Our interview with Chris Stair: the Creative Director of Squid Shock Studios.
We’re glad to present our interview with Chris Stair: the Creative Director of Squid Shock Studios.
They are the developers of Bō: Path of the Teal Lotus: a new interesting Metroidvania based on Japanese folklore and traditions.
Hi everyone and welcome back to Indie Games Devel. Today I have the pleasure and the honor of hosting Chris, from Squid Shock Studios.
Hi, thanks for having me Francesco!
You are the developers of Bō: Path of the Teal Lotus: an interesting indie game whose release is scheduled for 2022, right?
Actually the release will probably be in 2024: we’ve been working on all of this for about a year and some things made the process a little longer; one of them may have been extending the scope of the game a little bit…so 2024 to be safe. There are many reasons behind all of these.
Great! As a first question I would like to ask you how are you and how the works are progressing? Moreover I’ve seen the huge success of the Kickstarter Campaign and I was strongly impressed by it. Would you like to tell us?
Yeah, well it’s going great; it’s been a crazy year mostly thanks to the Kickstarter Campaign. We initially wanted to do the Kickstarter about a year ago and looking back it would have been a naive thing because at that time we didn’t have too much done, we didn’t have a trailer and we didn’t have the key art ready yet.
Things were a little disorganized at that time; it was still a kind of new project, but I’m so glad we waited because we finally felt prepared after a year, trying to do our best for the Kickstarter, to do it properly and have no regrets.
So we did the Kickstarter and our goal was to reach $ 35,000 and, if we reached them, we would say: “Ok let’s make this game”.
But we were incredibly flabbergasted when we discovered we had made just under $ 175,000, which is far more than we ever dreamed of having as a budget project.
Since then we have found that people were really excited about the project and some really cool game developers chose it and wanted to give visibility to the project, especially on Twitter.
So basically after the Kickstarter we had a lot more budget to work with; there was a lot of attention on the project and a lot of people decided to join our Discord channel and we were really excited about it!
Also some of the people who joined our Discord decided to join our team and we were able to hire them thanks to the new budget.
So many people joined in the community…so we hired three people from the community who came from the Kickstarter and in the last few months we really tried to get them involved in the project because before we were basically just two people: it was me and the programmer even though we had a musician and an animator.
Now we have an additional artist, a producer, a level designer and another programmer. At the beginning I have to admit that it was complicated because I had never dealt with the management team before.
I had to make sure other people had work to do so at first it was a bit strange but we are slowly getting into the right rhythm.
Your project is rooted in Japanese tradition and culture, especially for the settings and items covered. Will there also be references to Japanese mythology in the game?
Oh, definitely! First of all I’m half Japanese, so I was raised around Japanese culture by my mom as well as consuming Japanese media like anime, movies and stuff like that.
After doing some research on Japanese folklore, you really begin to understand how much Japanese media is influenced by folk tales and their mythology. Some people don’t even realize that many things they consume are based on this really long historical tradition of Japanese culture.
So i thought there was so many things to explore in it, there are a lot of weird things in japanese folklore that i think i would like to experiment with and bring more into popular culture through our game.
I’m very curious about the choice of imprinting a Metroidvania in a context as broad as Japanese folklore, but my real question is what inspired you the most in this particular choice?
Actually Bō wasn’t supposed to be about Japanese folklore and, going back in time (about a year and a half ago), I remember I was playing this browser game called Cleaning The System, which is basically like a stick that you control and bounce around different screens and try to go through these colliders and other stuff like that.
So I was thinking, “Okay, that’s really fun.” I think this idea could be intensified and elaborated as a full-fledged game.
So, while we were working on the first ideas about the game, I thought that to make the full-fledged game there was a need for a character attached to it, so I thought the character might have a bō staff that you can use to jump over things bounce on things…
So i thought: “What kind of character could he wield a bō staff? Where does the bō staff come from?” Because the staff is a Japanese weapon, but also a Chinese one. And having more knowledge about the Japanese world, I decided to pursue this path.
Then we created a kind of cute kitsune type character with a lotus based kabuki mask that is like a flower that also has roots in Japanese culture and it just took off from there.
It’s as if I have started studying Japanese folklore and doing research. There’s so much material we can draw inspiration from.
Great! I noticed that the lore is very cryptic and the narrative strand is still shrouded in mystery. Could you tell us more about the protagonist’s true mission?
Yes, I don’t know how much I can tell you without doing too many spoilers, but I could tell you a little about the character.
Bō is an original character that I designed and he’s what I call a Tentaihana, which in English is a celestial blossom. Its origin derives from the arrival of a tear of the gods on the earth: it settles on a seed that is in the ground and becomes a flower.
That flower becomes a Tentaihana, which is this creature (that is Bō) are kind of like some kind of little animals, but they all have a floral motive. Each Tentaihana will therefore be attached to a certain flower like a rose, a sunflower, a narcissus, a chrysanthemum… (I also really like flowers).
A Tentaihana would therefore be like a flower but also like an animal and they also have a magic relic: everyone has their own relic which is sometimes a weapon and sometimes not.
The beginning of the story coincides with the birth of your Tentaihana, so you were born into this world and each type of Tentaihana has a purpose attached to them because they come from the tears of the gods.
So you have to think why these gods are sad and how to make them happy again: this is the mission of every Tentaihana.
During the adventure you will meet different characters and you will also meet various Tentaihanas which all have different missions. Some of them will corrupt their mission, perhaps some of them will think they are better than the gods.
it’s probably a little hint of the lore of the game, but the story revolves around finding out what your true mission is and how to please your god. Furthermore, the gods are called “Kami” in Japanese folklore.
Thank you so much! I also noticed that the gameplay and the combat system are really impressive and I’ve this question for you: what are the distinctive features of gameplay and combat?
Bō‘s combat system is not the spotlight of the game. Well, it’s weird to say but the combat system, the movement system and the platforming system are intertwined.
We’ve been really inspired by games like Guacamelee where your attack is also movement – I don’t know if you’ve played Guacamelee – but in this game the attack on top is like an up movement and then this side punch is as a dash move and the downward skill is a slam to the ground.
There are all these things about movement that are related to combat, so I thought that making Bō special would also be, for example, meeting your enemies and using them more as a means of moving around rather than just fighting them for the sake of killing them. There will be a pogo in the game, so if you like pogo you can attack your enemies in order to get an upward trajectory.
One of the core abilities that’s really fun in my opinion in the game is the grapple slice ability which is a grapple that you’re you’re able to chain and also do damage while you’re doing it.
So it’s almost as if the inspiration for this ability was actually inspired by Attack On Titan, which is an anime where they fly through the air and cut things as they fly through the air.
There’s going to be an element of inspiration from that anime of which I am a huge fan. So you’re getting a move skill and a combat skill at the same time and the great thing is they’re intertwined with each other.
This is very interesting, thank you! I have to say that I generally pay close attention to the sound sector in video games; so my question is how did you work on this aspect of your game?
We really wanted to focus on the music and we really wanted to give it a distinct Japanese feeling. We therefore tried to do this by using a certain type of instruments that are closely linked to the Japanese sound.
So we used Kodo, Taiko drums, Shakuhachi (which is a kind of flute type woodwind instrument) and a bunch of other things.
Our composer Moises called Margos, he is from mexico and he was amazing on this project.
He had so many ideas and we’re working together to create different motifs for different characters, right down to the sound effects although the sound effects have been a bit of an afterthought right now…it’s something we will really refine later.
We may have to involve someone additionally to do this. So far I have done all the sound effects in and it has undoubtedly been fun, but I don’t really know what I am doing, I don’t know how strong it is to do something or whatever, so we will have to ask for help from a professional to help us with the sound, because I believe that the sound sector is really fundamental in a video game and very often people don’t even realize it, so I really want to focus on that.
Great! Seeing the Kickstarter I wanted to ask you this: is there the future possibility of a DLC and a future release of the game for Xbox and PlayStation? Are there any updates about this?
Unfortunately, we didn’t reach the stretch goal for the DLC. I’ll never say no, we won’t have a DLC, but first we need to focus on finishing the main game.
We will evaluate the audience reaction and if there is enough demand for a DLC, I have so many ideas for this game…however if there was the possibility of making a DLC, I would be really happy to make it.
But as for porting to other consoles, I won’t say with 100% certainty that it happens because you never know, but we plan to come out for all major consoles.
it’s just a matter of timing things correctly because a lot of people don’t know but if you’re developing for PC first, unless they have a little bit of exclusivity unless they have some console of exclusivity… but you develop for PC and the PC game is finished, you have to lock it with code and then it takes three months to bring it and all this stuff has to be ready.
So if we wanted to hypothetically we could start the game first for PC only and then wait for the consoles, but you usually don’t want to do that because you want to ride all the hype and somehow drop all the games on every single console at the same time so people can play or anywhere.
But anyway to answer your question simply, yes, it will be on all major consoles, although it will depend on several factors.
Thank you so much for your time! Break a leg for the project, we’ll follow constantly this game. Good luck with everything and thank you very much for the interview.
Yeah, thank you for your support and I’m looking forward to talking to you again when the game will be release.
Yeah, of course. Thank you and we’ll see in the next interview. Bye!
Bye and thank you so much!