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Developer Interview: Landit Bandit

Posted by on July 12th, 2010 | 2 Comments | Tags: ,

Coming out tomorrow on the US store (out already in Europe), Landit Bandit is a game not many people have heard about before its release. We have already reviewed it, but we figured that you might want to learn a little bit more about how it was made and who exactly “The Bearded Ladies” are. We had the chance to interview both Haraldur Thormundsson (CEO) and David Skarin (Programmer). Both were given the same questions and until now, neither of them knows what the other has written.

So let’s get on with the show. First as always we start off with a trailer.

PSNStores: Could you let everyone know a little about The Bearded Ladies Consulting?

Haraldur Thormundsson: In the beginning it was only 3 of us, David Skarin, Magnus Grundberg and I but during the past year the circus has grown with two members. This as we only grow in a organic way, and it is more important to grow as a group of friends enjoying doing stuff rather then aiming for building a AAA studio. But we really see ourselves as gamers living the hardcore gamers ultimate dream and that is to make our own games for PS3.

David Skarin: We are a ragtag group of gamers that stuffed ourselves in a tiny office for a year to realize our dreams. ..to make games (and crossdress). We all come from different
walks of life and all bring different skillsets to the table. A regular smorgasbord of nerds.
If you were asking about the name, simply visit our website.

PSNS: What are some the team’s favorite PSN games? Your favorite games in general?

HT: Landit Bandit of course, but seriously I still really like the game after pretty intense playing and testing. If I had to pick other mans baby then it would be Tetris. Favorite games in general?
We play games everyday after lunch, often Starcraft. But if I had to pick one time favorite Heroes of Might and Magic III is fantastic as well as of course EVE Online and Freelancer.

DS: To be honest I haven’t spent enough time on PSN recently to comment on that. Last game
i purchased was “Age of Booty” on a hangover with a college, its a great game and we come
back for some 2v2 every once in a while. We play Starcraft (and sometimes Counterstrike)
for an hour after lunch every day at the office. As for the top 5 list I can crank those out forever…here is one :

  • Starcraft Broodwar
  • Civilization 4
  • Counterstrike
  • UFO II
  • EVE Online (to have a mmo in the list.. otherwize tetris 😉 )

PSNS: Why did you choose the PlayStation Network to release your first game?

HT: Well we have always aimed for making games for console and Sony was at the top of that list. It is the latest console and had a reputation about being hard to work on so for us it was like having the change to scale Mount Everest. But a big factor was of course that we pitched the game for Sony Europe and the liked it and offered us a 3rd party deal. So we produce and publish the game on our own and that is a dream coming true.

DS: We showed an early version of the game for the first time at the Nordic Game Conference last year. In the car on our way there me and Haraldur discussed what the best thing that could happen would be. We decided that running into Sony and getting the chance to make the game for the PS3 would be the thing. The reason for this was the companies history of making awesome games, as well as
Sony being known for being great to work with within the industry. So when Sony were the first
of the console giants to visit our booth and show interest… that was it.

PSNS: Did you have any video game influences that are evidently present in Landit Bandit?

HT: Yes we did, we have borrowed gaming elements from good old classics like Moonlander, Crazy Taxi, and Ugh and other great titles and formed it into something new. We tried to be true to the retro elements in the old classics so we made the game run in 60 fps so the controls would feel good. At the same time we wanted to bring back the splitsceen mulitplayer option that supports both jump in co-op as well as the duels. I think that the duels are the best thing about the game.

DS: I’m sure I won’t suprise anyone who played PC/Amiga games in the early ninties if i say UGH! The controls are basically a 3D version of the even older classic Moonlander/Lunar Lander. I dont know if this comes across to the gamer, but for anyone who played those classics and think about it I’m sure its going to be evident.

PSNS: How did the genre “Semicasual-retro-chopper adventure” arise?

HT: LOL I can’t remember to be honest but my guess it that was under some brainstorming meeting. But it took me a long time to be able to say it with out smiling. 🙂

DS: Hehe… well the list of genres and keywords that people who saw the game threw at us was
getting incredibly long by the time we decided on something. After all sometimes you have to have a short version to tell people who ask, and honestly I’m not sure we fit in any current genre. So we took all the words and wrote them on a whiteboard, crossed out about 95% of them and rearranged it to something that we were actually somewhat confident we could remember.

PSNS: How did you create the game’s plot? Did everyone on the team contribute to something akin to a storyboard? Was everyone involved in the writing?

HT: Yes we have all been involved in the story and that is probably why it is the way it is. And I think we can say that we did have the beginning and the end done early in the process and the rest just grow out to what it is today. And a lot of the story was done at the local pub. That is why we have the pub in the creditlist.

DS: All of the ladies had something to do with the story. We had an early brainstorming session and came up with beginning and the end of the story. We made a basic storyboard at a later point to make sure we tied it together. The rest of the story was completed after work hours at our favorite bar (no names… check the credits).

PSNS: The different objectives to be completed were very varied and creative, but sometimes, as in the cooking stage, the objectives had to be repeated. The inhabitants would order the same meal two, sometimes three times in a row. Can you explain the design difficulties in this aspect and other aspects of the game?

HT: As we had totally free hand (with in our budget) to do the game we wanted to, we had the freedom and the curse to do the game our way. Than meant that we could do what ever we wanted with in the frames of skills, time, and money. And a couple times we worked on some ideas that didn’t work in the beginning and the harder we worked on them the harder it was to drop them. So from a design point of view “If it doesn’t work in the beginning drop it as you can’t polish a turd.”

DS: There were several design difficulties with these aspects. The original idea was that the game would be purely taxi-based with the individual worlds being varied enough to make it interesting. At this time the idea was also to let the player choose wingmen along the way to make it dynamic. We had to drop these ideas when it turned out that flying around in 3D is actually very free (doh!) and the there are limits to the variation you can achieve with simple geometry and some physics effects. So we opted to design worlds that suited the wingmen well and throw in completely unique levels in each world for variation. This part worked out really well in the end, but sadly it took a lot of our time to test new ideas and when we came to the last world we really had to go with the first or second thing that came up. As for repeating dishes in the cooking stage that is quite probable as we had to keep the number of dishes low in order for people to learn the ingredients.

PSNS: The aiming system for the coconut-shooting was a bit rough. Was there a reason you chose not to add an aiming reticle (a la After Burner, for example), if even only for the boss stage?

HT: Well that would have changed the whole coconut shooting mechanism. We think that our system is the best alternative. What came as a surprise is that we thought most games would have mastered the nuts in duels long before they came to the boss.

DS: The coconut shooting has been in the game since we made the first demo (essentially the “secretary duel”). In order to make the coconuts less powerful when you were on the ground we made them shoot in a 45 degree upwards angle and only let the player control the power. This was great for the duel where we wanted people to tackle each other and come up with other strategies than simply throwing coconuts. I still think a well placed (epic) coconut in the duel is the most rewarding feeling in the game. We tried on several occasions to get this into the singleplayer campaign so people would know it by the end, but it became to overwhelming for players if introduced to early. So we kept pushing it further and further on in the game, and in the end the coconut tutorial ended up being the last part of the game. As for the aiming reticle we tried a few solutions but because of the trajectory of the coconuts a reticle didn’t work well. A “trajectory path” cluttered up the display to much compared to the minimal gain, so we opted to go with the cleaner look and harder nuts!

PSNS: If you could change one thing about Landit Bandit what would it be?

HT: What ever would make the game better, but out of the resources we had, I am pretty pleased with the game, but there are some great ideas for some maps that would be so much fun to work. Maybe we will use them and make an expansion or even a Landit Bandit the sequel.

DS: The last two levels. We made this quite ambitious and unique first game, on a console we had never coded for and did it in less then a year. And we are very proud of that achievment. But in the end we are a very small indie company who paid it out of our own pocket, sadly the last two levels had to pay for that. There were many other ideas that would probably have been better that never got to see the light of day because we were simply out of money.

PSNS: Are there any plans for downloadable content or a demo in the future?

HT: Now the only futureplan we have is vacation, we are in big need for that, then we will see what we will do. We have two other games up our sleeve that we like to make. The best thing about being small multimedia circus is the freedom we have, to pick our next projects and execute them. Demo and DLC are also an good option.

DS: Right now our plans are to get the game launched everywhere and then take a much needed vacation. Once we come back we will decide where we want to go. We don’t believe in planning to far ahead as our strength lies in being flexible and having full creative control 🙂

PSNS: Final Question, only those with access to the European store have had a chance to check Landit Bandit out. Are there plans to release in other territories?

HT: Yes we go live in US and Canada on Tuesday (Jul. 13th for $9.99) and we are looking into getting the game into Asia and Australia.

DS: We are releasing the game in the US on the 13th for $9.99. After that we will start looking at the Asian market and how to make the game even weirder for them ;).

This was a little different from previous interviews, more of a postmortem feel, but it was just as fun. I want to thank David and Haraldur for taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to check out Landit Bandit this week for $9.99.