These days, hearing that a popular comic has been adapted into a video game is not at all uncommon, and in most cases, the comic creator and game designer are not one and the same. However,that’s the case with “Blade Kitten,” the brainchild of Krome Studios’ Creative Director, Steve Stamatiadis. “Blade Kitten’s” stretch back to 2001, and after developing the universe through comics over that stretch of time, Stamatiadis’ creation will finally arrive in game form next month.
The first of two downloadable “Blade Kitten” episodes will be released for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 in September, and CBR caught up with Stamatiadis discuss the unique challenges and rewards involved in the property’s transition from comic to game.
CBR News: “Blade Kitten” began life as a comic before becoming a game. Can you tell us a little about the history of the character and the world she inhabits?
Steve Stamatiadis: “Blade Kitten” is the story of Kit Ballard; she’s a bounty hunter who’s trying to get by in a big universe. Even though she’s one of the last of her kind (the Felions, a catlike human hybrid), Kit’s not all alone. She travels with her sidekick Skiffy and a semi intelligent floating sword known as the Darque Blade.
Her world can be a bit of a nasty place. After humanity expanded into space, they ran into other species who were just as interested in expansion as Earth. So there were a few big wars, and eventually things settled down enough for people to go about their lives as normal…mostly. Unfortunately she manages to get dragged into some of the bigger political machinations, and that’s where the fun begins.
How does the game’s storyline tie in with the comic?
The game is a bit of a prequel of sorts, set three years before the comic storyline in a self contained story that also has threads that tie back into the comic. That was fun, trying to work out a story that stood on its own enough to not confuse new viewers, but had elements for the people who have read the comic and not have them screw up the story for the other. You don’t get those kinds of challenges often when making games.
Was it always part of the plan to develop a game with the character, or did that happen somewhere else along the way?
The comic was an attempt to show off the universe I had in my head so that I could get a game made. Comics are such an awesome medium to tell stories in, and they’re a great way to show people ideas. The absolute best thing about drawing the comics was that it was a great way to build the world and sort out how it fits together character-wise.
As a developer, Krome has worked on plenty of action games. Were there any in specific that you’ve worked on previously that helped inspire “Blade Kitten?”
Definitely my previous “TY the Tasmanian Tiger” games, and more recently, “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.” “Blade Kitten” was created way back when I was doing the first TY game. They were great fun to work on, but I really have wanted to do a more anime-inspired game for over 15 years. And with “Star Wars,” I got to think about world building and action in a different way. Also, after working on a great franchise like “Star Wars.” it was hard not to be inspired to do my own project again. Like a lot of people, “Star Wars” was that one thing that inspired me way back in ’77.
How would you describe the general gameplay in “Blade Kitten?”
The game is a 2.5D side-scrolling platform adventure that focuses on environmental exploration and arcade action combat. wrapped up in HD, anime-styled visuals. We’ve designed the game to let you move around any surfaces as easily as if you were running. Climbing walls, hanging from ceilings, jumping, sliding and perching – it’s all designed to be simple and intuitive.
How have you made the game accessible for comic fans who may not be hardcore gamers?
I’ve never liked games that alienate their audience by being hard or over-complicated. It’s always better for a game if people can get the hang of it really easily and the game’s difficulty grows around that. I had a lot of people push for more hardcore combat and such, but I stood my ground to make it fun and accessible first. So the controls are consistent and the moves work together the way you would think they should, and there is a level of context sensitivity to the controls to stop you doing stupid stuff you probably don’t want to do by accident. For example, you probably didn’t want to run off an edge into a pit of spikes on purpose. We also take the stance of rewarding success not punishing failure – these “game” things are supposed to be fun in my book.
Why did you feel digital distribution was the best fit for “Blade Kitten” as opposed to a full retail release?
Digital distribution is a better fit for a game like “Blade Kitten” because it’s a much more cost effective way to target more niche markets. The cost of actually manufacturing, shipping and storing a disc based game means that it’s not very effective if you’re not a mainstream game. That’s why publishers tend to not take risks on anything out of the ordinary.
At this point, can you tell us anything about the second planned episode of “Blade Kitten?”
Episode 2 answers the big questions that arise during episode 1, specifically, what is actually going on at Hollow Wish? A new enemy appears just as Kit makes a new friend and allies form to do that ally thing they do. And Kit may or may not get a steak dinner.
Do you think the game would lend itself well to multiplayer, and have you talked about adding that in the future?
Actually, both of the previous prototypes featured multiplayer, but that wasn’t something we wanted to do initially, because we were developing a brand new code base. We’d love to see that return down the track in a future “Blade Kitten” title. The idea of co-op bounty hunting sounds like something that has to be done.
As they get ready for the game, where can people catch up on the “Blade Kitten” comics?
The comics are all available online to read at bladekitten.com. You’ll also find some character and game info there.
Looking forward, are you planning on continuing with the comics, or perhaps bringing the character into other mediums?
Yep, I’m right back into writing and drawing the continuation of the comics from where I left them when I started working on the game. It’s fun, getting back up to speed on that. We’re looking at doing a new collected edition of the comic. I went back and reformatted it better for standard comic sizes and redrew some of the art. Also looking into the possibility of a PSP comics release.
Outside of comics, we’ve already done some collector’s figurines.
After all the work we put into the cinematics, I’d love to work towards some sort of animated short. I’m so happy with the great voice cast we got for the game that I just want to keep working with them on more “Blade Kitten” projects.
First steps first, though: the game is due out in September on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 [and is] published by Atari. (Did I mention my first computer was an Atari 400? Karma, baby, karma.)