Art Director at Troglobytes Games Luciano Iurino has told us about the development process behind Blind Fate: Edo no Yami, talked about using Unreal Engine's tools to set up gameplay mechanics, and explained how the team managed to get two Epic MegaGrants.
I’m Luciano and I am the Art Director here at Troglobytes, a small game development team based in Barcelona, Spain. I am one of the founding members, so I’ve been here since the beginning. The team was originally founded back in 2015, but we officially registered as a company in 2018. I did not attend any specific school for digital arts, I’m self-taught and I’ve been working with 2D and 3D graphics for video games for the best part of the last 25 years, following along with all of the technical evolutions and advancements in the field. Our first game as a team, HyperParasite, was published in 2020.
Blind Fate: Edo no Yami
With HyperParasite, we had fun creating a retro-inspired visual style that resembled that of arcade classics. When we decided to work on Blind Fate: Edo no Yami, we knew since day one that we wanted to explore a totally different style. I came up with the idea of working on something that included both samurai and robots; I talked to our narrative designer and asked to create something from a simple concept that we had sketched down with the rest of the team. He took a few days and then produced a draft of the story that you can experience today in the game.
As for almost everything we do, we are influenced by the 80s pop culture we grew up with. HyperParasite was a love letter to that era, but you can find some references in Blind Fate: Edo no Yami as well. I’d say that Zatoichi and Blind Fury have been a great inspiration for this game, not only because they both feature a blind samurai but also for other smaller details. Great arcade and action games of the past have also been of great inspiration: Strider, Shadow Dancer, Ninja Gaiden, etc.
All of the enemies and characters in the game are directly inspired by Japanese folklore and folktales. We studied lots of those creatures and made robotic renditions out of the more interesting ones.
In Blind Fate: Edo no Yami, you play in a new, dark, and machine-filled Edo period; the Shogunate rules over a dystopian Japan with its just, yet cruel hand – you! As a Demon Hunter for the Shogunate, your task is to protect people from “demons” (evil machines out of control), until your sight is taken from you, and you must learn to “feel” the world anew.
The player must learn to leverage Yami’s sensors to perceive the world and its dangers. You can use the sensors to perceive Heat, Sounds/Noises, and even Smell. For example, some enemies will make noise while moving, so you can “see” the sound waves and act accordingly.
On top of that, Yami can also use “ancient world” data to “see” what’s around him (think of something like Google Maps); the thing is that this data can be as old as 500 years, so some environmental features like bridges, pillars, etc. may not be there anymore, and you have to carefully explore the game levels, acquire newer data and try to survive in a hostile world filled with robotic nightmares straight out of Japanese folklore.
We’ve been working with other engines in the past, but in 2015 we switched to Unreal Engine 4, never to change again. We initially chose this engine because of its almost unlimited rendering capabilities, which put it above the competition, but soon understood that it was better than any other engine we ever worked with when it comes to teamwork, animation tools, and customization.
Unreal Engine is perfect for our needs because, in the rare event that you’re missing some tools from the editor, you can make your own, thanks to the full engine source code availability. This helped us on more than one occasion, especially with console ports.
Also, the Sequencer and the animation tools offered by Unreal, together with state-of-the-art VFX thanks to the new Niagara particle system, allowed our animators to create spectacular finishers and killing sequences.
Looking for UE Artists
Currently, we are a small team that adapts its size to the projects we work on. The core team is currently made of 3 members, but we work with several artists and animators all around the world.
It’s not too difficult to find talents with Unreal skills, but some positions are surely harder to fill, especially good animators that know the engine’s tools. Also, good and reliable real-time VFX artists are something we usually struggle to find.
Unreal Engine’s community is really great, we always try to join in and participate in some of the social initiatives (for example, we usually post on Unreal’s #screenshotsaturday on Twitter, showing off what we’ve been working on in the previous days/weeks). It’s inspiring watching what other people have been creating with the same tools we use on a daily basis.
Receiving Two Epic MegaGrants
We received two Epic MegaGrants, one for HyperParasite and one for Blind Fate: Edo no Yami! As I previously said, we always try to be present on social media, forums, and other online venues, so I think that the team at Epic noticed both of our projects way before we submitted for the MegaGrants (I usually brag with gamedev friends because I had a couple of posts retweeted by Tim Sweeny himself!).
When we received the first MegaGrant for HyperParasite, the game was already available in the stores, so we mainly used that money to push the marketing outreach some more (content creators, sponsored streams, etc).
Blind Fate: Edo no Yami MegaGrant’s money, instead, all went down into the animation work for the game; there were some finisher animations that we were not particularly happy with, so we decided to invest some more money into reworking them from scratch. Sometimes, I can be a pain for the rest of the team because I want our things to be perfect, but you know, eventually, the time comes to get the game out there and you have to stop refining and reworking things out.
A game like Blind Fate: Edo no Yami features hundreds of different animations, and making them all work well together can be a daunting task to bring home. You have different characters with different actions, animations of characters that need to work together with other characters, technical animations (in-game, looping animations), one-shots, finishers, special attacks, and whatnot.
As stated before, finding people that know how to work with Unreal’s animation tools is not an easy task, so that’s been our main bottleneck and time-consuming task.
While still working on Blind Fate: Edo no Yami, we decided to take our business a step further and jumped into indie game publishing. Until now, we only developed and published our own games (or just offered third parties services), so it was the first time for us to act as a publisher.
We used all the knowledge we’ve been acquiring with Unreal and console porting in the last years and published Ravenous Devils (a game by Bad Vices) on all major consoles and PC storefronts (Nintendo Switch, Xbox, PlayStation, Epic Games Store, GOG). The game was really well-received by both players and the press, it sold 100.000 copies in its first month, went viral on TikTok and other social media, and was even played by huge Streamers/YouTubers of the caliber of Sodapoppin and Markiplier.
It’s been a really good experience, so we plan to keep it going in the future; we’ll try to find other interesting hidden indie gems and publish them for the world to play.
We also started working on our next thing, this time it’s a co-op multiplayer game, so stay tuned for more!
Luciano Iurino, Art Director at Troglobytes Games
Interview conducted by Arti Burton
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