At the time as when I scouted Astral Ascent on Kickstarter, I also came across yet another French indie title made in a somewhat similar vein, but with a completely different, yet just as exciting, premise. Blu, under development at MyOwnGames based in Paris, is a Metroidvania centering around the titular ninja character set in a world reminiscent of Feudal Japan, but with a lot of twists in terms of conceptual design. Influenced by the likes of Super Smash Bros, The Legend of Zelda, and the modern indie classic Dead Cells, it perpetuates many of the same awesome qualities associated with any classic Metroidvania game; exploration, intense combat, and epic boss fights. It also features a particularly catchy soundtrack composed by award-winning German composer Lukas Piel. Again, wanting to know even more about this compelling-looking Metroidvania, I contacted the game’s lead programmer Damian Robinett to see where the project is in it#s current state, when players can expect to see the finished product, and to learn more about the game’s upcoming Kickstarter campaign, due to begin on April 6th:
Here’s what Damian Robinett had to say about Blu:
What were the influences behind Blu?
Several indie games that have come out in recent years, Dead Cells and Hollow Knight in the lead. But also a lot the manga universe. Naruto for example for certain attacks and designs, or to a lesser extent One Piece where I draw on the richness and diversity of its environments.
What has the developmental process been like?
Although working alone, I try to manage the development of Blu like any midsize organization. It begins with a reflection phase that lasts several months. Followed by a design phase where I design my game (which often looks like a AAA production on paper). An analysis phase where, depending on the resources available, I extract the fundamental concepts from my game design document in order to reduce them and strengthen the consistency. And it is only then that I start the production phase. At this point, I am moving forward a little on all aspects at the same time, on the one hand, to keep the motivation, on the other hand, because it allows keeping the game balanced and to anticipate the problems in advance. I also devote a couple of hours a day to promoting the game and to discussing with my community.
How close are we to seeing the finished product?
The vast majority of the game mechanics have been implemented. Most of the Level design remains to be done, and as in all Metroidvanias, it will take a lot of time, in the end, to balance the game so that all players can enjoy a nice progression curve.
What has been the most exciting aspect of development?
Discover and test new things. I love to experiment, and being alone on a project means you have to diversify your activities and gain a lot of experience. Both at a practical level and in the organization of the work. Creating new relationships has also been extraordinary, the support in the game developer community is truly amazing, with great empathy and support.
What has been the most challenging aspect of development?
Combat mechanics. Starting from nothing, it’s very quick to get something playable, and you progress quickly. But when you have to streamline the gameplay in order to get something really satisfying for the player, it quickly becomes hundreds of hours of testing and tuning to get the character to behave perfectly as the player expects. A good feeling of combat results from the meeting of all the components of a game: animations, visuals/sound effects, physics, code … It’s very hard to obtain.
How well has the game been received so far?
Very good. The community of players is extremely benevolent and knows how to judge a game according to its maturity. When I see the enthusiasm that Blu causes I am often afraid to disappoint the players, but although often bugged, the different releases always more or less look like what players expect.
How instrumental has fan feedback been across platforms like Discord and Twitter been in shaping the development of the game?
A lot! My community shapes the game in its own way. I take into account all user feedback. I can count on talented game devs, as well as seasoned users who see the game with a fresher eye than mine. All the people who come to give feedback do so in a constructive way. And as is often done in public chats, it allows you to quickly gauge the interest in a new feature. When the change is quick, I often try to make it within the hour rather than writing it down.
What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?
My goal is to make a simultaneous release on PC, Nintendo Switch, and PS4 before the end of 2022. The console version may be postponed to the first semester of 2023 depending on the scope of the work to be done to port the game. An Alpha, Beta, and several test builds will be released before that.
How has having Lukas Piel on board with the project helped to bring the game to life so far?
Lukas brings poetry to the game that I hadn’t envisioned when I first started developing Blu. He weaves a musical universe over the levels that turns a fighting game into a heroic adventure. If there’s one thing I’m sure it’s that the soundtrack will be magnificent. Working with him is a pleasure, I hope I can count on him for all my productions in the future.
Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that has since been scrapped or reworked?
Verry much! I write down all the ideas that come to mind. Half go by the wayside after a second reading. The second phase is longer, I let it ripen for a while to determine if these ideas really bring something coherent to my game. When you’re a developer, you often tend to program certain features because you CAN do it. But most of the time, the player doesn’t even notice it’s details. You have to know how to bring a little magic, but time is our enemy and you have to know how to do it with relevance.
Then the third phase will come, the one where I will no longer have time to do everything that I have stacked in my to-do list and that it will be necessary to reorganize in order of priority what it is imperative to include in the game and what is optional. We always keep them in a corner for later but even after the release the list of tasks often grows longer.
Will there be many stretch goals for the Kickstarter campaign when it’s launched?
Yes, it will mainly be stretch goals aimed at lengthening the playing time with new modes and offering exclusive in-game content to my backers. At each level, the game will also be translated into new languages. I decided to focus my stretch goals and rewards on the game itself and not to diversify into derivative products.
Since Blu is heavily influenced by Smash, how exhilarating would it be to see Blu join the roster? What would her final smash move be?
I will quickly imagine that this is not reality and would definitely go crazy if it really was. But I guess it would be like having a part of myself fighting in the arena. I have spent more time with Blu than with any human being for the past two years and I regard her as my own daughter. I don’t think she would match the big names of Nintendo, but for her final attack, I would say a heavy diving attack, Ganondorf-like. She’s a ninja, but she’s not in the delicacy.
If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?
We have some really cool development studios in France so I will probably stay here. I would say Motion Twin for its cooperative legal form, which encourages developers to believe in and get involved in the projects they develop.
Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?
Don’t go for it with your head down. You could miss beautiful things. If you are working on a title that is close to your heart, take your time to lay your project down, learn about best practices. Don’t take the easy road, experiment with new things, learn XP before finishing your quests, make friends on Twitter, make a Game Jam with them and meet them in real life if you can. Promotion is hard at first until the day you don’t call it “Promo” anymore, but just a productive break you enjoy. And persevere. Over time, it always pays off.
Where on the Internet can people find you?
Mainly on Twitter and Discord. I work alone at home so I often go there to chat a little:
Twitter – @blu_vs
Do you have anything else to add?
Yes, there are some friends of mine from Angouleme who are currently live on Kickstarter with their project Astral Ascent, and you should also take a look at it!
Indeed, if anyone is interested in checking out Astral Ascent, you can do so via their own Kickstarter page; a link to which can be found in my recent Q&A with the lead programmer at Hibernian Workshop Louis Denizet:
But for now, I’d like to thank Damian for sharing what information he could about Blu and to wish him the best of luck with the Kickstarter campaign launching April 6th. Blu, like most Metroidvanias released throughout the eighth generation, looks like a particularly engrossing and addictive game, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it when it’s finally released. In the meantime, I hope you guys check out Damian’s Kickstarter, and that I hope you enjoyed learning more about this awesome-looking game.
Scouse Gamer 88