Indie Developer Interview: Robi Studios

Blue Fire is a 2021 3D action-adventure platformer by Argentina’s Robi Studios, available now on Steam and Nintendo Switch; Xbox and PlayStation versions are planned for later this year. Game Director Santiago Rosa was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to respond to an email interview about the studio’s latest game.

Please tell us about your studio’s history in the game industry.

Robi Studios started off as me and my brother working from home in 2018. We always wanted to make our own game, that was our goal. Of course it wasn’t easy to start from scratch, so we began by doing art outsourcing work. We worked as freelancers for a while and then on environment art for Splitgate Arena Warfare for about a year and a half. At that time we decided to go all in with Blue Fire and start growing as a team.

For those unfamiliar with it, could you please give a brief description of Blue Fire?

Sure! Blue Fire is a 3D action-adventure platformer, set in the dark fantasy world of Penumbra. What makes Blue Fire unique is that it combines challenging 3D platforming with a Zelda-like world and adventure feel. The platforming has the speed, moves, upgrades and difficulty that you would expect in a fast paced intense 2D metroidvania game, all this set in a mysterious world that leans more towards what you might expect from a Dark Souls game!

What were your specific influences when designing it?

We messed around with lots of references during development. Not all of the influences were games, we’ve learned from Naruto anime series, literature classics like The Silmarillion and Studio Ghibli films. But of course we also referenced games. Our strongest influences were old 3D Nintendo games like Super Mario 64, Donkey Kong 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. In a more contemporary note, the recent revival of 2D platformers and metroidvanias (Celeste, Hollow Knight, Ori) were key to us, because we realized that people enjoyed “retro gameplay” but with a dark twist, a more mature approach and a more challenging experience. That’s when Dark Souls really stuck on us. The world building and oppressive atmosphere of the Souls series was a thing we loved, and we tried to reproduce some of it in Blue Fire. And for the final touch, we mixed in a bit of cuteness and silliness of A Hat in Time. I think this mix of styles ended up making Blue Fire have an awesome personality and life of its own 🙂

What was your process for designing the game’s excellent camera?

The camera was something we worked on from the start, even before we were actually developing Blue Fire. We needed it to feel responsive and natural, as it’s a core element of a 3D platformer. With that in mind, we set out the bases and iterated on different aspects of the camera, ’til we were satisfied with the way it functioned together with our character’s movement. In time, we also added a few small features such as inverted camera and sensitivity speed, wanting to make people really feel comfortable with the camera and their personal preferences.

How long did it take to develop the game and what were the greatest or most surprising challenges?

We started developing Blue Fire around July 2019, so about one and a half years! One of the most challenging moments of development was when we realized we had a huge world blocked out, and that filling it with organic art would take us a very long time. Having to deal with tight deadlines, we changed our work pipeline and created tools that allowed us to make a lot of the game’s art procedurally. Luckily, this was a great time saver which let us dedicate more to making sure that the gameplay was as tight and fun as possible!

What is your favorite chapter or area in the game?

I think my favorite area in the game is probably the Abandoned Path. It’s an area that mixes different elements in a way that works great in my opinion. You have some of the toughest enemies around that contrast with a beautiful shimmery cold and ethereal environment. Also, I think the music is one of the chilliest and most unique of all tracks. It has something that just clicks for me. You’ll find a huge tower in the center of the Abandoned Path, and climbing it can be a pretty big and rewarding challenge. This area also has two Voids, and one of them is arguably the most difficult one you can find in Penumbra, a five star Void that can get you shaking all around when approaching the end of it. (interviewer’s note: Voids are relatively brief platforming challenges set apart from the main world in the style of Super Mario Sunshine‘s bonus stages)

Are there any gameplay mechanics or story sequences that didn’t make it into the finished game? If so, what caused them to be cut?

There were lots of elements that didn’t make it into the final game and others that changed dramatically from their initial conception. Sometimes things didn’t quite work when prototyped, other times things were cut due to scope and other times the decisions were taken because of difficulties in the technical aspects of implementing new features or ideas. These cut or modified elements went from small things like textures or props, to large portions of gameplay, areas or complete systems.

One of the initial ideas that didn’t make the game was Boro, along with 3 other titans. During the pre-production phase there was an idea of having only four titans as bosses, inspired primarily by Shadow of the Colossus. The player would have to do platforming on living moving creatures. After testing two creatures and as other aspects of the game advanced, it was clear that it was too time consuming and that pursuing this idea would mean branching towards a very specific gameplay idea leaving aside a lot of content that was faster to develop and much more fun to play.

Do you anticipate producing a sequel or expansions for Blue Fire?

We’d love to get to keep working on content for Blue Fire! We actually have a lot of ideas for DLC content, including an online Void/level maker (which is already prototyped) and a few speedrunning tools. Hopefully if there is enough interest we’ll be able to ship some of these! However, at this point we haven’t confirmed development since we are fully focused on fixing anything that should come up.

Blue Fire is available now on Steam and Nintendo Switch. You can also follow @RobiStudios on Twitter to keep up with patches, additional content, and ports to other home consoles. If you’d like to see more from me, you can find me on Twitter under the handle @SinginBrakeman. Thanks for reading, and be sure to let everyone know what you think about Blue Fire in the discussion below!