We’re pleased to see that a good four years after Arcade Attack was started there are still quality retro-inspired indie titles coming out. We don’t usually review indie titles but I will say this about Battle Princess Madelyn: it’s as slick a platformer as I’ve seen in recent years. The pixel art is outstanding and the story will keep you hooked. It was a pleasure to catch up with Causal Bit Games’ Chris Obritsch and ask him a few questions about the game and how this all came about…
Chris, we’ve been looking forward to Battle Princess Madelyn a long time, what’s the journey been like getting here?
It’s been a long one to say the least. I started the prototype in my spare time with Maddi – nights and weekends for the first year until I released the video of the prototype on her fifth birthday. Another year of working on it in my spare time until Lina snagged us a business loan and I tossed my savings into it so that we could work on the game full time.
There have been a lot of ups and downs – the entire span of 2016 up until Sofia was born, and we got the loan to go full time on the game was nothing but one kick in the pants after the other (sounds painful – Ed). Development had its equal shares of ups and downs. Issues with a couple of our Kickstarter backers, and I even landed myself in the hospital at one point.
But shoving the negative aside, it’s been an amazing journey for my family and myself. Working with Maddi on the game (when she wants to of course), close friends working together on a project as well and even making new friends along the way.
How have you managed to keep your strength up during development?
HA HA! I have no idea. I started doing late nights back when I was a graphic designer (10-12 years ago I think) and working weekends so I was already kind of used to it. But I unfortunately found my limit working on this game. A short day for me was eight hours, I think the longest was 22-23, I can’t remember if I went past that at all. But on average I did 18 hour days, sometimes on the weekend too.
The last half of this year was the worst, I was doing my job (art/animation, design tweaks, tuning, fixing level layouts and collision issues), bug fixing code, doing all of the publisher duties for getting the game onto the consoles (also part of my job), doing the store art and helping in the play testing – as well on top of anything I needed to do for Kickstarter as well. Almost every day was 20 hours at that point. Bring in doing publishing from another country and I’m also on their clock which is 12 hours ahead of me. So not only were we trying to get our builds out the door but also the Japanese builds on top of it.
But yeah, I drink a lot of coffee. Lina, Maddi and Sofia keep me going with lots of encouragement and hugs! I’ve totally hit my mental limit on this with stress, the lack of sleep has taken its toll. Then there were the usual nasty issues that come up during development like outsourced things missing deadlines or not being done at all, etc – this crap unfortunately took my heart into a not so great state from having people getting me worked up. I’ll be taking it easy in December once the game is out and actually enjoying a Christmas vacation for the first time in four years.
Enjoy your vacation, you deserve it! How would you summarise the game to those who’ve never heard of Battle Princess Madelyn?
It’s an action platformer with adventure elements where you play as a young knight in training, learning to become a better person and saving her family in the process with the help of her ghost doggy Fritzy.
The game is of course inspired by your daughter. How vital has she been to the process and how did you come up with the idea in the first place?
There wasn’t much of a coming up with the idea per se. It was more like it just happened while we were sitting there. Before it happened though, I was making another game for her when she was two, but it was just for fun. Starring her in the leading role and me piggy backing her through different time periods, as she burped magical bubbles into waves of oncoming enemies. The first level I did was very Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts, but the rest of them were from the other games I played a lot at the time. She liked Sunset Riders a lot, so I had a western level where my character became a cowboy, and then a modern-day level where I became RoboDad where we fought crime in old Detroit (RoboCop). She ended up getting terribly sick and spent a week in an isolation unit at the local children’s hospital and I ended up abandoning the game at that point. Spending more outside time with Maddi, instead of inside the house all the time.
Maddi’s ideas are the core of the game. Her monsters, her wanting to be the hero, if it wasn’t for her it wouldn’t exist. She wanted to be in Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts, so I gave her the next best thing. She came up with level ideas, bosses (even some of the attack patterns), a lot of the enemies and locations. But she did enough levels to actually do another game! (sounds like we need to sign her up to get working on some of our games! – Dylan). A lot of the stuff she did was when she was between the ages of four and six, she was less interested after that. More likely to play on her iPad with Roblox or Minecraft. Most of the art and story was done that point anyways. But whenever I needed something she would come down and art direct me on a new monster and what it should be doing.
In the final months of development there was a lot of “Is my game done yet? When is my game going to be done?” and a few “Can we add dinosaurs to my game?”. To which I replied – “Dinosaurs can go in the next game!”
As you said, it’s a retro-inspired platformer, but what games would you say have most inspired it (including the obvious one)?
That one’s easy! Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts, Wonderboy 3, Cadash, and a little bit of Black Tiger 🙂
I’ll be honest, the first time I saw the ghost-dog (fritzy) my eyes watered up (I full on cried, there!). How does he help Maddi on the way?
In story mode he only follows her at first and is the source of the magic for teleporting Maddi from place to place. He also brings her back to life if he’s been getting his fill of souls, pretty much making her invincible as long as you keep him fed. Once you’ve hit the second half of the story, Fritzy gains attack powers which come in handy for dispatching harder enemies!
In arcade mode he’s basically your life and gun system as it plays differently!
What do you think will set this apart from other indie retro platformers?
The soul of the game itself! There is a lot of love put into the game, you can feel it in the story (true! – Ed), and if you don’t, you will at the end! The controls are very tight, a lot of the platformers that try to emulate that time period the game is from either overdo the stiff jumping mechanic, or they just end up feeling soulless – though that can be said about a lot of new games in general.
A cheeky question before you shoot off to wrap up the game release: I’d never heard of SJW before we chatted and you mentioned there’s already a few douchebags trolling the trailers. Do you have a message for those guys?
Haha! YouTube and the thirty something odd pages of directly insulting me on gamefaqs, and saying Maddi is my imaginary daughter and it’s an actress in the Kickstarter videos! To each their own. The internet if full of flat-Earthers and anti-vaxxers now. It’s a poisonous place for gullible minds, where everything has to have a conspiracy theory and everyone has to be right – always – and seeming get offended over nothing! In all honesty I don’t care. I just hope when Maddi starts to realize that people are going to be negative about what we’ve done, no matter what, that it’s not a big deal – they’re just trying to make themselves feel important. But at the end of the day, they’re not.
Well put! All the best to you and Causal Bit Games Chris! Readers, BPM is available right now on Steam, PS4, Xbox One and Switch!