Escapist Editorials

Escapist Editorials
Blood of the Werewolf Is Truly A Labor of Love

Joshua Vanderwall | 20 Jun 2014 14:30
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Sales figures are often hard to come by, but McClure couldn't have been prouder of BotW's Steam launch. "Publishing politics aside, I consider the PC launch to be a huge success. 55,000 units from a no-name studio with no development or marketing budget," he said, "Especially when 30,000 of them have happened within the last month!" With the Xbox 360 release so recent, there's no data available for that yet, and he didn't care to speculate, but was eager to share that "The best news is we still have three more consoles coming out this summer. " PS3 is coming next, with Vita and Wii U versions planned later. Publishing a platformer on a Nintendo console is something of a dream for many members of the team, who, like me, grew up playing Mario, Ghouls 'n Ghosts, and many more on NES and SNES.

Developing a game independently means very little budget, tight deadlines, and little room for error. There are myriad challenges along the way, and I wanted to know what was the most serious challenge faced by McClure and the team on the road to BotW. "The hardest part for me was keeping the team together while trying to deliver a true to its messaging title," McClure explained, "These guys and gals dedicated so much to try to deliver and sometimes the realities of independent development can be just too tough. We had some very difficult times during this project." I asked for some elaboration, and he rattled off the anecdote of how the studio ended up in Michigan on the promise of tax incentives, only to have the rug pulled out from underneath them, resulting in a three-year legal battle with the state. That's three years spent dealing with bureaucracy, rather than developing and shipping games that would pay the bills. With so much invested in legal fees, the studio picked up whatever side work it could to keep the lights on, and allow the continued development of its pet project in BotW.

It's not all hardship, though, and there are some very gratifying moments in independent development, too. "The look on our developer faces (especially a couple that has never shipped a title before) when they saw our game on the front page of Xbox home for the first time," he listed off, adding also "Watching my 8 year old blast through the crushers on the second level while we laugh our butts off watching people rage quit the same spot on Twitch." So, he's admittedly a bit of a griefer, but you have to be to want to make this kind of game.

I had a few questions about BotW 2.0 as well, specifically the procedurally generated Endless Challenge. For starters, what exactly does "procedurally generated" mean here? "The art is pre-made, the monsters, obstacles, and all of their behaviors are pre-made," he said, "The generated element comes when you play it. We have a few rule sets for difficulty, so you don't get some incredibly difficult rooms until you can conquer the less difficult ones." He further explained that there are basically three columns, rooms, obstacles, and enemies. Each room has a number of variations, offering thousands of different combinations, and the obstacles and enemies are randomly situated in each room as it's generated during your play session.

As the creators of the game, it's no surprise that the team has some of the best scores, but I was seriously impressed to learn that the team average for Endless Challenge is around 50 rooms complete (for reference, my fifth run I got to 20). The best of the best there? They can do upwards of 140 rooms in a single run, which is completely unfathomable to me.

As a bit of fun, I asked what the major influence was for BotW and was not at all surprised by the response. He listed off several of my favorite classics from Mega Man to Castlevania to Ghouls 'n Ghosts, influences from each I found to be evident in the BotW release. If you're into classic action platformers, indie titles, or just a sucker for punishment, check out my review of Blood of the Werewolf on Xbox 360.

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