BetaDwarf is a co-op-focused studio with a colourful history. Its two co-founders spent seven months squatting, penniless, in a disused university classroom before being discovered, subsequently moving to a shared house in the countryside and expanding to 15 staff in the process.
A successful Kickstarter campaign for debut game Forced allowed the group to move back to Copenhagen, and the game is now doing well on Steam Greenlight. The studio was also named Danish Developer Of The Year at the 2013 Spilprisen game awards, organised by the Danish Producers Association. CEO Steffen Kabbelgaard Grønning reflects on BetaDwarf’s modest beginnings.
Congratulations on Forced’s funding success. What’s the game about?
Thanks! Forced is a one- to four-player co-op arcade adventure with puzzle and tactical elements. Players are cast as slaves in the toughest fantasy gladiator school of them all, condemned to fight as a gladiator and eventually win their freedom. You’ll face deadly trials and huge creatures, but you’ll have a Spirit Mentor called Balfus to guide you on your gladiatorial journey.
Your other game, Armies Vs Champions, puts FPS and RTS characters together. Reto-Moto and CCP are blending genres, too – do you think this kind of gameplay will become more prevalent in the future?
I think a lot of genres have already been determined, and many designers go around thinking, ‘What if I blend this genre with that genre?’ I think such questions lead to design challenges that, if solved, will result in very interesting videogames and communities. The obvious one is still up for grabs – blend FIFA and Modern Warfare and you’ll have world domination.
E3 was defined by networked, multiplayer experiences. Do you see this as the next major area of innovation?
More studios than ever are focusing on experiences that will get the players to stay for as long as possible, and a great way to increase longevity is by including other players. I’m not sure how healthy that is for the industry, as it leans towards a market with more monopolies where only the biggest survive.
Your Kickstarter campaign for Forced was heading for failure for a time. What do you think caused that, and why did it turn around so abruptly?
I think we were an unknown team with a new IP that wasn’t directly aimed at being a retro remake people could relate to, and then UK devs charged in with like 15 cool projects, rendering the fight for press an equal challenge to playing Demon’s Souls with permadeath turned on. So we tried to target something other than the games press, and made an image that conveyed the idea of living in a cardboard box with a laptop in the pursuit of a dream. It spread virally and we got the funding.