Hi I’m Steve Stamatiadis; you may know me as Creative Director and the guy behind some of our biggest titles like TY the Tasmanian Tiger series and the PS2 and PSP versions of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. I’m also the creator and director of Krome Studios’ new game, Blade Kitten, a brand new hi-def, high-action PS3 game coming to the PlayStation Network in the Spring.
I’m sure all of you often get asked “WTF is a Blade Kitten?” I know I do all the time.
Then I guess I should tell you the tale of a catgirl, her sword and a blobby alien critter thing.
A sordid past.
Sometime in the latter part of the 20th Century I was working on a bunch of ideas for comics and games. I’d start reusing elements that I thought were really cool, like alien species, characters, mecha, weapons, until eventually realizing I was creating a universe that they all shared. Then around 2001 – not long after we had started work on TY the Tasmanian Tiger — I found I had three different ideas that each had elements I liked but none had ALL the elements I wanted. One was too cartoony (a super powered anime schoolgirl), the other was too serious (Space Gladiators with guns) and the third was an aborted game project (a 60s stealth thief). What to do? Take all the best bits out and mix them all together into a series that I could have fun working on. Problem solved.
So project “Kit-10” was born. It was a story about a female bounty hunter that had 10 different robot sidekicks to help her. One of the robots was a blade, the rest were just a bunch of dumb gimmicks that quickly fell by the wayside. But the cute girl with the big sword stuck and the title “Blade Kitten” came soon after. I was after something that was descriptive and rolled off the tongue like “Gun Ballet” but minus the gun… and the dancing. For me it harkens back to the era of comics, movies and games from when I was a kid; “Star Wars”, “Spider Man”, “Speed Racer”, “Space Invaders” – you have a fair idea what you’re in for. The “sounds-dumb-the-first-time-you-hear-them” kind of names that get stuck in your head. It was almost called “Blade Kitty” instead but that just sounded way too cutesy.
Why is she a Kitty?
Kit Ballard – I really wanted to make sure the stories screamed fantasy science fiction the first time you see them. The main character had to be some sort of alien, but not the bumpy forehead kind or the too weird to relate to kind. That’s why I decided on a cat girl (or Felion, as they’re known in the comic’s universe) because they’re still relatively normal looking, but you get odd ears on their head, right where everyone notices and you also get a cool tail bonus! Her hair is bright pink so that it stands out and echoes her vivacious attitude. We don’t get enough of that in games – things are usually “too beige” and grim. Most importantly, she’s a woman because its way, way cooler to see a girl beating up giant robots than it is to see a bald space marine beating up on robots. And so Kit Ballard, the Blade Kitten was born.
As to her “pet” Skiffy – I wanted to give Kit some kind of cute mascot sidekick so that there’s always someone for her to interact with. Space is a big place and if you’ve ever done any travelling, you know it’s always more fun to have someone with you to talk about your shared experiences. Again to emphasize the science fiction aspect, the mascot had to be some kind of alien, also something that looked cute and cuddly when you glance at it, but when you get up close, it’s actually kind of icky. So Skiffy is a bunch of nice comforting shapes with odd proportions, like a giant head with far-apart eyes.
The Blade – As they say on the internets: “Big sword is big.” It also free floats and has enough AI to be about as smart and aggressive as a pit bull. It’s there to be the tough edge to Kit’s character, the bite to her bark – wait, that’s a dog metaphor. Oops! Why does it float? Why not? We’ve had over 30 years of “laser swords,” so we felt it was time to bring on the free floating smart blades!
The game that was a comic that was going to be a game.
I always knew that I wanted to make a game out of the Blade Kitten stories when I started, but as we’d just found out, it’s really hard to launch a new game series. My cunning plan was to have something to back it up. I figured that comics would be a good way to build up the universe and show off the key features to potential game publishers later on. A webcomic turned out to be the path of least resistance to getting the story in front of people. And so I started the weekly job of writing and drawing a webcomic to sell a game. You can view it here.
The comic was well received and ended up giving me a hundred-plus pages of comics, which meant hundreds of designs for world building when it came time to start the game. Ironically, I ended up telling a brand new part of the story for the game – one that adds to the mythos and fills in extra details in the comic storyline. That way you get some big surprises.
Over the years, we’ve tried to start a Blade Kitten game project at Krome a few times, but as fate would have it, we were victims of our own success when bigger projects kept popping up. First in 2002, when TY the Tasmanian Tiger did well enough to spawn a sequel, then another. The second time we stopped because we had the opportunity to work on a cool Star Wars project. With that successfully completed, we decided to return to original game creation and to develop and publish Blade Kitten ourselves. Something big and bright like the comic and also really fun and accessible – so we took the path of a classic action side-scroller with the addition of all the cool HD bells and whistles we could add. It’s been a really amazing ride working with a cool team to bring at all together and finally see years of imagination and effort finally become a real game.
It has also been an amazing amount of hard work on the part of the whole team. But that’s a whole different story, one I’ll share with you guys in my next post. In the meantime, please enjoy these screens we’ve captured just for the awesome community here on the PlayStation.Blog, and take a look at our trailer. Blade Kitten will be hitting PSN in the spring, which is just right around the corner!