February 8, 2017 1:00 PM | Thomas Faust
Wryn, the best hero of them all*, is back! Bleed 2 has you dodging and reflecting bullets, slowing down time, dashing around, and saving the day in spectacular fashion. 25 bosses are awaiting their annihiliation at your hands and, even though the game is pretty short, there is a lot of replayability, with different weapons and even characters to unlock.
Bleed 2 delivers non-stop run & gun action in the vein of genre greats, and it's essentially made by a single developer. I talked to Ian Campbell about his influences and the challenges of being a solo developer.
(*Actually, Wryn is the best hero of them all because she killed all of the other heroes in the first game.)
Let's start by going back all the way to Bleed 1. It got good reviews and is well-liked, but was it a commercial success?
Absolutely! It wasn't a mega-blockbuster or anything, but it covered the lengthy development time and allowed me to support myself as I worked on a sequel. I think doing everything myself kept costs down and allowed it to be modestly profitable.
Was it clear from the start that you'd follow up with a direct sequel, or did you explore other options first?
At first, a sequel didn't seem possible or even warranted. There were a few ideas I left out of Bleed 1, but generally the game felt "complete". It also took so long to make that I was really sour on the prospect of another lengthy development cycle.
So I played around with lots of other little game ideas, but none of them gripped me very hard and I kept coming back to the idea a second Bleed, almost like a fantasy project. Like at first I re-did Wryn's animations in the new art style, for fun, and left it at that. Then later I tried my idea of the pistols/katana combo weapon, just to see if it would work. I kept adding little bits until I realized I might have enough new ideas and gameplay systems to justify a sequel!
Apart from the obvious inspirations of Gunstar Heroes and the Contra series, which modern titles would you consider formative for the Bleed games?
Metal Gear Rising, Bayonetta and Viewtiful Joe were all big influences on Bleed's gameplay. Platinum's games in general are so instructive when it comes to making modern, thrilling action titles! In the indie corner, Konjak's Noitu Love 2 was a big influence on the new art style -- if you're familiar with that game, I'm sure you'll see some similarities, though I think I've given it my own spin, too
The game has some incredibly tight pacing and a wonderful sense of flow. The boss fights are short and intense, and you are constantly in motion. How hard has it been to get this fluid gameplay just right? I can imagine that this might have taken a while...
The bosses and general gameplay are what matter most to me in Bleed 2 so they were the first things I got roughed in, way before audio/visuals/environments/etc. Implementing those other elements took me about three and a half years, which gave me just as long to constantly playtest it, iterate on boss ideas and refine the gameplay. It's definitely been a lengthy and slow process, but it's allowed me to fully explore my ideas and get results I'm really proud of.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of being a solo developer, and how much external feedback did you receive over the course of development? Did you show the game at any events?
I think the best part of working solo is the opportunity to express myself really purely as a game developer and an artist. I get to own my ideas and make really fast decisions without any convincing or coordinating or anything! So it's definitely agile and rewarding and lots of fun.
At the same time, it kinda sucks working in a vacuum! There's nobody to bounce ideas off of or to point out when I'm making dumb decisions, so I'm limited by my own perspective and it's hard to be surprised by the work after a while. There's also nobody to truly share the workload or the excitement of accomplishments, either. (Luckily I had Joonas and Jukio handling the audio, and several very dedicated playtesters, which helped counter a lot of this!)
Finally, I've been getting feedback on the game for over a year and a half now! I've shown the game at Toronto shows, local dev meetups, and even PAX West -- which was a TON of fun and basically four straight days of playtesting. Having fresh eyes on my game was massively helpful. I'm glad I was able to do so much of it!
Are there any plans to take Bleed to consoles? After all, the run & gun genre emerged from there...
It's somewhere between a "hope" and a "plan" right now! I'd love to get Bleed on consoles, it's just a matter of time and money and all the other steps in the way of a proper console release. If the game does well on Steam you can bet I'll be gunning for consoles!