battle Group. What’s the greatest challenge you’ve faced in developing for iOS, Mac, PC, and Android simultaneously?
Battle Group is the third game we’ve created using Unity and we have fallen in love with it. One of the biggest advantages to Unity is its multiplatform support. Care and consideration still need to be taken when planning the development, but a lot of the heavy lifting is done for us when it comes to porting the game across differing platforms.
The two biggest challenges we’ve faced have been supporting multiple resolutions elegantly and supporting both mouse and touch input. We took considerable time at the beginning of the project to solve these problems so they wouldn’t become an issue later in development.
Once they get a chance to fire it up on their iDevices, players should find it easy to understand why Battle Group made it to the finals for “Best Audio” at the Freeplay Independent Games Festival. But why did you decide it would be worth going the extra mile in the audio department – certainly the voice acting, plus all the other bells and whistles, must have been a strain on your development budget and made this project relatively risky?
Our audio engineer, Mick Gordon(at left, in Australian Army Reserve uniform!), is an absolute genius. He spends most of his time working on AAA titles like Need for Speed with EA. He’s kind enough to give up some of his valuable time and experience to put together some of the most amazing audio we’ve ever heard. He’s the driving force in a lot of the audio decisions, as we wanted to give him full creative control over the audio side of the project, and it’s turned out amazingly.
The use of a professional actor has really enabled us to tell the Battle Group story in ways that text alone wouldn’t really convey, and for this reason it was a pivotal decision. We think this extra touch will pay off when players are further immersed and invested into the game world, providing even more motivation to shoot their way through the story linked levels.
Tell us about the role that naval personnel played in advising Bane Games on Battle Group. How does an indie game developer go about securing feedback from professionals on military content – was it a matter of just having connections who served in the Navy, or did you end up approaching a veterans’ group or some other official channel?
Well, those personnel are actually part of the team! Our Producer (#1 at right) and designer (#2 at right) are both ex-Navy, and it was largely their experiences that helped establish the foundations of the game. They both had roles operating the radar/sonar equipment on board Royal Australian Navy ships and they quickly saw the potential in producing a fun game from this experience. Of course realism quickly gave way to fun and playability, but we have injected authentic naval references wherever possible.
Additionally, our audio engineer is a member of the Army Reserves, ensuring our explosions and battle sounds are extremely well researched!
How will Battle Group’s Cooperative Multiplayer mode work? Are the multiplayer maps completely different from the campaign maps, and can each player take both a flagship and support ships into a multiplayer session?
We are working hard to get the basic single player experience right and will concentrate on the multiplayer in our first update. We have had a prototype working since the beginning, and it really has a lot of potential for a variety of game modes. At the moment we are looking at cooperative multiplayer for the main campaign, as well as a randomly generated “endless waves” mode.
In multiplayer the game will feature just two flagships, as it becomes too crowded with support ships as well. But that’s not to say we won’t zoom the action out for some more strategic battles with fleets of any size in the future.
What plans do you currently have for updates once Battle Group makes it to the App Store?
As mentioned, the first major update will be the inclusion of multiplayer, which will really take this experience to a level not often seen in this type of game. We are also working on new game modes, extension to the story line, new achievements, new environments (including new environmental hazards), more enemy types and new player controlled ship classes, including submarines! The basic game framework and world we have created really has a lot of potential in the way of expansions, and we plan to repay the player’s investment in our game many times over.
And that’s a wrap! Big thanks to Alistair Doulin, Director of Bane Games, for taking the time out to answer our questions. We can’t wait to sail into the final version of Battle Group, but you can check out our hands-on impressions in the meantime. For the latest news and more behind-the-scenes commentary, be sure to keep checking the game’s Facebook page.