Game innovators taking us into the worlds of feudal Japan and a Petri dish
START-UP NATION: BatCat Games:This has been a whirlwind year of awards, grants and accolades for BatCat, a young games firm set up in Dublin
THE EVOLUTION of BatCat Games revolves around a Petri dish. Or to be more precise the defence of a Petri dish in 2061 by a nano-spaceship that repels evil hordes of bacteria intent on destroying all life contained within it. This is essentially the plot of BatCat’s first title – P-3 Biotic – which, after a year that saw it released into both the Xbox Live and PC markets, is set to sell in a physical format in stores just in time for Christmas.
Company founders Andrea Magnorsky, Andrew O’Connor and Sean McDermott are currently immersed in getting P-3 Biotic out to a wider audience.
They are running a campaign to have it released onto the influential Steam platform as well even as they are working on the company’s next effort, a “samurai-based game focused on a fantasy version of feudal Japan”.
It is tentatively called Jiro and O’Connor says it’s “a sort of 2D side-scrolling runner-style game mixed in with a ‘combo-system’ like you get in Street Fighter”.
The company, which was created last year, tries to create titles that are immersive but also playable in “bit-sized chunks”.
In its first iteration P-3 Biotic was a twin-stick arena shooter game.
Magnorsky says, “We brought it into competition and it got some traction, then the idea of turning a game into an actual company started to flourish. That was the dream.”
This initial work was enough to convince Enterprise Ireland to award them a €50,000 Competitive Start Fund (CSF) grant.
Last January P-3 Biotic was released on the Xbox Live Indie Games market, while in the spring Magnorsky and O’Connor decided to leave their jobs as software developers to focus on developing BatCat full time.
Says O’Connor, “We spent most of our weekends and evenings of 2011 working on P-3 Biotic and that was a fair amount of work.”
Running the company full time means that 11-hour days are now the norm, she adds. “It’s amazing, really nice, very rewarding and very exciting. But we’re doing some crazy hours because we believe in it,” she says.
Last March, the company won two Engineers Ireland Game Developer Awards at the ninth annual Games Fleadh, held in Limerick Institute of Technology.
This was followed in July by the release of P-3 Biotic on PC format, which included “increased graphical fidelity, global leaderboards and achievements” as well as an expanded and re-mastered soundtrack.
A steady stream of good reviews have followed alongside an appearance at the games industry trade fair GamesCom in Germany and a visit to the Develop Expo in Brighton.
There’s also been the addition of artist and illustrator Tom Moore to the BatCat team and a re-location of offices to an incubation centre set up by Dublin-based games studio Digit Gaming where they now work alongside fellow indie game innovators BitSmith Games.
While BatCat had planned to release Jiro next February, the success of P-3 Biotic and the process of porting it onto new formats has led to a delay in the original plan with next August now pegged as the best time for it to go to market.
It is set for release across several formats, including the iOS, Android, and PC markets.
Magnorsky says the delay is due to the fact that “you really have to achieve the level of polish that we have on P-3 before it goes out”.
In among the whirlwind of development in the past year, O’Connor admits the big change for those involved in BatCat has been from working solely as games developers to taking on responsibility for sales, marketing and running a business on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s hell,” says O’Connor.
“Ah seriously, it is quite different.”
Magnorsky adds, “You have to learn about cash flow, about business, about talking to investors but also it’s about getting the freedom to do what we love so it’s fantastic.
“That’s the thing with going to trade shows, some people thought what we were doing was great and the whole point is to build relationships and see what happens.”