Interview With Keith Curtis of Kc8 Studios

Tell us a little about Kc8 Studios. Is this a one-man show for the most part, or has Kc8 carried a stable team throughout its projects? Were you working in the videogame industry before founding your studio?

Kc8 was formed in late 2009, and it is a one-man show per se. I have a selection of artists who work for me on a freelance basis, but all the ideas and coding are put together by me.

Before Kc8, I had always been involved in computers but never in the game industry. It was always a dream of mine as a child to create games, so when Kc8 was launched, a dream became reality!

And now that you’ve achieved that dream, in what ways has the reality of being a game developer been different from what you always envisioned?

To be honest, it’s totally different from what I expected. When you have these dreams as a child, you don’t realize what is involved. You totally love playing games and it’s all you want to do. Once you become a game dev, you have no time whatsoever to actually play games and you lose your social time. You become so involved with the game development, it’s hard to see the outside — like you’re so in the zone with it, you become fixated, it’s your baby and it becomes all you think about. The truth of creating games is that it’s a lot of hard work: be prepared to hardly sleep, be prepared to lose all social activities and if you have a partner, then they’ll need to have the patience of a saint as they won’t be getting much attention.

It looks like most of your projects share a strong theme of offering several gameplay modes at once. What’s the rationale behind this? And in terms of game design, what are the extra pressures and advantages that come with this strategy?

It’s all about trying to offer diversity and value for the consumer’s money. I want them to play my game and not switch it off after five minutes. In today’s gaming culture, if something doesn’t grip players right away they’ll turn it off and never play again. I remember in my day, games were hard and punishing! I could spend hours of frustration trying to figure out what to do, where to go, or simply just do something I couldn’t do. There were no hints, there were no walkthroughs, you just did it. I miss that, but that’s not how it is now. With mobile games averaging $0.99, if it’s too hard and the user can’t do it almost immediately, there’s a tendency to just move on to the next one. It’s such a fine line now. By giving the user extra gameplay modes, it gives them incentives to keep at your game to get to the next part. It can also stop them from getting bored by just doing the same thing over and over; I believe you need to keep introducing new elements to keep it exciting for the user.

Would you say Star Serum is your most ambitious project yet? Are you using the same game engine and other tools you used to build Kc8’s previous releases, or have you learned some new tricks along the way?

Oh, for sure, it’s been in the making for about 18 months or so now. It’s been a massive project to undertake single-handedly!

It sure is built on the same engine. I use GameSalad, which I’ve found to be an incredibly powerful tool. It’s partly thanks to this that I have been able to fulfill my dream. I’m constantly learning though; you should always be pushing to learn something new, whether it be in design choice, technically with code, or just opening your mind to new inspiration.

What inspired the sci-fi/fantasy setting this time around, and what is the “Star Serum” exactly?

Believe it or not, I was never that into the whole sci-fi/fantasy scene as a child. It’s something that didn’t start intriguing me until my late teens. Over the last 10 years I’ve certainly found myself more immersed in this whole genre.

The idea for Star Serum came while having a few beers with a friend. We were chatting about future projects to embark on. He’s always been a massive geek and really into his sci-fi; he drew a lot of pictures of sci-fi related things and has started writing his own book. We came up with this idea and sketched a few things out, and I decided it’d be an awesome thing to turn into a game. Eighteen months on, here we are!

The Star Serum itself is a potion. It has tremendous healing abilities when used correctly as intended. However, as with most good in the world, there’s someone/something trying to abuse this… In the wrong hands, it can lead to immortality.

Who are you working with on the art and audio side this time around? It looks like Kc8’s really moving up the presentational ladder with Star Serum.

I’m working with two amazing artists on this project that I’ve worked with before. Basil Murad does the comic-style story scenes and Tom Klovholt designs the gameplay elements. Audio has been a mixture of stock audio and a talented composer – Ryan Green – who I met online.

Due to the nature of this project, it had to be ramped up on the presentation side of things. It’s not a cute game with those adorable vector graphics aimed at wider audiences that monopolize the App Store charts.

Seeing as Star Serum’s hero spends most of the game essentially in combat rehab, do you view this as the launching pad for a wider franchise where you can explore the backstory further, provided it’s successful enough?

Most definitely. The story for this is so much more complex and vast than what’s covered in this first telling. As with most sci-fi, it’s hard to condense everything and not overload the consumer with too much info.

The story has now been set here, but there’s definitely untold parts prior to and after the events that occur in this one. Here’s hoping for a good market reception!

Big thanks to Keith at Kc8 for taking some time out to chat with us as he wraps up work on Star Serum. No final word on a release date yet, but expect it to hit the App Store sooner rather than later. Don’t forget to check out our hands-on preview, and here’s Kc8’s website, Twitter feed and Facebook page again for good measure.