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This is not a unique story. More and more designers and coders are abandoning AAA game development to strike out on their own. Steve Gaynor with Gone Home; Dean Tate with Captain Bubblenaut; Jake Kazdal with Skulls of the Shogun; And now, Frank Washburn with Blood Alloy.
After leaving Harmonix (Rock Band, Dance Central) earlier this year, Washburn got to work transforming his once-side project into the game he’d always dreamed of making. He knew that having the programming chops and design know-how would only get him so far, and he began recruiting help. Today, the passionate group of artists and musicians he found operates under the name Suppressive Fire Games. “We’re a ragtag team, all more-or-less joined together by our love for very specific video games and by our love of robots,” Washburn told me in a recent Skype interview.
Blood Alloy is a non-linear 2D action game focused on squaring off against scores of murderous robots while unraveling the mysteries of your clouded, amnesic memories. Washburn says that players looking to make any progress will have to pay attention to their surroundings and really explore the decaying urban wasteland. “Immersing people with this kind of environmental story telling like what you see in the Metroid series has always been the mental framework for what I’d want to create.”
So how about dealing with those murderous robots? Washburn has taken inspiration from some of his favorite games of the past few years to create a combat system unique to the genre. “Everything in Dark Souls is dictated by the stamina gauge – blocking, attacking, dodging and rolling all adhere to that. That stamina bar creates this moment-to-moment tension and having just beaten Hotline Miami, I wanted to see if I could apply the idea of managing stamina to using guns – and everything else came together from that.”
With a freshly launched Kickstarter campaign, Washburn and his team still have some challenges to overcome (namely, funding), but that’s never stopped him from pursuing his passions before. “Right out of college I had two jobs lined up, doing environmental consulting with the government, making a ton of money and traveling all around the world… or working in QA at Harmonix… It’s high risk, but I gotta do it.”