Robi Studios’ debut title, Blue Fire, is an interesting mix of action and platforming with influences from other games like Zelda and Hollow Knight. With a heavy emphasis on movement, the game evokes the dark world of Penumbra that seriously tests the mettle of anyone who enters it.
In a conversation with Angshuman Dutta of Sportskeeda Esports, Robi Studios discussed their inspiration for the game, the design of the platform challenges and their difficulties, the experience of launching their first game and what they have in store next.
Robi Studios talks about the world and mechanics of Blue Fire
Q: To begin, can you describe what Blue Fire is to our readers?
Robi Studios: Sure! Blue Fire is a 3D action-adventure game focused on platforming and exploration. In a way, it combines the fast-paced and challenging platforming you expect from an intense 2D Metroidvania game, mixed with a Zelda-like adventure world and feel.
It’s about getting lost in a fantasy world called Penumbra that has incredible regions, characters, and lots to explore and discover. In my opinion, what makes Blue Fire’s gameplay unique is its movement capabilities with full air and momentum control, which allows for very tight air movement.
I think the platforming abilities, gear, challenges, and difficulties you’ll find across the world are completely unique and unheard of in the 3D platforming genre.
Q: The launch trailer shows off a dark, dark atmosphere with accompanying soundtracks, perfectly encapsulating the mood of the game. What were your inspirations for the Penumbra game world and its characters? I get a distinct Hollow Knight vibe.
Robi Studios: Well, our team has been nurtured and inspired by countless titles as we are a mix of people with different interests and tastes. I think what’s great about it is that with different inspirations, we managed to achieve a mixed feel in Blue Fire – from some Dark-Soulish interactions to the cuteness of A Hat in Time, with an adventure like Zelda (laughs).
We also learned a lot from indie platforms like Super Meat Boy, Hollow Knight, and Celeste. And I think that’s where it gets interesting, because the game takes on its own feel and comes to life on its own, drawing from so many great sources of inspiration.
Q: The platforming challenges and movement in Blue Fire seem quite unique. Countless reviews focus on this very aspect of the game. What was the experience like when designing the levels? Interesting information to share?
Robi Studios: We have tried to design our level in such a way that players “play in the most fun way possible”. Big gaps and tricky aerial stunts were nice, so we tended to incorporate a lot of that. The fun thing about these stunts is that players have many moves and the order in which they are performed makes all the difference.
Players have to think before performing stunts, and I think that’s also quite original because most puzzles in 3D action adventure games are usually simple – like moving blocks etc. We didn’t want to do that, and the end result we got was pretty cool.
It was fun to see players scratching their heads with gaps, pretending it was impossible and later walking through them pointing out how easy they are now!
We especially had fun designing Blue Fire’s voids (abstract platforming challenges). Our goal with these challenges was for them to be difficult to watch and completely absorbing to play.
After designing a void, our team members would play it, and it was supposed to be both fun and exciting to watch, with everyone waiting their turn to see if they could beat the segment where the last player died. That’s when we knew a vacuum was good enough.
Q: Coming back to movement again, the official Blue Fire blog mentions that players will “eventually master the art of movement”. Why this focus on the aspect of movement?
Robi Studios: Being a 3D platformer, movement is a priority, so from the start we put a lot of time and energy into the controller, we wanted it to feel good. Like I said earlier, I personally think the movement abilities in the game ended up being amazing.
Because it’s not just about performing actions, it’s about learning how to move around the environment and use it to your advantage, how to react in the right situations, and how to use the abilities while creating builds to improve certain abilities or aspects of movement.
Throughout the game there are very difficult platforming segments (the voids I mentioned before) which I believe are either very rare or have never been seen in 3D space , and to that extent, players will want to master everything they can about the abilities they perform.
How much recovery time do they need after a certain stunt, how much momentum do they gain or lose, do they have to do a double jump first and then dash for more height?
Or should they dash and then double jump to have more time for an accurate landing? It is up to this fine knowledge of the movement to define whether or not you will be able to overcome certain challenges.
Q: Since Blue Fire is Robi Studios’ debut album, how did you feel announcing it at Nintendo’s Indie World Showcase 2020?
Robi Studios: Honestly, we couldn’t have imagined a better way to advertise the game. My brother and I have always been big fans of Nintendo, – having grown up with N64 – and the fact that our first game came out as a timed console exclusive for the Switch, in addition to announcing it as part of Nintendo Indie World, was a dream come true.
We were super excited (and a bit in disbelief at first!). We got together with the team to see the announcement and were surprised by the tons of positive feedback we received.
Q: One of the common points of contention I’ve found is gameplay difficulty – were you surprised people were pointing this out or was it intentional on the part of the developers?
Robi Studios: From the beginning, we wanted to make a challenging game. Most games these days are very easy because they need to be accessible, so they hide the hardest parts of the game for expert players to find.
We took a different approach to it that I think a lot of people really appreciated and felt differently. However, after launching and seeing a large audience asking for a bit more accessibility, we ended up adding an easier difficulty and more checkpoints.
Q: What is the experience of developing such a game as an independent studio in Argentina? What is the game development scene like there?
Robi Studios: The video game industry in Argentina is and has grown a lot in recent years! We’re seeing a lot more developers popping up, new teams coming together, and a lot more games being featured.
Public institutions have also shown more interest and are promoting the industry through grants, events, jams, and helping developers as they can.
Q: Since Blue Fire has been out for almost a year now, how did it go? How did the players react to the game?
Robi Studios: We were very surprised at how many people played Blue Fire on launch day. It was amazing to see people streaming the game, commenting, creating content and sharing it with others. The reception the game had at launch was honestly way above our expectations. However, this also led to a big problem.
We had tested the game extensively internally and with external partners, but it didn’t compare at all to the thousands of people playing it in the first few days. We had a very intense few weeks where we barely rested while tackling everything we could. We finally got a very stable release and I started to sleep a lot better knowing that people could really enjoy the game then.
Being a small studio, we had to start planning what we were going to do next right away and our programmers were very busy ironing out bugs and issues and porting them to three other platforms. But after seeing how much people liked the game, we decided to continue working on Blue Fire and split our work into several parts so that we could gradually update and improve the game.
Since its launch, we have released Sword of Steel update, which introduced a lot of game improvements, bug fixing, game balancing and polishing, Void of Sorrows DLC, which is an update free with new end-game content, the Balance of Justice Update, our biggest balance and improvement update; and now Blue Fire: Void Maker, a free spin-off and our own level creation tool.
Q: What was your goal with the Blue Fire Void Maker?
Robi Studios: First of all, I’m happy to announce that we just launched Blue Fire: Void Maker on Steam!
With Void Maker, we wanted to give players the power to expand the Blue Fire universe beyond what we had imagined as a team. See where people wanted to take the game’s core mechanics and what people wanted to do. Many people in our community have asked us for it, and we were curious to see their ideas.
We launched Void Maker as a free spin-off on Steam, so you don’t need to own the main game to play it. Anyone who feels drawn to Blue Fire but isn’t sure about getting it can try Void Maker first to see if it’s right for them.
Q: What can we expect in the future from Robi Studios? Are you all busy with Blue Fire or is the next project already on the horizon?
Robi Studios: We just launched Blue Fire: Void Maker on Steam and are working on console ports (nothing announced yet!), so a lot of live ops are going on right now. However, we are also making new plans and starting to draft what could be our next project!