Black Forest Games, hot off the success of Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams, are now going back to the site that funded that glorious platformer. With this new Kickstarter project comes a brand new game, Project Ravensdale! This twin stick arcade shooter, in the vein of Metal Slug, promises to be a rollicking fun time, if the Kickstarter succeeds in its fundraising goal of course.
I sat down with Managing Director Adrian Goersch and Game Design Lead David Sallman, to discuss some of the more fun aspects of Project Ravensdale.

ME: Creating Ravensdale as an entirely new project is certainly ambitious, even after the success of Giana Sisters. What do you perceive as being the biggest challenge in creating this new IP?

BLACK FOREST: The most challenging part for now is finding the funding for the game development. It is always very difficult to explain to potential publishers, investors, bank and also backers, what you want to do, if you are trying something completely new. But it was never an option for us to go for a GS:TD 2 immediately.

ME: What are the primary influences on the design of Ravensdale? And how will these influences show themselves in the final game?

BLACK FOREST: We are more influenced by a game type than by specific games for Ravensdale (classic arcade platform shooting). Notable examples would be the Contra, Metal Slug and Mega Man series, with Metal Slug being the closest look and feel-wise, but those are references, and not starting points. This is a big difference from Giana, which was a love letter to the team’s favorite classic platformer games. With Ravensdale, we are aiming to reinvent running and gunning and layer the classic game type with something new.

"...we are aiming to reinvent running and gunning"

“…we are aiming to reinvent running and gunning”

ME: With The heavy Co-Op emphasis in this game, in the single player component, will there be capable friendly AI, or will it be just you against the storm?

BLACK FOREST: We won’t have friendly AI in the game as you can’t communicate and coordinate with them like with other players, and giving them orders would be too clunky. So what’s up with single player? Won’t you be able to do the cool stuff you do in multiplayer?
Actually, you will – instead of having bots that completely replace a player, we’ll have parts of the environment that fulfill a role equivalent to a very specific part of a player. For example, in multiplayer, your arc connector zaps things between itself and the players. It hovers in the “center of mass” of all players, so players can influence its position simply by moving. Magnets in the levels can mess with that, either being a liability or a helper, depending on the context. In single player, you won’t have other players to influence the generator’s position, but you’ll still have the magnets. Those can be immobile in the background, or attached to moving platforms or objects you can manipulate in a variety of ways in more advanced situations.
We’re currently experimenting with other environmental objects that echo specific player abilities, like a mobile cannon that absorbs your shots, amplifies them with an overdrive and blasts them out again.
All in all, you should be able to do everything you do in multiplayer in single player as well. You’re just a lot more flexible in multiplayer, and have more control over when and where you use those abilities. The tougher content in the game can be mastered either with teamwork or pure twitch skill.

There's even some great art for all players to enjoy!

There’s even some great art for all players to enjoy!

ME: The Arc Connector is a pretty nifty weapon, introducing a whole host of puzzle and physics elements to the game. Are there any other twists to the twin-stick shooter genre that are being dreamed up?

BLACK FOREST: We want the game to be highly replayable, and to that effect, we are going to experiment with a layered template system for the levels. This essentially means that our level designers don’t place all the objects in a level, but create a basic layout where they place slots for elements of a specific type, which can have slots of their own.
For example, a very simple level chunk could have a fixed platform layout with a “spawner” slot on one end and a “hazard” slot in the middle. The designers would determine which categories are allowed to exist in these slots. In this example, a slag pit or a broken goop pipe would be flagged as allowed, while a bomb conveyor belt would not. The spawner could be limited to goblins, or enemies of a specific difficulty rating, or whatever they deem appropriate.
Whenever you start a new game, the system assembles the levels out of the templates according to rules defined by us to ensure that you only get meaningful combinations. As player characters, environment and enemies are designed to interact with each other in a variety of ways, each semi-random combination would create its own unique context. For example, the hypothetical broken goop pipe mentioned above would normallly slow down all ground-bound player characters and enemies, but be set ablaze by a player who happens to wield a flamethrower, or by a rocket goblin’s ignition, should one spawn. Whether setting the goop on fire is a good idea or not depends on where you and your enemies are, what enemies you are facing, what you are doing, and what other helpers and hazards are in the vicinity. Please note that while we are excited about the theoretical possibilities of the layered template system, it is still queued for testing and has to prove itself in a prototype before being included in the game’s full design.

Nifty...

Nifty…

ME: If the game ends up a success, what other platforms are you hoping to port the game to?

BLACK FOREST: Generally we are open for everything. Obviously Playstation, Xbox and WiiU are something to be be considered, as we have our tech ready for those platforms.

ME: What excites you the most about this project?

BLACK FOREST: To be part of the project from the very beginning and to be able to try out something new!

What are you most excited for?..."to try out something new"

What are you most excited for?…”to try out something new”

I personally think that the combination of old-school shoot em up gameplay and the dark, grimy, fantasy setting (termed “Garage Fantasy” by the developers) makes this one of the more unique concepts in the tangled web of the Kickstarter universe. Be sure to check it out and lend your support. For more on the game check out the Black Forest Games Website.

About The Author

Writer/Video Editor/Associate Editor

Kyle Arsenault is a composer/sound designer who loves games. He is searching for the great experiences in gaming and music, while striving to make some great music for video games as well.

  • Todd Black

    Nice job Kyle!