Next Up, Chroma Squad

by Brooks Weaver. 0 Comments

Blog 0054 Feature GraphicA few months ago, the Dork Dynasty duo at Baltimore’s 98 Rock radio station told me about a mobile game called Knights of Pen & Paper.  They described how addictive it was and how it played to the old school, 8-bit graphics that I was so used to playing while I was growing up in the 1980s.  So taking a leap, I downloaded it on my iPhone and started playing.  For many days after that, I just couldn’t stop.

It was the first time that I had ever gotten into playing a videogame that centered around “tabletop role-playing games”.  Up until I started playing this title, I thought that this genre of game wasn’t for me.  Well thanks to Dork Dynasty and to the developers at Behold Studios in Brasilia, Brazil, South America, I’m now a believer!

Knights of Pen & Paper is a 8-bit title where you pick four friends, give them a role (mage, knight, cleric, etc.) and then go on (tabletop) quests that materialize behind the narrator who sits in front of the group.  Yes, it’s incredibly geeky.  But it’s still fun to play for a few minutes at a time or longer if you’ve got time to kill (and quest).

After checking out the developer’s website and seeing that they’ve definitely been developing and releasing some great titles to the masses, I kept my ear to the rail hoping for another title to play from the developer.  Needless to say, the wait is now over because thanks to Kickstarter.com, Behold Studios is now about to get funding for their next game entitled Chroma Squad.

To get some insight as to the Kickstarter campaign for the new game (which ends on Wednesday, August 21st, 2013), I contacted the studio for comment.  One of the co-founders, Mr. Saulo Camarotti, (who is also a Producer and Programmer) was nice enough to answer my questions:

W2W: What is Behold Studios and how did it come to be?

SC: Behold Studios is an indie development studio from Brazil.  We started in 2009 creating casual games for iOS and later for Facebook.  But now we’re just having fun, and not very worried about what the market needs.  Our main focus is only to create good games that we would play and love.

Right on.  This is how, in my opinion, all indie developers (and AAA developers when possible) should operate because as we migrate into the next generation of consoles and more emphasis is put on independent developers, there should be that much more of an emphasis put on making games to MAKE them and not just to play to the crowd.

So then what about the game itself?

W2W: What is Chroma Squad?

SC: Chroma Squad is a old-school meta-game inspired by tactical RPG and tokusatsu heroes.  In the game, you manage a sentai (Japanese for “Group” or “Task Force”) television studio and it’s your job to hire actors, buy special effects, create marketing campaigns and fight in tactical turn-based battles while you record new episodes for your show!

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Playing a game that involves creating your own action heros and fighting to defeat the enemy all while entertaining a crowd at the same time?!  Sounds like a wild time that can definitely be tailored to every single person that plays the game.

W2W: So where did you get the idea for Chroma Squad?

SC: We’ve grown up watching sentai series on TV, and we’ve always loved the concept behind it.  In early 2013, we thought that we could make a game about tokusatsu, and we did create something that all Knights of Pen & Paper community would also enjoy.

Which is understandable because when you look at the mechanics of Knights, you will see that like Chroma Squad you are controlling a group that you have to direct, build up and control on adventures.  So if the formula that was refined with Knights works (which it does), then why make any drastic changes to it?

But regardless of what functionality has been transferred from Knights to Chroma Squad, what about the story behind the game?

W2W: What is the story behind the game?

SC: A group of stuntmen, working on a very lame sentai studio, decide to open their own sentai tv studio.  They start an indie adventure, trying to make their own path through the audience.  But the actors start enjoying this adventure so much, that they start thinking that everything is very real.

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Sounds like the case of life imitating art to me (and that’s not a complaint).

Speaking of art, I couldn’t help but notice the vibrant colors of the main characters in the game.

W2W: The Squad greatly resembles The Power Rangers.  Why is that?

SC: The Power Rangers is just one reference.  But besides that we have Flashman, Changeman, Jaspion, and a lot more.

All of these influences resemble over-the-top action heroes that many have come to love and even imitate (see various characters at Comic Con that get their cosplay on).  For as enjoyable as such people are to watch as they embody the characters that they dress up as, they definitely bring a smile to my face (and many others) with how into their characters they become.  Speaking of comedy:

W2W: I noticed that there were some comedic moments in the trailer that you have on Kickstarter.  Can you elaborate on why this element was added in?

SC: We all love satirical games.  So, we’re like that on a day-to-day basis.  Having fun with everything, and enjoying the opportunity to make games that would make anybody smile.

I couldn’t agree more.  Making games day-in and day-out would be an awesome job to have, regardless of the challenges that have to be tackled head on by either a small or large team of creative people.  So with that in mind, I asked about the creative people at Behold:

W2W: Tell me about the team of developers behind the game; i.e., who are they, what are their roles and how do you all collaborate together to make games?

SC: We have a team of 7 in the studio.  I’m Saulo, the producer and one of the programmers.  We have Guilherme, Leonardo and Prunk who are programmers as well.  And then we have 3 artists, Hugo, Bruno and Betu.  In order to create Chroma Squad we have tons of things to do; such as story writing, illustrations, searching references, creating code, making art, creating videos and cinematics, and of course, assembling everything together.

It’s like I said earlier, it sounds like an awesome job to have.  But putting that aside there are definitely challenges to overcome if the game is going to be finished, let alone, something that many will want to play.

Speaking of wanting to play the game, I was curious about how far along in development Chroma Squad is:

W2W: How far along is the game in development; i.e., what else has to be done before you launch version 1.0, respectively?

SC: The game has its main skeleton ready.  So, we don’t have much content; like different levels and monsters.  But we have an example how it would be to play the game.  We have tons of things to do!

So that explains the need for Kickstarter, and for the community to provide support to the project.  But as the project progresses towards its release, I’m curious as to how what was learned from making and releasing Knights to the world has transferred into Chroma Squad in order to make it that much more enjoyable:

W2W: With what your team has learned from making Knights of Pen & Paper, what “lessons learned” have been applied to Chroma Squad?

SC: We’ve received tons of feedback from the Knights P&P community.  So when we started Chroma Squad we made a list of the rights and wrongs that would help us to build the game.  Things like ‘microtransactions’ was cut off from the game, and we put a lot more depth to the RPG system so the players could customize their crew with more personality and have more fun with it.

Now that’s what I’m talking about!  The lifeblood of any indie game development company IS the Community.  If you don’t listen to what they have to say, then when the game is launched there’s a high probability that it won’t be well-received.  And of course, that goes for any game or product.

Opinions aside (for the moment), I was curious about the look-and-feel, as well as, the gameplay mechanics that are currently in the game (from the Kickstarter trailer that featured the game’s progress to date):

W2W: Why choose the oblique perspective for the game?

SC: It’s great for tactical games, and it’s a great reference to old-school games.

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W2W: How does the squad level up?

SC: They have to build an audience with each episode they record.  So you don’t have to ‘just’ kill monsters, you have to make it amazing and with lots of explosions.  With each audience, you get more fans and money, and you can improve your equipment, actors, skills, and everything else in the game (as you progress from show to show).

W2W: Can you play solo (outside of the Squad), or do you always control the entire squad?

SC: You’ll have tons of mechanics in the campaign mode.  Sometimes you’ll have to save the whole squad just using one team member and a lot of rider references.

W2W: Is the game going to include a multiplayer aspect to it?

SC: Yes!  This is a very core concept of the game.  A multiplayer with hassle-free integration.  No pop-up’s, no error, just like the game Journey.  The players can record episodes with their online friends, and get more fans to their studio.

W2W: Does each character only have certain attributes to level up or can each member of the squad be customized over time to the playstyle of the gamer?

SC: Each character has a set of skills, but you can customize the class build and choose different equipment that would make each of your characters unique.

And that’s what I wanted to hear!  More and more, games are transitioning to a playstyle that let’s the gamer truly tailor the experience to how they like to play games.  The game is more of an adventure because of this rather than just a linear storyline that plays the same every time.

Not that I’m looking down on the games of yesterday (or even a fair share of games today) that don’t / didn’t have a lot of variety, but I am thankful that Behold understands that this is the way to go no matter where the gamer is from or how they play.

In regards to where each gamer is from that plays titles released by Behold, I was curious as to the gaming industry in South America – in particular, in Brazil where Behold calls home.

W2W: How is the gaming industry different in Brazil compared to other areas where you’ve visited in the world; i.e., are there more opportunities, more talent, less talent, etc.?

SC: The Brazilian is very creative.  I think that the lack of opportunities made everyone here be very creative.  But we still need to improve the quality of our games.

Some great games were made with brazilians on the team, like Rogue Legacy (top 1 on Steam) and Tower Fall (top 1 on OUYA), and we’re starting to make some difference in the indie community.

From all that I’ve researched since I’ve starting writing about the industry, one of the things that I enjoy most is that no two teams are alike.  They wear multiple hats, come from various backgrounds and create some utterly imaginative games.

One thing that makes games unique is the art style behind them.  For Chroma Squad, the 8-bit, pixel-art style was chosen and I inquired as to why:

W2W: Both Chroma Squad and Knights of Pen & Paper are pixel-art-based games.  Why chose this art style?

SC: We love pixel art.  It has everything to do about our reference to 1980s and 1990s pop culture, and we think that is a very powerful way to create something that reminds you of good things.

Finally, I asked about why Behold is using Kickstarter to find their game, as well as, where gamers will eventually be able to play Chroma Squad:

W2W: Why use Kickstarter to fund the rest of the game’s development?

SC: We wanted to have the community support, and we didn’t want to have to go through any publishers for our project.  We want to make the game for everyone, not for making money.

W2W: On what platforms do you plan to launch Chroma Squad; i.e., iOS, Android, PC, Mac, Linux, OUYA, Steam, PSN, XBLA, etc.?

SC: We plan to release for PC/Mac/Linux on Steam by the end of the year (2013).  After that we’ll start working on other platforms, such as iOS and Android tablets.

Then if Microsoft and Sony open their new consoles to indie producers from Brazil, we would also love to put it on XBOX One, PS4 and other consoles such as OUYA.  We’ve created the game using Unity, and it’s not that hard to port the games to (most) other platforms.

So if you’re a fan of pixel-art, 8-bit games, japanese animation, japanese-style super heroes or just well-made, enjoyable games, please support Chroma Squad on Kickstarter here.

Thank you for reading.

Follow Brooks on Twitter here and check out some of his other work here.

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