Welcome to the first edition of “Spotlight On,” a series of interviews and articles we’ll be posting from time to time to highlight what’s happening in the Rochester game development scene.
This time out, we asked Brian Johnstone, the co-founder of Darkwind Media, a few questions about their recently-completed side-scrolling beat ’em up, Wulverblade, which is now available to download for the Nintendo Switch.
Help Britannia defeat the Romans in Wulverblade – a hardcore side-scrolling beat ’em up inspired by the old arcade classics! Experience a historically inspired storyline across eight campaign levels – or test your skills in the game’s deadly arenas. Go it alone or team up with a friend in local two-player co-op. It’s time to show the Ninth Legion what you’re made of!
John, ROC Game Fest Organizer: How did Darkwind Media get its start in Rochester?
Brian Johnstone, Darkwind Media: [I’m a Rochester native]. I met the other founders at RIT where we decided to start Darkwind while we were in the final years finishing our degrees. After school we just kept focusing on growing the company and after 10 years we’re still here.
John, ROC Game Fest Organizer: Where did the idea for Wulverblade come from?
Brian Johnstone, Darkwind Media: Wulverblade’s original concept was presented to us by Mike Heald, who is the game’s creative director. We had known Mike by contracting on the same jobs together. He’s a great artist and lives in northern England. He got in touch with us, and after a bunch of calls and looking at his idea, we decided to partner together with him to develop Wulverblade.
John, ROC Game Fest Organizer: What was it like developing a game with an ocean in between both halves of the development team?
Brian Johnstone, Darkwind Media: Remote development is always a little harder than having everyone together. There are some game companies out there where every member of the team is in their own separate location. We probably could have been more efficient if we were in the same place. However, we certainly benefited from Mike being on-location. He could actually go to historical sites that are either featured in the game directly or inspired locations featured in the game.
John, ROC Game Fest Organizer: Wulverblade’s concept and time period are rather unique. Did you like going places other developers haven’t explored yet?
Brian Johnstone, Darkwind Media: I was already a huge history buff before ever working on Wulverblade. So, when Mike presented the setting for the game to us I was immediately intrigued. British history under Rome is an area where we have decent historical and archeological records and yet in popular media it has been left relatively untouched. There is a certain enjoyment I get out of the thought that not a lot of stories have been told to modern audiences in our setting.
John, ROC Game Fest Organizer: Was it a challenge to release Wulverblade on the Switch so soon after the console’s launch?
Brian Johnstone, Darkwind Media: The biggest challenge was simply that when we started the Switch didn’t exist, so we hadn’t been designing for it. Once the opportunity arose we focused on getting the platform supported as quickly as possible. It was definitely a challenge and there were a few areas where our decisions early on, when we didn’t know that we would be releasing on the Switch, created problems for us.
John, ROC Game Fest Organizer: What part of Wulverblade are you most proud of?
Brian Johnstone, Darkwind Media: We spent a lot of time taking the formula of classic arcade brawlers and trying to make it “feel” right in a modern game. The topic of “game feel” is a huge one and very broad and the tricks we use to get the combat to feel “meaty” or the controls be responsive were varied and often took many iterations of experiments and testing. I really feel like Wulverblade’s gameplay succeeds in being fast, responsive, and satisfying.
John, ROC Game Fest Organizer: Is there a timeline for bringing Wulverblade to the PC, PS4, and Xbox One?
Brian Johnstone, Darkwind Media: The other platforms are being finalized and polished currently and we plan on having them ready for launch in November. We’ll announce and specific release date for those soon.
John, ROC Game Fest Organizer: Thanks so much, Brian. And good luck with Wulverblade!
If you’re a game developer in Rochester and would like to talk about your game in a future edition of “Spotlight On,” please get in touch with John through our Contact Form.