Bloom: Memories is an adventure-RPG in development that is currently being pitched on Kickstarter. To get more information on the game we asked Project Lead Dani Landers a few questions.
RPGWatch: What can you tell us about yourself and the team?
Dani: Right now the team is made up of four people.
Dani Landers (me) is the lead of the project and the creator of the idea behind Bloom and founder of Studio Fawn. I handle all of the concept art, 3d modelling, asset generation, writing, marketing, and a bulk of the game design. Basically, I take on a lot of roles (which tends to be the case in smaller teams).
Jose Mora-Jimenez handles the music for the game and is an award-winning classically trained composer who divides his time between writing concert works and making music for games and other media. Jose currently lives in the Netherlands and offers a unique perspective to the team. It is his work which gives the world of Bloom a voice as his music brings to life the story through masterfully crafted music.
Javier Zumaeta is our character animator and also lives in Los Angeles and currently plies his trade as a full-time animator in the entertainment industry. He has worked on some top titles, such as "PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale". It is his talent which truly brings the world of Bloom to life as he goes beyond simple animations and really communicates the personalities of our cast through motion.
Jay is our behind the scenes programmer keeping everything running smoothly up in Canada. His talents are what tie together the various elements from the rest of the team to create a cohesive experience. He also works closely with Dani on the game design to find technical solutions to artistic vision.
RPGWatch: What is the history of Bloom? What gave you the idea for this game?
Dani: Bloom officially began years ago as two separate graphic novel attempts exploring different ideas and styles. The first was a very short color version (of only 5 pages), and the 2nd was a black and white version that went on to be over 30 pages.
Unofficially, Bloom actually began years before that with various personal projects I had done and I drew elements from them into the Bloom world.
Basically the idea for the game came from the desire to bring to life the work I had been slowly building in my free-time. In the same way Star Wars or Ultima was created, I set out to not just create a game but to build a world which I could apply all my work to and that could span a range of different projects. It is my hope that Bloom: Memories is simply the first step to exploring more of the various aspects of the Bloom universe.
RPGWatch: What in your words are the highlights of Bloom?
Dani: The highlights of Bloom are the trifecta of gaming; art, game play, and story. We believe the extra work it takes to make sure each of those elements shine will be well worth it to the players when Bloom is finally released.
Art - This is the easiest to see, our art style is definitely unique and constantly evolving as we keep pushing it further.
Game Play - The game play is a little trickier to communicate without actually playing the game, but hopefully our explanations on combat and game mechanics can start to give players a better idea of just how special our game play will be.
Story - The story is especially important in Bloom. We are focusing on themes rarely addressed in gaming and think that will go a long way to making this game a really unique experience.
RPGWatch: How long has the game been in development and in what development phase are you now?
Dani: Full development on the game (building assets and programming) has been going for about 6 months now. We are still very early in development, but most of the core work is finished and we are about ready to push ahead filling out the content.
RPGWatch: You tag this as an adventure / RPG. What are the RPG elements we can expect in the game?
Dani: A little bit of the RPG elements:
- Story and setting - This is a key in RPGs. You will be meeting a variety of people / creatures during the game with a variety of interactions you might expect in an RPG. A key philosophy we have though is we want to avoid giving players "busy work" or fluff. Both books and movies have far more dialogue available to tell a story than a game does.... we want to make sure it counts (and avoid the wall of text syndrome).
- Exploration and Quests - Exploration is a biggy in Bloom. There are a ton of things to find (and actually, we have designed some key systems to really play on this feeling of exploration and discovery).
- Items and Inventory - You can find and collect various items throughout the game to help you along your journey. Again, a philosophy here is to avoid creating endless lists of items or needing to sit there managing space. So, the items you find will be important (but it will never be presented in the form of "fetch quests" or anything else so lazy). We want to use a lot of items / collectables to unlock new features or continue side storylines (such as the main characters drive to fix himself throughout the game).
- Character Diversification - While we don't have a lists of micromanagement character attributes... we do have a certain type of advancement and ability to diversify your character differently as you play through the game. No levels, instead this is a result of simply playing the game and progression. (Any form of grinding we consider "busy work"....and we simply respect the players time too much to do that. We would rather have an amazing short game, than a long game filled with fluff and grinding).
RPGWatch: How does character diversification work? In what way does the character advance? Are there options available in the game to advance your character in different ways?
Dani: For advancement, we have it based on different metrics (instead of guiding everything under one metric of experience and levelling). Many of the abilities (or ability choices) are presented during the game through people you meet or achievements you accomplish. This creates an organic advancement that fits seamlessly into the game world (instead of arbitrarily learning a new ability after killing 100 enemies).
This also lets us make the abilities more special and weighted with meaning under the context you learn them (for example, in mega man, would each of the boss abilities you learn have as much impact if you had just selected them from a branching skill system as you grind enemies? or does the entire ordeal and challenge to get to the boss and defeating them create a much more special experience when you finally learn how to do the ability yourself).
Of course, you can also unlock abilities through the item system, or purchases from a unique person you meet, or even we can set it to the number of steps / distance you travel. But, overall, we want to hide the numbers from people and just let them play and uncover things. It keeps the game exciting with new rewards and discoveries around every corner (and you never know when you will run into one).
You definitely will have options in how your character develops, but the biggest one will be simply in the skills you wish to use. We will be offering a range of abilities, but only allowing you to use a couple at a time. This means you will need to play around and try to find a way of battling that works for you.
RPGWatch: Can you give an example of the type of quests that are available in Bloom?
Dani: We actually hate quests... at least in the traditional sense of how they have been handled. A stationary character always waiting for you makes sense in the case of a merchant, but we want to make the world seem more organic and surprising. You won't find quests, quests will find you.
An example of this is the hidden area system. This basically works through a slightly complicated randomization pool that the game draws from when you clear an area of enemies. Effectively, when you travel around you are given the chance to find hidden spaces to explore. These can have a range of challenges in them (or sometimes simply treasure). You won't know exactly when they will find you and you won't know what you are getting into, but that is part of the excitement! It makes the world seem larger and alive, and that is exactly what we want to achieve.
RPGWatch: Do we impact the world with our presence and actions? If so, in what way is this accomplished?
Dani: Actually, the entire game is built around the player's presence and actions. One of our core philosophies is to not force players to do anything through punishment (such as keeping you from advancing because you haven't collected enough X or other time sinks). Instead, we allow players to move at their own speed and engage in parts of the game that interest them. Effectively, it is our job to make you WANT to explore because when you do you find fun puzzles, great challenges, and new interesting abilities.
Along with all those incentives, your exploration will also affect how the game plays out and story elements you find. For example, perhaps there is a boss with multiple ways to defeat (some being non-violent and resulting in him coming to help you down the road).
Basically, the goal isn't to make a railroad theme park ride for players. We want to offer players real choice, real challenge, and an experience they won't forget. We aren't afraid to break rules of how a game "should be"... expect surprises and expect us to teach you that sometimes just hitting everything isn't the answer. We know the frame of mind players are coming into a game like this with and we plan to use that to make some pretty interesting things. ;)
RPGWatch: You have shared some information on combat in the updates for the Bloom Kickstarter, but what in your opinion are the highlights of the combat system?
Dani: The highlights of the combat system I would say is in "The Bridge" mechanic and in the single energy bar with emphasis on ebb and flow combat.
The bridge basically allows for split second timing during game play. If you are doing an attack in one direction, but an arrow is about to hit you from behind... you are able to instantly jump into the bridge to pause the flow of time in the normal world. From there, you can then execute a 2nd attack to protect your back which persists into the normal world. While doing things like this is draining, it definitely opens up a lot of options for game play and makes an already snappy combat system feel even tighter.
The ebb and flow combat is a result of having larger attacks drain from your life bar. This effectively adds in an organic limiter on power and offensive tactics. Basically, players won't be able to run in shooting their biggest attacks and killing everything before moving on. That type of combat is fun at first, but we have all played games where it just grows old as you realize you are pretty much untouchable. With Bloom, you will instead be forced to balance offensive and defensive abilities. This forces you to observe the field and strategize, making combat move away from a purely reactive system. If you have every played the original Castlevania, you understand just how interesting a game can become when the design of the game is built against your desire to run ahead blinding attacking.
RPGWatch: How does The Bridge connect to the story and progress? Is it an essential part to complete the game?
Dani: The Bridge is actually a pretty expansive area and offers its own unique challenges and rewards. We won't be forcing players to explore this though (and actually, much of the game is built like that). Instead, there will be plenty of incentives (in story, fun abilities, and just great challenges) that will make you excited to explore the bridge, not just something you grudgingly have to do to go on.
We have the philosophy of designing so players WANT to explore and play what we have built for its own intrinsic value... not because we are punishing you or forcing you. I don't appreciate when developers create time-sinks to try and stretch their games out, and it just isn't something that is very respectful to the players.
RPGWatch: You are trying to do quite a few things different in Bloom from what we are used to in games. Often people talk about evolution in games, but in the end move away from things that are too different from what they know and prefer more of the same. What is your take on this? Why should we try this game?
Dani: It is true we are doing a lot of new things and players should be pretty excited about that! This is actually an issue I have thought a lot about, and have even been advised to "play it safer".
I think the biggest problem when game designers and businesses think about "gamers" is that they consider them as one mysterious entity. The thing is there are all sorts of different players! There are some who don't want new, they want "rescue the princess" and are happy. I've been known to just sit and watch re-runs on TV also. But, there are also a huge number who want new and exciting, who thrive on challenges and themes they haven't seen before.
I'm actually one of those in the latter group of gamers. I love new, I love storylines and game play that really stands out. I hate it when companies pander to me and just try to resell me the same game with a new makeover. Of course, sometimes it can be a little "too different" and then it is kind of off-putting (since there aren't enough reference points to really put things in context)... so understanding that is pretty important as well. That is actually why a lot of inspiration from Bloom is drawn from things players know, so the game will "feel familiar" (like an old friend), but play exciting and new.
We aren't doing "new for the sake of new". Instead, everything different in Bloom is there because it simply makes a better game!
RPGWatch: What role does the mother play? Does she only provide health to her child or is she also actively involved in the game?
Dani: The mother plays mostly as the story driving element. For most of the game you are actually separated from her and trying to reach her, engaged in your own journey as she is in hers. The linked heart mechanic is an indication of a very special bond that also manifests in other ways throughout the game (such as glimpses of what she is experiencing). So, you won't be fighting side by side with her and she won't be near you, but you should still have a sense of her and her story will continue throughout the game alongside your own. Overall, this will help frame the game and keep it in context.
RPGWatch: This is your second attempt in getting Bloom funded on Kickstarter. What will happen if you do not succeed this time?
Dani: I'm that type of person that only gets more excited by failure. Instead of sulking and giving up, I'm the type that doubles down and works even harder. Seeing how far we have some since the last kickstarter should be proof of that! We have really come a long way, even in the face of failure and no resources.
Basically, if this kickstarter fails... I'll keep going. I believe in Bloom and I think players will absolutely LOVE it. We could really use a little help from the community to make it a little less rocky of a path (and help us make sure we can give the game the attention it deserves)... but despite what happens, we will keep walking forward (as we always have).
RPGWatch: What are the lessons you've learned from your Kickstarter experiences?
Dani: I've learnt that indie development is definitely a difficult path and not one for the faint of heart. I think there is a lot of potential in crowd funding, but even the hurdle of simply reaching players to judge for themselves is a pretty high one. Definitely has been a pretty great experience though! Fingers crossed things work out :)
RPGWatch: What length of gameplay are you aiming for?
Dani: We don't have a specific length at the moment. It really depends on the types of resources we can get to continue development (if the campaign fails, we will have to cut back the scope of the project a little bit).
RPGWatch: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Dani: Just that we are extremely thankful for all of the support people have given us so far. We really want to create something special with this game, and with everyone's help we definitely can. This is really a labor of love and something we hope comes across in the extra care we are giving to every aspect of the game.