PD Design Studio Interview
I recently came across a project on Kickstarter which happens to be a Singaporean project, to fund their product Dusty Revenge: The Art of Revenge. I helped fund many projects on Kickstarter (mostly game-related) and I rarely come across to see a local project started on the platform.
Kickstarter is a website dedicated to help companies and entrepreneurs fund creative projects by allowing people like us to vote with our wallets. You can view the site here. So I figured I should get in touch with the guys at PD Design Studio (which is located in Woodlands I noticed) and spend some time interviewing about their project and upcoming game Dusty Revenge.
Nicholas: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us Keng Jin from PD Design Studios, lovely weather in Singapore right now isn't it?
KJ: Thanks Nicholas. You gotta love the 3 seasons we have here in Singapore, hot, hotter, hottest!
Nicholas: Lets start by telling us a little bit more about yourself, the company and your current Kickstarter project, Dusty Revenge: The Art of Revenge, which is a 150 page art book.
KJ: Well, I am Keng Jin (KJ Poh), 1 of the 2 founders of the company and the lead designer for Dusty Revenge. Our company, PD Design Studio started off in 2006 as a multimedia design studio. We have done plenty of client jobs for commercial firms and government agencies. Incidentally, our very 1st project was a Flash game project. And over the next few years, we did quite a lot of Flash games for clients. While the scope and requirements are very different from what we are doing today, I think it helped paved the way.
The founders of the company are designers by training, and that pretty much set the tone for our projects. We placed strong emphasis in visuals due to that. When we started working on Dusty Revenge the game, visuals are a key requirement for us. The artists did tons of concepts to get the art style right. And we documented our process quite well. The artbook started off as a fun project when I saw I could buy some deals from Groupon to print some photobooks. I printed them for the the development team and also shared them on Facebook. That is when I had people asking if they can pre-order a copy. And that was the trigger. We expanded the book from about 50 pages to what we have now, 160 pages.
Mean bunnies looking mean
Nicholas: From what I've read regarding the project, the art book is based off the game Dusty Revenge, the sequel to Dusty Raging Fist. Curiously enough, what drove the decision to start a Kickstarter project focused on the art book instead of the actual game itself?
KJ: I think this gets confusing for people as the game is not released yet... Dusty Revenge is our 1st game. Dusty Raging is our 2nd, but it’s set in a timeline that precedes Dusty Revenge... I hope that makes sense. Anyway, not that it’s that important. We didn’t choose to make the Kickstarter about the game simply because the game is about done. We are only making very small tweaks and a lot of QA to make sure it runs smoothly. It doesn’t seems right to make the Kickstarter about the game. On the other hand, for the artbook, it isn’t likely we can afford to print it ourselves with a small quantity. I think this is where Kickstarter can come in to help. If we can get a minimum quantity, we will be able to print it.
Nicholas: There are very few local game studios in Singapore, just how big is the development team in PD Design Studio and how many people are working on Dusty Revenge? Is Dusty Revenge a part-time passion for the team or is the project a full time endeavour?
KJ: I think the number of local studios have grown significantly in recent years, but yes, it’s still a small industry when we talk about local, home grown studios. When we started on Dusty Revenge, we were in a transitional period, so there were only 2 of us working on the game design and concept. As soon as it was good to go into development, we started to expand, but slowly, from 2 to 4, then we added like 1 headcount every 2 – 3 months until the size we are now. At its peak, we had 10 full-timers. Most of them time, we were working on it full-time. But having to face a project everyday for 2 years can wear you down, mentally and creatively. So we did some side projects which were supposed to be more of a hobby. It allows some of us to take a short break from Dusty Revenge, and return with a fresher mind. In fact, we released 2 iOS games while developing Dusty Revenge. A third title is actually on its way. But that will only be finished after we release Dusty Revenge.
Words, words WORDS WORDS!
Nicholas: Can you tell us about the design process to create the universe for both the Dusty games? How long did it took for the team to fully realise the art direction Dusty needed to go, also what was the inspiration to involve fluffy cutesy animals brawling amongst one another?
KJ: The entire game spawned from the idea of the supporting character mechanics. We were drawn to it as it is unique and we have not seen it in other games. After agreeing that the core gameplay revolves around that, we needed an universe for the game to be set in. There wasn’t much of a debate on whether it should be sci-fi, military, whatsoever. Wild wild west was suggested by the co-founder of the company, Ken, and we like it so we took it. But from there on came the tough part. We started off with some really cute designs, and as we progressed, we upped the ante and decided to take the plunge. We opted for something we really like as opposed to something that is easier to produce. So from a cutesy design, we changed Dusty into something totally kickass. There were about 4 big major iterations, with the final one being the most difficult as we experimented most in that phase. I would say the entire process took over 2 months.
The choice of using animals proved to be an interesting one. We opted to do so as we could design the attacks of the enemies based on their characteristics. For example, a bull will charge at you. Felines are agile while hippo are slow and clumsy. We also have moles that will burrow into the ground and reappear to attack you.
That is the most adorably badass bear I haven't ever seen.
Nicholas: 150 pages is quite a hefty amount of content for an indie game production, was there several iterations to the game art design or do you guys just have completely badass artists?
KJ: We have completely badass artists! But even with that, there was several iterations to the art, 4 major ones as i mentioned earlier. And 150 pages don’t even showcase all the art we have created. But I think that would be a good size book.
Nicholas: Looking at the game's art style and screenshots, the game look fairly similar to Shank in terms of gameplay and arguably the art style -- which is a really good thing. (The Shank games being an ultra-violent stylised 2D indie brawler) Was there any influence taken from the Shank games to create the world of Dusty?
KJ: We didn’t specifically follow their art style. But I am not surprised when I hear that, and I hear that quite often. In fact, we are quite flattered. We think people draw comparison mainly due to the fact that both are 2D brawlers and has hi-definition graphics. But if you play both games, you will see the differences. I wouldn’t say we took reference from Shank to create the world of Dusty. Some of our influences are, Street Fighter, DMC, Streets of Rage and a lot of Youtube videos on martial arts.
Nicholas: Dusty Revenge is currently in the process of being Steam Greenlight-ed, has the gaming community been supportive of the project thus far?
KJ: Generally, the comments we received in the Steam Greenlight pages are positive, which is a really good thing. We were even able to pick up some very constructive comments. They reinforced what we get from our play-test sessions and we were able to improve certain aspects of the game from there. But Steam Greenlight isn’t without its flaws. It’s extremely difficult to gain visibility there. And I would think the Steam Greenlight crowd as their set of preferences. Successful projects will need to do marketing outside of Greenlight to drive traffic there to get more upvotes. Unfortunately, none of us in the studio are marketing gurus. We constantly face an uphill struggle in this area. Hopefully, we’ll be able to gain some exposure once we send out demo to websites.
Nicholas: Does PD Design Studio have any plans they can fall back to if the Kickstarter project isn't successfully funded? (touch wood) - Will the art book still be produced regardless for the people who are interested?
KJ: If our game does well enough, we may consider printing a small quantity to satisfy some of our more ardent fans. I think there will still be people who are interested, we just need to be able to gauge the interest well enough to avoid over-printing.
Nicholas: Are there any plans for future titles after Dusty Revenge? The mobile market has been doing successfully well considering the amount of great games releasing for the iOS and Android devices. Are you guys laying your eyes on the mobile game space anytime soon?
KJ: Dusty Raging Fist is under development now, that is a title we will be pushing out on several platforms. As for the mobile market, we are not so sure. Games like Dusty Revenge aren’t quite suited for the mobile market. But we’ll continue working on side projects that may come out on the mobile platforms. Such projects aren’t usually our main focus, but rather, just an experiment.
The wall of AWESOME
Nicholas: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this with us KJ, we genuinely wish to see the Kickstarter project for Dusty Revenge a success and best wishes to PD Design Studio.
KJ: Thanks, Nicholas, for picking our story up and doing this interview!
The project aims to fund Dusty Revenge: The Art of Revenge with the target goal of US$12 000 with 12 days remaining prior to writing this and you can still support the guys at PD Design Studio by pledging here.