Ten Questions With… Friso (Critical Bit)

Ten Questions With… Friso (Critical Bit)

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Critical Bit recently released their unique take on the shoot ‘em up genre, Reign of Bullets. The game features tons of epic loot as well as the ability to bolt heaps of guns to your ship. The result is an addictive, but also surprisingly accessible shooter. To find out more about Reign of Bullets we caught up with the co-founder of Critical Bit.

Can you give our readers a quick introduction of yourself and the studio?

I am Friso, game designer and co-founder of Critical Bit. We are a small indie studio from the Netherlands that works on both serious games and entertainment games. We’ve been making games professionally for around 5 years now. We have done a few mobile and web games before, but Reign of Bullets is our first big entertainment production. Critical Bit was created during our study when we were all students.

How did the idea for Reign of Bullets come about?

The idea for Reign of Bullets was born during a game jam, a weekend where we created a game within 48 hours. The result of this game jam was a simple shoot ’em up with one level and a loot system (it’s called Lots Of Guns and is actually still playable on Newgrounds). We liked this basic concept so much (and also got a lot of positive reactions) that we decided that this would be a good, fairly simple concept for our first PC game.

What are the games/media that influenced you and how?

We took a lot of inspiration from old shmups like r-type and Raptor: Call of Shadows. When we started development, we were also playing a lot of Diablo 3 which was a great inspiration for the loot and level based part of the game. It was very important to us that we would not make a hardcore bullet hell for which you need the reflexes of a pro gamer and months of training. We think that the shmup genre can also be enjoyable for more casual players.

How long did the game take to develop?

The game took 2 years to develop, working on and off on it. Since we’re also doing a lot of contract work, we couldn’t work on Reign of Bullets full time. Only in the last 3 months have we focused entirely on Reign of Bullets. It’s interesting to note that in the first 1-2 months, we already had at least a rough execution of most of the features of the final game implemented. It took the rest of the time to improve, balance, polish, etc.

What was the biggest challenge while creating Reign of Bullets?

Keeping the scope of the project small. We have an inbox for new features and there have been a lot of great ideas that we had to let go of. For example, in the beginning, we had ‘the overworld’, a map where you could fly around, visit towns, run into groups of enemies and find loot. This would actually be where you enter the levels. It really hurt to cut that feature, it had a lot of potential, but it just would have taken too much time to develop. Even now there are still a lot of great features that would really improve the game even more, but at some point you just have to accept the game as it is.

How did you decide on the backstory for Reign of Bullets?

We didn’t want to give too much emphasis on the story, since we think the gameplay was the most important and enjoyable part of the game. Other game genres are more suitable for a good story in our opinion (not saying it is impossible to create a good story for a shmup ofcourse). That being said, I think the story is mostly inspired by the world in it’s current state, with big, faceless companies controlling a lot of the economy and what you see outside and the simple man being the victim of this. That being said, it’s of course a very lighthearted and simplified take on the matters and we don’t take it too seriously. It’s just something easy to relate to.

Can you tell us a little more about the visual style you chose for Reign of Bullets?

We’ve seen too much retro graphics in indie games lately. With all respect to pixel artists, but come on people, we have a lot of nice, different colors these days! And there’s 2.073.600 pixels at your disposal on an average screen! We thought it would be nice to do it a little different and so our visual style was born. And we’ve noticed that this style is really a hit or miss with people, they either love it or hate it. We’ve heard a lot of comments that it looks like a flash or mobile game (and every time we cry a little), but I guess that’s the price of trying something different. We hope that people will look past that and just give the game a try, as a lot of people have done in the past with great games that look old and pixely. In the end I’m glad that we chose this style.

What are the future plans for Reign of Bullets/Critical Bit?

Right now we are working on improving Reign of Bullets a bit more on the endgame part. This is something that our players have been asking for right after release. Although we can’t afford to create a lot more content and features, we’re doing what we can to optimize the current experience as much as possible. But personally I think it’s a good thing that our players are asking for more, so I’m already quite happy with that.
We’re really psyched to start another entertainment game, but we have no idea yet what kind of game (or even platform?) it will be. So what happens next is still a bit of a mystery, but we’re definitely sure to make more games!

What is the most unusual thing on your desk right now?

It was a close call between the toilet paper, the self made Star Trek transponder and ‘the blob’, but since I usually get comments about my blob, that’s probably the most unusual. It’s basically goo that can be used to play around with, it bounces, it tears, it deforms, it’s magnetic and it looks like alien blood. I just use it as a stress ball.

Anything else you would like to add?

Games are freaking awesome and you’re never too young or too old to play, I’m especially excited for all the cool stuff that is happening now and in the near future: more indie games, VR, esports, and a lot more. I’m happy to be part of a gaming generation and community. The process of creating a game and getting it on steam is also a great experience and has been a life long dream. It has been a great journey where we met a lot of helpful people, we’d like to thank these people through this channel too. And if you like our game, keep following us for future games, hopefully we can bring you more cool stuff!

Thank you to Friso for taking the time to chat to us about the game! For more information, check out our Reign of Bullets review HERE or visit the official website.

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