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Blade Kitten: Origins and Inspirations

Steve Stamatiadis's Avatar + Posted by Steve Stamatiadis on Apr 09, 2010 // Creative Director, Krome Studios

Hey folks! It’s me, “Space Captain” Steve again here to tell you all about the somewhat amazing origins of Blade Kitten. When we last met, I told you a bit how the crazy idea of a game called Blade Kitten and its pink-haired catgirl heroine Kit Ballard came about. Today I’m going to let you in on the secretes behind the reason why our arcade sidescroller looks the way it does.

BK_evolution

Once upon a time…

When I was a kid, way back in the dark ages before games (better known to many as the early 1970s), I used to watch a lot of cartoons: Speed Racer, Battle of the Planets, Robotech. I always thought those cartoons just had the coolest stories, action and look; It’s really no surprise to me that I gravitated towards that style of drawing. By the end of the 80s when I was studying animation and getting into drawing comics, my fate was sealed – I had become one those non-Japanese anime artists. But I found that I also loved comics and animation from around the world. US, UK, French, you name it, I grew into an international animation and comic lover.

For those taking notes here, these are the creators that I think have most influenced my style, but not necessarily the look of Blade Kitten. First and foremost is the work of the amazing animation director Hayao Miyazaki; I’ll always have soft spots for Nausicaä, Totoro and Spirited Away. On the manga front, I’ve always loved the earlier works of Rumiko Takahashi; Ranma 1/2, Mermaid Saga and One-Pound Gospel. The other big manga influence is Masamune Shirow – anyone who’s ever drawn a mech has probably been influenced by this guy.)

There’s a few really cool European comic artists, such as Jean-Claude Mézières, who is responsible for the classic Valérian series and a lot of concept work on the Fifth Element, and Philip Bond, whose work in the 90s anthology Deadline includes the awesome “Wired World” and “Hot Triggers.” He’s a huge inspiration for the writing and tone of Blade Kitten and really doesn’t get the attention he deserves.

Many impressions make big expressions

Over the years I’ve done a bunch of different styles for games — from cartoony (TY the Tasmanian Tiger) to the more realistic (Star Wars: The Force Unleashed). As cool as those games have been, I’ve always believed there was more I could do to create something unique in games. So after a trip to E3 in 2001, I decided to sit down and work out the visuals for my dream game. That’s when Blade Kitten was born.

Early_Kit

I pulled all my favorite unused material — and there was an awful lot of it — into a grand story about a girl who’s mixed up in a giant universe continually on the edge of war. It would feature cool robots, space ships, giant swords, blasters and odd aliens… you know, all the stuff that’s just fun to draw.

Which I guess begs the question “Why a catgirl? What the hell were you thinking?” Honestly I don’t know — I just figured it would be fun and, like I said in the previous blog, just alien enough to feel sci-fi. Then again, it might also have been that I was knee deep in designing the TY universe at the same time. With so many sets of tails and ears floating around, I think Kit ended up growing out of the design for TY’s girlfriend Shazza (a Dingo). When you think of a cat you think of things like slinky, athletic, independent and a hunter, all of which describe Kit perfectly.

Kit-Shazza

When it came time to start working out the game, the first point of order was working out what it should look like. From day one, I wanted to get a visual style that looked and felt like the comics but at the same time improved on those elements I count as my weaknesses, backgrounds and environments. One of the tricks I learned with comics is that you don’t need to have detailed backgrounds in every panel. You can’t do that in games, since players always see the background. Working with the art team, we decided to work towards capturing the feel of Studio Ghibli films’ backgrounds and the works of Kazuo Oga, mixing simple texture with nuanced detail.

As for the characters, we spent about a month working out how to capture the look of the comics. Every detail, from how thick the outlines were, to how the shading worked, even down to the way we modeled the wrinkles in the clothes. For our cel shading we used a system that let the artist determine directly how a material responded to the light so we could easily get metals, plastics, skin tones, etc., that looked like they were ripped right out of the comic. I’m stoked with what we’ve achieved visually. It really is the first game I’ve worked on that’s actually managed to come close to what I envisaged in my head.

Everything we ever create is inspired by something else; the trick is to have a wide variety of source material, to take bits and bobs from every type of artist and medium from all around the world and then filter them through your experiences and sensibilities. That’s what I hope people take away from Blade Kitten — it’s a compendium of things that I’ve seen and enjoyed in anime, comics, movies and as a lover of games — run through the Steve-o-Matic. Of course, there’s also a few new elements in there that you won’t have seen elsewhere, just to make sure that when you play the game that it‘s a new experience that’s familiar-yet-fresh and exciting. I hope you enjoy the world of Blade Kitten when it hits the PlayStation Network soon.

//Add Your Own

38 Comments   8 Replies

1

+ Mosh_Pit on April 9th, 2010 at 9:18 am said:

Never saw that cartoon.


2

+ DZORMAGEN on April 9th, 2010 at 9:21 am said:

Final Kit (2008) looks Puuuuur-fect!! Meow!! See what I did there? :)


3

+ PullusPardusUS on April 9th, 2010 at 9:24 am said:

i can’t haz wait for this gaem!


4

+ Jeigh on April 9th, 2010 at 9:27 am said:

Hm. Pretty interesting stuff. I didn’t know there was a 1970s. XD Certainly a very interesting variety to draw from.

Though I can’t help but notice that pretty much all renditions of catgirls only include the tail and ears… No claws, quadrupedal movement, extended Shortened calvarium or sharp, gracile dental arcade… Just sayin’.


5

+ FunkyTable on April 9th, 2010 at 9:28 am said:

I mean this question in the nicest way possible, honest.

I am kind of saddened as I read this article. You have influences from the comics and anime world, and you say you love the work of Hayao Miyazaki, and that you want to create something new, but then you throw that all away and create another 3D game. Why didn’t you choose to go the hand drawn route and create something really unique in today’s market. So far, hardly any games utilize both hand drawn animation and the power of HD televisions. If you loved 2D animation so much, why isn’t blade kitten a 2D animated character?

No really, I am asking, why? What were your reasons? Surely you considered making a hand drawn game. Surely you knew that 99% of all video games today use 3D technology. Surely you saw that games that do use 2D hand drawn animation gain quite a positive response (Braid, Critter Crunch)

Either way though, I am excited to try this project, just wish it had gone all the way down the cartoony look instead of cel-shaded polygons.


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    + Steve Stamatiadis on April 9th, 2010 at 1:36 pm said:

    That’s a fair enough question. The simple answer is that we didn’t have the skills or tools in house to make a fully 2D game viable. Which is kind of ironic when you realize I started out as a 2d Animator. The reality is that working in 3D is pretty much the smoothest way to get elements into our engine and that’s where our experience is.

    In the end the 3D route let us have a lot more flexibility in the development process because we can change things a LOT easier.


6

+ Jeigh on April 9th, 2010 at 9:29 am said:

By the way, this site might be of interest to you on the basis of your interest in felines: http://lolinator.com/


7

+ Sindred on April 9th, 2010 at 9:32 am said:

The more I hear about this, the more interested I get.


8

+ Omni937 on April 9th, 2010 at 9:34 am said:

I have a fondness for Cat Women I even play a Mithra in FFXI.
I like the Final Kit design as well.
Hope to see some gameplay media soon.
Oh and please release a demo.
A lot of the PSN games and minis don’t have demo, but some devs are getting better at releasing them.


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    + Steve Stamatiadis on April 9th, 2010 at 1:45 pm said:

    Thanks – yep a demo is all part of our plan. It’s a whole level from the game and pretty big.


9

+ Tyrsis on April 9th, 2010 at 9:35 am said:

HATE FURRIES


10

+ YoshiWanKanobi on April 9th, 2010 at 9:49 am said:

Great to see the design evolution. Can’t wait to buy the game.


11

+ Callahan09 on April 9th, 2010 at 9:55 am said:

Can’t wait for this game!


12

+ Sohokan on April 9th, 2010 at 10:09 am said:

when is it coming out ?


13

+ perrandy on April 9th, 2010 at 10:09 am said:

@4 yes indeed there was anime before it made it to NA.i mean, there’s astro-boy,mazinger Z,starzinger,kimba the white lion,mako-chan,el vengador, el gladiador,grendaizer, space detective conan,galaxy999,la princesa de los mil anos(meant years lol) etc etc…

yes, there was anime before macross and robotech.btw,the 80′s was a great decade for american cartoons,too. for example:transformers, he-man,g.i joe,the thundercats,the silverhawks and the carebears LMAO! XD

all in all, the 80′s was the decade to be a kid and enjoy cartoons from japan as for america as well :0)


14

+ kzarling on April 9th, 2010 at 10:31 am said:

“when it hits the PlayStation Network soon.”

How soon is soon? Must know…


15

+ EVanHelsing on April 9th, 2010 at 11:11 am said:

You’ve done a great job maintaining the 2D art’s style in the 3D character models used in the game. Did you consider using HD-resolution 2D sprite art in the game?


16

+ DZORMAGEN on April 9th, 2010 at 11:18 am said:

@ 15, 1 thing you should know about Sony, is when they say “SOON” it can be anywhere from 1-12 months down the road! I am serious! I remember they have this PSP mini game coming out later this month, but it was suppose to come out in Feb.


17

+ reson8er on April 9th, 2010 at 11:21 am said:

This game has gone from interesting to must buy for me… *goes to previous post to watch the video again*


18

+ BlooodyCow on April 9th, 2010 at 11:22 am said:

Demo please. I don’t want to be sucker into buying another games with great art-style but crappy gameplay, controls, and story.


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    + Steve Stamatiadis on April 9th, 2010 at 1:43 pm said:

    There will be a demo that you can unlock to get the full game.

    I think you’ll be pretty happy with the other elements too.


19

+ Chvor on April 9th, 2010 at 11:37 am said:

a game for furries?
dang


20

+ yukiboy23 on April 9th, 2010 at 12:09 pm said:

can’t wait 4 this game 2 hit the ps store


21

+ Chat0076 on April 9th, 2010 at 12:27 pm said:

Can’t wait to check this game out


22

+ ediddy999 on April 9th, 2010 at 12:33 pm said:

Creepy


23

+ tearsofash on April 9th, 2010 at 12:48 pm said:

Are those Kits in the first picture supposed to be extra costumes? They should be, they look really cool! You should consider adding Leiji Matsumoto to your list of inspirations, he did great old stuff like Galaxy Express 999, Captain Harlock, and Space Battleship Yamato. Classic 70s stuff.


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    + Steve Stamatiadis on April 9th, 2010 at 1:41 pm said:

    Some of them are :)

    Matsumoto is part of a much bigger list of inspirations I could have added. I used to love watching StarBlazers every day and Harlock is just plain cool as.


24

+ Maguss on April 9th, 2010 at 1:10 pm said:

Can’t wait, the game looks fun as hell!!


25

+ mikedo2007 on April 9th, 2010 at 2:09 pm said:

Hey Steve, any word who’s picking up this game for Japan? You could get Sony Japan to publish this, or Square Enix since they publish Trine in Japan. Also, nice inspiration. Have you watch any anime recently, I recommend these anime for ya:
-Gundam 00, or any of the Gundam series, my favorite is Mobile Suit Gundam from 1979.
-Shakugan No Shana
-Bleach
-Inuyasha
-Negima: Magister Negi Magi, my personal favorite anime of mine.


26

+ wardragon989 on April 9th, 2010 at 2:11 pm said:

Oh man, you’re so lucky -.-

I have the same dreams and aspiriations. Its nice to see that you were able to make your dreams into reality.

I suck at drawing, so until I either learn or otherwise suck between a rock and a hard place =(


27

+ mikedo2007 on April 9th, 2010 at 2:30 pm said:

@4: There were anime before Pokemon and Naruto like:

-Astroboy (1960)
-Space Pirate Captain Harlock (1977)
-Gatchaman aka Battle of the Planet, G-force (1972)
-Gigantor (1966)
-Speed Racer (1967)


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    + Steve Stamatiadis on April 9th, 2010 at 2:39 pm said:

    That list is made of awesome. Ah the memories.


28

+ rymut on April 9th, 2010 at 2:34 pm said:

Is there any plans for Unlockable Content in game for example: mini game with Skiffy as main character, or gallery of original and game artworks with author comments etc. ?


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    + Steve Stamatiadis on April 9th, 2010 at 2:42 pm said:

    You can use money you collect to buy and unlock extra costumes and blades for Kit. And there are also 3 bonus costumes you can unlock for completing tasks.

    There will be more with episode 2.


29

+ Fluidshine on April 9th, 2010 at 3:26 pm said:

I’m actually really excited for this game! Looks really great and amazingly original. This will be a very welcome addition to the PSN library of games! I can’t wait to find out more about this game. Maybe there could be co op in the game or episode 2 or something. One character to play as her pet or something…I don’t know lol, but anyways, the game looks great and I can’t wait to play it!


30

+ VincentVendetta on April 9th, 2010 at 4:07 pm said:

Wow. Very interesting to read. I admire small developers like you.


31

+ Brosive on April 9th, 2010 at 5:09 pm said:

Great read! Having been a student of traditional animation for years and a fan of Japanese animation, I’m pretty jealous of where you stand. Like yourself, I’ve been working on ideas of my own and hope that one day I can share them with others. I’m certainly not going to buy this game because I want to play it (although it looks cool and I will play it), but I will buy it because you’ve inspired me to keep going. Thanks Steve.


32

+ Darkpen on April 9th, 2010 at 6:09 pm said:

I’d like to know if your studio has studied the ways that other cel shaded games have succeeded and failed (in terms of the graphics). As of the moment, Cyber Connect2 is at the bleeding edge of achieving perfect 2D-3D cel style. Has Krome disected what a game like NUNS had to offer, and what was the takeaway from the analysis?


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    + Steve Stamatiadis on April 11th, 2010 at 5:06 am said:

    We had a general look around at what had been done but at the end of the day we just decided to take our own path. We’re weren’t aiming for a traditional cel shader so we had to develop a shader that was a hybrid of cel and normal shader to match the my comic.

    I do agree that Cyber Connect2 has an awesome pedigree as far as cel shaders go but like I said, that wasn’t our target.


33

+ FunkyTable on April 9th, 2010 at 7:36 pm said:

Thanks for giving a reply to my question. I still would change my excited status to MUST BUY AS SOON AS IT CAME OUT if it were 3D, but it is a reality that there are more tools available for 3D.

But it’s not all gloom, Capybara’s new game looks sweet as well as everything Behemoth pumps out.

Ironic, yes. Years ago 3D was uncharted territory where every developer was learning how to do it, and most likely took much bigger teams than the old 2D projects. And now not as many people can do 2D animation. It’s a problem in both the film and game world. I sure hope more folks with as much appreciation for classic 2D animation in the game world (hey, like you) make more 2D games.

In other words, maybe next dream project?

Anyways, looking forward to the demo, I still love platformers so you’ll probably win me over :P


34

+ SykoTech on April 9th, 2010 at 7:46 pm said:

Great to hear that there’s a demo. I love me some platformers, so I’ll definitely have to try it out.

Still no solid release date, but I think May would have a safe assumption.


35

+ ChrisMCNBVA on April 10th, 2010 at 3:47 am said:

I can’t wait for the demo, I am getting anxious


36

+ AKUMASKURA on April 10th, 2010 at 5:57 am said:

good to see such a game like this,like the style of the character which we call 萌 in Asia. Hope to see more games of this Japanese anine style appear on the PSN


37

+ FunkyTable on April 10th, 2010 at 8:17 am said:

Oops, made a critical typo in that earlier comment:

Thanks for giving a reply to my question. I still would change my excited status to MUST BUY AS SOON AS IT CAME OUT if it were 2D, but it is a reality that there are more tools available for 3D.
But it’s not all gloom, Capybara’s new game looks sweet as well as everything Behemoth pumps out.
Ironic, yes. Years ago 3D was uncharted territory where every developer was learning how to do it, and most likely took much bigger teams than the old 2D projects. And now not as many people can do 2D animation. It’s a problem in both the film and game world. I sure hope more folks with as much appreciation for classic 2D animation in the game world (hey, like you) make more 2D games.
In other words, maybe next dream project?
Anyways, looking forward to the demo, I still love platformers so you’ll probably win me over :P


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    + Steve Stamatiadis on April 11th, 2010 at 5:00 am said:

    There’s not rush – check out the demo – You may find that you forget it’s in 3D pretty quickly when you start playing it.

    Still it’ is cool that even if I can’t make true 2D game there are developer’s out there that have the skills to do so. I know I’ll be checking them out and playing them too :)


38

+ souporman on April 11th, 2010 at 6:53 pm said:

Great read. It’s cool to hear more on the origins of Blade Kitten. I’m really looking forward to the game.

…Oh, and words cannot express how AWESOME it is seeing this on the cover of the new GameFAN Magazine!


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