In the Game Tangents Podcast Episode 73, we had the pleasure to be joined by Jared Gingerich, founder and Creative Game Director for indie studio, Imagination Vent. He was very excited to speak with us about his new title, Bionic Fighters, and the new Kickstarter campaign they were launching to fund its development. The following conversation was adapted from the audio for episode 73, so it has been edited for length and content, focusing on questions and answers. To hear the entire conversation, please download and listen to podcast 73 (talk about Bionic Fighters begins at around 1 hour and 29 minutes into the show).
G-Tan: Tell us a little about yourself. Jared: I've been an indie developer for a little over seven years, now. It's grown from my passion of playing games on the Nintendo 64, and also my inspiration from Dave Jaffe; reading an article as a puberty ridden young man on his design ideas for God of War 1 really inspired me to definitely get into the industry as something more than just playing, but really experiencing and living out the dream to be able to create a world and build relationships around it.
G-Tan: Can you tell us a little about your team? Jared: Yeah. My team... we are extremely excited to be bringing you our latest game, Bionic Fighters, which is going to be going here, in a couple of days, to Kickstarter. We have a great variety of different individuals and skill sets on our team, all the way from currently in college to past experience people. Our lead animators worked on such fantastic shows such as Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Animaniacs. For anyone who doesn't know, those are some great 90s animated cartoon shows. We have a very widespread team. Our producer is from France, so it's great to have different backgrounds and subsets to really add to the experience as a whole and to really provide better feedback; and also put each person's niche, personality into the game as for intimately designing it. A really great thing is: we have such a great art director; he's really brought our characters alive. One of the big selling points of our game is our mascot characters of licensed indie characters; so to be able to work with our awesome partnerships that we have, and to make their characters come alive – a lot of them, notwithstanding, are from 2D games - so to be able to bring that character from the 2D world to the 3D world is a daunting task, and he's really taken it with pride.
G-Tan: So Bionic Fighters is modeled after Smash Bros.? Jared: Super Smash Bros. Melee. G-Tan: Why did you guys go in that direction? Jared: They're both cooperative games. The biggest thing is I'm a fighting game addict; and also, the way it brings crowds and people together is amazing. If you guys have played Towerfall - that's a hugely popular PS4 game (with) local party style. We wanted to do that both locally and online with Bionic Fighters. It's so casual, like you were talking about Plants Vs. Zombies and Titanfall; it mixes everything that's great about a video game from both a playing perspective to also just a casual experience. You can jump into it and you're probably going to get knocked off the stage constantly, but you're also going to have a lot of fun. Whether you're at the receiving end or not, it's still going to be a blast to play for our casual and competitive players. G-Tan: So you are making your game balanced around the idea that some people are not going to be professionals or experienced (players)? Jared: Yes. Two of our platforms in mind, like Steam and the PlayStation 4: (For) Steam, we are really pushing for the online part; and then (for the) PlayStation 4, we're really pushing for that local experience where if you want to get together on, say New Year's night, or someone's birthday and be like, “Hey, let's throw down Smash!” Then they're like, “Dude, you got Bionic Fighters?” He's like, “Yeah!” It's really about that time of being together and knocking each other off and... having a lot of fun - when drunk or not drunk. G-Tan: How many players can play this game? Jared: Up to 4 players locally and 1 online. G-Tan: Let's talk a little bit about the technicals of this (game). You already said OUYA, PS4, and Steam... Jared: We're going to be releasing on PlayStation 4, Steam, and OUYA; we are really excited about the new OUYA Everywhere will now be supported on OUYA and Mojo. Some of the great technical specifications – we are already currently in negotiations with Sony to come under their self publishing label – but most importantly, we are ready to release it at 1080P, 60 FPS; and one of my favorite parts about some of the added functionality for PlayStation 4, (which) is going to be the definitive version of Bionic Fighters, (is) being able to take your controller (which) has the new LED light on the back; each character will have their own designated color. G-Tan: Where are you in the game? You guys are starting your second Kickstarter campaign; the first one was successful, and you guys managed to start the development with that, or was that just the planning phase? Jared: That was the planning phase. We have been able to get a really amazing team together. Right now we are currently in alpha stage. We are extremely proud of what the team has put together; we have a lot of the game play mechanics in line. We have some fantastic variety - two separate, I feel, visually appealing stages for the Kickstarter campaign going live this coming Monday (3/31/2014); but what's so great about it is you'll be able to see a community inspired fighting game fully embellished by the community. We plan to bring them in on every part: from choosing what indie characters they want, stage designs, (and) weapon item designs. Everyone loves throwing pokeballs or whatever at other people. Not only that, but also if you pledge enough, you can get your own character in the game.
G-Tan: So if I pledged a few thousand bucks, you'll put me in the game? Jared: Yes! You can put yourself in the game, your own stage, your own weapon.... G-Tan: How did you put this team together? Jared: That is a fantastic question. After our first failed Kickstarter campaign - it was me and three other people - two of the three other people quit (we have Brian T. left). But most importantly, getting the team together really took a lot of passion and drive. I almost folded on the idea and just decided to get back into the industry whether with Sony or another company. But at the same time I felt that indie development is so prone and intimately connected to my DNA that I really wanted to stick to the idea. I felt it has a huge potential, and also is very accessible (for) the gaming community. More importantly, Steam needs, from a video game perspective... Steam is a great platform; there are so many games but there (are) no “partyish” games for the Steam platform. A few of the people I directly solicited from... whether in person or from LinkenIn. I actually have a few excellent contacts in the gaming industry from my LinkenIn. The big part was my push in October when I put a couple of job postings up. I really was looking for some interns to come join with me. The reception I had from the community, from people who actually found out about Bionic Fighters, and also the people I interviewed and accepted, was amazing. People were like, “Wow, I would jump at this opportunity to work on a game like this! I grew up with this!" Same as me; I grew up playing Super Smash Bros. on my Nintendo 64, so I am certain I am ready to do this. I am ready to do what it takes to make sure this game is a success.
The hard part was I also hand interviewed every single candidate I felt was of esteem or would be a good fit for the team. My advice to any budding entrepreneurs is definitely you want to find the right team. It's been really difficult finding the team, but I really found it. I am so proud. I want to give a big shout-out to my art director, Jason Nesmith; he's deaf. But his tack for visual fidelity is insane. The amount of passion he pours into his job; like the average person who is not deaf might not even do that. He surpasses them having a disability or disadvantage, you could say, and he's like, “Dude, I am so ready to do this!” He takes everything and shines it up to look brand new. It's amazing. G-Tan: Now you have your members, what comes next? Jared: The biggest thing(s) to maintain the team are: pride for the project, respect for the team, and aggression for succeeding. If you don't have those three key factors, you are going to have a very difficult time - especially with me. To put it kindly, my lead animator has stuck with us, even though he's taken on large contracts, because he says he loves my enthusiasm for the project and my appreciation for him as an individual. So if you don't really value your employees, or if you don't see welfare in them, it's not going to turn out well for an indie team. G-Tan: What has been the biggest difficulty with this project? Jared: That would definitely fall into two separate categories. The first is the (graphics) engine of choice. We chose Unity 3D. We are soon going to be upgrading to Unity 5 once it releases. We are working with Unity 4 right now. We first started with LibGDX. And then we tried using Google encoded layout device, and that didn't really work out to program the game and then self-publish it because initially we were only aiming at PC and OUYA. Now we have changed our idea and want to go to more consoles like the PlayStation 4. The second biggest difficulty we overcame was (with) animations. With a platform fighter game, our game is played in 2.5D. That means you're on a 2D plane in a 3D environment with three-dimensional characters. To get every animation like our character Tidus – he has 65 animations going into our alpha build; that's quite a bit for an alpha build – to realistically think about that, and to really do that, the biggest thing for our animators was learning how to make it for a fighting game. With most animations, especially with our lead animator, he had to learn the character basically for all the animations he stays in place. That was a lot different from his prior work in movies and CG cartoons where the character moves from the other side of the screen than the actual character does. But that animation status in the game that Unity controls... Unity controls everything, the engine controls everything, and you are basically just animating it to just the actual action, and actually the movement. That's a pretty interesting thing for any budding fighting enthusiast. G-Tan: So Bionic Fighters... What is your website? Jared: Our website is imaginationvent.com. On there you'll see full bios for our team. Our Kickstarter is going live Monday, March 31, 2014. Search for Bionic Fighters or go to the “Games” tab, then specifically select "Video Games" sub-section.
For more about Imagination Vent and Bionic Fighters, or if you wish to donate, please visit their Kickstarter page at the link below...