Robi Studios’ debut title, Blue Fire, is an interesting blend of action and platforming with influences from other games like Zelda and Hollow Knight. With a distinct focus on movement, the game conjures up the somber world of Penumbra that seriously tests the mettle of any who steps into it.
In a conversation with Sportskeeda Esports’ Angshuman Dutta, Robi Studios discussed their inspiration for the game, designing 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 the mechanics of Blue Fire
Q: For starters, can you describe what Blue Fire is about to our readers?
Robi Studios: Sure! Blue Fire is a 3D action-adventure game with a big focus on platforming and exploration. In a way, it combines the challenging fast-paced platforming you’d expect in an intense 2D metroidvania game, mixed with a Zelda-like world and adventure feel.
It’s about getting lost in a fantasy world called Penumbra which has incredible regions, characters and much 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 very-tight air movement.
I think the abilities, equipment, platforming challenges and difficulties you will find across the world are completely unique and unseen to the 3D platformer genre.
Q: The launch trailer shows a dark and sombre atmosphere with the accompanying soundtracks perfectly encapsulating the feel of the game. What were your inspirations for the game’s world of Penumbra and its characters? I do sense a distinct Hollow Knight vibe from it.
Robi Studios: Well, our team has been nourished and inspired from countless titles as we’re a mix of people with different interests and tastes. I think what’s great about this is that with different inspirations we’ve managed to get a mixed feel in Blue Fire - from some Dark-Soulish interactions to A Hat in Time cuteness, with a Zelda-like adventure (laughs).
We also learned a lot from indie platformers like Super Meat Boy, Hollow Knight and Celeste. And I think that's where it gets interesting, cause the game gets its own feel and takes life on its own, nurturing from so many great sources of inspiration.
Q: The platforming challenges and the movement in Blue Fire feel quite unique. Countless reviews focus on this very aspect of the game. What was the experience like while designing the levels? Any interesting tidbits to share?
Robi Studios: We tried to do our level design in a way that made players “play in the funnest way possible.” Big gaps and challenging aerial stunts felt good, so we tended to get a lot of these in. The fun thing about these stunts is that the players have many moves and the order in which they’re executed makes all the difference.
Players must think before performing stunts, and I think this is also pretty original as most puzzles in 3D action adventure games are usually simple - like moving blocks and so on. We didn't want to do that, and the end result we got was pretty cool.
It's been fun to see players scratching their heads with gaps, claiming it's impossible and later soaring through them emphasising on how easy they are now!
We specifically had a lot of fun designing Blue Fire’s Voids (abstract platforming challenges). Our goal with these challenges was that they should be nail biting to watch and completely absorbing to play.
After we designed a Void, our team members would play it, and it had to be both fun and thrilling to watch, with everyone waiting for their turn to see if they could beat the segment where the last player died. That’s when we knew a Void was good enough.
Q: Again coming back to movement, the official Blue Fire blog mentions that the players will “ultimately 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 great. As I said earlier, I personally think the movement capabilities in the game ended up being incredible.
Because it’s not just about executing actions, it’s about learning to move in the environment and using it to your advantage, to react in the correct situations and to use abilities effectively along with creating builds to improve certain abilities or aspects of movement.
Throughout the game, there are very difficult platforming segments (the Voids I mentioned before) that I believe are either very rare or have never been seen in the 3D space, and to this extent players will want to master everything they can about the abilities they perform.
How much recovery time do they need after a certain acrobatic, how much momentum do they gain or lose, should they double jump first and then dash for more height?
Or should they dash and then double jump to get more time for a precise landing? It’s up to this fine knowledge of movement to define if you will be able to clear certain challenges or not.
Q: Given Blue Fire is the debut of Robi Studios, how did it feel to have it announced at Nintendo’s Indie World Showcase back in 2020?
Robi Studios: Honestly, we couldn't have imagined a better way to announce the game. Both me and my brother have always been big Nintendo fans, - growing up with N64 - and the fact that our first game was coming out as a timed console exclusive for the Switch, along with announcing it as part of the Nintendo Indie World, was a dream come true.
We were super excited (and kind of incredulous 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 that I have found is regarding the difficulty of the gameplay - did it surprise you that people were pointing this out or was this intentional from the developers?
Robi Studios: From the beginning, we wanted to make a hard game. Nowadays, most games are very easy because they have to be accessible, so they hide the harder parts of the game for expert players to find.
We took a different approach to this that I believe a lot of people really liked and felt different. However, after launching and seeing a big audience ask 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 being an independent studio in Argentina? What is the game development scene like over there?
Robi Studios: The video game industry in Argentina is and has been growing a lot over the last few years! We’re seeing a lot more developers appear, new teams coming together and a lot more games getting featured.
Public institutions have also shown more interest and are promoting the industry through grants, events, jams, and helping devs out however they can.
Q: Given that Blue Fire has been out for almost a year now, what has it been like? How did the players respond to the game?
Robi Studios: We were very surprised with how many people played Blue Fire on launch day. It was incredible 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, it also brought along a big issue.
We had tested the game a lot internally and with external partners but it did not compare at all with the thousands of people who played the first few days. We had a few very intense weeks where we barely got any rest while tackling everything we could. We finally got a very stable build, and I started sleeping a lot better knowing that people could then really enjoy the game.
Being a small studio, we had to start planning what we were going to do next right away and our programmers were super busy chopping away at bugs and issues and porting to three other platforms. But after seeing how much people were enjoying the game, we decided to keep working on Blue Fire, and to split our work into several parts so that we could progressively update and enhance the game.
Since launch, we’ve released the Sword of Steel Update, which introduced a lot of game enhancements, bug fixing, game balancing and polishing, the Void of Sorrows DLC, which is a free update with new end-game content, the Balance of Justice Update, our biggest balancing and enhancement update; and now Blue Fire: Void Maker, a free spin-off and our very own level creation tool.
Q: What was your goal with the Blue Fire Void Maker?
Robi Studios: First of all, I’m happy to share that we've 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 as a team had envisioned. See where people wanted to take the core game mechanics and what people wanted to do. We had lots of people from our community asking for it, and we were curious to see their ideas.
We’ve 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 attracted to Blue Fire but isn’t sure about getting it can try Void Maker first to see if it’s a fit.
Q: What can we expect in future from Robi Studios? Are you all busy with Blue Fire or the next project is already on the horizon?
Robi Studios: We’ve just launched Blue Fire: Void Maker on Steam, and are working on console ports (nothing announced yet!), so lots of live ops going on at the moment. However, we’re also making new plans and starting to draft what might be our next project!