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Interview: Puny Human on Blade Symphony

October 1st, 2011 by

We chat to Puny Human about their latest project, Blade Symphony, a visually stunning multiplayer fighter using the Source engine.

Blade Symphony will features multiple characters, beautiful environments, and global player stats and leaderboard rankings. You’ll take part in tense, blindingly-fast duels in gorgeous environments as you fight for glory and recognition. Play as the Hokuten, Black Rose or Vagrants factions and engage in sword duels spanning across ancient monasteries, derelict cities and isolated temples.

Could you tell us a little about Puny Human, your roots with Source Engine modding and what the future is looking like for you?

Puny Human started as two separate mod teams – Team Dystopia, who’ve been around since circa 2004, and Ninja Workshop, who are a couple of years younger.

A little after releasing version 1.2 of Dystopia, Team Dys hooked up with the Ninja Workshop guys. They were looking for more manpower to make their kickass mod idea (which they’d been working on for a year and a half), and Team Dys were looking for something new to work on. Since Team Dystopia were pretty much always a large team, it seemed like the two were a natural fit for each other. This led to both teams working together for a little while, and in late 2010 we officially announced we’d merged as Puny Human.

As far as what the future’s looking like? Pretty good right now – we’ve just completed our Kickstarter, which will give us the means to get a Source license. Motivation’s at an all-time high and we’re ready to rock on and kick arse. We can’t wait to get our game out there for people to play.

For the uninitiated, what is Blade Symphony and what can players expect to experience come release?

Blade Symphony is a Source-engine-based third-person competitive swordfighting game, which is a bit of a mouthful to say. In practice, this means we’re building a game that is trying to replicate the fun we’ve all experienced playing Jedi Knight II’s multiplayer.

Of course, people shouldn’t go in expecting this to be JKII reskinned – it absolutely, definitely won’t be. We’re making our own thing – what we’re trying to copy is the visually awesome, somehow both fast-paced and calculated, fighting thing that JKII had going on. That’s really the core thing we want to achieve with Blade Symphony – a fighting game that is both deeply satisfying to play and not utterly alienating to people who haven’t got a PhD in Street Fighter. It needs to be fast, and furious, and hit hard, and be fun.

Many will be familiar with your previous project, Dystopia. What lessons did the development of Dystopia teach you and how have you implemented them in Blade Symphony?

Motivation and communication are the two most important things any team needs to have. That, and organisational skills, and the ability to prioritise features, and…

Really, we learned everything from Dystopia – which is pretty normal since it started way back in 2003/2004, being worked on by a tiny team of Australians who went on to become Team Dystopia’s core guys when they went public in 2004 and the Dystopia demo came out in September 2005 (they’ve since left for a variety of reasons, and were – with the exception of Tim Grant – replaced by people promoted internally who went on to become the management team at Puny Human).

That said, we’d never have gotten here if it weren’t for the things I described in that first paragraph – you need people motivated to do unpaid, professional work on a game in their spare time; the kind of communication infrastructure that lets them co-ordinate their work (it can be as simple as an IRC channel on QuakeNet or GameSurge, MantisBT, some form of version control and a webserver to host those last two); the ability to just say no to feature creep; and the capacity, as a group, to decide who works on what and when so your game can eventually be finished and come out.

Will there be an offline component to Blade Symphony, a singleplayer narrative to follow or a versus bots mode?

Currently undecided, I’m afraid. We’re working on implementing a tutorial right now, and the game already has rudimentary bot support, but whether we’ll spin that out into a single-player narrative or not isn’t decided yet. As far as the option to fight bots goes, that will most likely be in so people can shore up server population when needed, and we don’t foresee ever stopping you from creating a local server on your machine.

That said, I’m not at liberty to pronounce myself either way on these things until there’s been a studio consensus and it’s been added to the to-do list for the release version.

What’s the development process been like for Blade Symphony – any unique challenges?

We’re fortunate we’ve benefited from the experience we gained working on Dystopia, as described above. The major issue these days is mainly making sure everyone has their tasks and the time to work on them – because we’re all doing this in our spare time, and you have to ensure everyone can get stuff done by whatever deadline has been set for their task, despite all the distractions of everyday life. In general, it’s just tricky co-ordinating 20-30 people all working on the same thing in various capacities.

Is there anything the team is particularly proud of in the game?

There’s a lot to pick – we’re all pretty proud of this thing we’re making – but I’d say… Probably the fact that we’ve gotten a lot of comments on some of the media for our maps asking if it really is the Source engine, because the commenter didn’t think it was possible to make something that looks so damn good on Source. The environments we’ve got are visually striking and yes, they do look awesome.

Are there any plans to develop Blade Symphony on any platforms other than PC in the future?

Some of us are big Mac fans, and we’d hate to waste an opportunity to release on Mac OS – but porting to Mac is going to be an issue of manpower and expertise. It’s something we’d absolutely like to do, but whether or not it gets done is another issue entirely.

After that, we don’t know! Fighting games seem like a pretty natural fit for consoles, but that would require even more effort than porting to Mac. Time’ll tell!

As a new company entering the hugely competitive world of game development, you must find the prospect daunting as well as exciting. What’s this process been like?

It’s mostly exciting. We’re in the middle of what some could term an “indie games revolution” – AAA games are getting more massive by the year, but so are their budgets; in parallel, indie games development has well and truly become a thing. Thanks to platforms like the Xbox Live Arcade and Steam and thanks to coverage from sites like Rock, Paper, Shotgun and word-of-mouth excitement on twitter, the number of people making a living off making games their way has exploded.

On the one hand, this means that more and more often, you have to make something truly special to get noticed. On the other, it doesn’t seem like the indie industry has run out of creativity yet, and we’re definitely confident that we’re not your typical, run-of-the-mill PC game (if there even is such a thing!). This means we have a chance to get in on the ground floor of this revolution and participate in shaping the future of something we love so much: gaming.

We’d like to thank Puny Human for their time and we’ll be sure to keep you up to date on Blade Symphony as it approaches release.

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One Response to “Interview: Puny Human on Blade Symphony”
  1. avatar Greg Giddens says:

    The combat is likened to Jedi Knight 2. I’m sold!

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