Monday, 16 October 2017

Wulverblade: Interview at PlayExpo

     Wulverblade is as much a story about the creators as it is about the Ancient Britons who inspired the game design and background. This is a game that has featured at PlayExpo since the beginning, developing little-by-little, by a small team of 4 core developers who have put their heart and soul into creating a game that's fun, responsive and immersive in it's historical accuracy.
    Indeed, history is what this game is all about, with their website stating:

"Extensive research has been put into both the historical accuracy and the use of real locations from the time. Countless days have been spent walking the ancient sites, ruins and paths of the ancient Britons. The game features not only real locations, but even real people from the time. Even sound sampling has been taken from within the remains of old Roman forts and from the running streams that fed the Romans and tribesmen alike to create an atmosphere so rich you can almost taste it"

    Sounds intense. So let's see what Michael Heald, the illustrator and designer of the game, has to say about his side-scrolling brawler and third child.

Wulverblade was released on Nintendo Switch this weekend; the reviews are in, it's a resounding success! How are you feeling?

    I'm not gonna lie, I cried a little when I read the first reviews. This is like a child to me, and it's good to know that I've made a game people liked. I obviously love this game, I think it's amazing but it would have been heartbreaking if nobody else had liked it.

I bet! This has made it's way up to the AAA leagues, was there ever a point where you felt like selling the idea to a bigger producer/company?

    No. There were a couple of times over the years that someone came along and said, y'know "we like this game. We want to take it off your hands" and I just couldn't do that. They're basically asking to own, like, 30% of my life- that's not worth any amount of money to me. I like that this is an indie creation, it has more heart. To me, anyway.

It sounds like a lot of time and effort has gone into this. How did you manage that?

    It's been tough, really tough. I've got 2 kids and I had no idea the amount of work I'd need to put in- I'm an illustrator by trade, I've always been behind the scenes so this was a whole new level of game design. None of us really knew what we were in for or just how big this could be.

I was speaking to Paris Stalker earlier- who has designed Ersatz and done the entire project alone. Ersatz is obviously on a much smaller scale but he was telling me how about 90% of the money that has gone into this has been in the last month, was it the same for yourself?

    Yes. Absolutely. That was another huge surprise for us. You think the game is finished and the hard part is over. Then it's hiring voice actors- that's £4000- and a PR company- there's another £4000 and so on, and so forth- and there's a lot of talking, getting this on to other consoles and negotiating. Again, I love this game and I want it to be worth something but I don't want to charge too much- or too little! I couldn't believe how much just the price of the game could affect how people view it.

No, no I get that- you obviously care so much for this game- it's priceless, and probably worth a lot to you.. but then if you're charging too much and people aren't 'wowed' in the first few levels, you know they'll just be pissed off. 

    Exactly. You want the audience to feel like what they've got is worth what they've paid, even if I feel like it's worth hundreds!

So there's a core development team of 4, but you mention working with third-parties like your PR company and voice actors. How many people were involved in the production overall?

   We did a lot of the work ourselves, starting as us working alongside our day jobs but as it's grown we've ended up putting more hours into this and had, roughly, 25 people on board at some point or other. Especially because we're pretty specialised in what we do and a lot of this was new to us.

A lot of your time has gone into this history of this game- is this something you specialise in?
  No! I'm just a huge history geek. I love history and gaming so it was amazing to be able to combine the two. I find it fascinating the way that decisions from before the Roman Empire has affected the issues we have, even now, with borders between Scotland and England, for example. The Rigante were a huge influence on this game, as the tribe used was basically what was previously just the North West clan- we were once one big clan on one island until we were divided and I like that I was able to tell the story of the defenders.


  Wulverblade is out now on the Nintendo Switch and is expected to be released on PlayStation, XBox and Steam later this year, priced at £14.99

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