6 months ago
3 years ago
bitSmith games has a very hard job. The challenge isn’t just making a deep action adventure game inspired by SNES era games. How do you make the game you want to make… but for iPad? How do you make sword combat, puzzle solving and exploration using very limited input options? Furthermore, how do you react to making one of the most highly anticipated games in the Irish Game Development scene?
Well, they managed just fine, as it happens.
Kú: Shroud of the Morrigan is the first in a series of iPad games (ported to various other platforms) by bitSmith games, an Irish Indie-Game company based in Dublin. Based on the myth of Cuchullain, you control the lead character Kú as you explore through a vast world all based on Irish mythology. There are places to explore, people to talk to, enemies to defeat and puzzles to solve throughout your journey.
The story starts off pretty normal, you must save the village and so you venture forth on a massive quest, armed only with a telekinetic glove and a sword. The characters in the village and throughout the game are varied in both design and personality. Most of the actual characters themselves serve very little purpose other than to actually set the mood. The narrative is delivered in text format, which for all intents and purposes is fine, though I did find myself skipping a lot of it seeing as I knew it wouldn’t impact my gameplay that much.
Now the story itself might be quite tame, but it’s clear that the world bitSmith are trying to create has been well thought out and designed. From the ogham stones laid throughout the land that tell the story of a past expedition, to the different types of areas and dungeons you’ll encounter, there’s a lot of love put into this game.
That segways nicely into what I consider the main draw of Kú. The style and aesthetic. I tremble to ponder how many art assets are in this game. Basil Lim has created his own unique art style that is consistent through the entire game, never venturing outside the established design and giving a sense of familiarity. The world is gorgeous, filled to the brim with interesting little quirks that aren’t necessary in the broad spectrum of the game, but add so much to the atmosphere of the game. The enemies look like none I’ve ever seen, some of the Bosses in particular made me think how he went about and animated it all. Once you step back and remember that 1 man did all this, then you begin to go “Whoa… what the fuck am I doing with my life?” If I had one complaint on the art style it’s that the Human designs didn’t really feel right to me, especially when compared to Kú himself, who looks really good in comparison. It did make me giggle to see a certain Irish Game Developer’s in-game counterpart mind.
Now, you have to bear in mind that Kú is played on an iPad (or in my case using only the mouse). You have a very limited amount of input, and this is seen all the way through the game. I felt the game bitSmith were trying to make was being held back by this control scheme personally. That being said, you have to give the designers credit for making it work. Walking, Rolling, Combat, it all works, though can be glitchy at times. Could they have gotten more depth out of the combat system and maybe freed up time for other aspects of the design? Maybe, but let it never be said that you can’t do Action Adventure on touch screen.
I think that me personally as a player held back a bit of my enjoyment of this game. Some of my favourite games are Zelda and Secret of Mana, so when playing this game I was expecting an experience similar to it. While it delivers in some aspects, in others it does not. And maybe that’s good, Kú doesn’t need to “be” these games after all. I can tell the designers at bitSmith have a deep appreciation for Game Design, and this is what leads me to believe that they are being held back by the platform, or even the tools they use. Levels are often very barren gameplay wise, not having many secrets or things to do other than find the next enemy. Puzzles are few and far between, often not being very difficult or just being plain frustrating.
But enough about what I felt was lacking, it is very clear that they spent a lot of time on the combat mechanics. The enemies are very well designed, prompting the player to read and anticipate movements and attacks, so you can counterattack. At the beginning of the game you’ll find just tapping on an enemy will kill it, but later you’ll need to dodge and stun enemies to get anywhere. I only died twice in the game, so while it’s not overly challenging, being careless will get you killed.
The sound design was hit and miss for me. A lot of the sound effects and musical queues felt well placed and appropriate, other felt out of the blue and inconsistent. In particular Kú’s shouts and grunts seemed to be done by different voice actors. Nice jingles and prompts go a long way, and Kú delivers in this respect, but some other effects can be quite annoying and ill-placed. That leads me onto music which honestly disappointed me. Now again, I understand that on an iPad music is not the main concern, but for a game like this, going for an ambient-style soundtrack didn’t feel appropriate at all. Going through the wastes with same old minimalist track got boring really fast. Maybe I’m just trained to expect good music in an Action-adventure game. The final boss music, out of all the tracks, was pretty awesome . In fact that whole final boss segment was probably the best part of the game, and showed every shining example the game does right.
Kú isn’t perfect, but it has charm and heart. What it lacks in refinement it makes up for in creativity and design. As an Irish Game Development student myself, who happens to love Action-Adventure games, this is now my biggest inspiration. This is only the beginning for bitSmith games, and I hope to see Kú evolve over time.
+ Great world, mythology, narrative and backstory
+ Visually stunning, original and creative
+ Tackles the challenge of implementing Action-Adventure controls on touch-screen admirably.
+ Great combat, enemy and boss design.
+ One of the best translations of Irish Mythology in a game so far
- Level Design is a bit lacking, puzzles uninteresting
- Mediocre Soundtrack and SFX
Help Kú by voting for it on Steam GreenLight!!!
Kú is currently available on iTunes and a Windows version is coming very soon
4 years ago
We regret to announce a few things.
First off we have pulled out of the Irish Indie Bundle.
Second of all we are scaling back the game to an even smaller level.
This is the culmination of weeks of unnecessary pressure and a struggle in communication. I myself had a panic attack a few days ago about not meeting a deadline, among other things.
We feel that this project has gotten bigger than it should have, and for 4 students barely passed 2nd year, it’s too much. It is for these reasons that Spectrum will be a much, much smaller game when we do release it, for free this time.
I’d like to personally thank all of you who have expressed interest in this project, or who have encouraged and helped us along the way. This was my first game, ever, and to see so many people keen to see what we could do is amazing (and pressuring but that’s a given). So on behalf of all of Prism Games, thank you.
We’re still in development, but it’ll be at our own pace. Currently I can say we’re about 90% done with the version we have at the moment. We’ll let you know when it’s released so ya’ll can play it and tell us how bad it is when it comes out.
All those who’ve helped in the development phase will still be credited, so don’t you fret
4 years ago
"DirectX is taking a while to download, I think I'll blog" I say to myself, 3:27am on the last day of 2012. I've done plenty of blogs, and at this point I can't think of anything "worthwhile" to write, or for any reason other than to keep my supposed writing talents up to date (I'll leave that judgement up to you). So here I resolve to start a "Design Journal" of such. I won't update on a regular schedule (unless by some marvel this become actually well read) and it can't Promise that it will be of any benefit to the user...
Heh, "The User". I'm still stuck in that mindset.
So pray tell, what do I write about? Think I'll just write about what's being going on in my head in terms of Game Design or that world.
For reference, I'm writing to Melody Gardot's album "The Absence".
So, I guess a general introduction is in order. I'm Pádraig and I'm a Young Game Designer. I am studying Game Design & Development at LIT Tipperary in Thurles in my second year. I have fully designed 2 games, 1 of which I was in the process of developing last year and 1 I have kept with me. I am in the process of designing about 5 games, 1 of which with my Game Design partner in crime Harry Porter, which we intend will be our "Magnum Opus" of sorts.
Now, this is the important part. I am designing these games, and have not started developing... Hell I probably won't develop half of these since at least 2 of them are stuck in post-concept messing about. I am studying to develop games aswell (i.e programming, music etc...) but am nowhere near as interested/good at developing as I am designing (Great excuse isn't it). I do maintain the stance that it is important that one is simply not a "Designer", you NEED to have something else to contribute. This is mainly due to the perception that design is easy and that anyone can do it, but it takes real skill for someone to develop games... I can sympathise with this, though I do not agree with the notion that "Game Design is easy".
"Big words for an Internet Lurker there sonny..."
I must sound awful pretentious, after all, I'm only 20 years old and here I am talking about a field of study I have not entered in a professional sense yet. True enough, don't think for a minute I know what I'm talking about. I can only offer my own observations/learning’s.
So, what's been on my mind lately?
I've been adding more and more into my Game Design Bible. This is a big hardback in which I put any good information or try to flesh out concepts. Page 7 contains a Diagram by Jesse Schell on "The Game Design Process", Page 9 is about Mechanics, Dynamics and Aesthetics and the 8 kinds of "Fun", you get the deal. I also try to put my own opinions in here from time to time, however uneducated they may be. I think it's important I make mistakes this early, the last thing I want is to go into a design job and think "I'm going to do a perfect job".
"Me when I make Silent Bomber 2"
Recently I've been trying to flesh out a design I came up with based on a song by Melody Gardot (I've been listening to her a lot lately) and encompassing the feeling you get when skating in Super Mario Galaxy or grinding in Sonic Adventure 2. If you've played the games you know the feeling, it's great, now how do I make a full/good game out of it. The other challenge I'm having is trying to come up with a cohesive narrative in which to fit this game. When I usually look to do this I look at what I've been thinking about the most recently, discard it, and then think of the next thing... but now I'm debating whether putting the themes of a separation of marriage in a game like this would be appropriate.
For that matter, not all games need to have deep meaning, themes or subtext behind them... Simplicity could be the key here, maybe let the gameplay alone tell its story...
Other than that, Global Game Jam 2013 is coming up shortly. I'm hesitant to try and pitch an idea in case the same thing as last year happens, in which I came up with an idea which was kinda awesome and then see it turn into a totally different game that hardly resembled the initial pitch.... then again if there's one place I need more practise in it's in Team Management. Oh yeah, I also need to do some more study on programming as I intend to code this jam, but I know that if I'm not happy with my level of game programming then I won't jeopardise the project... I know the whole point of a jam is to expand your skillset and get better under pressure, but... I dunno... we'll see what happens. Either way I can always contribute music to a game.
How's that for a first entry...? Maybe on an off chance some Game Developer will come across this and keep me in mind in for the future... In the case that this happens, I'll tell you, the guy reading this. Don't hire me unless you're Confident in my programming, or if you are hiring me for a design job be aware that design for me does not end at "Concept". Concepts are cheap, design requires analysis and planning.
To do list: 1 - Fish around and see who's looking to hire interns 2 - Find a way to let cocos2d-x install on your Laptop 3 - Fill Game Design bible more, finish "Level Up!" by Scott Rogers
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