In a dramatic plot twist no one saw coming… the masterclass animators behind EXIT 73 Studios have teamed up with veteran programmers to bring to life the delightfully violent, vividly nostalgic #BLUD, a game hewn from cartoon art and vampire remains. Under the new banner “EXIT 73 Games,” the team is carving away at #BLUD, a title that calls to mind too many glorious Saturday mornings to count. We have the pleasure of chatting with the studio about this first foray into full-length games and their plans for the upcoming, brutally magnificent #BLUD. For a continual trickle of news on #BLUD‘s development, EXIT 73 publishes on the following media platforms: Facebook, Twitch, Twitter, and Instagram.
|| Just who are you, EXIT 73? We hear you’re located in New York, and that your team consists of at least two superb and highly accredited animators. We also hear video games may not be your first love (gasp) when it comes to creating animation.
Exit 73 Studios is a boutique animation studio located on the east end of Long Island, NY, specializing in traditional animation and short form projects. We are a team of 2 seasoned animators (working in the New York animation scene for over 15 years) who also happen to be the co-owners, Chris Burns and Bob Fox.
While our first love has always been animation, video games have always taken a close second. (Or more like tied for first?) In fact, many of our personal animation projects have been heavily influenced by games and we have done a bunch of pixel art.
Growing up in the 80’s and early 90’s meant games like Link to the Past and Super Mario World had a huge influence on our creative process.
As for the gaming aspect, Exit 73 Studios has animated for video games before, but as far as making one we are completely clueless. So for #BLUD we decided to form Exit 73 Games. This allowed us to team up with 2 veteran Unity programmers and friends, Cody Greenhalge and Andrew Tavis. We also enlisted the help of our friend Greg Lane for additional writing.
|| What made you decide to pursue #BLUD as a video game? It seems as though #BLUD may have begun as an idea for an animated series, but now it’s most definitively a top-down gaming title. Was it always going to be a game? If not, what spurred the pivot?
Correct! #BLUD was originally a pitch we made intended for series. Whenever we have down time from client work, we develop and expand our own personal projects. We made a full pitch bible for #BLUD, outlining the adventures of the field hockey-playing vampire-hunting Becky as she balances fighting the undead and surviving as a teenager. We also created a 1 minute animated short to accompany it as a proof of concept. (You can watch the original animation here.)
After not much initial traction, we moved on to new personal projects and client work, forgetting about #BLUD for some time. One day our good friend and I.T. consultant, Cody Greenhalge, proposed the idea of working on a game together in our spare time. With really no idea of what to make, Cody had gone through our stacks of pitch bibles and he felt #BLUD could work well as a game.
Cody wanted us to come up with a style we thought would be interesting for the game. We messed around with it being pixel art at first, but ultimately we all agreed upon trying to make it feel like a cartoon series that you can play and interact in.
Once we got the ball rolling through Exit 73 Games it really started to take shape. #BLUD was originally intended for a series, so having the team help flesh it out for game and game mechanics has been extremely awesome to see.
|| Can you give us a rundown on #BLUD’s intended gameplay? We’ve seen some monster smacking and deadly pencil collecting thus far, and we know it’s about a young vampire hunter, but we’re curious about the game as a whole. How are you intending to categorize it? What genres will it speak to – what mechanics can we look forward to?
We’re trying to build a balance between action, puzzles, and narrative to drive the story. Becky will definitely have more action moves than what is currently in the demo, but a big focus for us is to make the world feel very interactable; like it is a living cartoon that you can walk around in. So far the feedback we’ve received from players has been very positive in that regard.
|| What lucky systems are you planning to launch #BLUD on? It might be too early to ask…but we gotta know. Will there be a staggered release, possibly, with certain consoles coming first?
It’s still too early to make any formal platform announcements yet, but we do intend for there to be both console and PC versions.
|| What was the most memorable feedback you received from your recent demo showcases for #BLUD? We know that #BLUD was shown off at least at the NYC Game Expo in February and MAGFest in January.
We’ve currently only shown #BLUD at MagFest 2019, the NYC Game Expo, and a Unity Developer Day in NYC. At every event we have received a lot of positive feedback and it’s been a blast watching players’ reactions.
Our most memorable piece of feedback came from the first day of MagFest. One of the very first people to ever play the game played for several minutes and looked quite engaged. He then stood up and addressed one our team. “Not too bad, but you’re gonna have to do a lot better than rats and bats bro!”
Had he stuck it out for another minute he would have gotten to at least see some vampires that we had just implemented in the game.
It’s also been nice to see players connect certain memories to the game. “I remember watching <Insert Cartoon Name Here> when I was <age or in school grade> and this is JUST AS AWESOME!”
|| What’s the best way for interested gamers to keep up with #BLUD? Since it’s likely a long way out from release (right?!), how can players support and watch #BLUD’s development process? We hear you might do streams once in a while.
The best way to follow the game is on any of our social media – @exit73studios for Twitter and Instagram. You can also sign up for the mailing list at bludgame.com or follow us on Facebook.
We have been doing live Twitch events every Friday afternoon at 2pm EST. We are showing the animation process and answering questions live. It’s been a lot of fun sharing the development process.
|| EXIT 73 has to live in one of the universes you’ve animated for the rest of eternity. Which universe is it, and why? And yes – everyone has to live in the same one. Choose wisely, EXIT 73. Choose wisely.
Choosing an Exit 73 animated universe to live in… that’s a hard question now that we think about it. Every universe we created is quite violent! I don’t know what that says about us.
I guess we’d have to choose the animated Hellscape from our “Flex Calibur” pilot. It’s a nightmare scenario, but hanging out with Flex Calibur just sounds way too fun to pass up! (The only problem is Cody wouldn’t stand a chance there.)